NOTE: When this review was first published, it was a mixture of Key Word Kids as well as Key Verbs. We apologize for the error and have since re-written the entire review. Our review of Key Word Kids is available here. This app focuses on modelling and teaching verbs, verb tenses and pronouns in conjunction with testing past tense verbs.
Key Verbs with Steffy & James is an educational app designed by Language And Learning Steps Pty.Ltd to promote language development via listening and retaining information. The app teaches via listening and looking, retaining information about verbs and verb tenses and demonstrating knowledge of this. This app targets understanding of verb tenses, including regular and irregular past tense. An example of a past tense verb is going versus went. This app targets the following skills: listening, attention to answer questions as well as comprehension (text only setting) with the language turned off. This app can be used both by parents working with their children as well as by speech language pathologists who are targeting specific skills for their students.
The app has two modules, learning which goes through the app without testing to see if they understand and can comprehend what they are seeing. The test mode asks the player what happened – for example it will show James hopping and then pop up a question of what did he do before allowing the child to respond. The app allows you to choose which mode you want between, learning and test when first launched. The app provides a note that suggests that you complete the learning portion prior to using the app unless you have a very young child who may not understand all of the concepts presented within the app.
The app has two modules, learning “Teach” which goes through the app without testing children to model the action using a command (i.e. ‘go’), a present tense description (i.e. ‘it’s going’), followed by past tense description (i.e. ‘it went’) to see if they understand and can comprehend what they are seeing. The “Test”’ mode stops just before the past tense description and asks the player ‘What happened?’ – for example it will show James hopping and then pop up a question of what did he do before allowing the child to respond. The app pauses long enough for your child to consider the answer and then move on rather than just staying at that spot for a moment and moving on. The app allows you to choose which mode you want, between teaching and testing when first launched. The app provides a note that suggests that you complete the learning portion prior to using the “Test” mode if you have a very young child who may not understand all of the concepts presented within the app.
Using the learning mode, as a place to start it provides a quick run through of the various verbs contained in the app. There are several different verb sets that are each completed with a different character including Steffy, James, their mother and father, a monkey, a bear, a robot, an elephant, and a bird. After each verb set is completed the character changes at random and if selected a mini game will come up at times after completing the activity. The scenes are similar during the test version except a prompt comes up asking “what did they do”?
The app keys in on specific items with a visual image such as “waving”, “jumping” or “shaking” and demonstrates the item several times before asking “what did it do” and then repeating the answer. The repetition is helpful as it then is carried over into the app with showing James doing a wave and again asking what he is doing. I also liked that the app encouraged parental involvement while the child was using it. When my seven year old would pick a verb bubble out we would talk about the action that would happen. At times I would have him demonstrate the action off the iPad to demonstrate to me that he not only understood what the action was, he also connected the word to the final actions. I also thought that the spoken narration was clear and easy to understand which is important especially for an app that is teaching verbs and pronunciation. The text within the app was clear and easy to read as well and the written directions were straightforward and easy to follow for children.
In terms of improvement, I would like to see the graphics in the app tweaked to be a bit more realistic. There were also times when an action was performed, for example when the bear walked on the sand that he seemed to “float” in the air above the sand rather than touching it. The bear was referred to as “it” rather than a “he” or a “she” instead of a bear or with a specific name. I do understand that the app is teaching personal pronouns, and that may be why the characters are not named. This also was the case for the robot and when Steffy rode the bike. Having a way to repeat the action again such as the robot growing with a “replay” button would be helpful if a child didn’t seem to understand the concept or animation for reinforcement purposes. I would also like to have a “multi-player” option as well as a “save option” so that multiple children could use the app without having to start over each time and that success within the app would be monitored so you could move forward each time with new verbs and concepts rather than potentially repeating content you might have previously covered. I would also love to see a listing of all of the verbs as well as a listing of the regular versus irregular verbs contained within the app perhaps in a parental gated area.
When working with my son and the app, I encouraged him to not only explain what was happening in the picture for example the brown bear was waving but also to demonstrate the action. This helped me ensure that he was on target with not only the verb which was used and the different tenses “jump”, “jumping” and “jumped” but understood which one was used in which context. We also turned off the voice narration and just used the text to practice words and word association for easier actions like climb and wave to make sure he associated the written word or action with what was actually happening on screen.
Overall, the app helped my son better understand the various tenses of verbs as well as seeing the actions that were completed by the various characters. The app really helped my son understand that a word can be represented in different ways “jump” vs “jumped” but still mean the same action. It really helped him bring the concept to life. There are no in-app purchases or external links to social media contained within the app.
Key Verbs with Steffy & James
by Language And Learning Steps Pty.Ltd
Price: $2.99 USD
Key Verbs with Steffy and James is a simple, fun, interactive action app, designed to teach a range of verbs using a predictable format of present tense command, followed by descriptions in present, and.