Back to School Language Arts Apps

School is back in session, but that doesn't mean the fun has to stop. Get your child engaged in language arts with these fun apps!

School is back in session, but that doesn’t mean the fun has to stop. Get your child engaged in language arts with these fun apps!

Amazon Rapids

Amazon Rapids is a new creative app that appeals to struggling readers or children who like to read digital content. The app does an excellent job of setting up an easy approachable system for children to listen to books as they are read aloud or to enjoy for independent reading. In the process of setting up the account the child and parent can choose interests together as well as a fun character and name to represent them in the app. There is a 7 day free trial that will allow you to try the experience with your child. The stories are comical and cartoon-like in nature. My daughter explained it well when she said, “It’s a text message story!” The appeal is well constructed for the next generation of digital readers! The app is free and there are different subscription options available. The content is appropriate for children who are just learning to read as well as independent readers ages 4-12.


Read KinderTown's review of Amazon Rapids.

Homer – Kids Learn to Read App 2-8

Homer is a full “Learn to Read” series of lessons for kids. The app features letter-sound instruction, sight word introduction, read-aloud stories, and a mixed review of concepts. The app introduces a letter and through game play children must identify the sound in the beginning, middle and end of words. This is an essential skill for developing phonemic awareness in preparation for learning to read. Also included through the lesson progression is the introduction of sight words. Sight words are words that cannot be “sounded out” but rely on more instant recognition to develop fluent reading skills.


The app does a nice job of mixing instruction with a review of previously-taught concepts and the reading aloud of real books, which are all key components of learning to read. This app would be appropriate for children who are learning their letter sounds and are just beginning to read, or who need a review of the letter sounds. In addition, the app encourages children to record their voice saying the letter sounds, and reading the books and words included in the app. Children are most often at this developmental level during kindergarten and first grade. In addition, the developers conducted research  with children who were beginning to read and used the app and showed that the use of the app 15 minutes a day led to an increase in their beginning reading skills. KinderTown agrees that routinely working 10-15 minutes with apps focused on reading skills will encourage your early reader’s development in this crucial area. Check out their website for a free 1 month trial. Homer is free to download but does include in-app purchases to buy additional lesson content.


Read KinderTown's review of Homer.

FarFaria Stories to Read Along

FarFaria is an app I can’t stop thinking about, and one I downloaded instantly. This digital library is one of the best I have seen. It’s creatively crafted and offers something for every interest and age level. When the app launches, an enchanting map of different islands appears which correlate with the different types of digital books offered in the app. For example: Adventure Island, Classics Grove, or Animal Kingdom. Choose a location and a selection of books appear.


Here are some of FarFaria’s great features:


• Houses over 600 stories
• Five new stories are added each week
• Offline access to your favorite books
• Highlights the words read to your child
• Has an option to read myself, autoplay, or read to me
• Costs $3.99 a month or $39.99 a year


I know I am keeping this handy for use with my kids this school year. It would be great for travel and could be used for your bedtime or nap time routine if you are away or on the go. I always lug a few favorite books when we go away, but I’d love to replace it with FarFaria. I especially love Sing Along City. These are books that correlate to your child’s favorite songs. My daughter loves The Wheels on the Bus, so that was her first choice. Explore all the different locations to find out which is your child’s favorite.


Read KinderTown's review of FarFaria Stories To Read Along.

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3 Top-Notch Phonics Apps for Kids

It's back to school time, and we've got some great phonics apps to recommend for your kids.

It’s back to school time, and you may be starting to think about how you could incorporate the iPad into your child’s learning time this school year. A hot trend right now in educational apps are those which offer your child a learning experience that is intended to follow a progression. These phonics apps can be used over a longer period of time, may include a subscription fee, and contain more content than a traditional app. In the next few weeks I will be reviewing the pros and cons of these types of apps, and hope that you will find a few that will work for your children during this school year.


Phonics Museum (iOS only)

The Phonics Museum app is a colorful engaging phonics app for children. The app is aimed at serving children in preschool/kindergarten range who are just beginning to learn their letters and the associated sounds. The app is based on a classical approach to education and has been developed by Veritas Press. There is an intense focus on phonics with the intent to help children beginning reading skills which makes it a great supplement to other language arts activities your child is learning.


Read KinderTown's review of Phonics Museum.

The app proceeds with a systematic series of lessons that introduce your child to capital and lowercase letters, sounds, and how to write the letters. Consider using a stylus with your child instead of their finger to facilitate the transfer to writing. There are several styles of fonts used within the app which could be confusing for some children, however, this allows your child the opportunity to see the letters as presented in in various print and manuscript formats. The app follows a progression of watching an engaging video with a real teacher and short activities interspersed within the videos. The videos have a mix of a cartoon and a real teacher, Miss Biddle, who is reminiscent of Fred Rogers, Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow, and Captain Kangaroo (that many of us may remember) but with an updated feel. The app has delightful characters and a unique museum setting with graphics that are bright and engaging.


The app does begin with a sign-in procedure and an option to join free for two weeks. This is a great way to test the app with your child to see if you would like to purchase a monthly or yearly subscription. Parents, take the time to set up the app and download the content before working with your child. The app has lots of content so it does take longer than a traditional app to get started. Your child can only start at the beginning of the app. In future iterations, I hope to see a way to choose where a child can start interacting with the content. The app works nicely on the iPhone, so it would be great on the go!


Read4Kids (iOS only)

This app focuses on phonics skills and works through twenty lessons. It is heavily based on the phonetic approach to reading, but does incorporate sight words into the instruction. The lessons begin by introducing each individual letter and the sound associated with the letter and children are expected to progress through after starting at the beginning. There is an optional area with activities that parents can choose where their child engages and match skills and concepts they are already learning in their current curriculum. There is a helpful question mark to guide your child if he needs support. The voice in the app is rather robotic and may not be pleasing to your child’s ear. The stories are phonetically based and not accompanied by any picture support; therefore, you will want to provide your child with many reading experiences outside of the app. There is also no reward of gameplay associated with the app. The app is $2.99 and appropriate for children ages 4-6.


Read KinderTown's review of Read4Kids.

Hooked on Phonics (iOS, Android, Kindle)

Hooked on Phonics features over 250 songs, videos, and games to teach your child essential phonics skills. It comes with a seven day free trial and then you can opt into a subscription service. The app relies heavily on music video content to teach your child letter sounds. It also uses word chunks to teach your child how to begin to read and make associations between words. This app could carry your child beyond just learning the letters and sounds as it introduces small words and short phrases. As with many apps your child needs to “start at the beginning” and follow the progression mapped out by the creators. It would be helpful to have a placement area where parents could decide how and when their child progresses. Each lesson includes a video, games and activities for your child to explore the concept taught, as well as a short story. The app contains many different kinds of in-app purchases ranging from a one year subscription for $39.99 to a monthly option for $6.99.


Read KinderTown's review of Hooked on Phonics.


Related Blog Post: Develop Phonemic Awareness with These Educational Apps


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3 Apps That Help Your Child Practice Sight Words

As children begin to learn to read, they come to recognize many common words in our language known as sight words.

As children begin to learn to read, they come to recognize many common words in our language known as sight words. Some examples of sight words are they, were, was, and here. Often these words cannot be “sounded out” and help improve reading fluency if memorized. Check out these apps to help build your child’s bank of sight words.


Sight Words Ninja – The Endless Slicing Game to Learn to Read (iOS only)

sight word ninja

Designed after the famous app, Fruit Ninja, this app presents sight words to children to slice and chop. The app begins by tossing 1 word into the air for children to slice. The word is said aloud, and children must slice the correct word. There is not a lot of feedback given for words sliced incorrectly, other than the word being grayed out. Parents, keep watch to be sure your child is discerning the correct word and not slicing all the words presented. As well as watching your child play, be sure to set up the game in the Settings area at a level where your child is challenged and the words are appropriate. There are five different sets of words, three levels of difficulty, and options for the length of the game. The app costs $1.99 and is appropriate for children ages 4-8.


Word BINGO (iOS, Android)

word bingo

Word BINGO provides a fun way to practice recognizing and spelling over 300 words from the Dolch sight words list. Three activities engage children to identify spoken Dolch words, and one activity has children unscrambling letters to practice spelling them. Every time you make bingo or spell ten words, two of the other activities become available. These activities are game-like, entertaining, and motivating but still have users practicing from the word lists. Children earn bingo bugs that they can play with after successfully completing activities. Some key features in Word BINGO are the multi-player format, a user report card, levels for word lists and games, and thorough instruction and options pages. Parents, be aware that the music is upbeat and could be viewed as distracting to other children working nearby or to yourself. There is an option to mute the sound. The app costs $2.99 and is appropriate for children ages 4-8.


Sight Words Games & Flash Cards for Reading and Spelling Success at School (Learn to Read Preschool, Kindergarten and Grade 1 Kids) (iOS, Android, Kindle)

sight words

This app provides a variety of games for reinforcing identification of sight words. In each game, words are paired with speech so even very young children can experience over 200 sight words. The games are engaging and fun for young learners. Children will enjoy the word machine, which pops out 3 options for a sight word from which the child must pick the correct one. Another unique game is the gears game in which children must listen to the center gear say the word and match the brightly colored gear with the sight word. At the end, the gears make a puzzle in which all the gears turn and move together. The app costs $2.99 and is appropriate for children ages 4-8.


Related Blog Post: Pre-Reading Skills: Beyond Letters and Sounds


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3 Apps to Build Story-Writing Skills

Story-writing is a complex process that begins in early childhood as storytelling. Check out these apps that encourage storytelling and ultimately composition.

Story-writing is a complex process that begins in early childhood as storytelling. Check out these apps that encourage storytelling and ultimately composition.


Tell About This (iOS only)

tell about this

Prior to writing a great story, children must develop an idea, formulate multiple sentences, and have the ideas and sentences come together to make a story. This app, Tell About This, works with the very beginning stages of creating a story but limits the parameters to focusing on verbalizing the ideas. The app has created a bank of visual and auditory prompts for children to respond to. The pictures provide a prompt for children to generate ideas, think out loud or tell a complete story. All of the pictures in the app are real photographs and many include young children doing many of the things your children probably enjoy doing, such as jumping in a bounce house, playing in leaves, swinging on a swing, or playing an instrument. There is surely something that you child can connect with in the app. The app is $2.99 and appropriate for children 4-6.


Write About This (iOS only)


Write About This is meant to be a next step for children after they’ve used the Tell About This app or are more adept in creating stories and are ready to write words to accompany their ideas. The app has a similar setup but includes an area for children to write directly in the app. The app allows the child to record their story as well. Sometimes children are able to verbalize a story more effectively than writing one, so parents could use the recording feature with their child first, and then the child could play it back to write their story. There is also a Quick Write section for children to take their own picture and create a recording and/or writing piece. The app costs $3.99 and is appropriate for children ages 5-8.


Story Dice – ideas for writers (iOS, Android, Kindle Fire)

Story Dice

Story Dice is an open-ended experience that sets the stage for storytelling and language to develop. The app is simple. Tap the screen, and a set of picture dice (choose from 1 to 10) appear on the screen. Use these pictures to create a unique collaborative story, play memory games, or inspire your child’s next composition. Check out the “More” section of the app for even more ideas. This is a great app to inspire children with creative ideas.


Related Blog Post: Storytelling Apps


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Apps for Learning Letters and Sounds

 When parents think of early learning skills, learning letters is one of the first skills that comes to mind.

When parents think of early learning skills, learning letters is one of the first skills that comes to mind. The apps discussed in this blog post will help your child learn about letters. Remember that learning the sound of a letter is just as important as being able to identify the letter itself.


Montessori Letter Sounds– Phonics in English, Spanish, French, German & Italian

Montessori Letter Sounds

This app gives parents and children a progression in early literacy skills. There are four levels in the app that start children with playing with sounds and increase in sophistication to building words. The app provides a fun “I Spy” section, which challenges children to choose picture cards that coordinate with the letter sounds given. The “Letter Sounds” section gives the letters and sounds to listen to while tracing the letters. Children can record themselves saying the letter sounds as they learn them in the app. Writing the letters is incorporated into the learning, and a Montessori- inspired sand tray is in the “Toolbox” section of the app to help practice letter formation.


Duck Duck Moose Reading

Duck Duck Moose Reading

Duck Duck Moose Reading is a solid phonics practice app for your beginning reader. Children quickly progress through five varied phonics activities, each focused on a specific set of letters. Games are entertaining to play and are designed to focus on individual sounds, letters, or both letters and sounds in the context of words. Kids earn animals to add to their zoo after each series of activities. Parents are given a progress report for multiple kids who log into the app. Duck Duck Moose Reading is perfect for children at the kindergarten or first grade level and costs $2.99.


Starfall ABCs

starfall abc's

Starfall ABCs brings each letter to life with pictures, animation, games, songs, and stories. Using a clearly articulated voice, each letter is identified by name, sounds, and words. Children interact with each letter by tapping, sliding, sorting, and dragging objects through five or more screens of engaging phonics learning. Many of the letters include real pictures as well as animations. The most exciting part of this app may be the sign language animations from the bottom menu. Starfall ABCs is a must-have app for children learning their letters, letter sounds, and beginning reading skills.


Interactive Alphabet ABC’s

interactive alphabet

Interactive Alphabet ABC’s makes every letter a toy. Tap on brightly colored letters to hear the letter name, sound, and a word. Enjoy each unique letter environment that is created about the letter word. Tap, drag, and pinch the screen to tickle dinosaurs or feed olives to ogres. The baby mode feature is especially nice, with each screen progressing to the next letter after 15 seconds of play. A variety of music options will help parents who get tired of hearing the same old tune repeated over and over again. Interactive Alphabet ABC’s is a lot of fun and reinforces phonics at the same time. This app is great for children who are just being introduced the letters of the alphabet.


KinderTown has many more apps to help your child learn their letters. Check them out here.



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Develop Phonemic Awareness with These Educational Apps

One of the most important ways to set your children up for success is to develop their phonemic awareness.

As parents, we all want our children to be successful in the process of learning to read. There are many things parents can do prior to that point in order to set their children up for success. One of the most important is to develop your child’s phonemic awareness. Research shows that phonemic awareness is the number one predictor of a child’s success at reading. It makes sense to approach the development of this skill in many different ways, including apps! Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in words. This is done through activities that help the child break those sounds apart, identify the individual sounds, and then change a sound in a word (cat to bat). Check out these apps that help your child develop phonemic awareness.


Phonological Awareness Lab

phonological awareness app

This app was designed by a speech language pathologist and covers the different parts of phonemic awareness through activities in a room that looks like a science lab. The activities cover skills such as rhyming, blending sounds, and counting syllables; however, the app does not provide any type of reward or entertainment value. Even when children successfully complete the activities, there are no rewards or free play. The app would be great as an assessment tool for parents or teachers, and the app does record your child’s scores and progress. The app also allows for tracking of multiple students. The app costs $19.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-6.


Dora ABCs Vol 3: Ready to Read!


Dora ABCs Vol 3 takes your child to a frog fiesta while helping them blend and change sounds to make words. The phonics games have your child blend simple three-letter words together by themselves or with the support of tapping the letters to hear the sounds. Drag and drop the matching picture next to the word. Then the app gives you a new word, and you have to change the initial sound to build the new word; for example, change car to jar. The frog games that your child can play after the phonics practice keep children interested in the app. This app is not very long but practices important early pre-reading skills. The app costs $1.99 and is appropriate for children ages 4-6.


Monkey Word School Adventure

monkey word

Monkey Word School Adventure uses mini-games to help kids get started on the road to reading. Games include spelling, letter identification, rhyming, and much more. Kids love the fast-paced and engaging activities. Children are rewarded with special pieces to add to their own terrarium. Parents get so much value out of the descriptive settings page that break down the learning in each mini-game. The app auto-adjusts based on your child’s play or gives the controls to the adults for customizing the app. Either way, you will know what your child is working on! The app costs $1.99 and is appropriate for children ages 4-6.


If you are looking for more apps to support your child in pre-reading, check these ones out.


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Best Apps for Handwriting

Handwriting is an essential skill for early childhood development. Learning to hold a pencil or marker and then construct meaningful lines is a process that leads to learning letter and number formation.


Read our recommendations for apps that help with handwriting and other skills associated with reading development.


Many of the following apps work not only for handwriting, but also for other skills associated with reading development. Learning to name letters, form them correctly, and associate the correct sound with the letter are all processes developed during the pre-reading stage of development. Try out these apps to develop early handwriting skills. If your child is able to hold a pencil, try a stylus for easier transfer of the skill from the iPad to paper.


abc PocketPhonics: letter sounds & writing + first words

abc PocketPhonics app icon

abc PocketPhonics: letter sounds & writing + first words brings several important language skills together into one app. In abc PocketPhonics, children learn to recognize letters, hear letter sounds, form letters by tracing, and use the letter sounds to build words. Parents are able to create multiple users, control the font and letter types, choose the letters their child will work on, and determine how skillful the writing needs to be. The app introduces letters in small groups and works on each individual letter before moving on to the next group of letters. As each letter is introduced, the app gives the letter sound and tells your child to repeat it. Encourage your child to say the sound out loud as they play the app. Parents can opt into a weekly email that provides an update on your child’s progress. The app tracks the user’s answers and does not advance them without first demonstrating mastery of the basics. This app is appropriate for children ages 4-6 and costs $6.99.


LetterSchool- learn to write letters and numbers

letter school

LetterSchool learn to write letters and numbers is another best app to add to your child’s collection of letter and number writing experiences. Letter School clearly introduces each letter, sound, or number (1-9) with an additional 3 levels of interaction that supports your child from tracing a line to forming the letter all on their own. A variety of animations keep the content fresh and interesting for kids. Use bubbles or railroad tracks to trace over the lines. The positive, motivational feedback encourages your child and will keep them wanting to use this app! Check out the lite version to try out some of the content for free. The app is appropriate for children starting to use crayons and markers for the tracing portion of the app and should last up through mastery of the letters, approximately ages 3-5. The app costs $4.99.


iTrace – handwriting for kid


iTrace – handwriting for kids provides a simple approach to practicing handwriting. The main menu offers clean choices of practice with uppercase letters, lowercase letters, or numbers. In addition, there is word section that has an area to practice writing your child’s name, thematic words, or a customizable word list. The app has a few distinctive features, such as left-hand friendly modeling and individual tracking, and it supports multiple users.


Related Blog Post:
Does My Child Still Need to Learn Handwriting? (Demme Learning)


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Apps for Building a Love of Nursery Rhymes

Nursery Rhymes are important to develop a love of language and build a foundation for future reading skills. Read this blog post to learn more and enjoy these apps.


Nursery Rhymes are important to develop a love of language and build a foundation for future reading skills.

Baa Baa Black Sheep – by Duck Duck Moose

baa baa black sheep

Baa Baa Black Sheep by Duck Duck Moose makes the familiar childhood nursery rhyme come alive with interactive silly characters and a search-and-find game, which links all the screen play together. The app is a wonderful activity for kids who love to explore and discover. We appreciate how it encourages young children to be inquisitive. Have “ Baa Baa Black Sheep”. The app includes pleasing music and young children’s voices to accompany the game play. The app costs $2.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-4.


Little Miss Muffet HD

little miss muffet

Little Miss Muffet lets your little one interact while listening and reading a familiar childhood nursery rhyme. Each line of the rhyme is presented on a page with many hotspots that your child can tap to listen and learn. For example, count the daisies and the apples. Our child testers liked that the apples fell with letters on the app. Put the letters together to spell the word apples.  Each page is dedicated to learning either letters and words, numbers and counting, or colors. Two other nursery rhymes are hidden in this app as well. Overall, this app is a fun and valuable tool for learning nursery rhymes. The app costs $2.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-4.


Related Blog Post:

Developing Language Skills with Nursery Rhymes


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Dr. Seuss E-books

Celebrate Reading Across America all week long with the playfulness of Dr. Seuss' books.

Read Across America Day is this week, and libraries and schools across the country will celebrate by reading Dr. Seuss books to children. Try some of these apps together with your child that celebrate reading! For more fun with words and sounds, check out our Power Pack Sound Play for children ages 3-4.


Dr. Seuss E-book Apps


Dr. Seuss ABC (iOS only)


This e-book reinforces your child’s growing knowledge of letters, sounds, words, and vocabulary. Your child will enjoy tapping the pages of this delightful ABC book in order to find hidden surprises. The e-book reads aloud to your child and highlights the words as they are read. You can also change the settings to allow the app to “Read to me” or “Auto Play.” The “Auto Play” feature reads the pages and turns the pages to allow the book to play like a movie continuously.  In each story, letters are referred to by their size such as “Big A” and “Little a.” Be sure your child knows that this means uppercase and lowercase. The book engages your child by repeatedly asking questions such as, “What begins with C? or D? E?” etc. Try asking your child this type of question as you enjoy the story together.


Dr. Seuss Treasury (iOS only)


Oceanhouse Media has created a Treasury of Dr. Seuss books. Here you will find the e-book versions of many of the classic Dr. Seuss books your child may already know and love. For example, Hop on Pop, Horton Hears a Who!, Green Eggs and Ham, and Cat in the Hat. Check out the rest of the books and read a new title with your child. The e-books include interactive and engaging features such as reading aloud to your child, highlighting the words, and looking for fun hidden treasures by tapping the scenes. The app is subscription based which gives your family access to 55 digital Dr. Seuss books.


Related Blog Post:
Celebrate Read Across America Day with Dr. Seuss E-Books (2014)


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Expanding Your Child’s Vocabulary with Apps

Try these apps for a different approach to build on your child’s existing vocabulary

As children grow, their vocabulary expands from their immediate environment such as family members’ names and foods they like to eat, to naming everything they can see, to eventually learning more sophisticated topics through books and literature. Reading to your child even as he begins to learn to read independently increases his vocabulary and knowledge of educational topics. Try these apps for a different approach to build on your child’s existing vocabulary. Download our Power Pack on Vocabulary for more ideas and activities to expand your child’s vocabulary.


Vocabulary App Recommendations


Noodle Words Action Set 1 (iOS only)

noodle words

Noodle Words Action Set 1, is the first of two apps that present fun, interactive, engaging, and appealing word play experiences for children. Noodle Words supports vocabulary development and increases comprehension through motivational word play activities. The app presents individual words to your child and then demonstrates the meaning of the word with a creative visual. For example, the word “grow” is accompanied by a vine that continues to grow out of control as your child repeatedly taps around the screen. Children love the repetitive visual effects that illustrate the meaning of the 18 different action words included in the app. Playing Noodle Words with your child will be some of the most fun you will have learning vocabulary together. Noodle Words is $2.99 and appropriate for students ages 4-6.


Martha Speaks Word Spinner (iOS, Android, Kindle, and Windows)

martha speaks

Martha Speaks Word Spinner is a fantastic board game app that will inspire lots of family fun! This app is an interactive board game that is played on your iPad. Choose your pup game piece, spin the wheel, and see who can get to the dog house first. There are six games to choose from within the app to play on each turn. Word Spinner gets kids listing words, telling stories, and playing charades. The games present open-ended questions such as “Name several kinds of fruit.” The app does not correct these types of questions, so parents will need to provide the feedback. Your child will need an engaged adult or sibling to listen and respond to the answers. The vocabulary in the app ranges from simple words like “clothing” to more advanced concepts like “prehistoric animals.” A wonderful game for the whole family! Martha Speaks is free and appropriate for children ages 5-8.


Endless Alphabet (iOS, Android, Kindle, and Windows)

Endless Alphabet

Endless Alphabet is a super silly, wacky, hilarious vocabulary learning app for kids. Children can scroll through words inside a friendly blue monster’s mouth. Tap on one that looks especially interesting and learn what the word means. Kids need to build the word, letter by letter first, then watch, listen and learn about the meaning of each word. Wacky, weird letters and colorful, interesting (non-scary) monster characters play the starring role in the app. There are no high scores and no climbing levels in Endless Alphabet. This app is just about learning new words in a playful, discovery-focused way.


Use the techniques in this Vocabulary Power Pack to support your more independent learner.