Apps

With kids spending so much time on electronic devices, why not make their time educational? It’s a big “web world” out there and searching for the best apps can take a lot of time. The following list of apps was compiled by Skills 4 Life to assist teachers and parents in locating educational apps that are appropriate for teaching a variety of skills to Pre-K through middle school students. Here are some of Karina’s favorites:

Executive Function:

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 12.25.17 PM The 30:30 app is great task manager! I like to use it with students to create an organized list of homework assignments for their classes. When the time allotted for one task is finished, the app makes a sound and then switches to the next task. I particularly like how it requires the user to think about how long each task will take when setting individual task timers. It has a gesture based interface, is fully customizable (colors, labels, icons, and sounds) and it syncs to iCloud. You can also save lists to use on a repeating basis, which is very useful. Plus, it’s free!

360timetracker The 360 Thinking Time Tracker is an app that helps students learn to stay on task long enough to bring a project to fruition. Better time management allows students to plan the necessary steps and assemble the right materials to complete a project. The app also allows students to review past projects and analyze their time management and efficiency levels so as to optimally plan for future assignments.

Choiceworks Choiceworks is a great app for helping kids manage daily routines, develop waiting skills, and learn emotional self-regulation. The app is completely customizable and includes built-in timers and audio features. I particularly like how easy it is to incorporate your own pictures into the schedules you create.

cozi Cozi is a super app and website that allows busy family members to share their calendar, appointments, lists, etc. Everything is available to each family member on any mobile device or computer. It won an award for Best Family App.

eternitylog Eternity Time Log tracks how much time is spent on various activities over a period of time. It’s easy to customize and use. I think it’s a great tool to help those with executive dysfunction develop an internal sense of time or to help anyone who needs to track time spent on different projects. I love using it to keep track of time spent on varied aspects of my business.

Fit Brains Fit Brains Trainer is a wonderful app for improving language, memory, visual skills, concentration, and  problem solving. It’s been described as the best brain training app available. It automatically adjusts to each player’s needs, strengths, and weaknesses, while monitoring individual progress.

freedomThe Freedom app disables the internet for a specific time period so that students can work on their computers without being distracted.

iFocusThe iFocus app allows students to improve their time management and avoid procrastination and distraction by bringing their awareness to how much time they spend on their computers, including email, internet searches, social networking, word processing, and even specific websites. This process aids in the kind of self-monitoring that leads to efficient and focused work.

ireward iReward Chart is a digital sticker chart that rewards kids for completing tasks and performing desired behaviors. It’s completely customizable and can be used for multiple kids. You can determine what the rewards are and how many stars are necessary for each reward. It keeps a running balance of stars earned and shows kids how many more stars they need to earn specific rewards. You can even use it yourself to manage and track personal goals.

MyHomework My Homework is a good app for helping students track classes and homework assignments. I recommend the upgrade, which enables push notifications to remind students when homework is due the next day and allows it to sync to other apple devices.

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 10.09.35 AM Those of you who have had your children work with me on their executive skills may be familiar with the Pomodoro Technique developed by Francesco Cirillo. It’s a simple yet effective time management technique that can be used to get homework done and improve study habits. It can be a great tool for kids with short attention spans! Click here to view a 2-minute video describing the technique.

The Pomodoro Timer app provides customizable Pomodoro lengths, which is essential for younger kids. It also allows you to set the length of short and long breaks, determine whether or not you want to hear the clock ticking, and view the number of Pomodoros completed. While there are similar apps out there for free (I downloaded and played around with six of them and found they all lacked features this one has), I’d recommend paying the nominal fee for the Pomodoro Timer.

SelfControlSelfControl is a free and open-source application for Mac OS X that allows students to develop a list of distracting websites or other internet functions and block their own access to those sites for a specific period of time. This app enables them to take charge of their own ability to focus and manage time, rather than needing parental monitoring to stay on-task.

timetimer Time Timer is a great app that helps children visualize the sweep of time by displaying a red disk that gets smaller as time passes. (Make sure to set your device to the “awake” mode so the timer stays visible.)

Fine Motor Skills:

Dexteria Dexteria works on developing fine motor skills through tapping, pinching, and writing activities. It was designed with an occupational therapist’s input and has a report feature to track progress. While I found the tapping and pinching games engaging, the writing activity is highly sensitive and therefore requires a high degree of precision. It may be worth trying with a stylus.

Handwriting:

4 pics 1 word 4 Pics 1 Word This is a fun app to use with tweens and teens to work on problem solving skills, language skills, spelling, reading, and writing. The app displays four pictures, followed by spaces for the player to fill in the word that best describes the pictures. Players are provided with clues  to help them choose the right word. I love to have students write the words and use them in sentences to work on their handwriting skills.

Educreations Educreations transforms your iPad into a whiteboard with voice recording. Although intended as a tool to help teachers create lessons, I think it’s also a great tool for handwriting practice, studying, or perhaps even note-taking. It’s easy to add images or drawings and save what you’ve done by school subject.

Story WheelStory Wheel Story Wheel is a great app for helping kids learn how to tell a cohesive story. I like to have kids write the story they have dictated on Story Wheel in order to work on handwriting or typing skills. For kids who have difficulty translating their ideas into written stories, the dictation feature allows them to focus on telling the story in all its richness without simultaneously having to write it. You can try it out for free and purchase additional story themes if you like.

WetDryTry Wet Dry Try is an app created by Handwriting Without Tears that teaches children how to write capital letters and numbers with the correct graphomotor sequence. It’s great for beginning writers as well as those who struggle with proper letter formation. You can choose to practice letters and numbers sequentially or to use Handwriting Without Tears winning order that teaches based on developmental progression.

Learning/Study Skills:

Bitsboard Bitsboard offers kids a fun way to learn about multiple topics using 13 different learning games. It has hundreds of topics available (most for small fees). I’m currently loving it for teaching letter recognition, beginning money skills, and emotional recognition. Bitsboard supports multiple users and provides basic tracking of each child’s progress. It also automatically adjusts game boards based on the child’s skills. It’s currently the #2 educational game available for iPads. If you’re not familiar with it, check it out for free!

Educreations Educreations transforms your iPad into a whiteboard with voice recording. Although intended as a tool to help teachers create lessons, I think it’s also a great tool for handwriting practice, studying, or perhaps even note-taking. It’s easy to add images or drawings and save what you’ve done by school subject.

mzl.rpgmncpv.175x175-75 i Studiez PRO is a well-designed, essential organizational tool for middle school, high school, and college students. It allows students to track their classes, homework assignments, exam dates, and grades. The planner feature offers color-coded block-scheduling and allows students to import calendars and sync between devices and iCloud. The app also allows students to input teachers’ names and contact information, and it calls or emails seamlessly when the contact screen is tapped. Here’s to managing school more easily and always turning assignments in on time!

quizlet Quizlet is an app and website that allows students to create custom notecards for subjects they are studying and then test themselves through games that accommodate different learning styles. Quizlet has a database of more than 15 million flash card sets! It also offers an audio option in 18 languages to help students who are studying foreign languages. I think the audio option is also a great tool for those who struggle with reading. Happy studying!

Time Telling:

jungletime Jungle Time is a wonderful app for teaching kids to tell time. It can be set at one-hour, 30-minute, 15-minute, five-minute, and one-minute intervals. It tracks each student’s scores and shows their response time for each problem solved. It also provides opportunities to both read and set clocks. Kids love it! One of my students didn’t want to stop challenging himself and kept asking if he could play another round. Each time he got the answer correct, he put his fist in the air and then pulled his arm in toward his body letting out a big “Yes!”

Visual Perception Skills:

Fit Brains Fit Brains Trainer is a wonderful app for improving language, memory, visual skills, concentration, and  problem solving. It’s been described as the best brain training app available. It automatically adjusts to each player’s needs, strengths, and weaknesses, while monitoring individual progress.

Flow free Flow Free is a fun app for problem solving and visual tracking skills. It requires players to connect two dots of the same color with a line that does not cross over other colors. The game becomes progressively more difficult. It is rated for ages 4 and up.

Letter reflex Letter Reflex helps kids learn the proper orientation of commonly reversed letters (b/d, p/q). It has two games: Tip and Flip It. Tip teaches right/left discrimination by having players tilt the screen to form the letters b, d, p, or q. It provides kinesthetic input to reinforce learning. Flip It requires players to make letters or words by swiping the screen to turn the letters in the correct direction. Both games get progressively more challenging as players succeed. Games are timed and accuracy can be tracked via progress reports the app generates and emails. One of my 6-year-old students said, “This is so fun! I could play it all day!!!”

atrix Match2 Matrix Game 2 & Matrix Game 3 are both great apps for helping children develop visual-perceptual skills such as visual attention, visual discrimination, visual scanning, and spatial orientation. Matrix Game 2 is for children ages 4+ and Matrix Game 3 is for children 6+.

Writing:

4 pics 1 word 4 Pics 1 Word This is a fun app to use with tweens and teens to work on problem solving skills, language skills, spelling, reading, and writing. The app displays four pictures, followed by spaces for the player to fill in the word that best describes the pictures. Players are provided with clues  to help them choose the right word. I love to have students write the words and use them in sentences to work on their handwriting skills.

135 134 Kidspiration  provides kindergartners through 5th graders with a variety of ways to brainstorm, visually organize, and map out their thoughts and ideas prior to writing. The app gives students three ways to create their visual organizers: typing, speaking, or selecting/importing images. Visual diagrams can be converted into outlines. Kidspiration also provides sets of learning activities for reading, writing, social studies, science, and math. Inspiration is a wonderful mind-mapping tool for older students. It allows them to brainstorm, plan, and organize their ideas by creating visual and graphic organizers, which can then easily be turned into outlines.

Both apps offer dozens of customizable templates and the ability to export and share files. They are great apps for visual learners and those with executive functioning issues. They are available in free, Lite versions or full, paid versions. Check them out!

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 10.28.57 AMSnapType is an app designed to help children who have difficulty with writing (dysgraphia). While I believe that it’s always best to determine the underlying causes of dysgraphia and work on remediating the specific components of handwriting that children are struggling with, sometimes offering a compensatory strategy to handwriting is beneficial. If this is the case, an app developed by an OT student at Springfield College, MA fits the bill. Amberlynn Gifford designed SnapType to enable students with dysgraphia to take a photograph of their school worksheets with an iPad and then type their answers directly on the worksheet. Brilliant idea, and it’s free!

Story WheelStory Wheel Story Wheel is a great app for helping kids learn how to tell a cohesive story. I like to have kids write the story they have dictated on Story Wheel in order to work on handwriting or typing skills. For kids who have difficulty translating their ideas into written stories, the dictation feature allows them to focus on telling the story in all its richness without simultaneously having to write it. You can try it out for free and purchase additional story themes if you like.

Warning: Some of these games can be addictive. Play at your own risk. 😉

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