PrepositionBuilder

Preposition builder icon 2 PrepositionBuilder by Mobile Education Store

For iPad – AUD$8.49

I was excited about the prospect of using PrepositionBuilder in the classroom. Students sometimes have difficulties understanding that prepositions link nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in a sentence. Bring in the iPad and PrepositionBuilder and you can use it as part of your literacy block activities.

PB1Like all Mobile Education Store apps, PrepositionBuilder launches on the settings screen, where you can add multiple students and customise the app settings for each profile. You can switch on or off the following:

  • audio instructions,
  • correct answer reinforcement, and
  • the option to record the correct answer.

I went through all nine preposition categories with my students; and each category had 21 preposition questions with between 3-4 preposition words to work on. The goal is for the student to view a cartoon image and partial sentence and then drag the word they think is correct from a choice of 3 similar prepositions up to the sentence strip. Overall, the students I used PrepositionBuilder with were able to visually interpret the pictures correctly on their first to third attempt. The images are appealing to children in the 5-10 year age category. Some students thought that they were really funny and wanted to create their own funny images after using the app.

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In our literacy unit we were learning about reading visual literacy. This is the ability to see, to understand, and ultimately to think, create, and communicate graphically. Generally speaking, the visually literate viewer looks at an image critically with an eye for the intentions of the image’s creator. The first level of visual literacy is the basic identification of the subject or elements in a graphic. Understanding what we see and comprehending visual relationships is important. These higher-level visual literacy skills require critical thinking, and they are essential to a student’s success where information is conveyed through visual formats. It is great that every question in PrepositionBuilder requires students to ‘read’ the visuals as well as the written sentence.

While I generally liked the format and images associated with PrepositionBuilder, I thought that some of the images could be (and were) interpreted by students incorrectly. One student was visibly perplexed when explaining to me that “The family was driving to the grocery store.” because the car was not parked and was moving towards the store and it couldn’t possibly be ‘at’ the grocery store when the wheels were still moving. We do teach our students to be critical thinkers!

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Another student thought that “The girl is riding her bike to school.” was more appropriate than ‘at’ because people were waving at her as if she had just got there.

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All of my students answered the question wrong about the library. They thought it should be “The girl is reading a book at the library.” rather than ‘to’ the library because it didn’t make sense to them and the girl was at the library – just not inside. I had to explain that they had to look at all of the clues in this picture. The library had a face and a speech bubble.

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All of these student discussions led to the students using more expressive language. I wasn’t expecting this to happen on such a large and lively scale, which made it a fun and teachable moment!

What do I like about PrepositionBuilder?

  • I like the cartoon images and the humour in them, which I have come to expect from Mobile Education Store. Students tend to respond better to learning which involves some form of visual supports.
  • I also like that you can have multiple users and can email results to parents or teachers.
  • I think that the stepped animations were a great idea to help motivate students to successfully reach the end of the next level (so they could view the next part).
  • It is great to see that when a student gets an incorrect answer, the app will show a picture and a written sentence of that preposition in its correct form.

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What could be improved?

  • Although I had lively discussions with my students about some of their answers and explanations about preposition questions, I think that some of the pictures were a little confusing. Perhaps short animations could be added in a future version or update (similar to those included in TenseBuilder).
  • I would like to be able to generate a batch email that could include all of my student’s progression through the app, instead of single emails for each user. While it is good to see that a user can access their individual results, it would be more beneficial to see the actual question they got incorrect (and perhaps the answer they originally input). This could help me plan further follow-up activities.
  • I found it confusing that the app didn’t advise the user that they had finished the section (other than the animation), it kept going, repeating only certain questions over and over again. This repetition did not seem to be related to any incorrect answers recorded earlier. It would be great if you could use a pop-up option to return to the same set or continue on a different set.
  • More prepositions please or the ability to change the combinations of the preposition sets.

Overall, I like the format of PrepositionBuilder. It is in an easy to use format, and is visually appealing to students. It is a great tool for the classroom.

Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms

Advanced Phonics logo Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms

by Pyxwise Software Inc

(Release date 7th December 2012 – Special intro. price of $0.99 – before rising to $4.99USD)

Receiving a copy of Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms was very exciting for me. As an educator, I recognise that it is important for an app to have the right content and features so that it can be incorporated into my planning and teaching to optimise student learning. Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms exceeded my expectations.  As soon as I opened the app, I was immediately in awe of the design and educational thought that has gone into this product.

Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms is a complete package and has the following features:

  • A full years worth of lessons to compliment your curriculum.
  • 52 lists containing over 750 high frequency words. These are organised by spelling patterns and difficulty levels.
  • Each list has a lesson to guide the user and help cement spelling knowledge, including syllables, sounds, spelling rules, and some of the more advanced English phonograms.
  • An introductory lesson and help menu with clear instructions, audio narration and feedback.
  • The ability to have multiple users.
  • Settings which can be customised to suit American, Canadian, or English spelling.
  • The ability to customise the keyboard layout, select upper or lower case letters, and more.

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The ability to read and write is fundamental to successful learning at school. Literacy skills influence a person’s chances of finding and retaining employment, achieving financial independence, and having a positive self-esteem. When learning to read and write, children benefit from provision of systematic structure, and direct guidance or scaffolding. Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms does this very nicely. The program can be customised for each of your users. This includes the ability to change the number of correct attempts at a word before the score reporting recognises that the student has mastered the lesson and all of the words within it.

Click the images below to enlarge and view them in slideshow mode. They show the introductory lesson.

I really like how the app scaffolds students for successful learning. At any stage during the lesson, your students can get help by pressing the buttons on the screen. This includes:

  • an explanation – for the sound that the student is currently working on;
  • a play button – to hear the word separately and in a sentence;
  • a syllable button – to  hear and see the word broken into its syllables; and
  • a hints button – to get extra help for spelling the word.

Depending on the lesson, other buttons might be displayed. Explanations of all of the buttons can be found by tapping the top-left arrow and then tapping the “?”. The images below show how a student can work through the spelling of a word. I like how the student is provided with positive reinforcement at the completion of each word, regardless of the number of hints that they required or errors that they made when completing the task.

Pyxwise Software recommend that Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms should be used for students that are at least nine years of age. I agree with this statement; however, if you have younger students that are at a higher level, you should definitely use it with them. Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms is designed to extend the knowledge that your students have already acquired by working through the complete lessons on other apps in the Pyxwise series. They are Simplex Spelling Phonics 1 – English; and Simplex Spelling Phonics 2 Syllables – Spell To Read.

What do I like about Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms?

I can write all day about Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms. I love it that much!

  • It is a great app that is crafted beautifully.
  • It could be used in the classroom by a teacher as part of a literacy block with all students or as a specialised instruction tool to help specific students gain mastery in spelling, contractions, syllables (including multisyllables) and more.
  • It could also be used by a speech language pathologist in a therapy session or at home under parental guidance.
  • Every word is broken down into its syllables both visually and auditorily to help students build phonological awareness skills.
  • Pyxwise Software promote deep understanding by using a “reverse phonics” hint feature to break each word down further into individual phonemes to improve phonemic awareness, a critical skill for literacy development.
  • The ability to have multiple users is highly valued by educators (and therapists), and essential for classroom use.

What would I like to see in future updates?

I don’t have very much to add here. The only thing I would like to see relates to reporting of student results and progress. At the moment, I would have to go into the app and view each user profile and then check the statistics for each lesson to see how my students have performed. It would be fantastic if there was an option to upload (for individuals and in batch format) to a CSV or Dropbox format or have the ability to import the information when syncing the device to iTunes. Note: I understand that Pyxwise are working on this feature to include in future updates (fantastic!).

Final Thoughts…

Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms is one of my favourite spelling and phonics apps. It is great to see an app that focuses on spelling for students in the upper primary years that still need this type of instruction and scaffolding. The concepts are taught and reinforced to enable students to gain mastery levels. As I investigated the app, I thought to myself “Finally, an app that can actually be used in the classroom!“. I recommend Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms to educators, speech language pathologists, and parents.