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Phonological Awareness Screening App Review: ProPA

pro-pa-img1Summer is in full swing and for many SLPs that means a welcome break from work. However, for me, it’s business as usual, since my program is year around, and we have just started our extended school year program.

Of course, even my program is a bit light on activities during the summer. There are lots of field trips, creative and imaginative play, as well as less focus on academics as compared to during the school year. However, I’m also highly cognizant of summer learning loss, which is the phenomena characterized by the loss of academic skills and knowledge over the course of summer holidays.

Image result for summer learning loss

According to Cooper et al, 1996, while generally, typical students lose about one month of learning, there is actually a significant degree of variability of loss based on SES. According to Cooper’s study, low-income students lose approximately two months of achievement. Furthermore, ethnic minorities, twice-exceptional students (2xE), as well as students with language disorders tend to be disproportionately affected (Graham et al, 2011;  Kim & Guryan, 2010; Kim, 2004). Finally, it is important to note that according to research, summer loss is particularly prominent in the area of literacy (Graham et al, 2011).

So this summer I have been busy screening the phonological awareness abilities (PA) of an influx of new students (our program enrolls quite a few students during the ESY), as well as rescreening PA abilities of students already on my caseload, who have been receiving services in this area for the past few months.

Why do I intensively focus on phonological awareness (PA)? Because PA is a precursor to emergent reading. It helps children to manipulate sounds in words (see Age of Aquisition of PA Skills). Children need to attain PA mastery (along with a host of a few literacy-related skills) in order to become good readers.

When children exhibit poor PA skills for their age it is a red flag for reading disabilities. Thus it is very important to assess the child’s PA abilities in order to determine their proficiency in this area.

While there are a number of comprehensive tests available in this area, for the purposes of my screening I prefer to use the ProPA app by Smarty Ears.


The Profile of Phonological Awareness (Pro-PA) is an informal phonological awareness screening. According to the developers on average it takes approximately 10 to 20 minutes to administer based on the child’s age and skill levels. In my particular setting (outpatient school based in a psychiatric hospital) it takes approximately 30 minutes to administer to students on the individual basis. It is by no means a comprehensive tool such as the CTOPP-2 or the PAT-2, as there are not enough trials, complexity or PA categories to qualify for a full-blown informal assessment. However, it is a highly useful measure for a quick determination of the students’ strengths and weaknesses with respect to their phonological awareness abilities. Given its current retail price of $29.99 on iTunes, it is a relatively affordable phonological awareness screening option, as the app allows its users to store data, and generates a two-page report at the completion of the screening.

The Pro-PA assesses six different skill areas:

  • Rhyming
    • Identification
    • Production
  • Blending
    • Syllables
    • Sounds
  • Sound Isolation
    • Initial
    • Final
    • Medial
  • Segmentation
    • Words in sentences
    • Syllables in words
    • Sounds in words
    • Words with consonant clusters
  • Deletion
    • Syllables
    • Sounds
    • Words with consonant clusters
  • Substitution
    • Sounds in initial position of words
    • Sounds in final position of words

pro-pa-img21After the completion of the screening, the app generates a two-page report which describes the students’ abilities as:

  • Achieved (80%+ accuracy)
  • Not achieved (0-50% accuracy)
  • Emerging (~50-79% accuracy)

The above is perfect for quickly tracking progress or for generating phonological awareness goals to target the students’ phonological awareness weaknesses. While the report can certainly be provided as an attachment to parents and teachers, I usually tend to summarize its findings in my own reports for the purpose of brevity. Below is one example of what that looks like:

pro-pa-img29The Profile of Phonological Awareness (Pro-PA), an informal phonological awareness screening was administered to “Justine” in May 2017 to further determine the extent of her phonological awareness strengths and weaknesses.

On the Pro-PA, “Justine” evidenced strengths (80-100% accuracy) in the areas of rhyme identification, initial and final sound isolation in words, syllable segmentation, as well as substitution of sounds in initial position in words.

She also evidenced emerging abilities (~60-66% accuracy) in the areas of syllable and sound blending in words, as well as sound segmentation in CVC words,

However, Pro-PA assessment also revealed weaknesses (inability to perform) in the areas of: rhyme production, isolation of medial sounds in words, segmentation of words, segmentation of sounds in words with consonant blends,deletion of first sounds,  consonant clusters, as well as substitution of sounds in final position in words. Continuation of therapeutic intervention is recommended in order to improve “Justine’s” abilities in these phonological awareness areas.

Now you know how I quickly screen and rescreen my students’ phonological awareness abilities, I’d love to hear from you! What screening instruments are you using (free or paid) to assess your students’ phonological awareness abilities? Do you feel that they are more or less comprehensive/convenient than ProPA?


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Review and Giveaway Wh-Questions Island

Today I am reviewing WH Questions Island by Virtual Speech Center.  The app was originally released a few years ago but since I recently reviewed their “Questions Hunt“, and because this app was recently updated, I was very interested in comparing how the two stack up.

This app contains a total of 480 what, where, who, when, why, and how questions, which are organized in 4 sets each consisting of 80 questions.

WH Questions Island Settings

You can customize the “Settings” in the following way :

  • Alternative Count – use the “-” / “+” buttons to choose how many turns each student gets in group therapy
  • Audio – control the verbal presentation during sessions
  • Auto/ Random Paging decide which option words best for you
  • Show/Hide Instructions


New app improvements include:

  • Ability to randomize activities in addition to pages
  • Hide score during the session
  • Ability to disable score sounds
  • Ability to change score sounds
  • Ability to update user
  • UI improvements

The app consists of two activity types – flashcards and board game and includes both receptive and expressive modes. In receptive mode, children listen to wh-questions and select the correct answer when given three written choices they can also hear auditorily. In the expressive mode, children need to verbally answer wh-questions without any visual/written cues.

When you are ready, start by selecting the avatar for your student/s, the mode (R or E) as well as the type of questions you’d like for them to target.

Flashcard Mode:

Here is an example of “when” questions in the receptive mode.


Here is an example of “why” questions and expressive mode.


Here is an example of “where” questions in the receptive mode.

And this is an example of “why” questions in the expressive mode.


Board Game Mode: 

Contains cute little pirate animals, treasure, and question marks. You begin by tapping on the spinner in the middle of the board, after which the player’s token will move spaces (between 1-4). If the student lands on a question mark, a question flashcard will appear to answer. If the student lands on a crab or crocodile space, they go backward one space. If the student lands on a parrot or butterfly space, they go forward one space. If the student lands on a pot of gold, an animation will play.

In both flashcard/board game mode, once the student completes the designated set of questions/reaches the end of the game, his/her results can be accessed in the report center.

Overall, I think that this is a useful app for working on answering WH questions with and without written multiple choice answers. I particularly like the fact that it uses real life photographs in conjunction with the questions as I think they may be more salient to children with cognitive impairments.

You can find this app for 9.99 in the iTunes Store or you can enter my Rafflecopter giveaway below for a chance to win your own FREE copy!

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Review and Giveaway: ‘I Can Do’ Apps Early Literacy and Critical Thinking Bundle

FullSizeRenderToday I’m excited to review  not just one but a bundle of four different apps I Can Do Apps    developed by Carrie Steenbergen M.S, CCC-SLP.

This bundle consists of the following 4 apps:

  • Associations
  • Categories
  • Rhyming
  • Starting Sounds

These apps are perfect for young preschool and kindergarten age children or older children with developmental disabilities and language delay. Reminiscent of the apps (no longer available in the US) they have a simple layout and engaging real life photographs to facilitate students interest.

All of the below I Can Do apps have five different levels, each containing 10 trials (with the exception of memory games). They contain pictures of real objects and are wonderfully randomized.

Levels increase in the order of difficulty and movement between screens is accomplished manually for teaching purposes. The apps allow the clinician/parent to  turn on/off written words and audio reinforcement after selected answers.


First up is the Associations app. It’s five levels are: 

1. Identify associated items given two choicesIMG_0461

2. Identify associated items given three choices


3. Identify two out of four associated pictures


4. Identify three out of six associated pictures


5. Identify the item which does not belong


Next is the Categories app. It’s five levels are: 


1. Identify a picture that fits into a specific category given two visual choices


2. “Find the other category member” from three visual choices


3. Identify a picture that fits into a specific category given three visual choicesIMG_0471

4. Identify two out of four pictures which go together


5. Identify the item which does not belong in a category

Now let’s talk about the Rhyming app, it’s five levels are: 


1. Identify a rhyme from two pictures with labels

2. Identify rhyme from two pictures


3. Identify a rhyme from three pictures


4. Identify a rhyme from four pictures


5. Play a rhyming memory matching game


Finally there is the most advanced app in the bundle the Starting Sounds app, and it’s five levels are: 


1. Identify the starting sound


2. Identify the picture which begins with the given sound


3. Identify the picture starting with the given sound give 2 visual choices


4. Identify the picture starting with the given sound give 2 visual choices IMG_0477

5. Play a memory matching game


There you have it! These practical, relatively inexpensive apps ($2.99 each or $9.99 per bundle) are great for introducing early critical thinking and emergent literacy skills to young children.

I really enjoyed using them and found them particularly effective for my 4 to 6 year old language impaired preschoolers as well in my older 8 to 10-year-old client with developmental disabilities such as Down Syndrome, Fragile X, as well nonspecific cognitive disabilities.

Find them separately or together in the iTunes Store or, thanks to the generosity of their developer enter my rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win your own bundle!

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App Review and Giveaway Questions Hunt

Today I am reviewing an app from Virtual Speech Center called Questions Hunt.  The app targets answering 60 yes/no as well as 360 WH questions (what, where, who, when, why and how) in young children with language disorders.

This app is thematically based with questions in the following categories:

  • Beach
  • Park
  • Store
  • Campground
  • Airport and
  • School

This app is very easy to navigate containing typical Virtual Speech Center set up.



Once you select your individual student or your group of students simply tap on the questions you want them to answer (when, why, etc.) and the location you want to target (beach, park, etc.) and you’re good to go.IMG_0455

Next you will be taking two different pages depicting campground, school etc. They will depict people and objects with question marks hovering above them. Click on the question mark to begin answering questions.IMG_0456

If you are working on improving the student’s receptive language abilities then the student is shown the question which is also read orally along with 3 multiple choice answers. S/he can answer the questions by tapping on the correct answer choice.


In expressive tasks,  the students are only shown the questions to which they must provide their own oral responses.


In order to move between the questions the students need to swipe on the screen with their finger to the right until they get to the very end of all the questions in a particular category. Then if multiple locations were selected such as the park and the beach, the students need to press the “NEXT” button in order to move on to the next location.

 What I like about this app:

  • I like the bright and engaging thematically based illustrations
  • I really like the fact that I can use the app to target multiple goals including:
    • Auditory memory
    • Listening comprehension
    • Sentence formulation
    • Vocabulary knowledge and use
    • Critical thinking and verbal reasoning
  • I love the fact that this app is very useful for my preschool population as well as for children with developmental disabilities such as ASD and genetic syndromes (Down, Fragile X, etc.)

All in all this is a nice functional app for targeting WH questions in language impaired children. You can find this app on iTunes for $4.99, or thanks to the Virtual Speech Center you can enter my Rafflecopter giveaway to win a free code.

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App Review and Giveaway: Listening Power Preschool HD by Hamaguchi

image1Today, I am very excited to review the Listening Power Preschool HD recently released by Hamaguchi for children ~3.5 + years of age  with a focus on improving language processing and listening comprehension.

This app consists of 5  levels of increasing complexity.   Each of its five levels contains “easy”,  “intermediate”, and “advanced” options and can be set up to offer choices of two, three, or four answers in the form of pictures. Additionally if you turn on the “text” feature, the app can be used to improve decoding as well as reading comprehension in older children. 

1. The Listening for Descriptions  portion requires the child  to identify (via tapping) pictures containing a variety of attributes/adjectives  (e.g., colors, big/little, happy/sad, clean/dirty, hold/cold, stripes, spots, soft/hard, round, square, etc.)


2. The Listening for Directions portion requires the child  to identify (via tapping) pictures containing a variety of  prepositional concepts ( e.g., on, in, out, on, out, up, down, behind, line up, sit down, stop, underline, cross out, underline, etc.)


3. The Listening for Grammar & Meaning portion requires the child  to identify (via tapping) pictures containing a variety of  grammar markers including plurals, verb tenses, pronouns, preposition concepts, negation, etc.

screen480x480 (3)

4. Listening for Stories with Pictures portion requires the child  to listen to a story with accompanying pictures and sound effects,  and then answer: who, what, and where questions.


5. Listening for Stories without Pictures  portion of the app is the most difficult level as it requires the child  to listen to a story without  accompanying pictures and then answer questions about the story (an animation after the story does show select aspects of the story).

The app takes detailed data on the child’s performance which can be displayed for parent/clinician as well as emailed. It’s pop-up reward animations are engaging for the children.   It also has a “bubble game” as a fun break activity.


The app is suitable for both individual and group play. Furthermore, all the stories from the app are available in the PDF format to download and review.

I have used it with wide range of preschool and kindergarten aged children with a variety of linguistically based difficulties and low cognitive abilities with great success. I have also used it with older children 7-10 years of age with developmental disabilities and genetic syndromes with great success by selecting the “easy” option and 2 visual picture choices. For a cost of $15.99 (on Itunes), the app provides a fairly cost effective option for improving language processing abilities of young children.

Thanks to the generosity of Hamaguchi Apps you can enter my Rafflecopter giveaway to win two free app codes.

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APP Bundle Review and Giveaway from Communication APPtitude

Today I am having fun reviewing and giving away, not 1, not 2 but 3 vocabulary apps from Communication APPtitude to one lucky winner.

InferCabulary™ and InferCabulary 3 are vocabulary apps for middle school and high school students, which teach them definitions through concrete explanation and visual support (photos).

A third app WordQuations™ assists the students with learning the meanings of subtle verb synonyms through visual support.

Let’s begin with InferCabulary™.


The app has 3 options: Teach, Definition Games, and Word Games.

In “Teach” the student sees a word on the screen (arranged in alphabetical order) as well as 5 photos which describe the word’s synonymous meanings in context (below). A pull out menu to the left (contains all the 100 words in case you want to teach/arrange the words in a different order). There’s also a “more” button where students can learn more information about each word.

In “Definitions Games” there are 4 options: “Novice”, “Speed”, “Sudden Death”, and “3 Lives” of varying level of complexity.

In “Games” mode the student gets 2 photos, each one with a specific caption (“She is the best at her job”; “I did it! I finished my degree!”) and 5 definitions describing the targeted word.  The student must choose the best definition matching the captions under the two photos in order to win. If they make the right choice, they go on to the next word. If they make the wrong choice, it will add another picture for a clue.

In contrast in Word Games which contain the same 4 levels of complexity as “Definition Games” the student is given 5 photos with captions and asked to identify the targeted word

The app  contains 100 Tier II vocabulary words (in alphabetical order) from middle school literature such as Lowry’s ‘Number the Stars’, Tolkein’s ‘The Hobbit’, etc. You can find the list of words HERE.

Similar to InferCabulary, InferCabulary 3 is set up in the exactly the same way with the exception that it contains 100 Tier II vocabulary words from high school level books such as Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ and Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. You can find the list of words HERE.

Both apps contain audio that verbally highlights the words, definitions, captions and “more information” panel. And I hear that an InferCabulary1 for Elementary age students will be coming out this month (March 2015)

Now let’s talk about WordQuations™. Here you begin by choosing a base word: Drink, Eat, Look, Put, Sit, Talk, Think, Touch, Understand, Walk or Write.

Next choose a speed. Then, choose a heaviness, volume or intensity.

After that, choose a motive or em0tion the click on the synonym – there may be one or more than one. Finally read the definition and play the video to see the actors demonstrating the synonym.

I liked all three vocabulary apps because they use great visuals and clear explanations. The one thing I wish the developer did differently for the InferCabulary apps is to arrange the words based on relationships or semantic clusters to create a scheme vs. arranging them in alphabetical order (Marzano & Marzano, 1988).

You can find these apps in the iTunes stores (link to all 3 HERE), or thanks to developer’s generosity you can enter my Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win a bundled version of all 3 apps.

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App Review and Giveaway: Multiple Meanings Library

Understanding that words can have more than one meaning is an invaluable first step to the comprehension of abstract language. It allows students to use words in a variety of contexts, become good oral communicators, and do well on a variety of written tasks.

However, it is a well-known fact that many students with language disorders often struggle with comprehension and usage of multiple meaning words. That is why I am very excited to review today a very useful app from the Virtual Speech Center entitled Multiple Meanings Library.

Similar to their other apps the setup is quite simple. You begin by clicking on the “START” button and adding the new student names. After you select the students you want to participate in the session you move on to the next screen which allows you to select the type of activity you want. These include the categories of: Auditory Bombardment, Picture Identification, Definition, Fill in, or Make up Sentences.


You can select as many categories as you like. After you’ve completed your category selection, it is time to move on to your word selection. Depending on your student’s knowledge and use of multiple meaning words you can pre-select words you want them to learn.  It is important to note that the words are not grouped by specific categories but are rather arranged in alphabetical order.


Other capabilities include:

  • Working with several students at a time
  • Audio recording responses
  • Performance tracking
  • Emailing results at the end of the session


What I like:

  • I love the fact that the app developers used real life photographs which they juxtaposed next to one another to illustrate the multiple meanings of words
  • I love the fact that I could practice sentence formulation activities with the students on my caseload
  • I also really like the fact that the “Definition” category of the app focuses on making inferences or guessing which word can be described given certain characteristics
  • I really like the fact that on the Making Sentences portion of the app, students can record and playback the sentences they formulated using multiple meaning words for self review and feedback from the therapist

You can find this app on iTunes for $12.99, or thanks to the Virtual Speech Center you can enter my Rafflecopter giveaway to win a free code.
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App Review and Giveaway: Sequencing Post Office

photo 1Sequencing information in order is a very important problem solving skill. It assists children with understanding the chronological order of events, the procession of time, as well as with the organization of verbal output. This is why I am excited to review today the Sequencing Post Office app by the Virtual Speech Center.

Much like it there other apps it’s incredibly easy to set up and use. Click on the Start button, add a student, select the sequence(s) you’d like for them to work on, and start putting things in order.

The 65 sequencing tasks are divided into 2-step, 3-step, and 4-step sequences.  You can  tap the 2, 3, or 4 numbers on top of the screen to modify the directions.  The sequences include numerous functional activities: daily household routines (making food, doing chores, performing daily ablutions, etc.),  seasonal activities (such as making a snowman, a sand castle or carving a pumpkin, etc.) holiday related activities (dyeing Easter eggs, decorating the Christmas tree, etc.) or even life cycles of plants and animals.


To complete the activity students need to drag the pictures in correct order. While there is no sound to narrate on the activity in each of the cards, this is the perfect opportunity to get the students to verbalize regarding what’s happening in each of the cards.

This app can also be programmed (in settings) to include games after a set number of responses (5, 10, etc.) are completed correctly.

Other capabilities include:

  • Working with several students at a time
  • Audio recording responses
  • Performance tracking
  • Emailing results at the end of the session

What I like:

  • Numerous functional sequences of activities
  • The fact is that the app can target  receptive, expressive, and problem solving abilities in young children (point to the ______, explain what the ________, why does ______ go before _________)
  • The fact that the children can record their story and play it back for feedback
  • The ability to change number of sequences (from 4 to less) in each activity (versus in select ones) only.
  • The usefulness of the life cycle sequences for the core curriculum subjects such as science

Room for improvement: 

  • It would be nice if the child was able to tap on a particular picture card and the receiver verbal feedback/model of what was happening in the picture
  • Also, real life photographs may be a welcome addition for children with cognitive disabilities as well as concrete thinkers

All in all this is a nice inexpensive app (under $5) with functional sequences of activities which can be used with a variety of 2 to 4 level sequences.

You can find this app on iTunes for $4.99, or thanks to the Virtual Speech Center you can enter my Rafflecopter giveaway to win a free code.
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App Review and Giveaway: Sounds at Home

Today I am reviewing a brand new app by the Virtual Speech Center: Sounds at Home.  Designed to target phonemic awareness skills in young children 2-6 years of age, the app targets the following range of skills: Continue reading App Review and Giveaway: Sounds at Home

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App Review and Giveaway: Auditory Memory Ride

photo 1Today I am reviewing a recent app by the Virtual Speech Center called “Auditory Memory Ride” which is aimed at improving immediate memory and information recall in children with processing disorders. 

App Categories:

  • Digit recall
  • Recall of words and sentences
  • Detail recognition
  • Paragraph recall

Continue reading App Review and Giveaway: Auditory Memory Ride