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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

iPad App Review of Shake-A-Phrase

As many of you know, I am in love with using the iPad with Jackson. We have found so many brilliant apps that have worked seamlessly with our homeschooling programs.  I typically use the iPad to reinforce concepts because a big part of Jackson's learning style is massive repetition!  He simply needs time to go over and over and over and over a single bit of information to absorb and process it successfully.

That is why I was thrown a bit the app Shake-A-Phrase.  I was searching for good language arts apps that did more than ABC's, phonics and early reading.  Jackson is a good reader but lacks chunks of basic language arts understanding, which makes his comprehension terrible.  I was introduced to Shake-A-Phrase and was immediately intrigued by the iTunes description:


Shake-a-Phrase is a fun language app that teaches vocabulary and parts of speech for ages 8+.


The addictive language fun in Shake-a-Phrase will encourage children to:
• Read the silly, entertaining sentences
• Discover the meanings of unfamiliar words
• Create their own writing projects
• Test their knowledge of verbs, adjectives and nouns
• Share language arts fun with friends and family



How this app works is fairly straight forward.  You simply open it to find 3 choices: Shake It!, Quiz Me!, and Story Starter.  Each is a variant on learning basic sentence structure with a focus in nouns, verbs and adjectives.  It allows you to teach, quiz, and create for yourself silly sentences about animals, fairytales, monsters or sports.  


All of this sounded perfect!  I had high hopes for this app, but as soon as I downloaded it, I was immediately nervous and doubtful that Jackson would be able to play with it at all.  The vocabulary was way over his head.  There is no way he would be able to pronounce or understand half of the words on there.  I knew he'd go crazy for the shaking feature...it feeds into his love of all things that move around and wiggle, but other than that, I assumed this app would be a dud:(  


Boy, was I wrong!  Don't misunderstand me, just as I expected, the vocabulary was way too hard for him and he could barley pronounce most of the words...but in true Jackson fashion, he took the intended purpose of an item and recreated it to suit his needs.  He used the app to teach himself sentence structure by repetition.  He went to the Shake It! part first and just tapped on each word over and over until he decoded the way nouns, verbs and adjectives intermingled in a sentence.  He quickly figured out that that even though he had no idea what jubilant meant, he knew adjectives always came before nouns, and he knows enough nouns to make those kinds of leaps.  And similarly, he couldn't pronounce admired, but knew verbs always followed nouns.  From there he went on the the QuizMe! section and breezed through all the levels.  He was not interested in the Story Starter part at all which didn't surprise me because he struggles with comprehension so he didn't know how to elaborate on a given thought.  


Jackson's mind is so fascinating that I constantly underestimate what he is capable of learning.  I love to just sit back and watch him deconstruct something, tilt his head to the side and then rebuild it so it makes sense to him and him alone! So what if the app was full of difficult words he had never seen before, that was not going to stop him from earning those trophies for passing the quizzes!  That boy is committed to winning prizes and not much can stop him when he is on a mission.


I've included a video of Jackson trying, failing and ultimately succeeding in using Shake-A-Phrase




I am excited to introduce this app to Caroline as well, since she has a passion for creative writing and is addicted to her thesaurus these days.  I think this app will provide her with some fun and unique vocabulary to incorporate into her next great story.  

My only recommendation to improve the app would be to add a lower level vocabulary option as "training" so kids don't get discouraged right off the bat because they don't know what anything means.   Build some confidence and excitement so they will want to move onto the apps real brilliance which is its fun use of diverse and high level vocabulary that stimulates their young, eager minds! 

In my opinion, this is a great language arts app for older kids with special needs who learn primarily through decoding and repetition with a healthy does of fun! 

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