Play-Doh ABCs

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Age Scale: 3-8

Device: iPod, iPhone, and iPad

Quick Line: Don’t Squish This Creation

What Educators Need to Know:
Who doesn’t love Play-Doh? Well, okay. What KID doesn’t love Play-Doh? It’s squishy, colorful, and can be used to make just about anything imaginable. My wonderfully awesome babysitter does not, in fact, love Play Doh due to its messiness, but I’m hoping this post will change her mind. Maybe she will allow it to enter her home!

When I was first approached to take a look at this app, I’ll admit that I was skeptical. Play Doh is such a great way to meet the needs of tactile learners. Wouldn’t an app take away from this strength? Not so.

Play Doh ABCs has several goals in mind: letter recognition, writing letters using proper stroke order, and letter/sound recognition. There are also three modes: Write and Craft, Create and Share, and Letter Matching. Now, there are THOUSANDS of apps that support letter and sound recognition. Play Doh does a decent job here. Students can connect letters with Play Doh art, including their own (see below). Clever! But there are FEW apps that I would recommend that enhance the writing of these letters. Many are too abstract! “Write and Create” is where Play Doh succeeds.

In fact, I saw the transition from digital learning to pencil-paper first-hand. E tried the app yesterday for about 30 minutes. First of all, I could not believe he stayed focused on something that is clearly not a strength. As usual, E likes to do things “his way”. Predictably, he started with uppercase A (lowercase is available too). When writing an A, he likes to start at the bottom, but Play Doh softly reminds users to follow the proper procedure as they trace the shape of the letter. Once finished, he was able to create a picture of an alligator by using pre-made components with custom colors. A purple alligator? No problem! The miracle occurred today when he had to write a capital A and did so with the proper stroke order! Can I attribute his success to this app directly and solely? No. But if I were a preschool or kindergarten teacher, I would say “perfect practice makes perfect”. There is no sense in practicing incorrect handwriting techniques.

If I were using this app in the classroom setting, I would certainly follow up with real Play-Doh. I would be encouraging students to mold the letters, trace their creations with their fingers, repeat my letter writing phrases, and use their pencils to write the letters. Let’s hit all modalities!

Notes: I would highly recommend using the settings to turn the sound off. It drove us nuts. Up to three players can save their work on a device. Nice!

Price: $2.99

PLAY-DOH Create ABCs - PlayDate Digital

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Word Mover

Age Scale: 8-adult

Device: iPad

Quick Line: Refrigerator Poetry

What Educators Need to Know:

There are few websites out there that are better for Language Arts teachers than www.ReadWriteThink.org.  If you are not familiar, it was created in a joint partnership with the International Reading Association and the National Council for Teachers of English.  It is no big shock, but the Word Mover app is both developmentally appropriate and creatively sound.  I love the idea of magnetic poetry.  I gravitate towards it when visiting friends who have a refrigerator full of letters or words.  It’s always interesting to see what people put together!  Word Mover allows users to use preset word banks, your own words, or words from a famous piece of writing to creatively express thoughts.  Editing and revising are as simple as a swipe of a finger.  Students can save their work to photos, send as an email, or send to a wireless printer.  Brilliant!  And did I mention that it is free?!   Sorry, primary teachers, your kiddos were left out this time.  But maybe ReadWriteThink is working on another version?  I hope so!

Price: free!

Word Mover - National Council of Teachers of English

Educreations

Age Scale: 8-adult

Device: iPad

Quick Line:   Share What You Know

What Educators Need to Know:

Want to explain how to multiply fractions?  Feel the need to share the proper way to eat an Oreo?   Educreations will help you do these things, and it is FREE!  Educreations by Educreations Inc. is an extremely easy-to-use interactive whiteboard that allows users to record and replay voice recordings, handwriting, and drawings.  The app has many valuable features like allowing you to embed your videos on a blog or website and share them via email, Facebook, or Twitter.  While I can think of multiple ways  to share my expertise, I can almost think of more ways for the students to demonstrate their learning with this app.  In math, you could have students record their solutions to a problem and bring it to you for evaluation.  In history, you could have them make a timeline of an event, and record their explanation of each date.  Would it take some planning?  Absolutely.  But in an age when students should be demonstrating learning and explaining their thinking, Educreations is a must.

Price: FREE

Educreations Interactive Whiteboard - Educreations, Inc

Rhyme Source

Age Scale: 8-16

Device: iPod, iPhone, or iPad

Quick Line:  Any Time is Rhyme Time

What Educators Need to Know:

I often have students write poetry  or song lyrics to demonstrate knowledge of many different ideas.  And while all poetry doesn’t rhyme, students gravitate towards those poems that do.  Unfortunately, their little heads don’t produce rhyming words as quickly as we might like.  Introducing… Rhyme Source.  Rhyme Source is a rhyming dictionary.  Students can type in a word, and rhyming words are listed based on the number of syllables.  For example, when I typed in “rhyme”, “crime”, “all-time”, and “overtime” were produced.  It’s simple and cheap.  The newest version also allows students to make notes for future poetry or lyrics.  It is a primitive feature, but it may come in handy!

Price:  $.99 at the time of review

RhymeSource - Widemouth

Shake a Phrase

Shake a Phrase

Age Scale:  8-14

Device:  iPod, iPhone, or iPad

Bottom Line:  Grammar Gone Good

What Educators Need to Know:

Shake a Phrase has three modes:  Shake It!, Quiz Me!, and Story Starter.  Shake It! provides a sentence that uses advance vocabulary.  Students can touch unknown words to uncover the part of speech and definition.  You can save and share your favorites.  I used this mode and had students rewrite the sentences using plain language.  The Story Starter mode produces a similar sentence without an ending.  Again, students can click on the words they don’t know to help them understand the sentence.  Then they would finish the sentence and write a story (which would prove they understood the words).  Quiz Me is just as it indicates:  a quiz.  Students are required to “Tap on the Nouns” or Verbs, or Adjectives.  The menu allows teachers to control which parts of speech to use on the quiz.  So, for example, if you were focusing on nouns in your lessons, you could turn Verbs and Adjectives to OFF.    Overall, Shake a Phrase is very simple, but you could use it to tier your lessons .   Some students could be practicing and learning with the Shake It feature.  You could assess with the Quiz Me mode.  You could extend learning with the Story Starter.

Price:  $.99 at the time of review

Shake-a-Phrase: Fun With Words and Sentences - Artgig Studio