App Review of the Week
by A. Taylor, SLPA
Rainbow Sentences is the newest addition to a suite of educational apps from Mobile Education Store. I have quite a few educational apps from Mobile Education Store, for good reason- first, they all captivate my students’ attention. Secondly, they are created with the belief that students need different levels of instruction instead of a “one size fits all” approach. Lastly, they allow me to track my students’ performance.
Rainbow Sentences is no exception, and fills a niche in an underrepresented area of apps- Sentence Structure. Rainbow Sentences teaches sentence structure by color coding sentences so their parts can better make sense. This is an essential skill for comprehension. We need to know the who, what, where, and why/how of a sentence to be able to take away meaning from that sentence. Rainbow Sentences has managed to make this task fun as well, using illustrations that are charming and quite amusing- shoes that sleep, giraffes with shopping carts full of bananas- in fact these illustrations serve as a set of language therapy cards as well- they encourage discussion.
Sentences range from simple, color-coded chunks of language ( i.e. The frog/ is swimming) to increasingly more complex and smaller chunks (i.e. The / monkey / is / sitting / next/ to /the/ bananas/ because/ he/ is/ hungry. Eventually, the color coding can be removed when the child is ready. The beauty of this app is in this flexibility- this is an app that can be used with learners at various stages of understanding.
To play, first make sure the app is set to the student you want- access the settings tab in the toolbar at the bottom of the screen-Once in the Settings tab, you can view the current student at the very top of the page. If you want to switch to another student’s game, press the “Not you?” button, where you can choose an existing user, or add a new one. Adjust the settings to your liking, then choose the play button in the toolbar on the main screen. If a child is having difficulty, he or she can press the teal “Play Lesson” button on the game screen for a mini-tutorial on how to assemble a sentence.
The app itself is divided into 3 levels of sentence complexity: Levels 1, 2 and 3. Three additional supports can be turned on or off according to the needs of the student: Line Color Coding, Word Color Coding and Word Grouping. Turning on all three of these supports and starting on Level 1 would provide the maximum amount of support for a student, while turning off these supports and starting at Level 3 would provide the least amount of support.
Line Color Coding–
When this setting is on, the lines the child is dragging the sentence parts to will be color coded to serve as a visual guide. For example for the sentence “The whale/ is winking.” two blank lines are presented at the top of the screen, with an image of a whale winking below them. The first line is blue, indicating a subject should be dragged there. The second line is red, indicating the verb belongs there.
Word Color Coding–
Word color coding provides even further support. As in the above example, a child dragging a red color coded word belonging to the verb phrase “is winking”, will know automatically to drag that word or word grouping to the second (red) line.
Word Grouping– When this setting is on, words will be grouped into phrases and dragged as single units instead of individual words. “The whale / is winking.” has word grouping set to on, whereas “The / whale / is / winking.” has this feature set to off.
Level 1- This level includes subject + verb- “who” plus an “action”
Word grouping on:
The frog / is swimming.
The lizard / is sliding.
Word grouping off:
The/ polar bear / is / sledding.
The/ giraffe / is / running.
Level 2- This level includes subject + verb+ object “who”, an “action”, and an “object”. It also introduces positional words such as next to, off, under etc.
Word grouping on:
The snake/ has jumped / off the ladder.
The rabbit/ is jumping / out of the hat.
Word grouping off:
The/ horse/ is / running/ toward/ the/ track.
The / shoes / are/ sleeping / in / the / bed.
Level 3- Now is where the language really starts to get sophisticated. Sentences contain subject+ verb + object, positional words/prepositional phrases and “why” or “how” phrases as well.
Word grouping on:
The rabbit/ is jumping / next to the hat/ to get some exercise.
The boy/ is going/ to his bedroom/ to get some sleep.
Word grouping off:
The /cat/ is / lying/ under / the / car/ so / she / stays/ dry.
The / kangaroo / is/ falling /down/ the / hill/ because/ he /tripped/ on/ a /rock.
Audio instructions and Voicing of words–
Because instructions are given verbally and each word or group of words is voiced when dragged, this app can be used with non-readers. The instructions can be set to off through the settings button if it is not needed, and of course if you don’t want the words to be spoken aloud, there is always the mute button.
The child is given positive verbal reinforcement after a correct sentence is submitted (This feature can be shut off in settings.) Best of all- there is a puzzle feature built in to the app! After the student completes his first sentence, a puzzle piece will be awarded. Every 5 sentences(completed correctly on the first try) will earn another piece. (A message will display under the drawing as a reminder “Get _ more correct to unlock the next puzzle piece!!” When the last piece is earned a puzzle with a short animation will come on. The kids really enjoy this feature.
After each sentence is assembled, the child can record himself speaking the sentence. This feature can be shut off in settings. Recorded sentences for each child can be accessed through the Audio Archive button (described below) on the main screen.
Data collection of some sort-whether audio clips, or statisics- is a standard feature of all current apps from Mobile Education Store. I am thrilled that Rainbow Sentences has gone one step further than what I was accustomed to with the Mobile Education Store’s iPod apps, by adding access to a collection of students’ sentence recordings right within the app! (They can be accessed through the “Archive” tab.) This feature in Rainbow Sentences is very helpful not only for an educator tracking students’ progress, but for the students themselves to review. The option to share individual recorded sentences through email is still available as well.
In addition to storing sentences for later review, Rainbow Sentences compiles statistics about the user’s performance. You can access this information through the Stats icon in the lower right hand corner of the screen. Through this setting I can view how many sentences were correct on the first, second or third attempt, across all levels. I can email these stats, view the reward puzzle, or clear stats to start afresh.
My Wish List:
(I always have one)
Custom Color coding would be wonderful. Some students have already been exposed to a color coding system for sentence structure; custom coding would prevent confusion and the learning of a new system. I would also love to see a more advanced level where the sentence itself is not movable, but parts-of-speech-labels in the different color codes can be dragged up to match the words in the sentence. I can see how this may have been intentionally left out- it becomes less about constructing the sentence, and more about labeling the grammatical features-but it would a lovely next step for students that are ready to go beyond this. This is a huge undertaking, and with language being so fluid, the same words can act as different parts of speech from one sentence to the next. I sure would love to see something like this tackled, however- Perhaps in a Teen version of Rainbow Sentences, with real pictures instead of drawings? I can’t wait to see what Mobile Education Store comes up with next!
Video for Rainbow Sentences