Thursday, May 23, 2013

App Review: Syllables Splash!

I've yet to meet a Smarty Ears app that I don't like.  So when they asked me to review their latest app, Syllables Splash, I knew I'd love it!  Syllables Splash was created to teach the phonological awareness task of syllable segmentation.  You can use Syllables Splash individually, or in groups (up to 4 players).  This app is even aligned with the common core!  (See the Phonological Awareness section of the CCSS HERE).

Getting Started:

From the main screen (above), you can tap "Support" to read about the app, watch a video tutorial, contact Smarty Ears support, and Back-Up/Restore from iTunes.  You can also tap "Quick Play" to begin playing without gathering specific student information.  

To collect data, you must first "Select Player."  You will be prompted to add a player's name and photo or avatar.  

You can modify settings from the "Select Player" screen as well.  You can choose from the following options:

  • When wrong:  Eliminate an incorrect response, or hear a buzzing noise.   
  • Number of wrong options:  You can choose to have 1, 2, or 3 foils.
  • Increase Level if Successful:  You can opt to have the level of difficulty increase or remain the same when a student gets a correct response.
  • Include words with:  You can opt to have words with 1, 2, 3, and/or 4 syllables.  You can select as many or as few options as you wish.
  • Fish & Shark Animation:  When you have this option turned on, fish will swim across the screen as you play.  In addition, if you choose "eliminate" an incorrect response and have this option selected, a shark will enter from the right and chomp the incorrect response.  

Once you have selected your players and settings, you are ready to start.  Essentially, the student will see a picture and hear a word.  Then they will select the number of syllables they think are in the word.  The numbers will appear in random orders.  If there's a way to have the numbers stay in sequential order, I haven't figured that out yet.

You can tap the "rotate" circle above the picture to view the printed word.

Again, if you have "eliminate" and "animations" selected and you are incorrect, the shark comes out to chomp the incorrect answer.  

Do you see the starfish that says "Help"?  If you tap that, a turtle will appear and clap out the syllables for you.

When you are done, your session data will be saved into reports (unless you are using the Quick Play option).  You can also export your data to Therapy Report Center (Free in iTunes).

Here's what I like:

  • First of all, I love the theme and animation!  It's perfect for this time of year, but kids will love it year-round!
  • Alignment with the Common Core Standards.  If your state hasn't been hit with CCSS yet, it will be soon!  
  • Syllable segmentation is an important skill, not only for reading, but for articulation and phonology as well.
  • Syllables Splash was designed for the purpose of identifying the number of syllables in a given word.  However, I have many students on my caseload this year who are working on sound sequencing in multi-syllabic words.  I was able to select 3 and 4 syllable words and have students say the words (using syllable tapping technique) and then select the number of syllables as well.
  • Compatibility with TRC (the more I use it, the more I love it)!
Changes I would make:
  • First, since I used this apps with kids working on articulation skills, I would love a record feature.
  • The numbers that you select from appear in random order (and they change position from one word to the next).  This may not be an issue for many kids, but for those who have difficulty with impulse control and/or recognizing numbers, this could be a disadvantage. 
  • The only other "concern" I had is partially based on dialectical considerations.  There were two words that I came across that I questioned the "correct" response.  The first is chocolate cake.  The voice over pronounced the word as "chalk-lit cake."  This is also how I would pronounce it, but the correct response was "4-syllables."  I would say it (and I perceived it being said) with three syllables, not four.  The other word sparked a heated debate in our staff lunchroom one day!  The word was "campfire."  The correct response on the app was 2 syllables.  I say it with three ("camp fai-yer") and I believe the voice over did as well.  Here was the debate in our lunchroom...Some of the classroom teachers said that, since "fire" has one vowel, it has one syllable.  Phonetically speaking, there is the dipthong ("ai") and many dialects add the "Y" sound before the /er/.  

The Bottom Line:
Overall, Syllables Splash is a great addition for anyone who works on syllable segmentation, phonological awareness, weak syllable deletion, and/or sound sequencing within multi-syllable words.  The underwater theme is adorable and super motivating for my students!  Just a warning: you may have students select incorrect answers on purpose so that they can see the shark!

Syllables Splash sells for $9.99 in iTunes.

Do you work on phonological awareness skills?  Which aspect of phonological awareness do you target most often?

PS, Out of curiosity, how many syllables do you use when you say "camp fire" and "chocolate cake"?
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