Happy New Year! If any of you are looking to start the new year with more tech in the classroom, check back here frequently for the Spotlight App (formerly App of the Week).
For the first Spotlight App of 2016, I am going to start with Spelling City. You might be familiar with the Spelling City website. The site allows you to create a free account with spelling lists that are customizable, or you can search and use already created lists.
To use the site, you must first create an account on the Spelling City website. From there you can create and edit lists and change various settings. The interface between the website and the app are very good and I have never had any trouble with my lists syncing.
This app is on my recommended lists for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it makes studying spelling words more meaningful than the memorize and regurgitate method that reading off of a list does. The app has “games” which will help students with spelling, but also definition and meaning of words. I also like the ease of use. Definitions are in the site, even for words with multiple meanings. It’s super easy to input lists and start using this app right away!
Life is more fun in the town of Grammaropolis! This app is really fun way to introduce kids to grammar concepts. Like many others, it has a lite (free) version and a paid version. It takes each concept and gives it a video, multiple choice quizzes and other activities. I like to use some of the games “game show style” with white boards in the classroom. The cartoon videos make it engaging and easy to refer to concepts when reviewing. The developer seems to be good about updating, with the latest update being in December of 2014. The full collection price may seem a bit on the steep side, especially since so many apps are free, but I haven’t found a free version that compares with this app.
Seller: Grammaropolis LLC
Cost: Free, or $12.99 for the entire collection, or you can buy sections one at a time for $1.99
Devices: iPhone and iPad
Writing can be a struggle and anything that can increase engagement in th writing process is a huge plus. Book Creator is not a free app, but it’s worth the cost to me if you will be using it with any frequency. It’s a great way to compile student writing, creating group or individual projects.
App: Book Creator
Seller: Red Jumper Limited
Star Math is a good, inexpensive app for math facts and mental math practice. Students can practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. I use this app for my own 10-year-old. He still doesn’t love practicing his math facts, but he is definitely more inclined to do so with this app! It’s more engaging than simple flash cards and you can move from easy to difficult levels easily. I have the app on my iPhone and iPad both and sometimes, I’ll join in the game with my son. We only race ourselves, seeing if we can pass our own high score. At .99, it’s a good buy.
App: Star Math
Seller: TicTapTech, LLC
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
HMH Readers is one of my favorite literacy apps. The app itself is free, with the option of in-app purchases. There are, however, several free books. A couple of the features I really like about this app are that, like many of these book apps, you can have it read to you or you can read. HMH Readers takes it to the next level with the highlight and record features. If you choose read aloud, the app highlights the words as it reads. Children can also choose to record themselves reading the book. As educators, we know how valuable it is for fluency skills for a child to be able to hear him or herself say the words.
App: HMH Readers
Seller: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Cost: Free, with in-app purchases available
Letter School is a great handwriting app for early writers. The app makes it fun with animation and sound, but also scaffolds the writing process, moving from guided to independent writing practice.
App: Letter School
Developer: Sanoma Media
Cost: Lite Version is free, Full version is $2.99
Devices: iPhone and iPad
The BOB Books app is a great app for teaching beginning readers. The books come in sets and they are not free, but at $1.99 I think they are worth it. They start with simple three-letter CVC words and build up in difficulty from there. I have a special love of BOB Books since that is how I taught my own son to read. Now with the app, kids can match letters and words with their sounds, great hands-on phonetics practice. It also gives them a sense of beginning sentence structure. If you want to try it out a bit before you buy you can get the BOB Books Reading Magic Lite app.
Developer: Learning Touch
Cost: $1.99 for each set
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad
Have some fun while learning physics! This game uses construction to teach physics concepts and will appeal to all ages. It’s well worth the $1.99 (with some in-app purchases). You can construct everything from tree houses to submarines. You are given objectives and a budget for materials with each level. This is one of those creative apps that is fun and challenging – the kids won’t even realize that they’re learning a lot!
App: Simple Physics
Developer: Jundroo, LLC
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad
iMovie isn’t just for the average Joe putting together a nice retrospective at Aunt Florence’s 80th birthday party (although it’s good for that, too)! Using iMovie in the classroom can be a powerful reporting and digital storytelling tool. iMovie is very intuitive in its basic functions and even younger elementary aged children can use this app. Imagine having your students create a book report with narration, photos and background music. Wouldn’t this be a great deal more engaging than having them stand at the front of the class and deliver the usual two minute speech? I also use iMovie for putting together short videos for background information. It’s a great way to give students visual representations and explanation of a topic they may not be familiar with. You don’t have to be very technologically savvy to use this app, either. You can be as basic or as complex as you like. If you really want to go big and create your own soundtrack with Garage Band and import it into your movie, you can. You can also use the several stock tracks provided in the app. At $4.99 it’s one of the more pricey apps I buy, but well worth it. My art teacher colleague use this app when we create student films and it has proven itself time and time again.
Devices: iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone