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Hot List Q & A
App and Website Rubric
December 2014

Question:
Dear Colleagues,
Every once in awhile, I've seen requests for good tablet apps and websites. Could someone please resend the responses to this request? I'm looking for good apps and websites for phonics, vocab skills, etc. Can anyone recommend some of these for elementary school ELLs?
Thank you!

Reply:
Here is a rubric I developed to help teachers evaluate the quality of apps for young English learners http://www.ecetech.net/blog/dll/designing-a-rubric-for-preschool-bilingual-apps-by-karen-nemeth/

I just attended a national summit on young ELLs this week in Washington, DC. One of the research review presentations by Dr. Carol Hammer reminded us that research evidence is continuing to emphasize the importance of oral language and conversational interactions for the development of phonological awareness and vocabulary in young ELLs (DLLs). She shared additional studies showing that prewriting and writing practice also contribute to phonological awareness. Time spent with apps is usually time when oral language is suppressed, not supported… unless you plan to interact WITH the student around the app, or have students work together.

Apps and websites present a lot of information, but most of them show no evidence of helping children LEARN the information. This is especially true of free and low cost apps and sites. Just because they show cute activities about words and letter sounds doesn't mean the children will gain lasting benefit from playing with them. If you have allowed your students to use some vocabulary or phonics apps - try observing the activity they are doing today and making a note of it, then talking to them about it a week or two later and see if they remember anything they learned while playing with that app. For example, the Starfall site has one activity about the short e sound called Peg the Hen. It seems to provide practice on hearing and using the short e sound. OK. But if you observe your student playing with it this week and then watch to see how well he recognizes and uses the short e sound in conversations, other kinds of reading, or in his own writing… will you see an improvement a week or two later? or was that just a fleeting activity that only lasted as long as the child was on that computer doing that specific activity? Answers to those questions will help you decide which digital resources are right for your students.

Any app or website that looks like flashcards or that presents letter sounds or words with no meaningful context - like the Little Pim app - should be avoided. If you can afford a sophisticated system that is designed with young ELLs/DLLs in mind, then I would suggest looking into Imagine Learning.
Karen Nemeth

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