We have put quite a few app reviews on this blog, and many of them are really great apps which I love. If you have an iPad which you ever use in therapy, make sure you read this review as we both absolutely love this app!
Elizabeth and I were lucky enough to be contacted by Language and Learning Steps and asked to review their app, Key Word Kids. I have used this app most days since I added it to my iPad. It is based on the key words or Information Carrying Words approach used by the Derbyshire Language Scheme. This probably needs no introduction to any British speech and language therapist, but if you want more information about key words, check out Elizabeth’s post here. There are also some great links on the Language and Learning Steps website here.
When you open the app you can play or go into the settings (I’ll come back to these later). If you play, you’ll see this screen.
You can choose either to check which level to start at, or choose the comprehension or expression mode. I would actually use the app a little with a child before doing the level check, as it does take most kids a few items to use it correctly and I think you’ll get a more accurate score that way. I haven’t made any screenshots of the comprehension check, but it takes you through a few items from each section and then suggests how many key words you should start with (1,2,3,4 or 5).
The comprehension section has 5 different levels. Each level is very comprehensive including all the different sorts of language structures that occur in the Derbyshire Language Scheme at that level. Here are some examples from the 3 key word level.
“Make James ride the clean bike”.
“Make monkey dance on the bed”. Here I have already selected the monkey and then the verb options come up. They look unclear here but when you see them moving, it is much clearer.
They are lovely animations and the photos don’t do them justice. Check out this YouTube video to see the app working. The characters all move, the hoses spray water, the people ride the horses and bikes etc. Every child I have used it with has really liked it.
The great thing about this app from a therapist’s point of view is that it is so thorough and so customisable. You can choose one of the locations (farm, house, beach, outback, Africa) and choose exactly which structures you want to target.
For example, if you just want to work on possessives at a 2 key word level (eg find the dog’s head) then you can do that. There are also appropriate concepts for each level. For example, there are no instructions with big/little in at the 2 word level, as these are not expected to be understood until the 3 word level. If you know the Derbyshire Language Scheme, this app follows it completely.
The 5 word level is not 5 key words, but follows the 5-10 level of the programme. It uses more complex sentence structures – pronouns, if/then, before/after etc.
You can also choose to use it on text only, audio only or both. This can be useful so that you can totally customise it to a particular child. With some children I use the text only mode and read the instructions myself so that I can change words they might find confusing or so that I can pause more frequently to help them process. It’s easy to change this in the middle of a session too if you want to. Of course, you could also use the text only option to work on reading rather than oral language.
The expressive section is also really nice. You can choose one of the scenes and you get a range of pictures which can be moved into the scene. Here, I chose the house, and got these choices.
Then I started to move them to make a scene. Either you can make a scene and get the child to talk about it, or they can build it themselves. There is also a recording facility so that you can tape them talking about the scene.
This app has a choice of 5 different reward games to play after answering a few questions. You can choose whether this comes up after 5, 15 or 25 questions depending on the child’s age and attention level. The 5 games are all really fun and appeal to children of all ages. Here are some examples.
Here you have to pop the blue bubbles but not the red ones.
Here you tap the balls and the burst into lots more.
Here you have to tap the stars as they pass the large stars at the bottom.
Things I love about this app:-
- The lovely, engaging animations.
- You can easily set it to target something very specific or keep it more open.
- It has a comprehension checker on it which is great for parents to help them identify which level to work at.
- The great choice of reward games which most children love (actually, I enjoyed them too!)
- The children in the app are called Steffy and James. To begin with, some children I worked with were unsure of which was the boy and which the girl, so I usually repeated the instruction using boy or girl instead of the child’s name. The names are consistent throughout though, so they soon learn them.
- This is an Australian app and there are some words that are probably a little less familiar to a British audience. For example, in some questions you have to give items to the dolphin or the seal. Quite a few children that I work with were unsure of the difference. Again, they do learn this quickly, but it’s something to be aware of as a British user. Similarly there are animals in a paddock or a garden, and many children were unsure of this difference as well.
Generally it’s a great game which I love. You can find it on the AppStore here. It costs £16.99 ($23.99)