Every week, I share a website or app that inspired my students. I have a great one this week that teaches spelling as you’ve always wanted it taught.
Words, spelling, literacy
Spelling Teacher School Edition, created by the developer of the popular Timed Test Arcade, is a space-themed approach to teaching kindergarten-sixth grade spelling skills, complete with Pop the Penguin, a friendly spaceman avatar, and a robotic voice. The teacher (or student) adds a word list, practices the words, reviews, then takes a test–all on the iPad. Students get immediate feedback and can retake, work on missed words, and/or email (with Airprint) results to the teacher. The app reads the word to students and a sentence including it in context.
If teachers don’t want to create their own spelling list, they can use one of the thirty per grade level (one for each week of the school year)–210 in all–provided with the app. These lists are aligned with Common Core Language Arts Standards and developed by educators to teach word families, position-based spelling, syllable patterns, ending rules, and other meaningful combinations fundamental to spelling skills.
A few features I really liked:
- App allows students/teachers to include words from past tests in new lists, which enables a review for students who struggled with certain terms
- When students activate the app, they can create a custom list, review past tests, or select a list provided by the teacher.
- Once selected, students can practice words, do homework that studies the words, or take a test.
- Homework is completed on the iPad and emailed (or printed) to the teacher. A note: A new user might not know to click ’email’ to complete homework so the teacher should point this out.
- Homework assignments include tasks such as ‘Find a synonym for each of the spelling words’, ‘break the words into syllables and graph’, write each spelling word forward and backward’, ‘create a comic strip that uses at least five spelling words. In my class, I let students pick which they wanted to do.
- Unlimited student accounts can be added to each iPad.
Content is age-appropriate and user-friendly. Even kindergartners, with a bit of demonstration, can work through the menus. There is no advertising, no distractions, nothing but a focus on spelling skills.
For those who don’t need the provided word lists, Spelling Teacher ($1.99) allows only manual entry of lists.
The app developer is a 23-year old college grad–probably much like you or I–who collaborates with his dad to streamline the teacher’s work while providing authentic data on student progress. Part of the fees is used to fund worthy charities, currently an inner city Cincinnati Ohio school.
I always want my reviews to be fair and balanced so I spend a good bit of time researching the app and the developer to see if there are pros and cons readers should know about, problems that aren’t immediately apparent, complaints that I can test out with my students, or awards and citations I should share with you. In this case, there was nothing bad all good. My conclusion and that of my student test subjects (especially ‘Frankie’ who didn’t want to share his iPad with others): Great choice for home or school. Or both.
Update: Version 2.0 of each of the apps has 5 fun new spelling activities that a student can play to help learn weekly words. These activities are named Black Hole, Space Training, Star Cards, Universe Order, Warp Scrambler.
PS: FSG is raising money for an Ohio-based elementary school who sounds like worthy recipients. Here’s their flier:
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Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-6 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blogger, a columnist for Examiner.com, Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a monthly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.