Teach Through Apps: Clean Up by Different Roads to Learning

Teach Through Apps: Clean Up by Different Roads to Learning

Age level: Preschool

Description: In this game, a picture of a food, piece of clothing, or a toy appears on the screen. The student has to decide if they should put it away in the shopping cart, the closet, or the toy box. The game re-presents an item if it is sorted incorrectly. If the item is sorted correctly, the app offers verbal praise along with a brief view of a picture such as fireworks.

This app happens to be the only app I have ever used to directly teach a skill. If you have read previous posts about using the iPad with students with special needs, you already know that I almost exclusively use the iPad to assess generalization or maintenance of skills. I usually teach sorting skills by having isolated areas in which the student sorts objects. For example, sorting by color or class into bowls or colored mats I’ve placed and verbally labeled.

With one three year old boy with autism, I realized that he was not acquiring the skill of sorting through the ways I usually taught. I introduced the app because it required him to sort objects into locations they would be sorted into in real life (i.e., a grocery cart instead of one of the bowls on our table.) He was motivated to use the app and I was able to successfully teach the skill within three days. I then tested for generalization by having him sort toy items (such as toy food, doll clothing, etc) into bowls on the table. Not only was he able to do that, but he generalized the skill to other categories not represented within the game. He was also motivated enough by the game that he would occasionally request to play it on a break, so I was able to test his maintenance of the skill long after we had stopped practicing it daily.

Skills & Modifications: In general, apps are very difficult to modify. However, this app really doesn’t require modifications as it is designed to teach a very specific skill. If your child needs help, you can assist with verbal prompts, but your goal is to have the child quickly sorting items independently. For some students I do turn off the volume so they are responding to the visual item instead of the verbal cue provided by the program.

  • Sorting – The app is clearly designed for this skill. While I frequently look for apps that can be used to teach a variety of skills, I have had great success with apps that focus on one skill and do it well. This is a great example of doing one skill well.
  • Class – The app is designed to sort items by class. As mentioned in my example above, I used this app to teach one particular student how to sort, but then was able to generalize that skill with app to sorting objects and pictures in the real world. I have used the app with multiple other students as a way to generalize and maintain sorting skills that have already been mastered.

Pros: The app works on a key skill for early learners, and it’s a skill that can be especially difficult for our early learners with autism and other developmental delays. It’s motivating to students. I also appreciate that it has an end. It provides multiple opportunities for a student to practice sorting, then stops the game and gives a percentage for the number of correct responses. Moreover, the game presents objects in a different order AND presents a wide range of objects each time you play. The final pro for this app is that it is available on both the iPad and the iPhone.

Cons: While I love this app and have had great success using it, there are two key ways this game could be improved. First, teachers would be able to get a lot more mileage out of the app if it provided more than three categories. Second, it would be fantastic if it were leveled. Currently, the app shows one object and you have a choice of three places it belongs. My students who master this step would benefit from having changes in the difficulty level, such as five objects shown on the same screen that all need to be sorted or a time limit within which all objects need to be sorted.

Cost: $1.99 Should I buy this? If your student is struggling with sorting, this may be just the tool for helping them acquire the skill. Definitely worth two bucks!

ABLLS: coming soon

VB-MAPP: coming soon

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