Monday, May 21, 2012

Montessori Crosswords

In our classrooms, the iPads at first made themselves most useful in our Language Arts programs. This is in large part due to the fact that there are so many apps for word building, phonics review, and letter sounds.

Montessori Crosswords has made it into our rotation this year as one of the more promising apps for word building and review.

This app gives a picture clue and speaks a word that the student must spell by dragging and dropping the letters into a traditional crossword layout.  Once a puzzle is successfully solved, the student gets to interact with bubbles, stars, spirals or some other feature.  One of the most wonderful things about this app is the depth of the settings feature.  This app allows for focusing on one sound - and those choices are fairly extensive including consonants, long vowels, short vowels, blends, word endings, etc.

We use this app as a regular reinforcement during our language arts times.  This week for example our students focused on the ow sound as in couch and cow.  After conversation and exploration about these sounds in small groups, the students used letter cubes to build words and then created sentences incorporating each type of word.  Once they finished with their sentences they worked on Crosswords on the iPads targeting those types of words.

Unfortunately, no apps are perfect.  With Crosswords the challenge is sometimes the audio.  For many of our children, the audio can be difficult to understand.  The "L" and the "N" sound too similar.  On the other hand, the voice will pronounce the blends as blends, so if you tap on an empty square to figure out which letter you need, she'll highlight both squares to show that it is a blend.  This is true in words such as black in which she blends the "ck" and in snail in which she blends "ai."  We often use this app with the sound off and have the kids say the word that they see in the picture clue out loud in order to figure it out. 

I do wish there was a puzzle choice that used the sight word list and that there were more words in all of the focus on one sound selections....

What I like:
* vowels are one color and consonants are another color
* can choose to work on cvc words or individual vowels or consonants or blends
* it's not too over-praising

What I'd like to change:
* the sounds of the voice in the app can be a little difficult to understand
* silent letter sounds throw off our beginning spellers (knife, knit, etc)
* it would be nice if there was a two word puzzle should build on a specific angle - ie. the double consonant or the short vowel