Monday, August 17, 2015

10 Educational Apps for the Sped Classroom

At the end of last school year, I won a grant to purchase 4 iPads for my special needs classroom. Now that we are 1:1 on technology, I have been researching and playing around with educational apps all summer in preparation for our new "toys" to arrive.

Here are some apps that I've used in the past with my students, and a few that I'm excited to try out:
Toca Doctor / Pet Doctor
In both Toca Doctor and Pet Doctor, the student is prompted to help the sick people, or pets, get better. They get to examine patients in Toca Doctor and solve puzzles within the human body. The same for Pet Doctor, except you are working on ill pets! Both are great apps for hand-eye coordination, as well as motor skills and concentration. The best part is that there are no timers or stress-inducing elements within each game, so your students can play at their own pace. 

Both apps were created by Toca Boca, who is a company that builds great apps for kids. The majority of the time, they are both paid apps ($2.99 each), but you can grab them for free every once in awhile (like I was able to). There are no adds or in-app purchases within each game.
PopFlux is a free app that is great for not only getting your students up and moving around, but for hand-eye coordination as well. It works in real time as you use your iPad's camera to kind of capture your students playing. As the bubbles fall from the screen on the iPad, students must pop the bubbles any way they can without hitting the bombs. Students get 5 lives each game and as they get better and better at dodging the bombs, they move up levels.

In my classroom, we turn the app on and then set it on the bookshelf. I have a piece of tape on the floor that students must stand behind as they play. We usually have 2 players play at a time to build teamwork. This app is great for both ambulatory and non-ambulatory students too, and is a favorite in my class!
Tiny Tap
This app allows you to create interactive lessons and games, and play those that others have created. It's so simple and easy to create activities, that it would be a great app for you to recommend to a child's parent to help build language and math skills at home.
Disney's Storytime
I absolutely love this app! You can download this app for free and you get 2 or 3 free Disney stories. I purchased coins within the app to buy more stories for my students because the app is great for my kids. The app reads to the student and highlights each word as it is read, modeling to the student how to read, while using familiar characters and stories to keep them interested.

In my classroom, we use this app during Language Arts centers after a student finishes his/her work. Each student has their own pair of headphones in the classroom, and since this school year I will be getting 4 new iPads, we might try out having a silent reading block of 10 minutes after lunch.

*I do disable in-app purchases through the "Settings" tab on the iPad so students cannot buy their own stories when they are working independently, but when I do purchase new stories, each student gets to pick 1 story.
This is a paid app (that goes on sale and for free a lot) that is great for typing IEP goals! I don't mean for you, but for the students to practice their typing.

In my classroom, my students have the choice of typing on the computer or typing on the iPad. My personal preference is for them to use the iPad (because of this awesome app), but the choice is ultimately their choice. I like this app so much because it's great for collecting and keeping data on the goal without taking up space on my desk. Each session, we open a new paper, type the student's name and the date, and let the child work. You can then save that page and it kind of archives it on the side for you. It's great in that way because then you can go back and show progress from session to session, as well as email or print out what the student typed. A+ in my book!
Talking Cards
This is a great beginner app for nonverbal students who benefit from using Assistive Technology, but are not quite advanced enough to manipulate a GoTalk or the Proloquo2Go app. We used this with one of my students last year and it was a great tool in giving the child an option to make a choice with his own voice, and not a predetermined set of choices.

In the app, you use your iPad's camera to take pictures of different places within the school and things in your classroom. You can then record your voice over the picture to state what it is. For example, we had a set folder for Lunch. When the student touched and opened the folder, it would say, "Lunch." Inside of this student's lunch folder would be pictures of foods the cafeteria served for lunch. The child would determine what s/he wanted by touching the picture, and the picture would talk, letting us know what he wanted.

The great thing about this app is that you can use it for pretty much anything, as long as you take a picture of it. It's super simple to get set up and is easy for students to maneuver through their own folders.
Sorting 3
This is a free app that requires in-app purchases to gain access to all of the levels. This is what the activity map looks like:
We used this app A LOT during math centers last year because not only do the activities become more difficult as they progress through the levels, but the app covers a wide range of topics. Students go from matching shapes by size and shape (at the same time), to matching animals and numbers, to sorting objects based on association with a group.

Some of my students have a "favorite level" within the game, and there is a button in the top left corner that will take a student back to the main map and they can start the level over. To combat this, I just use washi tape to cover up the back button so students can't press it. Works like a charm!
Sentence Maker
This is an app the previous Life Skills teacher had downloaded onto the classroom iPad. I will admit to not using it to the best of my teaching ability last school year, but I'm really going to try to use it this year.

Sentence Maker is an app that helps students read, as well as build sentences. It's completely customizable to fit each individual student in your classroom, that allows you to use the app's "voice" or yours. It's a Grasshopper app, so you know it's good!
Super Duper Data Tracker
This app is for YOU, the teacher! For $1.99, you have the ease of creating and tracking your student's IEP goals on your iPad. Keep all of your student data in one spot, filed away by student. The app is perfect for special needs teachers because you can graph trials, write notes in sessions, and then email the data to yourself or to a parent. It kind of takes care of all the data paperwork for you, which is genius!

To learn about 4 other apps I absolutely love and used last school year, that are great for number recognition and letters of the alphabet sounds and letters (and more!), check out this post.

*This is NOT a sponsored post, rather a list of a few of my favorite iPad apps for special ed teachers.*

What are your favorite iPad apps?

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