Apps to Boost Early Literacy Skills

23 10 2013

It has been quite a while since I’ve posted. The start to the school year has been extremely busy, as I had to suddenly shift roles and go back in the classroom part time to co-teach in our Developmental Learning Center. It’s allowed me to spend some extra quality teaching time with some of my favorite kiddos!

Earlier this month, we had the honor of welcoming Dr. Kathleen Whitbread to our district to train staff in literacy instruction for students with significant disabilities. What came out of this training, for us, was validating and supports building the foundational skills in the  5 areas of literacy instruction.

The National Reading Panel has identified 5 components that are central to reading achievement. They are:

1. Phonemic Awareness

2. Phonics

3. Fluency

4. Vocabulary

5. Text Comprehension

Mutli-sensory instruction for many of our students with significant disabilities has been shown to improve student learning outcomes in these aforementioned areas.  In our line of work, the primary focus is around the area of Phonemic Awareness. From what we learned from Dr. Whitbread, Phonemic Awareness is one  of the areas that children with significant disabilities struggle with There are a plethora of apps that support and reinforce these skills for students. So, with the information that was gleaned from Dr. Whitbread’s talk earlier this month, I have a list of my favorite Apps to Boost Phonemic Awareness.

Apps to Boost Phonemic Awareness:

Word WizardWord Wizard  is a talking movable alphabet that allows children to see and hear the letters and sounds as they spell words.  By dragging each letter onto the board, children are receiving constant feedback about either the letter name or sound, which can be customized within the app settings.  Children can build words or sentences and have the app read them back. It’s a great multi-sensory tool to boost phonemic awareness.



Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 10.24.07 AMReading Raven for iPad is one of the most comprehensive apps that not only work on phonemic awareness skills, it takes the child through the stages of early literacy in a fun and engaging manner. While the  app is equally engaging and reinforcing,  it will be important for teachers and parents to observe their child while interacting with the app to measure knowledge and advancement. The characters in the app itself are engaging, and having Reading Raven alongside the journey of learning is equally comforting and reinforcing. Overall, it’s a sound app that’s packed with a wealth of learning for young children.



Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 10.16.19 AMLexia Reading is the app counterpart to the popular computer-based literacy intervention that’s been proven to work with children with a variety of learning challenges. Lexia is based on the 5 components that are central to reading instruction, and provides teachers with detailed progress reporting via their online module. Support materials for teachers and parents are also contained within the teacher module, which help to reinforce identified areas of  strengths and weaknesses based on student performance within the app.



Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 9.41.57 AMMontessori Crosswords is similar to Word Wizard in that it is a talking movable alphabet. However, Montessori Crosswords is more foundational in that it provides structured phonemic awareness instruction by starting with helping children to understand that words are made up of sounds or phonemes.  For each word, children can touch the empty rectangles where letters must be dragged to complete the word, and hear the sound the corresponding letter produces.  Furthermore, the app helps children memorize the phonics associated with letters by providing a phonics-enabled alphabet where kids can touch each letter and hear the associated sound(s).



Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 10.21.32 AMStarfall ABC’s helps boost phonemic awareness in allowing children to explore the letters of the alphabet while learning about the corresponding sound of the alphabet. While this is not as comprehensive as the website, it offers a great way for children to become exposed to the alphabet and sounds.




Providing children with multi-sensory opportunities to learn and explore that they can also access is integral to their learning. The advent of tablet technology affords children to explore and learn in an independent manner, while teachers are able to assess and monitor progress. Dr. Whitbread tells us to persevere. When it appears that children are not learning or making progress in terms of phonemic awareness, don’t give up.  They may just need more time and practice.

More about Dr. Whitbread:

Dr. Whitbread’s Website

Open Books Open Doors

Kathleen Whitbread on Twitter




One response

26 10 2013
Techno Bytes! | Open Books Open Doors

[…] One of the people I met at RSU 21 was Hillary Brumer and I want to share her blog, Techno Bytes, which is chock-full of great assistive technology ideas and resources. Check out Five Fabulous Free Apps Every Teacher Should Have and (attention parents!) Do it Yourself Directions for Fixing a Cracked iPad Screen. And while you’re there, check out Hillary’s most recent post on Early Literacy Apps. […]

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