Ipad App Review: Bob Books #1 Reading Magic

About This Application

This application translates the popular Bob characters to the Ipad screen to help young students practice beginning reading skills.  Bob Books are a staple of primary classrooms because of their extremely simple text and engaging line drawings.   Each book is a short 8  to 12 pages, with text ranging from a single word to a simple sentence.  Students enjoy the feeling of independence they can achieve with reading a book on their own.  The books are graduated in difficulty such that a student can master the first, then move on through the series by learning a few more words and concepts at each level.

The application revolves around a collection of pages that have a simple sentence. Clicking on words or the corresponding line drawings will lead to a screen with scattered letters that spell the word when arranged in the correct order.  Children are to drag the letters to the correct spaces below the picture, and are rewarded with a colored and animated version of the picture when the word has been spelled correctly.  Completing all portions of the main screen triggers a coloring, animating and oral reading of the entire sentence, followed by an option to go to the next single-page story.

The application costs $3.99.  Several levels are available for purchase.

Quality:

The illustrations and sentence structure on each page are true to the print version of Bob books.  The colors are vivid and the animations simple but eye-catching.  The program works correctly when players touch items in the proper sequence.

However, it is possible to get the recorded prompts and letter sounds to overlap when they are touched rapidly in sequence, resulting in a chaotic auditory experience.  The application has also hung up a few times for no apparent reason, causing some frustration for my pupils.

The app could definitely be improved by presenting entire stories rather than disjointed single pages.  That would help it to maintain student interest for a longer period and encourage more practice as well as additional reading comprehension.

Educational Value:

Bob Books #1 Reading Magic is a good way for students to practice letter sequencing and sight word recognition.  It is most suitable for younger students from age four through approximately first grade.  Older students or struggling readers may find the lack of depth in the reading to be tiresome.

Four levels of play are available.  The lowest level rewards players for placing letters into the correct places to spell the target word.  Letters stay in their proper spots no matter what order they are placed, so a student can spell a word from the last letter to the first with no correction.  This does not support proper left-to-right sequencing that is so important for early learners.  The second through fourth levels do require correct sequencing, so I typically start students with the second level.

The second level has visual hints about which letter goes in which box by providing a faint copy of the correct letter to guide student placement.  The third level has all of the letters, but no visual clue. The fourth level places additional distractors on the page that are not used in spelling the target word, such that the student must choose the correct letters in the correct sequence, while ignoring the letters that do not belong in the word.

The app keeps track of completed stories and levels for one student and can be reset by an adult.

Child-Friendliness:

The home screen of the app contains relatively prominent links to an About page, an Options page and a link that opens a popup where other games can be purchased by the user.   Clicking the “buy” link in this popup will take the user to the App Store with no easy way to return to the game.  It would be relatively easy for a curious young child to find their way to the store and make a purchase if the adult user did not have adequate password protection on the account.  Touching the company logo in the top left of the screen brings up a popup window asking for confirmation that the user wants to open Safari and exit the Bob program, so it is possible for a young child to access the internet through this program.

Each story presents arrows to the right and left after the page has been completed.  Some children have trouble distinguishing the arrow to continue with the next story from the arrow that returns them to the menu of stories.

The story menu is picture-driven, making it easier for young children to choose new stories or favorite stories they wish to view again.

Value:

Bob Books Reading Magic has a free trial level that I strongly urge you to get.  This app is not right for everyone because of some of the disadvantages listed above.  If your child is a fan of Bob Books and is motivated by the stories, it’s a wonderful investment and will help your child practice important early reading skills.  It is also a good investment for children who are just beginning to connect printed with spoken words and need to cement that connection.

See Bob Books #1 Reading Magic in the App Store: Bob Books #1

See Bob Books Reading Magic Lite (free sample) in the App Store: Bob Books Lite

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Ipad App Review: Sound Sorting

About This Application:

Sound Sorting is an application from Lakeshore designed for young or beginning readers.  It provides practice in phonemic awareness and beginning consonant sounds.  Learners can choose three different initial sounds for each round, or allow the sounds to be chosen randomly.  Each sound is assigned a key word that begins with that letter and the key word is pictured at the top of a separate column.  Nine additional pictures are on the screen.  The player must touch each picture and drag it to the column of the word with the matching initial sound.  Incorrect placement will cause the picture to return to the set of unmatched pictures for another try.

The application costs 99 cents.

Quality:

Sound Sorting is a high-quality phonics and phonemic awareness practice application.  The illustrations are clear and easily-recognizable pictures that most children will be familiar with.  Each illustration is named aloud by a pleasant and clear female voice.  The presentation is colorful and vivid, and the sound effects are engaging.  The mechanics of the game are easy to learn and remember.  The game does not hang up or malfunction, and does not need an internet connection.

Educational Value:

This game is ideal for older preschoolers and young elementary students who are working with phonemic awareness and beginning phonics skills.  It encourages students to match and sort words by initial consonant sounds.  The illustrations and game play are not overly juvenile, so the game is also appropriate for older learners with special needs.  The option to choose specific sounds for each game or to randomize the presentation allows for several skill levels.  Overall, this game is an outstanding addition to an early reading and reading readiness app collection.

The game could be improved with the addition of extra pictures for each sound.  Presently, it repeats the same three options with the same key word, making memorization of correct answers a possibility.  It also could be improved by adding an option to use letters instead of key words as the prompt to categorize the words.

Child Friendliness:

This application is well-designed for use by young children.  The home screen is simple and colorful and makes choosing letters an easy task.  There is a button to the side of the home screen that takes users to an explanatory help page, and the Lakeshore logo at the top of the screen does open a browser window to their website.  It would be possible for a child to accidentally get access to the internet through this link, but not without clicking on another tab already in use or typing a new address into the browser bar.

There are no options for in-app purchases and no outside advertisements.  The game is suitable for children from age four through approximately age seven or eight.

Value:

This application is inexpensive and effective.  It will help most children learn to sort words by beginning sounds and become more aware of beginning sounds and matching.  It will have long-lasting play value for most children, due to the randomizing feature, making it intriguing for a while after they have mastered all of the sounds presented.

See this app in the App Store: Sound Sorting

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Ipad App Review: Fry Words

The Fry Words application from Alligator Apps is an outstanding tool to help students of all ages practice basic sight words.  Best of all, it’s free!  The app contains all of the words from Edward Fry’s 1000 Instant Words, which introduces common words in order of frequency.  This makes it a great tool for assisting beginning readers and those who have been struggling with basic skills.  It is appropriate for students with special needs, regardless of their age and maturity level.

About This Application

The Fry Words app has 100 separate lists of ten words each, arranged in order of frequency.  Users must choose the word spoken by the recorded voice by tapping it.  A correct response is reinforced with varying phrases and a picture of a sun.  In the settings section, you can choose how many words are presented as distractors, from one to five other words on the screen at the same time.  The settings section also allows control of the font size and color, capitalization, presentation order and other details about the application.  It is possible to add, edit and delete words and record voice overs in your own voice, as well.  The application is simple to use and to modify to make it most helpful to an array of ability levels.

Quality

The Fry Words application is simple, but well-made.   It does exactly what it sets out to do: provide flashcard based practice for beginning readers with a minimum of distraction.  The words are accurate to the original Fry list, which is frequently used as a basis for reading programs designed for older students.  The varied verbal reinforcement is randomized.  Seeing the same reinforcing picture over and over again has advantages and disadvantages.  For a student with severe learning difficulties, it is advantageous because the student has no doubt about success.  Other learners might become a bit bored with the repetition.

Educational Value

This application provides straightforward practice on sight word recognition, which is fundamental to reading fluency.  Flashcard practice is a valuable tool for learning these common words, and Fry Words provides the instant feedback that is so critical to learning. The application also includes the Fry Picture Words in ten lists.

The app could be made more useful if it could keep records of student progress through the lists.  As it is, a teacher, parent or mentor will need to maintain separate records of which lists have been used and mastered.

Child-Friendliness

Fry Words is easy for a young child or person with special needs to use.  The app’s home screen lists the first twenty word lists.  A sideways swipe moves the screen to the second set of twenty lists, and so on for ten complete screens.  The eleventh screen has the Picture Word lists, and information about purchasing related applications.  This makes the purchase screens and links to outside the application difficult for most people to reach accidentally.  It connects to the App Store, but not to other sites on the internet.  There are no advertisements.

Value

It’s difficult to find fault with a free tool that does exactly what it purports to do in such an efficient manner.  Fry Words is a must-have application for teachers who work with beginning or struggling readers and for parents who want their children to have extra practice with these common words.  It does not do any comprehension exercises, but is an excellent choice for simple and straightforward word recognition.

See this app in the App Store at Fry Words App.

 

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Getting Ready To Read

Sometimes in the rush to get things accomplished (homework, assignments, or even lessons), it’s easy to overlook the essential steps of preparing to get the most out of text.  Students, especially those that struggle with reading, will benefit from pre-reading activities designed to help them prepare for the task.  Try any combination of these tips to prepare a struggling reader for the challenge of printed assignments:

  • Activate Background Knowledge: Reading is always more meaningful if we have some prior experience with the subject matter.  You can help students get ready to read by stimulating them to make connections between the text and things they already know about and understand.  Talk about foundational concepts, previous events, supporting details and so forth.  Send them on a scavenger hunt through their own minds to find related ideas that will help them with the text at hand.
  • Preview Vocabulary: Most readers know most of the words in a given piece of text.  The tough part is often those few difficult and unfamiliar words.  In addition, words that are not in our oral vocabularies can be extremely difficult to read.  Teach any words that may be unfamiliar to the reader.  Help them make the connection between the printed version and the spoken version of the word.
  • Point Out Structure: Many pieces of text, especially text designed for teaching, like textbooks, have structure built right into them.  Help your reader look for headings, subheadings, bold-faced vocabulary words and important concepts, and even paragraphs’ topic sentences.  Look at the illustrations, pictures and graphics together with their captions.  Use all of the tools that author, illustrator and publisher have put into place.
  • Read with Purpose: Reading is much more likely to be effective when students see a purpose for getting through the text.  Pose a question or two for them to answer or give them a challenge to find out about a specific fact.
  • Offer a Teaser: It’s amazing how many reluctant readers will pick right up where you leave off when you read a short portion of a text then put the book into their hands.  It’s as if once you get going on the topic, it piques their interest and points them into the right direction.  Try it!

These are just a few simple ways to help students, especially those who struggle with reading, to prepare to get meaning from text.  Give them a try next time your student is faced with reading, especially the kind of reading that we all dread-the “boring” kind.  It really works!

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Looking for more hints and tips to help struggling readers?  Be sure to check out the free MiniTips video library!  You can get all the info and see a sample video by visiting the MiniTips Library!  Membership is completely free, and you’ll get some great ideas to help the readers in your classroom or home!

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Practicing Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension is one of those areas that is in need of constant practice, but sooner or later, you simply run out of available books at the correct level, no matter what level your child is working at!  Other times, books are too much.  They are too long or cannot be processed quickly enough to conduct a lesson about them.  If you find yourself in need of additional graded reading comprehension materials, there are a few good sources around the internet.  Check these out!

And if you are searching for printable materials, you can get some great resources and support this site by purchasing some of my books:

And remember, I give away these titles and more from time to time inside the member’s area here at Quick Reading Help.com!  If you sign up for the Workshops Level, you’ll get an email when one of these products (or new ones!) is available as a members-only freebie!  Sign Up today for only $20!  >>CLICK HERE<< to become a MiniTips Member, then

 

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Using Powerpoint to Practice

Hey, did you know that you can put together reading practice lessons in Powerpoint?  It’s an inexpensive and easy tool to use to individualize help for your struggling readers.  It does take a little time and energy to get it set up, but the results are well worth it.  There are a few strategies you can use:

  • Print one word your student needs to learn on each slide.  Use the slide timings to display the word for a limited amount of time.  Presto!  You’ve got your very own high-tech tachistoscope!  By presenting the words for decreasing amounts of time, you will help your student build fluency skills.
  • Use the “record narration” function, or make sound files using a simple tool like Audacity to make sound clips of the letter sounds.  Pair the sound clip to a letter on the screen.  You can either set it up to play automatically or teach your student to try saying the sound then click for confirmation or correction.
  • You can record directions using the “record narration” function or a simple tool like Audacity.  Add these recordings in wherever you need directions that might be too difficult for your student to read independently.
  • You can create a slide with several different letters showing and play the sound of one of them.  Put the letters in separate text boxes and use the hyperlink function to take the student to a correction page if the incorrect letter is clicked or a reinforcement page to reward a correct response.
  • You can create a slide that demonstrates sounding out a simple word.  Use the Motion Path function in custom animations to slide a letter into place in the word.  If you place the sound file in the custom animation sequence immediately after the move and starting automatically, the effect will be having the letter glide into place and then hearing the sound.

I hope you’ll try this powerful tool for creating your own reading practice activities.  Please let me know if you have any questions!

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We’ve Been Nominated!

Please take a moment to vote for Quick Reading Help for the Fascination Award for Special Education for 2012~! All you need to do is click the emblem below and then find Quick Reading Help on the list to vote. Thanks for supporting QRH!

Sandy



Fascination Awards by Accelerated-Degree.com

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Helps for Reading Comprehension

Teachers and parents can help kids improve reading comprehension in lots of different ways.  Check out these YouTube videos for some insights:

Teaching Reading Comprehension with Games

You know I’m a huge proponent of games to help with learning.  This video will show you a way to connect comprehension to a board game.  Make your own!

Teaching Comprehension K-2

If you work with younger children, you’ll like the strategies in this video.  Great ideas for the primary set in groups.

Visualizing: Making Mental Images

Over the years, I’ve found that visualizing is a key to better reading comprehension.  Here is one way to actually teach kids how to do this!

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Have You Checked Out the MiniTips Library?

A big part of Quick Reading Help is teaching interested adults how to help struggling readers.  There are some wonderful videos to help you teach students about things like developing fluency, phrasing, and making inferences in the MiniTips Library.  They are short-and-sweet-and-to-the-point instructional pieces that will help you zero in on just the right skill at the right time.  Get your questions answered and find strategies that will work for your students or children!

There are currently ten MiniTips videos just waiting for you in the MiniTips Library!  Each is between ten and twenty minutes long, and easy-peesy to understand and follow.  I purposely made them free from technical jargon and “teacherese” so that parents, tutors, and other non-reading specialists can find lots of value.  You can access a sample video about teaching phrasing to improve comprehension, and if you like what you see, sign up to get access to the ever-growing collection of Reading MiniTips.  Once you’re a member, you’ll get notice whenever I add new titles, too, which is about once or twice per month.  What are you waiting for??  Check out the MiniTips Library, watch the sample video, and sign up today!!

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How to Teach Fluency

Reading fluency is the speed and ease with which a reader is able to decode and process text.  It’s vital to comprehension, to confidence and to reading efficiency.  Students typically begin to develop reading fluency around second grade; they become more concerned with the meaning of the text rather than the mechanics of decoding it.

Fluency has two components, and both need to be firmly in place for it to be accomplished.  First, readers must be fluent with a group of words called “sight words.”  These are the very common words in our language that are typically taught to young children as they begin to learn to read.  Words like “come,” “go,” “said,” and “from” are on the list.  It’s important to have these words memorized so they are recognized instantly.  Many are difficult or even impossible to sound out using the beginning phonics rules, and so they must be memorized.  There are some common lists of sight words that you can use as a resource to teach your beginning reader.  Most programs are keyed to the Dolch list, a list of about 200 common words intended to be taught in grades 1 through 3.

The other part of fluency is automatic processing of phonetically regular words.  These phonics rules are typically taught to students beginning in kindergarten and continuing through fourth or fifth grade.  Different programs teach varying combinations of rules to varying degrees, including the short vowel pattern (consonant-vowel-consonant), long vowel patterns (two vowels together, vowel-consonant-silent e, and open syllables), blends (such as /tr/ and /pl/), digraphs (like /sh/ and /ch/) and r-controlled vowels.  A good phonics program also helps readers learn to divide words into syllables and see the patterns within syllables, because this is how a fluent reader attacks an unfamiliar word.

Fluency can be developed in several ways.  It’s best to use a combination of strategies.

  • Encourage students to memorize sight words.
  • Teach at least basic phonics principles.
  • Do repeated readings of the same text.
  • Have the student participate in choral reading exercises.
  • Read for speed: time repeated readings and graph the speed of response.
  • Practice words in isolation until they are decoded instantaneously.
  • Read orally in unison with a confident reader.

Quick Reading Help has resources to help you with building your students’ reading fluency.   The MiniTips Video Library has short and sweet video trainings on various strategies to improve fluency, such as phrasing and memorizing sight words.  Sign up to become a member of the MiniTips Library for free by clicking HERE.  Want some help organizing and assessing sight word knowledge?  Click HERE to get information about a Quick Reading Help Sight Words Assessment Kit.

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