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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Magic Stickers

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Age Scale: 4-8

Device: iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad

Quick Line: Creative Opportunity is Knocking!

What Educators Need to Know:
Although my husband may be a product designer and spend much of his time drawing, our oldest son shares very little interest in being visually creative. To say it simply, E hates to color. Now, thanks to a series of YouTube videos by a boy his age, E does enjoy narrating stories. When a representative from the Lazoo company contacted me to take a look at Magic Stickers, I was more than happy to oblige. I’ll try anything to get this child to create art – even on the iPad. As he explored the app, I could see his wheels churning. An opportunity to create stories that don’t involve Angry Birds? I’m in!

Magic Stickers contains eight whimsical scenes for children to explore. Once selected, dozens of “stickers” are available to add to the scene. Children can rearrange and re-size all of them, and they can even create their own. Bread becomes a bus. Candy becomes flowers. All of this might sound somewhat ordinary. I mean, we are talking about the iPad here, and I feel like we’ve seen just about everything. But Lazoo added an animation component that sets it apart from the rest. Birds fly; bugs crawl, and animals dance and play. Even original artwork created by the user interacts with the background. Pretty slick! To boot, Lazoo’s illustrations are just plain CUTE.

So much of what we do in our schools revolves around the concrete. I like this app for promoting creativity and imagination. I can see this tool as a springboard in an elementary art classroom. Teaching children to see everyday objects as something more can be difficult. After using this app, I would imagine students would be better able to think outside of the box and reach the heart of what creating art is all about! I also think it could be used as a fun creative writing tool. I’ll try to catch E narrating as he creates his own scene. Wish me luck!

Price: $1.99

Magic Stickers! - PlayDate Digital

Write About This

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Sometimes I think, I could totally homeschool my children. Not that I would WANT to homeschool them (they will do fine in public school), but it is nice to know that I could. I felt this way especially after stumbling upon my latest discovery Write About.

For those of you that like to start class with journaling, this is the app for you. I initially started with the free version. While it provided a nice starter set of prompts (one from each category), it had too many limitations. For one, it would only allow me to SAVE one piece of writing. Really? That stinks. As I browsed the categories and corresponding photographs intended to spark the writing, I decided to invest $2.99.

I love many things about this app. One, the photographs are terrific. Two, the prompts are thoughtful and set the child up for organized writing. Three, younger or struggling learners can listen to the prompt rather than read it. E and I quickly composed an informational piece on his favorite type of cookie and what makes it so delicious. With a quick click, the writing and picture were emailed as a pdf to my husband who delighted in E’s dictated writing!

According to the apps website, writeaboutapp.com, teachers can customize the settings to fit the needs of the learner. Smart! Users can also use their own photos for writing topics. E and I plan on writing about a family of Lego superheroes that he’s been creating.

If I were an online instructor, I would most certainly use this app. Combined with Grammaropolis and frequent feedback from the teacher, I could see how this could be the foundation of an elementary writing course!

Endless Alphabet

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Two people recommended I review this app in the same week, so I knew it had to be a good one! Both my four year old and 20 month old love it!

The app features interactive spelling puzzles that come to life with a touch of the finger! Children can learn letters and sounds by clicking and dragging letters to somewhat advanced words like “yodel” and “hilarious”. The activities will illicit a giggle as the letters turn to little monsters as they are moved. In addition, each word is explained in detail with a clever integrated animation.

If I taught primary, I would find a way to integrate this app. At minimum, I’d use it at a vocabulary center. I think pre-readers would benefit from the letter recognition features. Advanced users will appreciate the exposure to vocabulary enrichment words.

One of the best features? It’s FREE! Go grab it!

Toontastic Example

 

 

StoryLines

I seriously thought StoryLines was going to be a bust. At first glance, I couldn’t see how it could possibly apply to anything that I was teaching in the classroom, and I certainly thought the students would find it to be a bore. Boy, was I wrong! I used this FREE app as a pass and play game. Basically, it is the game of “telephone”, only you use words AND pictures. The fortune cookie can get you started with a famous quotation. The first player must illustrate the quote and pass it along. The second player must create a quote from the first player’s illustration and pass it to a third player. Depending on the group size selected, play continues in this manner until a hilarious final quote is revealed. Most likely, the students will laugh out loud. How could I adapt this to what I teach? I’ve been thinking that I may take character quotes from the story we are reading, and have the students use them as a starters. I also think it would be neat to involve famous quotes from African Americans or U.S. Presidents during the month of February! Pretty fun!

Note: There is a school version that I have not explored. If you have and recommend it, please let me know! I’d love to see how it is being used!

Price: FREE

StoryLines - Root-One, Inc.