Thursday, September 27, 2012

App Review: Story Builder



When Kyle from Mobile Education Store contacted me about doing reviews on a couple of their apps, I was excited for the opportunity.  Two of the first apps I downloaded when I got my iPad were Sentence Builder ($5.99 for both iPhone and iPad in the App Store) and Question Builder ($5.99 for both iPhone and iPad in the App Store).  Both apps are fantastic for SLPs, but I found that they were too high level for my caseload  of preschool and kindergarten students.  (For a recent review of Sentence Builder, head on over to Speech Time Fun).  Since many of the students on my caseload have objectives for answering WH- questions, I have used Question Builder with some of my more patient kindergartners (A question is read to you and you choose an answer from written responses in sentence form).



There I go, digressing again!  Of all of Mobile Education Store's apps, Story Builder looked the most promising for my needs (Story Builder is $5.99 for iPhone and $7.99 for iPad).  Based on the description, I thought this app was the most easily modified for my little guys.

When you open the app, you start on the Settings screen.  You can see you have different options to choose from - Level of Play, Question Reinforcement, Color Code Reinforcement, and Story Introduction Reinforcement.


Settings:


Level of Play
In Level 1, there are four different questions for each picture, allowing you to create a very simple story.  More questions are added in Level 2, resulting in a more detailed story.  In Level 3, the only cue the child receives is "Make a story about the picture.  Make sure to use complete sentences."  It pains me to admit this, but when I first saw Level 3, I was thinking "This would be great practice for the composition portion of MCAS" (our state-wide academic achievement test).

Question Reinforcement
In Level 1 and 2, the student is given question prompts to guide their story development.  Selecting "On" will allow you and your students to see the written question as it is being asked.  In addition, the question will remain until you move on to the next question.  Selecting "Off" will allow you to see the written question as it is being asked, but then the question disappears.  As you may have guessed, in "Intermittent" mode, the question sometimes remains and sometimes disappears.

Color Code Reinforcement
By selecting "on," the written question will be highlighted in red.  By selecting "off," the question is written at the top of the picture with the background being the same as the picture.  "Intermittent" varies the two.

Story Introduction Reinforcement
For this feature, you can choose having sentence starters for each question ("On") or not ("Off").


Using the App:

Once you select the options you wish to use, you are given one of many different picture scenes.  You can record the students' responses to each prompt and play back the story when finished.  There is also a way of saving stories to play again later (especially handy when you are transcribing!).  You can select "Skip  Picture" to move on to a different scene.  If you hit "Record" or "Repeat Question," you will have to finish out this story before moving on to another.




I tried the app with two different groups.  The first group consisted of two preschool boys, both age 4.  The second group consisted of four second graders (3 boys, 1 girl) all age seven.  (Thank you to my fabulous co-worker Stephanie for letting me hijack visit her group!).  For both groups, I used Level 1 with Question Reinforcement and Story Introduction Reinforcement. However, we did not always use the suggested sentence starters.  Here are the results:


Story 1


Preschool Group:

Question 1:  Where is the boy?
        The boy... "is in the woods."
Question 2:  Why is the boy running away?
        "Boy is running [from] a snake."  
Question 3:  How does the snake feel?
        "The snake feels scared"
Question 4:  Where is the boy going?
        The boy is going... "running [to] a house."

Second Grade Group:

Question 1:  Where is the boy?
        "The boy and snake are in the woods."
Question 2:  Why is the boy running away?
        "The snake scare him."  
Question 3:  How does the snake feel?
        "The snake and the boy are scared [of] each other. And do you know why he's scared?
        Because, snakes are not scared of people.  Because, in the real world, snakes are not
        scared of people, and people are scared of snakes.  That happens in the real world.
        This is just a book."
Question 4:  Where is the boy going?
        "He try to hide somewhere in his room."



Story 2



Preschool Group:

Question 1:  Where are the man and the dog?
        The man and the dog are... "making a tent."
Question 2:  What is the raccoon doing?
        Then, a raccoon..."[was] pushing in the tent."  
Question 3:  Why are the man and the dog so scared?
        The man and the dog are so scared because..."raccoon get them"
Question 4:  When will the raccoon leave?
        The raccoon will leave when... "He's leaving."
        When? "In his house."

Second Grade Group:

Question 1:  Where are the man and the dog?
        "The man is on the tent."
Question 2:  What is the raccoon doing?
        "They don't know if the raccoon's doing it.  Because they think it's somebody
        like a monster or something doing it and they're scared and the raccoon is teasing them."
Question 3:  Why are the man and the dog so scared?
        "The raccoon is scaring them."
Question 4:  When will the raccoon leave?
        "The raccoon will leave when it gets dark."




Story 3



Preschool Group:

Question 1:  Tell me what the woman is doing?
        The woman is... "cleaning."
Question 2:  Why is she doing that?
        She's cleaning the floor because..."the dogs feet!" Made... "a mess!"  
Question 3:  Then what happened?
        But then..."The dog?"
        How is she feeling?..."She's mad."
Question 4:  What will the woman do now?
        Now the woman will..."clean the floor."

Second Grade Group:

Question 1:  Tell me what the woman is doing?
        The woman is... "mopping the kitchen floor because of the dog has stinky footprints."
Question 2:  Why is she doing that?
        "She's putting the paw prints in the kitchen.  Ugh!  She's cleaning up the paw prints".  
Question 3:  Then what happened?
        "Then, she's gonna put the dog in a bath."
Question 4:  What will the woman do now?
        She's..."washing his hair."



What I like about this app:

  • The pictures are colorful, eye-catching, and interesting for the students.
  • Different levels of play make this app useful for many different age levels.
  • Recording function is helpful for language sampling and for transcribing stories
  • Since most of my kiddos have a goal of answering WH-questions, I love the question reinforcement option.
  • The sentence starters are great for kids who have difficulty formulating complete sentences.
  • You can save multiple stories.  This is a great way of checking progress (save one at the start of the school year, and another at the end).
  • There is a "Repeat Question" button, which is great for kids who require repetition.  This is also good if there is an external noise that prevents you from hearing the question.

What changes I would have liked to see:

  • Because I tried to use the same stories for the two groups, I had to "Skip Picture" over and over to get to the ones I wanted.  It would be nice if you could select the picture(s) you want from a main menu.
  • There were times that I accidentally hit "Repeat Question" instead of "Skip Picture."  The app does not allow you to move along to the next picture until you record a response for each question.  A "Home" type of button would be a great update!

The bottom line:

          Story Builder is a great app that is definitely worth the price.  You can use it in individual and
          group therapy sessions.  And you can use the app to target not just narrative skills, but WH
          questions, sentence formulation, fluency, articulation carry-over, etc.  Head on over to the app
          store and check it out!

Disclaimer:  Although Kyle at Mobile Education Store was kind enough to provide me with a code for this app review, the opinions are 100% my own. :)

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