Reviewed: 10 Apps for Building Language and Social Skills
Looking for great apps that match standards you need to teach? Common Sense Media's new service Graphite, which offers independent ratings and reviews on learning apps and websites, has compiled a list of its top picks. Each month as part of the K12 Mobile Classroom newsletter, THE Journal will feature a small selection of apps around a particular content theme or subject area. For complete reviews, and for each app's "Learning Rating," visit the Graphite website.
Concepts: speaking, vocabulary, labeling feelings, personal growth
Grade Levels: K-12
Proloquo2Go is an app designed to help teachers and therapists empower kids who have limited or no speech with an alternative way to communicate. It may reduce frustration in the classroom, improve social interaction between students and with adults, and help many speech-limited students increase social as well as academic skills. Read the full review.
2. Articulation Station
Price: Free to start but extra content packs range from $2.99 to $5.99 each, or $49.99 for the Pro multi-pack.
Concepts: speaking, self-awareness, le.er or word recognition
Grade Levels: K-2
Designed by a certified speech-language pathologist, the app lets kids play with letter sounds via three well-crafted options: word games, sentences, and stories. Through these activities, students can learn correct pronunciation, letter and word recognition, as well as some built-in sentence structure. Articulation Station may be expensive as far as apps go, but for kids who are struggling with pronunciation it could provide tremendous practice and growth in speech proficiency. Read the full review.
Price: Free to try, with optional in-app purchases
Concepts: reading, reading comprehension, following directions, current events
Grade Levels: 2-6
News-2-You is a fantastic way to bring social studies, current events, and other newsy tidbits to students with special needs as well as beginning readers. Since most kids love categorizing and organizing, this symbol system provides structure and predictability to words and ideas presented in the news stories. News-2-You may seem pricey, but its content is substantial and fun. Read the full review.
4. Starfall ABCs
Concepts: phonics, listening, le.er or word recognition, solving puzzles
Grade Levels: Pre-k-K
Starfall ABCs is a solid early-learning app with a thorough approach to presenting the alphabet to preschoolers. Kids hear the sounds of each letter repeated often and can both hear and see how each letter is used in words. It's an attractive, colorful, and in-depth introduction to the alphabet. Read the full review.
Concepts: speaking, conveying messages effectively, applying information
Grade Levels: K-3
The concept behind LanguageBuilderDeluxe is pretty simple, but the design makes the whole process of language expression development elegant. With LanguageBuilderDeluxe, teachers can set up profiles for multiple kids and adjust the hint difficulty level and photo theme. During app play, kids see a picture and hear the prompt "Make a sentence about the picture." It's a must-have for speech pathologists working in schools, but teachers can use it in mixed ability classrooms, too. Read the full review.
1. Social Adventures
Concepts: following directions, cooperation, labeling feelings, self-awareness
Grade Levels: K-3
Social Adventures is an illustrated guidebook in app form, providing teachers and parents with a tidy, powerhouse package to help kids learn positive social behavior. The app contains activities, games, and cartoon descriptions of social situations based mainly on "social catch phrases" that kids can learn to better interact with others. Created by a group of trained therapists and educators, the app focuses on seven skill areas: initiating social contact; maintaining conversations; advocating and compromising; getting regulated; interpreting non-verbal skills; negotiating space; and experiencing humor. Read the full review.
2. Kid in Story Book Maker
Concepts: storytelling, multiple forms of expression, mental health, naming
Grade Levels: Pre-k-1
Though many storybook creation apps exist, Kid in Story Book Maker is unique. Even with a relatively hefty price tag, its social story focus makes it a valuable asset for kids, especially those with special needs who require extra help with social or communication skills. With the impressive green-screen technology, it's easy to extract a person's image from a photo and eliminate the background, so just the picture of a person can be dropped into the scenes in the book. Read the full review.
Concepts: analyzing evidence, making conclusions, reading, identifying emotions
Grade Levels: Pre-k-K
With its easy-to-use format and creative yet simple animal animations, Peek-a-Zoo supports teachers in providing kids with all-important lessons about social and emotional cues, which can be applied in endless situations in and out of the classroom. Read the full review.
4. Calm Counter
Concepts: handling stress, labeling feelings, self-awareness, mental health
Grade Levels: K-1
Calm Counter is an emotions education and in-the-moment calming exercise app that can help kids learn how to handle stress, anxiety, and anger in a positive way. Calm Counter helps kids with special needs, social challenges, stress, anxiety, or anger issues learn self-awareness as they begin to identify when they need a break and practice calming down. Read the full review.
5. Toca Tea Party
Concepts: imagination, respect for others
Grade Levels: Pre-k-1
Toca Tea Party is like having a traditional tea party for kids but without the breakable, spillable teacups. The most unique aspect of this sweet imaginative play app is that it extends screen play into real life. As they have fun organizing all the items on Toca Tea Party's table on the iPad and then serving their friends at the tea party, kids are growing their imaginations and social skills. Read the full review.