Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Letters to Santa...with many uses!

Santa Express for Kids
I wish I could have posted this sooner, but this is a free app that I have used with both students and my own children.  It's an app in which you can write/decorate letters to Santa.  If parents/clinicians choose to do so, you can also follow up on and the child will receive a return email.  I haven't visited yet. Anyway, I like this app, it has some nice features.  You can choose the background for your letter, and many of the backgrounds are holiday-neutral, meaning there is a snow background.  I had one group of students write a letter requesting snow, so we addressed the letter to a weatherman.  We described the type of snow, the amount of snow, why we wanted the snow, and the time we wished our snow would arrive. So this app really can extend past Christmas if desired.  I think the snow request was my favorite use for this app.  Here are some screen shots from the app store.  The snowflake paper is not pictured, but it is when you use the app.   I will be using the snow themed letter after the holidays for some other describing and vocabulary goals. Other ways that I used the app prior to the holidays included:
--listing vocabulary associated with the holidays, then using each word in a sentence
--listing describing words (adjectives and adverbs) associated with the holidays and using each word in a sentence
--listing steps for wrapping a present or other holiday events..."How to" activities  (How to make a snowman, How to make a snowball, How to make hot chocolate, How to wrap a present, How to decorate a tree, etc).  I usually did the typing while the student listed the steps. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Toca Kitchen

I am sure most people have come to love Toca Boca apps by now.  I had to buy Toca Kitchen on the morning it was released on my personal iPad...Toca apps have come to serve as 'prizes' for hard work with my 2 young children.  Toca Kitchen is priced very well at $1.99 and includes 4 main characters to choose from.  Here are some ways that I use Toca Kitchen:

--Making Predictions/Inferences:  prior to a child/student beginning the app for the first time, I ask them what they think the app will be about and 'how they knew' or 'what clues' they used to come to that prediction.  During the app, I ask the child/student to make predictions about the characters, foods, and reactions.  Ex: What do you think the horse might eat? What do you think the boy might do if we don't cook the steak?

--Sequencing: After a child has prepared a meal for their character, I ask them to tell me the steps.  You can easily make this goal as easy or challenging as needed.

--Looking for subtle clues:  I remind the child/student to watch carefully for subtle clues...the characters all react differently to foods.  Sometimes they lick their lips or frown.  We then talk about why this might have happened.

--Social Skills/Pragmatics:  when in small groups, the students can take turns preparing items.  I have also had the students work together to decide what to do as a group.  This requires being 'flexible' and thinking about our friends, as well as paying attentions/staying on task.

--Articulation: This app is great for targeting certain sounds, such as /f/ and /k/.  I can pair this app with more structured drill of those sounds.  This app is then used to elicit words such as 'food', 'cook', 'carrot', etc. We practice saying sentences such as, "I can cook..." if targeting /k/. 

--Language: This app also serves as opportunities for vocabulary development and sentence formulation related to the kitchen/food group.

My son seems to find the cow character creepy, as it has muscles, chest hair, and a tattoo...but other than that, it's been a great hit with children aged 2-8 years.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hearts and Stars

I came across 2 fun, easy apps that I have been using for /s/ articulation practice, but the apps could easily be used to address other goals.  The apps are called Draw with Stars! and Hearts Extravaganza. Both apps were free at the time of purchase.
How do I use the apps?
The student and I take turns creating 'lines' of stars or hearts while producing a sustained /s/ sound in isolation (ex: "sssss..."). The goal is to work on sustained production of the sound and use controlled airflow.  The student and I vary the activity in several ways:  I draw a line, he/she draws a line;  I make curvy lines, he/she traces over the lines; I fill the screen with about 10 lines, he/she erases the lines.  I typically use this as a warm-up prior to practicing  /s/ words.  The students enjoy choosing hearts or stars (2 different apps), choosing the size of the heart or star, and choosing the colors.  Students also enjoy making the hearts/stars fly off of the page (erasing).

Here is a pictures of some lines that I drew for the student (star app). To erase the stars or hearts (make them fly off of the page), touch the broom in the bottom right corner, then touch the hears/stars.  It can be a bit finicky at times, just re-touch the broom and try again.

Really, you could use either app for so many purposes:  following directions, drawing their name in stars as an incentive after turns at a more structured task, etc.  You could even add a designated number of stars...have the child repeat a target word or phrase...then let the student choose a heart or star fly away!  You are not limited to lines, you can do anything your heart desires.  You can also change the background to a favorite picture or take a picture using the camera.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Camera Zoom

With the iOS 5 upgrade release, zooming for the camera changed.  Previously, you tapped the screen to make a slider bar appear (could zoom in/out using the slider).  With the upgrade, you simply use a 'pinching' move on the screen when you are in camera mode.  Again, the slider bar will appear and you can zoom in/out.  Here are the steps again:

If you have the iOS 5 upgrade:
  1. Open the Camera.  NOTE:  You must be using the back camera for zoom to work, zoom will not work if you are using the camera lens on the front of the iPad.
  2. Use your index finger and thumb, use a pinching move on the screen, or pinch then flick them apart...both work. A slider bar will appear, zoom in/out.

If you do NOT have the iOS 5 upgrade:
  1. Open the Camera. NOTE:  You must be using the back camera for zoom to work, zoom will not work if you are using the camera lens on the front of the iPad.
  2. Tap or touch the screen, a slider bar will appear.  Zoom in and out.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    Toca Store and Toca Birthday Party

    I am sure that everyone knows that I am a loving fan of Toca Boca...and they did it again!  Two more really great apps that I have been meaning to talk about for awhile!
    Toca Store (might be my favorite yet) and Toca Birthday Party

    Toca Store: This is a great app for role play.  One person is the store owner (we also use the terms vendor, cashier, etc).  This person is responsible for setting up the picking the items they want to sell.  We talk a great deal about picking items that we think our customer would want (perspective taking, thinking about others, etc). The other role is the customer, who picks items and pays for them.  The options are endless for goals.  I have used this game during many sessions already and each session is different. Some sessions we use all non-verbal communication to indicate that the store is open, bargain/set prices, indicate that we are ready to pay, etc.  Other sessions, the students must verbally bargain for a fair price...we talk about what happens if we set a price too high or too low (losing customers vs. not making a profit).  Of course, since money is involved, there are math goals that could be incorporated as well. I also have the students review their order or explain why they bought certain items.  One of my students had the idea that he wanted to work on his skills of persuasion by trying to convince his 'cheap' partner to buy more items! I could go on and on!

    Here are pics from the Apple Store:

    Toca Birthday Party:  If you enjoy Toca Tea Party, you will love this app as well.  It is a very similar theme.  There is a gift to open, cake to serve and eat, drinks, and some party poppers.  Again, this app is great for turn-taking, role play, non-verbal communication, and it is suitable for both boys and girls. Plus many other goals!

    Here is a screenshot from the Apple Store:


    MexiBall is just the coolest is by Donut Games, who also make some other apps that I use: Spikey,  Ruberth's Kick n Fly, Cows in Space, etc.  There apps are fabulous for higher level language and critical thinking skills. I am able to use their games with my younger students as well as my adolescent students.  Donut Games also has a nice website (click the Donut link) where some of the games are available in an on-line version (no apple device necessary).
    MexiBall is a logic game in which you need to slide colored balls together.  The levels start easy, but quickly increase in difficulty.  Ex: You will need to slide a yellow ball out of the way before sliding the red balls together. Other obstacles are added, such as holes, electric gates, etc.  Not only do you want to complete the level, but you want to do so in as few moves as possible.

    Oh yeah, did I mention it is FREE this week?????  Donut Games offers a FREE app every week, they post the name of the app on Mondays. Here is their Facebook page.

    What Goals Do I Target?
    • Logic, sequencing, and higher level thinking: Students must analyze the puzzle, decide what steps need to be accomplished, solve problems (ex: if a ball is in the way, etc), use multiple strategies, etc.   It was really cool to see my students pre-planning the steps...even talking out a plan before they began!  This game is advanced enough for my middle school-aged students as well. You could increase the vocabulary level for older students: theory, predict, hypothesis, test, solution, etc.
    • Following directions: I can provide oral directions for the student to follow in order to pass a level. Student partners can also work together...Student A tells Student B how to complete a move or level, then they can reverse roles. 
    • Fine motor and coordination: It is great practice for my students who struggle with keeping their finger on the screen and dragging the marbles through the puzzle/maze.  My OT friends would be better at describing the skills needed here! =)
    The one drawback that I have found with this app, is that once you perfect a level, it tells you that you failed when you try it with another group.  I simply explain this to the students and instruct them not to pay attention to the message...but it would be nice if the developer could change this??? (Hint, Hint!)   My students really like seeing that phrase, "You Passed".  I do not want to reset the game either because some student keep track of their level from session to session.

    Here are screenshots from the Apple Store...I didn't use my own shots as the store shots showed the finger moving the marbles, which is nice.

    More Swiping?

    With the iOS5 upgrade, there are some new 'moves' that you can take advantage of.  I like them!

    1. Access the Multi-tasking Bar easier: use 4 or 5 fingers and swipe upwards, your multi-tasking bar will appear.  Previously, you needed to double-tap the home button to access this.  Use the same 4 or 5 fingers and a downward swipe to get rid of it.
    2. Going between different apps: When using an app, use 4 or 5 fingers and swipe sideways to switch from app to app.  This is such a useful tool when practicing during sessions...students can easily use multiple apps (ex: Practice /s/ blends from Articulate It!, switch to Cut the Rope to take a turn at the game, return to Articulate It! to continue practicing /s/ blends, and so on...).
    **I'll add some pics later...or maybe even a video!***


    Ok, so now that iOS 5 is here, there is a long-awaited feature:  Make Albums!  That's right, no more scrolling through hundreds of pictures and videos looking for 'that one picture' or in my case, 'that one speech sample'.  So how do you do it?  You can pre-make albums and drop in select videos or pics...or you can take your videos/pics and make the albums later.  Either way works. **I will add some photos for each step soon.**
    1. Go to Photos (not the camera...go to Photos).
    2. At the top of the screen, you will see a button that has 2 options, Photos or Albums.  Choose Albums.
    3. Now you are in the albums mode...simply hit the edit button in the upper right corner.
    4. To make a new album, touch the New Album button located in the upper left corner. 
    5. Name your album, ex: Articulation or "Making Pancakes", whatever!
    6. Next you will be prompted to select pictures from your camera roll.  Simply touch the pictures or video that you want in that album!  Presto you are Done-O!  Thanks Apple, you just saved this SLP some extra time!

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    iOS 5

    Thought I'd post this article link summarizing some of the new features that we can expect with the upgrade to iOS 5!

    iOS 5 by Lifehacker

    Here is the info on Apple's site as well.

    Just some of my favorites and things I am looking forward to:
    • Definitely looking forward to some of the new camera options...making albums and being able to click/drag photos/videos ...oh Apple, you have made me so happy!  No more searching for Speech samples (video), could it be????  Plus lots of other slick camera and photo options.
    • I am definitely looking forward to the Notification Center...all of my alerts in one place, just like my Android-powered phone.
    • Reminders:  Yes!  I love making a good "To-Do" List.   Note to self: IEP 'To-Do' lists here I come!
    • New multi-tasking ways to swipe around the screen!
    • More features in 'Mail' being able to BOLD and underline, yay!
    • And just a variety of other fun features to explore of course....

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011

    Lego Creationary and Other Lego Apps

    Most of my students in first grade through the 3rd or 4th grade (or higher) really enjoy Legos.  I set out to find apps that incorporated Legos to use as a motivator and possible social skills app. Here are a few that I plan to use as motivators or supplements to other goals/activities.

    Lego Creationary is a FREE app!  For this app, students need to roll a dice by tapping it.  Each side of the dice has different categories: nature, buildings, vehicles, etc.  Four options within that category are then presented in the corners of the screen (ex: vehicles: firetruck, police car, car, bike).  Next, blocks begin to appear and 'build' an item.  The job of the student is to identify which item is being built. Essentially, the student needs to look at the items in the corner and compare with the item being built.  The faster you guess, the better your score will be.  I use this app as a follow-up activity to a more structured lesson targeting a similar skill, such as comparing/contrasting items.
    Some examples of Goals:
    • Comparing/Contrasting: students will need to be able to quickly compare/contrast the item being built to the choices. Other key concepts: similarities and differences. Before the game begins, the student and clinician can look at the 4 choices to identify how they are similar/different.
    • Making Predictions: Have a pre-discussion about making predictions and 'best guesses' well as, it is ok to guess and not always be correct.  Students can also explain why they chose a certain item.
    • Social Skills: This would be a fun app for a social skills group.  You could play as a group and work on coming to a quick group decision (would have to be VERY quick) or you could take turns, similar to round robin activities.   If taking turns, the peers could help the student by giving clues and serving as an 'extra pair of eyes'. 
    What is Nice:
    • Most students know about or enjoy Legos...students who might otherwise not have common interests with a friend/peer might be able to enjoy this game and have more to talk about during a conversation. This app can also serve as an 'ice breaker' for social groups.
    What I Wish I Could Change:
    • Slow down the settings, some students might have difficulty with the fast pace.
    • Allow for the screen to freeze after the item is finished building so that we could spend more time discussing similarities/differences.  
    • Also, some students might have difficulty as the items being built are in Lego form, while the pictures resemble more of a cartoon some students may have difficulty comparing these two.

    Some Other Apps by Lego
    Lego Minifigures
    Free. Create Lego people (head, body, legs). It says you can collect the people or share with others; however, I haven't found a way to collect the people that the students make...the 'collection' is for real legos. You could easily get around this by taking screen shots of the lego people that a student makes.  I originially thought you could slide the pieces and make your own can not.  You push the slider button on the bottom and it operates like a slot machine. Students could slide the button and then would need to describe their Lego person (name, what the person looks like, what the person might do, etc).  Students could also write short stories about their Lego people. You could print the screen shots and do a lesson on comparing/contrasting as well.  I also thought perhaps I might print a bunch of small pictures of the different possibilities (yes, that would mean I would need to do a ton of prep work and take many screen shots)...then the students would describe a lego person and a peer would need to identify who they were talking about (like an I Spy activity).

    Lego Duplo Farm Friends: Free. Duplo figures on farm scenes...see what the figurines can do. More for younger children. Kind of a so-so app...I will probably delete this one as it doesn't serve a purpose for my age range.  For younger children, you could make predictions about what the items 'might do'.

    Lego Photo: Free. Take a picture with the in-app camera, watch your photo be built in Legos.  Maybe an app that is 'just for fun' at the end of the session or as a reward?

    Deleting Apps By Accident?

    Have you ever had an app that was deleted by accident? This can easily happen, especially if multiple students are using an iPad.  Here is how you can prevent that from happening.
    1. Go to Settings, make sure you are under the General category (along left side of menu).
    2. Select 'Restrictions' (about the 5th menu bubble down from the top).
    3. You will be prompted to enter a passcode, if this is your first time doing this...pick a 4 digit number that you will remember.
    4. Look down to 'Deleting Apps'...switch the slider button to OFF (yes it must be OFF).
    5. Apps can NOT be deleted now!  When you hold an app down to put them into jiggle mode, there will no longer be the option to delete it.

    Now....perhaps you installed an app and don't care for do you delete it?  Just reverse the process. Go into Settings, select Restrictions, enter your passcode, and switch the slider button to YES under Deleting Apps.  This will let you delete apps again.  Make sure to go back and disable this feature though when you are finished deleting apps before letting students use the iPad again!!!

    **I will add some screen shots soon of this process...

    Saturday, September 17, 2011

    Sunny Articulation Phonology Test

    WOW!!!  The Sunny Articulation Phonology Test is a very comprehensive and impressive app that can be used for screening, evaluation, and baseline data. It was developed by a Speech/Language Pathologist.  The first feature I liked was that it included a manual.  The manual explains exactly how to use the app with instructions and screenshots. There is also information on interpretation of results and frequently asked questions.

    The Test:
    • You begin by adding your student data just as you would for a regular automatically calculates the student's age, which was a nice feature!   It also stores the date, so if you administer the test fore pre- and post-therapy, you can easily pull up data. It is very easy to add student data and keep records for multiple students.
    • After you enter the basic information, tap "new" to begin will be prompted to choose a "Full Evaluation" or "Screening".  
    • All images are of good size and clarity and are presented on a white background. An auditory model can be provided for the student by tapping the picture.  You can also record the student's production by tapping the small 'record' button in the top left corner (grey circle with red middle). The target word is printed phonetically on the top of the screen.  You can flip the print (so the child is looking at the picture and the clinician can read the word) by touching the 2 arrows in the right corner. There is a 'home' button that returns you to the home screen.  A super feature....if your session ends mid-screen, you can tap the home button.  During the next session, simply select the student record and you will return to the last item that was being tested.  Each target screen also has a 'notes' button where you can type any additional notes (voice quality, atypical patterns, etc).  My FAVORITE feature....If the student misses a target sound (ex: /s/ initial), you can tap on the green phonetic symbol and it will be recorded as an error!  Fantastic! Additionally, in the full evaluation mode, when you mark an item as an error, a menu will instantly pop up and you can select if the item was deleted, substituted, etc.  If you selected substituted, another menu will pop up and you can select the substituted phoneme.  Nice!  This is later displayed in the results section.
    • The Screening has 30 total words, with 65 phonemes. This is a rather nice amount of target words for a screening!  
    • The Full Assessment has 46 total words, with 103 phonemes. 
    • After the assessment, simply tap "Result".  You will be asked to select an overall intelligibility rating. This will return you to a data screen.  Tap on the record with the date of administration that you would like to see. From there you can view the results based on: word position, manner, and voicing.  You can also display the results based on the word list...correct targets appear in green and phonemes in error appear in red.
    • To print or email the results, select the desired record in the home screen.  Next, tap the "+" sign.  A menu will appear for: Review Notes, E-mail Results, Review Audio Recordings, and Print Results.

    What do I Like?
    • Very professional appearance and comprehensive are provided clear and easy instructions on how to use the test/app. 
    • The amount of stimulus targets for the screening and the full evaluation is quite impressive.  The screening version has as many targets as some full evaluations, but still only takes a short amount of time to complete.
    • Students will be VERY motivated to take this test. 
    • The pictures are clear, large, and presented on a white background (no visual distraction)
    • Each time you advance to the next target, various positive reinforcement in different voices is provided ("Great job!" "Super!" etc.)
    • Easy to score targets...simply tap the green phonemes if the target is missed. 
    • Note-taking: You can easily take additional notes...there is no need for separate pen/paper. 
    • Record option, and you can later listen to each recorded stimulus.
    • Results are displayed clearly and in different ways...this is my favorite...I can switch from result to result with the tap of a button.
    • You can print results (air print or send a copy to email and print from your computer)
    • You can email the results as well.  A nice summary is automatically provided!
    • Lastly...I am a 'traveling therapist'...meaning I travel between locations.  I will no longer have to worry about transporting additional evaluation materials and record forms. I always have my iPad with me, so if I am meeting with a teacher or the parent for consultation, I can quickly bring up results.
    Overall, I think this a really super test and is very user-friendly, is comprehensive, and it is a 'must-have' for SLP's!!!  It is priced at $49.99, which compared to standard articulation tests, is very modestly priced. For initial qualification criteria however, a test with normative data via such as the GFTA-2, will still be necessary.  What I really like is the feature to store data and have it easily available for IEP development and meetings.  It will be a great tool for comparing results and measuring progress.   I also found another review of this app that indicated it correlates well with the GFTA-2 (click here for the link).

    Screenshots from the User's Manual
    (**NOTE: click on the screenshots to enlarge them)

    Screenshots of Stimulus Pictures

    Screenshots of a sample student record that I created:

    Great Job Smarty Ears!!!

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011


    In my best haunted Halloween voice, there are some 'SpooktAPPular' apps for Fall and Halloween!  There are also some that are not so spectacular...I'll list those as well in hopes others won't waste time installing/deleting.  As Fall goes along, I'll add new apps that I find to this try checking back!

    Currently in My App Bucket of Treats!

    Treat Street: $1.99  Love this app! It is like role play for trick or treating! You start by picking a costume (tap on character's head/body/feet).  Walk along the street and tap a house to go trick or treating. Knock on the door or ring the doorbell! Collect Candy! Touch items for cause/effect reactions (owl = hoots, pumpkin = giggles). Organize your treats! Useful for:
    • Describing and designing costumes
    • Describing Street Scenes
    • Sequencing: students can tell steps for trick or treating (list/draw on paper, etc), play the game, and review the sequence of steps.
    • Social Stories: talk about skills needed to go trick or treating, pair this app with actual role play (use the video camera to tape), talk about expected/unexpected behaviors for Halloween

    Mickey's Spooky Night Puzzle: $.99  This book has some nice features, one of which is that you can record your own voice reading or retelling the story.  You must also search for ghosts and complete puzzles along the way.  Another nice feature is that many pages feature a picture scene which could be used for an "I Spy" activity. Useful for:
    Story retelling: listen to the book in narration mode, or go to the settings and opt to record your own voice...which could be useful for having students retell the story in their own words.

    123 Sticker: $1.99 (discussed in previous blog). Pick the Halloween screen and go crazy decorating.  Useful for:
    • following directions, 
    • basic concepts/conceptual terms/spatial and temporal concepts, 
    • writing a Halloween story, 
    • formulating and/or writing descriptive sentences or sentences with specific targets (verbs, nouns, adjectives), and
    • any other goals you can think of!

    Carve a Pumpkin by Parents: $.99 by Parents Magazine. I looked at several 'carve your own pumpkin' apps and chose this one based on the price and 'realness' of the pumpkins.  You can select from a variety of pumpkins of different colors.  You can hand carve it OR pick from categories (eyes, noses, mouths, etc).  You can also do a pre-made design, like a spider web. You can change the size of the features too.  I like it...not bad for $.99 and it wasn't as basic/simple-looking as the other choices.  Useful for:
    • following directions ("put the nose in the middle of the pumpkin" etc),
    • sequencing: tell the steps to carving a pumpkin with some pre-discussion as well
    • basic concepts/conceptual terms/spatial and temporal concepts, 
    • writing a story about the pumpkin,
    • formulating and/or writing descriptive sentences or sentences with specific targets (verbs, nouns, adjectives),
    • any other goals you can think of!

    Scary Wordfind: Free. Has 3 levels: easy, medium, hard. You must find Halloween words from a word bank (with pictures).  Useful for: incentives or discussion about Halloween vocabulary or Halloween associations ("How does 'spider web' go with Halloween?")

    On My List to Buy or Install
    Halloween Stickers HD
    Wood Puzzle Halloween
    I SPY Spooky Mansion
    Mickey's Spooky Night Puzzle Book
    The Legend of Spookely the Square Pumpkin
    Halloween Match Me
    Hazy Dell HD
    Halloween Match 'em Up for Kids

    Just "OK" and Other Apps That I Am Not Crazy About!
    SpookyCrayon: Free, and semi-worthwhile for my needs.  It's a coloring app. I'd rate it "Just OK"
    SpookyPlaytime Lite: Free, and I definitely probably would not buy the app, it doesn't seem challenging enough.  There are different activities, like memory with a Halloween theme. Even for the pay version, it didn't seem like there was enough to do to warrant purchasing it.
    Pumpkin Chunkin:  Free. I will be deleting this app, I didn't like it...too simplistic and no real purpose for 'chuck' pumpkins back and forth.
    Pumpkin Maker:  Free.  I probably will delete this app as it as not as nice as my other app for making pumpkins.
    The Very Hungry Pumpkin: Free. You drag a pumpkin around the screen to eat need to avoid monsters. I'll delete this one as well...just not my favorite.