Language is a big wide open category. Because we want to keep things simple on this website, we will offer just a handful of apps here to help you get started. These apps rise to the top because they are well put together, effective and affordable. Consider this list just the beginning, though, and know that there are hundreds more available on the market where these came from.
I have to start by directing you to the Mobile Education Store‘s family of apps. Again I need to be up front about my connection to these apps, because my work with this developer clearly makes me biased. Once you download one of these apps, however, you will see why they rank so high on the list and why they receive so many awards. They are of the highest quality and yet they are reasonably priced. They come with a host of built in customizable features and they really enable you to hone in on the language skills you are trying to improve. Top notch record, playback and save capability is built in to help you promote carryover. And as an added bonus, they are just plain fun.
For Sentence Structure
These seven apps are fantastic for improving language structure:
Tense Builder is the perfect solution for teaching verbs. Read the complete review here. Watch the movie and see the action unfold. The movies are funny, the tasks are engaging and the built in lessons for each individual verb provide just the right amount of feedback to help kids understand the difference between past, present and future. You will watch your kids get it. It’s a receptive task, it’s an expressive task… Adjust the settings as you wish and use it a hundred different ways. This app will quickly become a must have app for every school speech-language pathologist. $19.99
Next up is Rainbow Sentences. Work on sentence structure, wh-questions and reading comprehension all at once with this colorful word sequencing app. Kids are presented with a picture and then asked to build the sentence that describes that picture. Mix and match color coding and sentence length to dial in exactly the right level of challenge for your student. Then bolster language carryover while you build reading confidence when you have your student record the sentence that was just created. High interest pictures and a motivating puzzle piece reinforcement system make this a big hit with kids. Great for kindergarten up to second or third grade, and not just for speech therapy. This app is a winner in speech, special ed and regular ed. And a steal at $7.99.
Preposition Builder will actually teach your child how to use prepositions. Like Rainbow Sentences, kids are presented with engaging cartoon pictures and a sentence to complete. In this app, they drag one of three preposition words to finish the sentence to match the picture. If they get it right, they move on to recording their sentence and are that much closer to earning a funny animated cartoon. My favorite thing about this app, though, is what happens when they get it wrong. If they choose “in” instead of “on”, the image changes just enough to demonstrate that difference between cereal on top of the bowl and cereal in the bowl. You will see the recognition on your kids’ faces as they are gently corrected with “This picture shows…” and then led back to the original question. Packed with 28 prepositions and 11 cartoons to earn– another bargain at $7.99.
If there’s already such a thing as an “oldie” in the world of apps, then Sentence Builder is an oldie but a goodie. This is the app that put Mobile Education Store on the map. Kids dial in the correct words to make a sentence to match a picture the way you’d dial in a combination on a bike lock. Fun, hands on learning with a silly surprise animation when you get the answer right. Kids love it, and it’s a great way to practice and reinforce word order and word forms. This app is particularly valuable for me with my high reading kids on the spectrum, because it forces them to tune into the meaning of the words. $5.99.
Have older kids, or do you prefer photographs? Then check out Sentence Builder Teen.
And for a variation on Sentence Builder that will have your students tackling WH questions, be sure to check out Question Builder. Set the level of complexity and the type of question to address, and watch your student integrate the visual cues, the text and the audio to answer the question presented. This $5.99 app comes packed with hundreds of What, Where, Why and How questions to encourage practice with comprehension, inferencing and critical thinking skills. Correct responses are rewarded with a silly animation that keeps them coming back for more.
Language Builder by Mobile Education Store is another powerful app for encouraging language production. Children are shown a picture and are prompted to describe what they see in the picture. Depending on the level of prompting and complexity you select, they may be asked to complete a simple descriptive fill in sentence, draw an inference or answer an open ended question. The easy interface allows you to record, playback, save and email sentences for your entire caseload. And these saved sentences are important. This is a great way to encourage expressive language in emerging speakers and also a great way to refine skills in your older students with language delay. 250 images in the basic 9.99 version. Add on additional picture sets from within the app or get them all up front with the $19.99 version.
Another favorite app of ours is Picture the Sentence, by Hamaguchi Apps. This app offers a chance to promote both listening comprehension and verbal memory skills through a wonderfully designed visual imagery task. Students listen to a sentence, and as each new semantic element is added, a matching picture is presented on the screen. The images then disappear and the child is asked to pick the picture that matches the sentence they just heard. With this one widely appealing activity, you get to model the use of visual imagery strategies and improve comprehension for new language structures.
The built in visual supports and optional settings let you create exactly the right conditions to lead your students to success.Our students who struggle with auditory comprehension and verbal memory smile with pride when they repeat the sentence in its entirety and match the picture perfectly. A reinforcing “pick a door” game adds to the fun, and like all the other Hamaguchi apps that are touted all over this website, Picture the Sentence offers a visually clean, easy to use interface and well organized, detailed data collection. The lite version at 99 cents allows for 3 users and gives you practice with subject/verb/object sentences. The PRO version at $9.99 lets you offer lengthier sentences that include preposition phrases (with or without the object) and keeps data for 15 of your students. This app lines up nicely with commonly used language goals, and your kids will enjoy it.
For Early Language
If you have $10 to spend on an early preschool language app, spend it all on this one. First Phrases by Hamaguchi Apps is a sweet, simple, perfectly executed app for encouraging early “telegraphic” sentences. With the help of heavy visual supports and engaging animations, children are guided to sequence three tiles (eg drive + the + car) and next rewarded when a sweet faced critter then responds to that command (OK, I’ll drive the car.) Children watch with delight as the bear, cat or mouse gets into the car and drives away. The next step has the child recording the phrase in his or her own voice and playing the directive for the little bear who then drives off in the car all over again. With 29 verbs and a total of 228 possible animations in the full 9.99 version, your child will get extensive practice with understanding and using simple commands. There’s also a lite version for 99 cents that will give you a nice taste of all that it can do for your students. Perfect for early language learners in preschool and kindergarten, and perfect for our young children with autism. This is the single best app out there for encouraging and expanding 2 and 3 word utterances.
Autism Language Learning is a powerful language structure app for your students on the spectrum. This app uses real time video modeling to demonstrate various sentence structure types. Your student can hear the target structure, record their own production and then listen to that production as they watch the action described continue to take place on the screen. No bells and whistles here — none needed. The video modeling has our students’ undivided attention. Put your own students into the videos with a $1.99 (must have) in-app upgrade that lets you create your own custom modules.
This is a specialty app — it’s not a language app for the masses — and the price reflects that. It’s designed to support our kids who need discrete trial and repetition practice, and it does that beautifully. The next update (coming this summer) will include data collection for your students.
We can tell you this is an app we use often with our students with moderate to severe autism. It’s all in the experience it provides them. You could take your own movies using the on-board camera or any number of ready made apps out there, and add your own audio to teach these same sentence structures. But there is something so straightforward in the way this app shows the action, describes the action and then waits for your student to record herself saying the same sentence that really reinforces the concepts for our kids. At the current price of $26.99 (plus the $1.99 in-app upgrade that lets you create your own action movies with your own kids in it), you will want to see that it’s a good fit before you buy the full version. Try the lite version first, to see if it matches the needs of your students. You will likely know right away if it’s a direct hit. It was, without a doubt, for us.