3 Must Have Learning Apps for Early Years (Reviews curtesy of www.bestappsforkids.com)

Up to 100

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Overview

Up To 100 helps children learn to recognize and form numbers between 1 and 99. It also helps children understand ones and tens place value and the relationship of digits to the number. It’s very hands-on and offers a lot of different concrete experiences with numbers.

Features include:

  • Uses Montessori techniques
  • Choose exact number range for child
  • Supports early grades Common Core Math Standards
  • Available in 9 languages
  • Builds beginning place value skills

Quality

This is a high-quality app that is mostly intuitive and easy to use. Developers have taken great pains to ensure that it is educationally sound and supportive of early number skill development. There is a small parents’ area that explains the basics of the app and informs parents about the existence of a companion toy consisting of wooden cut-out numbers that interact with the iPad.

Education

Up To 100 is an outstanding app for building beginning number sense in younger children. There are two modes with three levels of difficulty each. Users (or adults) can set the minimum and maximum numbers that will be displayed, so it’s easy to customize the app for younger or older students.

The recognition mode offers two blank spaces for the lowest level, with digits 0 to 9 along the bottom of the screen. The user is to drag a digit to each blank space to form a two-digit number, and the app will print the word name, show the number on a number line and also read the name of the number. This can be repeated as often as desired. The medium level in this mode slides a number line across the top of the screen and blocks out a number in the chosen active range. Students are challenged to fill in the spaces with the digits of the missing number from the number line. The third and most difficult level in this mode provides the number word and students must read, then drag the correct digits to the empty spaces. Nonreaders can touch the musical note in the lower left of the screen to hear the number name read aloud.

The counting mode stresses ones and tens place value and its connection to the digits in the number. The easiest mode has students drag two digits to their places and the computer fills in rows of tens on the left of the screen to match the digit in the tens place and single dots on the right to match the ones place. The tens and ones dots are the same colors as the digits below, giving a visual cue that the number has been represented correctly on the 100 dot grid. The middle level in this mode assigns a number from the active range and challenges users to put the correct number of tens and ones on the grid to create the number. The dots change color as more are added, until they match the color of the digits when correct. The most challenging level colors in the dots on the 100 dot grid and users must drag digits to the blank areas to match it.

The color coding is a very nice touch for young learners, because it gives clear visual cues when problems have been solved correctly. However, app developers wisely included an option to turn the colors of the dots off when desired. This way, the app is more useful for older or more experienced students, or can serve as a skills assessment.

Entertainment

Up To 100 is colorful and includes number word narration and small animations. This app isn’t really intended to be entertaining, but I do think developers should have included a bit more excitement to liven things up for young learners. As it stands, small animations that attend each exercise are the only “reward,” and some children will have trouble maintaining their interest after a few rounds. I think kids would be more likely to play longer if they felt that they were earning something or collecting something for their efforts.

Value

This app is a great value because it does an awesome, thorough and developmentally appropriate job of teaching the relationships between numbers, objects to count, and place value. The capability to set the range of numbers in play is a huge plus because it means you can set the app to use numbers 1-20 for the very young child and 1-99 for children past grade 2. The inclusion of nine languages is also a plus if your child is studying or wishes to study a foreign language. Parents should be aware that the companion toy numbers that interact with the iPad cost 34.99 British pounds, but that they do include access to two free apps.

Child Friendliness

This app includes a protected parents area shielded by an effective parent gate. The parents’ area contains social media, email, rating, and more apps links, as well as a purchase link for the companion wooden numbers set as well as links to other apps from this developer. The settings for the app, including language, number range, turning colors and number lines on or off, and so forth, are accessible to all users.

 The Sight Word Adventure

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Overview

The Sight Word Adventure is a fun app that provides vital practice on high-frequency words that all young readers need to memorize. These very common words often do not follow phonics patterns, so memorizing them builds a lot of fluency.

Features include:

  • 11 mini-games
  • 320 words from grades K-3
  • Customizable
  • Multiple users
  • Progress tracking

Quality

The Sight Word Adventure is a very high quality app. It is intuitive for children to use, it follows a proven high-quality curriculum, and it has all the features that make it very useful to parents and teachers with multiple students. The app developers have created a very useful and easy-to-use app that will benefit most emergent readers.

Education

The Sight Word Adventure uses proven methods to help young readers master the vital core sight words that help them become fluent readers. Sight words are also called high frequency words, and they are taught in every early reading program, though the order might vary a bit. The 320 words chosen for this program make up over 50% of all the words that even adult readers need to know, and readers who are able to memorize them so they can recognize the words with no hesitations or mistakes typically become fluent and read well in their later school years.

App developers have included an outstanding parent/teacher resource accessible from the protected parents’ area. The pdf-formated document explains in detail why sight words are so important to learn and tells the reasoning behind the order, the levels, the activities, and more. The document also includes clear directions for each activity, in case something is not clear to you or to your child.

Eleven mini-games encourage young readers to memorize the sight words through reading and writing them in a wide array of situations. This helps children generalize and commit the words to memory so that they recognize them in print and around their environment.

Entertainment

This app is well-designed to intrigue young learners from preschool through grade 3. The very first game to play is a hide-and-seek game where the main character hops off the screen and leads the user on a hunt. By tapping the various items in the screen, the player will eventually find the character and gain access to a new focus word. Taps on other places trigger interesting animations, so it’s fun just to look around.

After several words are collected in this manner, the player is allowed to work through first the reading games and then the writing games. The games are all quick and engaging, and it will take a while before children become bored with them. After all, what’s not to like about shooting things at balloons to pop them and playing whack-a-mole!

Value

This is a high-value app. With 320 words in its memory and the ability to customize for individual students, there are loads of possibilities to accommodate learners from preschool through third grade. Kids will have hours of fun while they master one of the most important foundations of reading.

Child Friendliness

This app is very child friendly. There is a protected parents’ area containing access to student records, student accounts, set the language and choose capital or lower case letters, and more. Parents and teachers can be assured that kids cannot access any of these controls or the protected links and email systems that should be used only by adults.

Pocket Phonics

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Overview

Pocket Phonics provides focused practice with letter sounds and tracing, as well as segmenting and blending skills necessary for applying phonics skills in early reading.

Features include:

  • Over 170 high frequency words
  • Teaches all letter sounds plus over 30 letter combination sounds
  • Auditory, visual and kinesthetic learning
  • Letter tracing
  • Simple spelling from letter sounds
  • On-line reporting for progress
  • Free parents’ guide about using the app to teach reading
  • Customizable manuscript style and letter case
  • Easily choose appropriate phonics level

Quality

Pocket Phonics is an outstanding app that will benefit beginning readers in many ways. Users are presented with a letter sound and matching printed letter. They are prompted to trace the letter. After a few sounds are presented in this way, learners have a chance to find the letters from the dictated sounds, and finally to spell words that are spoken one sound at a time. Correct responses are reinforced with applause and verbal praise. The app includes many features that use best educational practices.

Education

Pocket Phonics is one of the most comprehensive beginning phonics apps that I have seen. The designers have incorporated some outstanding features into the system, as well. Parents/teachers can choose from two common printing systems (D’Nealian or Zaner Bloser) and three writing forms (lowercase, upper case, and cursive) for each player.

The app does not name letters at any point, which experts agree is not necessary. Instead, it focuses on each letter’s sound. So the letter S is presented as the /s/ sound. Students have the chance to hear the sound, say the sound and trace the letter. Incorrect tracing, going off the path, or forming the letter with an incorrect sequence of steps is stopped and the player has the opportunity to begin again.

After a few letter sounds have been presented, the learner listens to a spoken sound and chooses the letter that matches. Letters grow and shrink when they are spoken for emphasis, and the app’s timing is impeccable. Later, the user listens to spoken sounds and spells words. Each word, when spelled correctly, displays a related picture. Some of the pictures for the more abstract words are not very clear for children. For example, the graphic for the word “an” is a basket of apples with one sitting by itself with arrows pointing to it. As an adult, I know that means “AN apple,” but I’m not sure most preschoolers or young children would understand. The app could be improved by inserting a spoken sentence using the word at this point.

There is a free record-keeping system accessible to parents and teachers that will help focus the activities even more exactly, matching the student’s strengths and weaknesses. Adults must sign up for this service in the Parents’ Section.

Entertainment

Pocket Phonics presents phonics concepts very efficiently and effectively. The graphics are colorful and for the most part, clear. The praises offered for correct responses are appropriate, though the intonation used by the voice (especially on the word “wonderful”) is a bit lackluster. However, the format stays the same throughout the presentation of all levels of sounds and all 170 words. This could get a bit boring for users who are expecting flashy, fast-paced activities that many other apps provide. App developers might consider including a faster-paced identification or matching game at the end of each level that might help keep students engaged.

Value

Pocket Phonics is a great value at $2.99. The concepts covered range from preschool through second grade, and the app is very thorough. Students will be able to learn from this system for several years. The app also could provide enough repetition for struggling learners.

Child Friendliness

Pocket Phonics includes no outside advertising, and the Parentzone is protected by a difficult multiplication problem. Within the Parentzone, there are tools such as enabling and accessing the record-keeping system, tracking progress, connections to social media, and signing up for the developers’ newsletter. Adults can also access a free report outlining the synthetic phonics method, the framework of the teaching in this app.

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