We all know that active learning and intense practice are what makes the difference to our children’s learning but often we do not have the luxury of time to give them our full attention to ensure maximum engagement. We try to get them motivated by supplementing their formal lessons with gamified learning apps but we can’t be on hand to check their work and to give positive reinforcement. So, is there an app that can come close to being a personal tutor?
What we love…
Feedback on student’s reading efforts.
What we’d love to see…
Detailed student progress reports, a way to play offline and upload the progress later.
A personal reading tutor who listens to your child reading aloud and guides him/her to read better.
Bam Boomerang by Open Reading is an innovative phonics-based reading program (FREE now) that records students reading aloud and gives them feedback as they progress through the lessons and exercises in the app. It acts like a personal reading tutor who teaches, checks your child’s reading and guides him/her to read better.
It does this by mobilising a team of volunteer adult listeners (real people who also have the program like myself) to listen and rate the children’s recordings. The app’s parrot host will then share the feedback with the children and prompt them to repeat the correct sound or word if a recorded response was less than perfect.
There is, however, a lag between the recording and the feedback as this depends on how soon the recording can get evaluated. As a user, you will be automatically recruited into the community of volunteer listeners and get asked to evaluate a few recordings each time you log in. Listening and rating each student recording is fast and easy plus you can check the reference sounds when necessary.
There is actually no direct interaction between the adult and the students whose recordings they rated, and no identities or personal information are shared either. What can be shared is a student’s profile between the parents and teachers so that the student can build on his/her progress on different devices in the classroom and at home.
In Bam Boomerang, students play physics-based games while practicing reading skills and as they play, they earn honey money to buy virtual items for the game character’s home. The games get more challenging but players have unlimited tries to complete each game. Observing the positions of the obstacles, visualizing how the peas will bounce and planning the best moves encourage students to develop better problem solving skills.
The app has a systematic approach to introducing the whole alphabet and builds from easy, two-letter Vowel-Consonant (VC) words to three-letter, CVC words and then four letter words. Students begin by learning a few easy-to-pronounce letter sounds and these are immediately followed by simple words that contain these sounds. This makes the learning of phonic sounds more meaningful to the students. Once the basic phonic skills are established, sight words that don’t follow the phonic rules will also be introduced. New vocabulary words are always taught with matching pictures to facilitate learning of the words’ meaning.
To use Bam Boomerang’s comprehensive approach to reading instruction and unique features, you need to register for an account and give your verbal consent for your children/students to use the app. Do also note that Bam Boomerang is like a virtual classroom which requires users to be online during play.
There is a lot of content included for a free app and I like that there is frequent recall of sounds/words taught as students have to record saying them aloud in order for the games to advance. You get fun problem-solving games, motivating rewards, active listening, frequent reading practice, friendly and constructive feedback all packed in one app for free! If you are not a user yet, get this downloaded already and try it right away!
critical thinking, ability to solve a puzzle in a choose your own adventure format, encouraging children to read, underlying friendship theme
What we’d love to see…
ability to change the color of the box the print is in at the bottom of the story (it can be hard to read)
Great app with a choose your own adventure theme and readers will love choosing their own adventure and solving the mystery. My son kept reading it over and over again to find all the endings.
Neighborhood Watch Kids and Duh Color Stuff™ is an app designed for the elementary school aged child in a “choose your own adventure” format about five children Arnold, Maya, Johnny, Suzie, Billy and their pet dog Paw as they save the world. The app starts off letting you choose either “I can read” or “read it to me” and then encourages you to pick an avatar from one of the children to follow along in the story. The story starts off in Pinedale, Wisconsin in a town called Watch. The story includes 10 different games, 16 different decision points in the story, and 21 different story endings for a total of 280 pages! The target audience for the app is age 7 to 11, although I would say that it is best suited for a child who has finished first grade. The story features both male and female characters as well as diverse characters which helps again bring home the message about working together no matter what.
Johnny and his pet dog Paw go to the park and overhear adults talking about vandalism where he is presented with his first decision. After making the decision to talk to Arnold, Johnny and he decide to search the playground for clues. By tapping on the screen, you are able to play the first mini game which turns up footprints, a blue print and an ice cream shop flier. Johnny and Arnold find a tree house where they can put the clues up on the board to try to put the various puzzle pieces together. Arnold and Johnny form a friendship and work together to put more items on the tree house and then head to the ice cream shop to try to solve the mystery. where they meet Susie and learn that the ice cream shop has had a theft as well. My son had a bit of trouble finding the objects, but the positive “you are almost there” and clue with the arrow finally helped him find the final clue. After the first two mini games, my son discovered a pattern with two of the items being found during the mini games – “footprints!” The book encourages kids to get help when they need to which encourages them to make the right decision. My son also noticed a theme of “sand” in each of the puzzles which I thought was great for him to notice.
I liked that the avatar you choose kept your place in the story due to the fact that all the decisions contained within the book, reading out of the text and mini games can take upward of an hour, which is quite a long time to play with a reading app. My son and I tested this over the course of two sessions before completing it. I also liked that the app encouraged cooperation with others to encourage success and completion. It also targeted critical thinking as it encouraged kids to look at something and then follow through on solving the problem. I also liked that it presented kids with three different choices and forced kids to make a decision before moving on. I liked that the app encouraged them to think about the decision and what the consequences might be of a decision to the story. The underlying theme of friendship, working with others no matter what their race or ethnicity was a good one and I loved how everyone worked together to solve the mystery.
In terms of enhancements, at times it was a little bit hard to see the text that was being read from the book so it would be nice if the box color could be adjusted. I’d also like to see a bit more help with some of the mini puzzles – I explained how to break the screen down into a grid when tapping but he did have a hard time finding some of the clues. Also, having the clues at the bottom to look for the right shape is important especially for kids to encourage them to stay engaged with the app. I’d love to see word highlighting – this is aimed at older kids but it would allow them to be more “independent” readers as well as a guide that explains “do not do this at home” since many of the activities are ones I would put off limits for my seven year old.
Enjoy a beautifully illustrated digital book with appealing animations and sounds. My son asked me if we could “read again” to finish the mystery and see if making different decisions created a different ending. There are no external links, in-app purchases or social media links. This is a great app that encourages reading with a choose your own adventure theme and will engage kids beyond just reading the words on the page. By inviting them to become detectives, they become engaged and want to be an active part of the story which in turn encourages more comprehension and engagement. This book can engage even the most reluctant of readers and has lots of options to read it over and over again.
Easy to use, unlimited pages in books, unlimited books and authors, very customizable, ability to choose image by sounds -initial, medial & final, ability to add your own images and narration.
What we’d love to see…
Layout templates for beginning users, option to create a layout for the entire book at the onset
An easy to use storybook creator with multiple authors and unlimited books. As a Speech Language Pathologist I love that I can create books for home practice for each and every child on my caseload, and have the child’s input, allowing the kids to take ownership of their home practice.
My Story is the newest app for speech and language from Pocket SLP. The app is designed for adults and children to create and share stories. The interface is extremely user friendly and lends itself well to cooperative projects. It is available as a free version with in-app purchase, and a full version with no in-app purchases. The free version allows 1 author, 2 books and images from 2 categories; the full version has unlimited authors and books, all images and dropbox synchronization. This review is of the full version.
I love how easy this My Story is to use and to teach others how to use. The simplicity of use is an asset from the beginning. Right from the home page, the mechanics of the app are self explanatory. The platform makes it easy to find your way around the different parts of the app and the multiple different ways to embellish and individualize the pages of the book. There are unlimited pages per book.
OI have tried this app with kids as young as 5 and as old as 11. Everyone loved it. Their true creativity came through! The students asked if they could add to their books and even shared their editing skills on others projects. They loved that their books can be shared on social media and that the books can be saved to Dropbox. My Story app allows for multiple users.
As a Speech Language Pathologist I love that I can create books for home practice for each and every child on my caseload, and have the child’s input. It allows the kids to take ownership of their home practice. The stories can be edited from week to week, to allow new pages to be added. Once the book is completed there is an option to view, edit or share. The “view” is done in slideshow form.
Each page can be customized for background color, font, and images (size, position). There are a bunch of preloaded pictures available and you can also add your own images. The preloaded images can be viewed by category (alphabetically within a category) and even by sounds these are organized by position in words (initial, medial and final). There is also an option to draw and write (thick or thin lines) on each page. One of my favorite features (and the children also) is the ability to record audio to go with the images in the book.
There isn’t really much I didn’t like about this app. I would like to see some layout templates for beginning users. Some of the kids got really caught up in the placement and choices available to them. It would also be nice to have an option to create a layout for the entire book at the onset. This way little time is wasted on restructuring each page. While you can copy and paste individual images, on the same page, the chance to paste to another page would also be nice. A standard template would be a good option as well, much like the project or presentation apps that are commercially available. Another addition that might be fun would be the ability to add a soundtrack in addition to the current ability to record narration.
Overall, I highly recommend this app for classroom, therapy and home. Teachers can modify for specific academic goals, Speech Pathologists can adapt for various individualized goals, and families can create stories and memories for their children to talk about and bring back to school for discussions. The app has unlimited potential for kids creativity and most important the kids are fully engaged and become active participants in their learning and therapy experiences. 5/5 stars for My Story app!!
Free version (with IAP) My Story for Speech and Language Free – Synapse Apps, LLC
beautiful illustrations, testing reading comprehension of the book
What we’d love to see…
implementation of a parental gate to prevent accidental in-app purchases; ability to purchase all the content of the app with a one time in-app purchase
Overall, good app to learn about historical events. This app requires parental supervision due to lack of a parental gate.
Blue Planet Tales Interactive Storybooks is a bookshelf type app that allows you to purchase additional content for your iOS device and teach children about a variety of history, science and other concepts. For purposes of this review we will be looking at Apollo 11, Men on the Moon. There is also a free book that is included so you can try it before purchasing additional in-app content. To read the purchased stories, simply tap on the library and the book will pop up. There are three play options, autoplay, read it to me and I have read it. The books are available in English and Spanish.
I thought that the Apollo 11, Men on the Moon story was historically accurate. In addition the graphics were fairly accurate, although the text did cover up the illustrations at times. One of my favorite things about the app was that there are questions within the story that test reading comprehension such as: who was the first human in space. who was the first president to support space travel. For each correct answer you are rewarded with a “all right”. There is some limited interactivity within the app on each of the pages, such as the ability to put the astronauts on the space shuttle with the actual sounds of the countdown. The app does reinforce learning within the story to ensure that people understand the story.
In terms of improvements, this app needs a parental gate to ensure that content is not purchased in error. Currently, you open a book either at the bottom of the screen or in the menu and it provides a direct iTunes link. For this reason, I would suggest turning off the ability to do in-app purchases on your device. I would also like to see word highlighting for emerging readers to help them more easily follow along. I also found at times in the autoplay mode that the text on the page did not match the narrator especially if you touched the page forward button. I would also like to see a one time in-app purchase that would unlock all the content of the app.
Note: There does seem to be a bug in the iOS 8.0 version but if you upgrade to iOS 8.1.1 it solves the crashing and need to restore the stories within the app.
Overall, this app does have great content which touches on a variety of historical events. The lack of a parental gate concerns me, however, the content does encourage learning among individuals both young and old. The illustrations are well done and the story pulls you in to learn more about historical events.
Category: Requirements: Compatible with
Size: 0 MB
NOTE: A fee was received to expedite this review to the top of our waiting list but this payment has not influenced the objectivity of the review and all opinions have been offered honestly.
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