Apps listed are Tricky Spelling, Word Wizard, Montessori Crosswords, Spelling Space Ultimate, Word magic, Grammar - Contractions, Rocket Speller Plus.
Review by Fun Educational Apps
Developer HordernIT. Educational design by Fay Tran
Tricky Spelling is a circus themed spelling app that focuses on all of those words in the English language that follow no rules. Think: "i before e, except after c, and in cases of neighbor and weigh"...and science...and weird...and their, etc. English is a tough language to spell, and this app is hoping to make it just a little bit easier.
With three levels of practice, and a ton of words, Tricky Spelling is a good app for any student who is struggling with uncommon spelling words. The app has three extensive groups of words to practice: long sounds, homophones, and word endings. Each category has at least ten words lists, each with eight words in the list. The words are organized from easier to harder, with some of the words in the harder lists being appropriate for middle school aged students.
Students choose which category they want to practice, then they choose the word list they want to practice. The word lists are labeled and organized, making it easy to find the spelling blend in need of practice. For example, the word ending lists are sorted into groups like er/or and le/el on the easier side or ence/ense and us/ous on the harder end. The long sounds lists have groups like ee/ea on the easy end and oy/oi on the hard end. The ten homophones lists are sorted by familiarity. Words on the first list are easy pairs like son/sun and on the later lists words like skull/scull and check/cheque.
Game-play is relatively simple. After choosing a list, a sentence with missing words appears and is narrated. If students attempt to use the wrong letters, the letters turn red and are returned to the bottom of the screen. Each list has eight words and eight sentences to complete.
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I really like that this app focuses on the uncommon spelling blends that really trick kids. The spelling lists are extensive and well thought out. With the range of words available, children from second to seventh grade will find this app useful. I appreciate that the app is organized from easy word lists to harder word lists. I also like that the sentences are narrated. This makes the focus of the app on spelling, not on whether or not the student can read the sentence. The only thing that would make this better would be some sort of data collection. I'd love to see a summary of progress for successful attempts at the word lists.
Word Wizard is actually two apps in one.
Moveable Alphabet enables the student to write any word by moving letters to a position on a grid. Letters are deleted by moving them back to the alphabet. Letters can be pronounced as they are moved, or and the whole word spoken when it is completed or the sound can be turned off. Words are assessed by a built in spell-checker and incorrect words are highlighted in red. There are many options to choose such as keyboard, letter names or phonics. A whole word is deleted by touching a broom icon. The voice can be Australian, British or American.
Spelling Quizzes uses a similar format to the Montessori Crosswords app. There are many built in lists to choose from, including CVC words for beginners, Dolch words, 1000 high frequency words and subject lists. It is also easy to compile personal lists. Once a list is chosen, each word on the list is tested. A voice says the word and the child moves the letters into place on the grid as in Movable Alphabet. If the word is correct there is a visual reward display like the one in Montessori Crosswords which stops when the screen is touched. If the word is incorrect it just stays on the screen. A question mark icon can be touched for hints about the correct letters, so the word can be corrected.
At the end of a list there is a summary of the numbers of words spelt correctly with and without hints and the option of an interactive game. The game involves moving stars and other shapes around the screen.At the end of a list there is a summary of the numbers of words spelt correctly with and without hints and the option of an interactive game. The game involves moving stars and other shapes around the screen.
Word Wizard is a comprehensive spelling test and practice app that is quick to set up and easy to modify to suit the student's needs and is the best spelling app I have found so far. The problem with the built in lists is that the words are spoken, sometimes indistinctly, and there is no way of knowing which spelling is required if the word is a homophone. There is also no way of seeing the whole list of words when choosing a list for a student to try.
I prefer to make lists for individual children, rather than use the inbuilt lists. I use the My Lists option to test the words that a child had trouble with the previous lesson, as the list can be compiled in about 2 minutes and is a pleasant way to start a lesson. The cvc word lists are also useful if a child is having trouble hearing the vowels correctly, for example, 'a' and 'u'.
This is a mostly phonics based spelling program with 3 options for font and 3 options for keyboard layout and several for the audio. The word options are simple words with 3 sounds, words with consonant blends, words of any complexity, words which focus on 1 sound and Christmas words. There is also a moveable talking alphabet. The 'focus on one sound' option has many choices ranging from short 'a' as in 'cat' to silent letter words.
The child is presented with a spoken word and picture and blank boxes for each letter and is required to drag the correct letters to the boxes from the keyboard below. Tapping on the blank box with give the letter sound and tapping on a box at the top of the screen provides the written word, so supervision is required to ensure that the child does not simply copy the word. If an incorrect letter is moved to a box it does not stay there and returns itself to the keyboard. When a word is completed, a touch sensitive animation appears consisting of stars, dots or circles which the child can play with until the teacher touches a little box in the corner of the screen that prompts the next word to appear.
I have found the app a valuable way to provide a child with a few minutes practice of a selected phonics sound. I like the way words are sounded out as each letter is correctly placed and then said when it is completed. Children love the animation but as a teacher, I would prefer that it occurred after a few words rather than after every word.
Spelling Space Ultimate by Learning Gems, a division of Bluefire Ventures, is a spelling test and practice program with space games as a reward for correct spelling. Lists of words can be compiled quickly for each child with easy addition of the speech for each word. Words are marked correct or incorrect after each is typed on the qwerty keyboard, but there is no facility for correction once the word has been submitted.
I have found this app a useful way of pre-testing new words or practising troublesome ones with children who don't enjoy writing words in a book, but love the ipad. Of course the space game reward is the attraction, but by typing their own list of words under my direction and then playing the game with the same words but in random order, they do learn to write the words.
Other apps by the same publisher are Spelling Space - 1st Grade, Spelling Space - 2nd Grade, Spelling Space - 3rd Grade, Spelling Space 4th Grade, Spelling Space - 5th Grade and Spelling Space - 6th grade. These contain lists of words to be tested but no facility for modifying the lists. The words in these lists appear to have been chosen randomly within each level. The speech on these apps is not clear and has a strong American accent, which makes the words difficult to understand. Since the words are only identified by the spoken voice, I have found them quite useless and would not recommend them to Australian or British users. Just stick to the Spelling Space Ultimate and use your own voice, with a sentence, to identify the words.
Word Magic requires the student to select the missing letter in a word from a choice of four. There are many setting choices which enable the teacher to set up an appropriate exercise practising consonants or vowels, in 3-6 letter words, with one or two syllables. There are optional speech and reward sounds and visual rewards every five words. The 'Missing Letters' option means the missing letters are consonants, while the 'Phonetics' option means the missing letters are long or short vowels, which suggests that the developer doesn't understand the meaning of 'phonetics'. In the 'speech' option the words are spoken when they appear, but as all words are accompanied by a clear illustration this is not really necessary.
The options page is well set out and easy to use, but I have been unable to find a quick way of returning to the home page to restart the exercise, and thus the accumulated rewards, with a new student. In fact there does not appear to be a home page. The selection of letters from which the student chooses the missing letter, could also be improved so as to require the student to make knowledge based spelling decisions. For example, the letters provided for the 'ee' in cheese are 'ee', 'eg', 'ig' and 'lf'. My selection for this word would be 'ee', 'ea', 'e' and 'ei'. The missing letters are not always phonetic units either, as in 'igloo' where the missing letters are 'ig'.
Despite these limitations, Word Magic is provides another option for a quick practice of spelling and phonics skills in a non threatening way.
Rocket Speller Plus
Developed by Little Big Thinkers
Rocket Speller Plus is a much improved vesion of the earlier Rocket Speller. Spelling lists are graded, as is the the assistance provided. There are five lists of words, 'food', creatures', 'around the house', 'basics', which includes numbers, colours, and shapes, and 'all catagories'. There is also the choice of letter names or phonics, although the phonics is sometimes a bit strange, and upper or lower case letters.
Children love this app because after every three words they get to choose a part of a rocket which eventually fires into the stary sky. I generally use it as a reward game or when a child needs a break from intensive learning. It does practise the skill of sounding out words for spelling and the lists include many useful high frequency words.