New preschool and kindergarten students! Along with a welcome energy boost, they also bring the challenge of getting to know them beyond the paper received at transition meetings. Naturalistic interactions over picture books and apps (or a combination of the two) can help you zoom in on students’ current speech-language performance levels. Harper Collins recently released a series of eight free apps for iPad that each present an animated interactive book along with a book creation tool. The Collins’ Big Cat Series, appropriate for preschool and kindergarten language levels, includes titles such as “Around the World,” “In the Garden” and “My Bike Ride” and jibes with curriculum themes such as community and weather.
After reviewing each of the books, students can write and illustrate their own books in the app. Such activities align with Common Core standards in speaking and listening (for example, “Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions as desired to provide additional detail”), and also can be used to address clinical objectives related to concepts and sentence formation.
Play is also a naturally effective way to elicit language, and along with your batch of toys, open-ended play apps can engage students in using story grammar, language structures such as causals, or even articulation targets. The Dr. Panda series of apps, described as “Kids’ Games with Educational Values,” are available for iOS devices and Android for $1.99. Many have free versions you can try before purchasing.
The apps present contexts such as a daycare center, garden, restaurant or supermarket, providing an opportunity to emphasize categories and language schema. For a great description of how play-based apps can be combined with post-app activities that extend “beyond the iPad,” see this post on the all4mychild blog.
The PBS Parents Play and Learn app (free for iOS, Android, Nook and Kindle) also targets real-world schemas (the library, a party, bath time) through an interactive game for each theme. This free cross-platform app can help parents increase language-enhancing talk with their children in naturalistic contexts. For example, the library-based section of the app encourages parents to “Spend time looking at a book’s front cover with your child” and describes language that can be used to elicit description and prediction. The app is also bilingual, with a Spanish mode, and contains an open-ended scene-building “stickers” activity.
If you have a laptop or desktop available in addition to a mobile device, you can open up worlds of resources with the Splashtop 2 remote desktop app (about $6.99 for iOS and Android). This app, when connected to a laptop, allows access on your iPad to Flash-based early learning websites. It also helps little hands interact with websites on your touch-screen, as this can be difficult with a mouse. Requiring an easy installation on your mobile device and a free applet for your computer itself, the app allows you to control a laptop or desktop computer from a mobile device such as an iPad.
As a result, you can use the helpful phonemic awareness activities on sites such as starfall.com, and other early learning activities such as those at PBS Kids, The BBC and ABCya.com. Use of a flash-enabling app such as Rover on the iPad can also make many of these activities more accessible.
For further learning, check out the Kindertown app for iPad, a free compendium of educator-reviewed apps for ages 3 to 8. Additionally, educational bloggers such as Matt B. Gomez, a kindergarten teacher, offer tips on apps and other resources at #kinderchat on Twitter.