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Review of Free Apps for Summer Engagement

Download free podcast by C. Osvaldo Gomez on Review of Free Apps for Summer Engagement

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Parents, I’m sure you’ve heard all about how the summer months are crucial to learning retention. It’s estimated that two months worth of learning is lost when students don’t review their newly learned skills over the summer break. (Cooper, 1996) But how do you promote engagement in learning when all your child wants to do is hang out at the pool? Summer travel and parent workload can cut into the time you would be able to spend tutoring your child. And can you imagine announcing to your kids: “Hey! Turn off the television. We’re going to do some math worksheets!” That wouldn’t be much fun for parents or kids! Without grades and homework to motivate students, engaging your little learner could be like tricky.

Luckily, we live in a beautiful period in history in that most Americans have access to the interactive capabilities of smartphones and tablets. And let’s face it: Your child is probably itching to use smart devices anyway. Why not channel your child’s love affair with electronics into something useful? In your quest to provide learning opportunities for your child, you could spend a lot of money on Common Core apps for your electronic device, but what if you buy an app and then your child doesn’t use it? What if the app is too easy, too challenging, or just plain boring? The best way to test the waters is to start with free learning apps. But before you log onto your device’s app store and search “reading games” (And then panic because there are 400 results), read on. We did some of the homework for you and found five stellar apps for successful summer learning.

1. Summer Bridge Activities: Rally Race, Fun Run, and Cosmic Quest

(Carson-Dellosa Publishing)
Devices: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch

Subjects/Grade Level: Math & reading, K- 3rd grade

Carson-Dellosa publishing is already a frontrunner in summer learning retention with their Summer Bridge Activities series. Three of their apps, Rally Race, Fun Run and Cosmic Quest use racing games to reinforce math and sight word recognition along with fine motor skills.

Customer Ratings: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Hidden Costs: None

Drawbacks: These apps are so new; there aren’t many customer reviews available. Also, all three apps test the same skills. The difference is, each game has a different format.

2. Itooch elementary school and Itooch middle school


Devices: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch

Subjects/Grade Level: All core subjects; Grades 1-5 (On the elementary app), 6-8 (middle school app)

Itooch boasts the largest collection of Common Core based activities of any app available. (It has 25,000 for elementary school students and 10,000 in their app for middle school learners.) The game uses quizzes to test the knowledge of your child and unveils a new chapter as each level is completed. All questions are aligned with Common Core standards. If your child were easily bored with a game or activity, the variety of activities in the Itooch app would be a good choice.

Customer Ratings: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Hidden Costs: None, although in-app purchases are available.

Drawbacks: Some customers felt overwhelmed by the gigantic number of activities on the app. However, most were impressed that a tutoring game of this caliber was available free of charge.

3. Sushi Monster


Devices: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch

Subjects/Grade Level: Math, upper elementary grades

Scholastic’s Math fluency app allows students to get swept up in an appealing game instead of the traditional flash card or quiz app. Addition and multiplication skills are tested. This app does not use any personal information, which is a plus. Most parents praised the kid-friendly graphics and sound effects for keeping their children entertained while learning.

Customer Ratings: 4 out of 5 stars

Hidden Costs: None

Drawbacks: A few customers gave it a lower rating because of how challenging it was. If your child hasn’t mastered addition or doesn’t have a basic understanding of multiplication, you may want to save this app for later. Also, at the time of this publication, some users reported glitches.

3. Grammaropolis

(Grammaropolis, LLC)

Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android

Subjects/Grade Level: Language Arts, K- 6th grade

Touted as “…Schoolhouse Rock! For the 21st century”, Grammaropolis uses music, video clips, quizzes, and storytelling to teach the parts of speech and other grammar rules. This app received glowing reviews from parents due to its fun characters and storylines. Many praised it as making more sense to students than other methods used to teach the parts of speech.

Customer Ratings: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Hidden Costs: While the basic version (Nouns) is free, other parts of speech cost $1.99 per module. The complete app is $12.99. There’s a web-based subscription Grammaropolis as well, with monthly or yearly subscription services.

Drawbacks: The free version offers only a fraction of the content of it’s paid app. The web-based version (also paid) has progress reports available, which the app does not include.

4. Dreambox Learning Math

(Dreambox Learning)

Devices: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch

Subject /Grade level: Math, Grades K – 8

Worried that your child can’t find a learning app with just the right amount of rigor? Using adaptive learning technology Dreambox Math’s difficulty adjusts as it is being played, allowing students to tailor the program to their educational needs. The tagline of this app is: “Students empowered to think—not just memorize”.

Customer Reviews: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Hidden Costs: None

Drawbacks: The newness of this app is both its strength and its weakness. The app was just released a few weeks before this blog was published, so invariably, there will be some kinks to work out in the technology. Luckily, most apps have regular updates.

5. BrainPOP Featured Movie and BrainPOP Jr.


Devices: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch

Subjects/Grade Level: All subjects; upper elementary – middle school (There’s also a BrainPOP Jr. for younger students.)

Long a classroom favorite with students and teachers alike, BrainPOP now offers an app so you can bring your child’s favorite learning videos with you wherever you go. Each video has a short quiz at the end with immediate scoring to test comprehension.

Customers said: This app has been rated 5 out of 5 stars. The movies are both entertaining and educational, a rare combination. Students can use the information in the videos to research topics in virtually every subject matter taught in schools (including the arts).

Hidden Costs: None, although, if you want the full access subscription (with archives of every BrainPOP video ever made), you’ll need to spend $6.99.

Drawbacks: The free version of the app only offers a portion (Albeit a large portion) of the total content that’s available on a paid app or subscription. However, if your student’s teacher already has a subscription to BrainPOP, your child may already have a login that he or she can use at home, which would make the subscription service free.

* “The Effects of Summer Vacation on Achievement Test Scores: A Narrative and Meta-Analytic Review” (Cooper, 1996)

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