Following on from my blog on using cooking apps, here’s some ideas for using art based apps to stimulate functional language and talking with small groups of children – ideal for school based language groups.
Describing what someone else has done
Doodlecast (£2.29) is a motivating app for annotating pictures which records a video of the drawing process. Take a photo of each other or something in the room or use one of the inbuilt templates. Ask the first child to draw a picture. As you replay the video of this, take turns to describe what that person did e.g. “then she drew some flowers next to the tree” “then she drew some glasses on my face.”
Planning and team work
Faces iMake (£2.29). A great team work task for primary age – ask children to make quirky faces with a range of basic and more complex vocabulary from lollipops and bananas to violins or chess pieces. Lots of opportunities for different levels of language from frequently used to less common words. Also opportunities for practising categorisation. Set the children a task such as “make a face from yellow and green fruit” or “make a face from toys”. There’s also a surprisingly catchy theme tune which you find yourself humming after a while…
Listening to others
Colouring in apps work well when supporting children to listen to instructions from others.
Splash of Colour (£0.79) has lots of colouring in templates included and for younger children Peppa’s Paintbox (free) has a theme or background pictures to insert. There is lots of scope for giving simple instructions that your child needs to listen to and follow e.g. “colour the box blue” or “put some flowers next to Peppa.”
It is possible to do these activities with children who are not very familiar with colour words by asking them to colour in particular parts of a picture but not specifying a colour.
Don’t forget to take turns giving each other instructions so your child gets practice in directing as well as listening!
Bizarre situations are brilliant for inspiring conversation among children so I had a look for apps which incorporate this kind of theme. Flip flap farm (£0.99) is an app which tells you what would happen if a number of farm animals were combined with others e.g. a pig + mouse is a Pouse and a goat + turkey is a Gurkey. As well as the whimsical aspect of it, the emphasis on making up words and word play is another great way to develop language skills.
You can swipe both the top and bottom halves of the animal to create a new creature. There’s a poem to go with it but there’s also a ‘read by myself’ setting which might work better if you’re trying to talk about it together with your child. After you’ve shown your child a few different examples, try and pick two animals and guess what the combined word is going to be. Encourage your child to play around with the word and have fun coming up with weird and outlandish ideas.
Another similar app is Herd Absurd (free) which allows you to blend three different animals into one but doesn’t give them a name like in Flip Flap Farm. See if you can concoct some words yourselves!
Look out for other apps which create ridiculous pictures or scenarios – they will always give you something to talk about!
I’m a big fan of interactive apps (and indeed books or games) that encourage children to comment spontaneously on what is happening. The Wonderkind Toddler’s Seek and Find apps were a recent discovery on the iPad of a friend’s toddler. The free ones (Animal Circus, My Zoo Animals, My Little Town) are all pretty good and give you plenty to work with even though not all of the scenes are available unless you pay a bit more. A bit like My PlayHome, they are all interactive scenes. You can’t move the characters around but when you touch them, something happens e.g. the camel spits at the man, the woman flips a pancake etc.
I particularly like the range of activities that happen as even a child with only a few basic words will be able to say something about it.
I regularly use this kind of app in informal assessments with preschool children, especially when formal assessments are not appropriate because of attention span or level. They could also work well for the younger primary ages. I keep the apps in the same folder on the iPad and ask the child to choose one. I then demonstrate a few of the the activities and talk about them simply – usually the child follows my lead and starts doing the same. Be warned – you can’t usually move on to another activity until they have had a chance to activate every single element of each scene.
When your child is learning new words, they learn both by listening to the word and by using it over and over again themselves. Doing a jigsaw can be a fun way of talking about a picture but doing the same one again and again can leave limited opportunities for expanding vocabulary.
Abricot Games – Puzzle (free) is the most user friendly app I’ve found for uploading your own photographs or pictures and converting into a jigsaw. It can convert photos into 12, 20 or 36 piece puzzles. The app has a number of pictures already built in – worth trying first to see if your child likes the app and if he/she enjoys talking about the pictures. If you want to create your own, try the following:
- Think of a topic or picture you want to talk about
- Go to Puzzle Creator on the home page.
- Either click on the camera picture to take a picture then and there…
- …Or click on the Photos button to select a picture from your photo library. You could in theory use any image you like by taking a screen shot from the internet (for screen shots, press down the start button and then press the home button briefly).
- Select the size of jigsaw you want and click on the picture to get going
It’s an easy way of initiating talking with your child about any image you like. It might be a useful way of introducing abstract concepts such as emotions and could also be a useful way for consolidating curriculum vocabulary for older children.
Autorap (a free app) is a highly motivating tool for using language with primary and secondary aged children. Essentially, the child records a short spoken phrase which then generates an automatic rap.
It could be used at school or home to consolidate vocabulary or grammatical forms, or simply to practise structuring short phrases. The free version gives you unlimited use of one tune but you need to upgrade if you want to use any others.
Using at school: In a classroom group, present a choice of vocabulary words that you have been working on. Each child takes turns to make it into a short phrase, records the phrase and plays it back to the group.
Using at home: Give your child any two words e.g. “train” and “egg” and challenge them to make up a phrase with both words in it before turning it into a rap. Encourage them to think of two words to give you – there’s no need for your phrases to make perfect sense but enjoy playing with the words and structuring sentences together.