Following verbal directions is up there with our most important goals to address in speech/language sessions- especially in schools. Our teachers want kids to listen better and follow directions more successfully. Even though it has been said 1000 times, it needs to be said again. The Common Core Standards put a huge demand on the language skills of our students, especially in the area of following directions. I have a first grader at home, and what is required of him in Math is astounding. I am blessed he is able to navigate it well- I can’t imagine what it is like for the families of children with language weaknesses and language disorders.
There are many tried and true ways of using manipulatives and games to support following directions in our therapy rooms. Mr. Potato Head, Simon Sez, simple board games, and barrier games are all part of our repertoire. Thankfully, there are a lot of options available on tablets that make following directions work fun, engaging, and dare I say, make it easy to collect data??
In my mind, I categorize following directions applications into 2 areas: traditional and non-traditional.
Traditional following directions apps work on basic concepts and numbered directions (1,2,3 steps) in a way that is similar to some of our barriers and structured activities. Put this item here. Find the small ______ and put it behind the ____________. Look for a big __________ and put it under the __________.
Non-traditional apps leverage games to complete following directions tasks. The use of companion materials is helpful sometimes, or even just a known structure (i.e.; word document for writing things down). I have written about ways to incorporate iPad games into different language therapy functions at www.everythingislanguage.com- check it out!
Traditional (all of these apps are searchable through the Apple App Store):
Hamaguchi Apps: Fun with Directions (.99 for LITE, $15.99 for Full), More Fun with Directions: This app targets a number of concepts, allows for repetition, and collects data for individuals and groups. Although multi-step directions are not specifically targeted (i.e.; being able to pick a 2 or 3 step direction), there are some embedded directions that are a little more complex. I have found this app to be incredibly helpful with 3–7 year olds. There are fun little vignettes in between tasks where the characters quickly interact (it keeps the kids engaged!). The best aspect is the “Superstar Direction”- this prompts children to repeat what the direction was after completing the task. For my older kids, this can be a great challenge in auditory memory and expressive language. After the child records, they can listen back and compare to the “right” direction.
I Can Do Apps: Following Directions ($4.99)- This app is very basic in presentation, but simple is sometimes the best for some students. There are no flairs or vignettes to keep kids engaged, but let’s remember that these flairs can be distracting to some students. Data is collected on a per session basis (10 trials), and you can’t store information over time for a student/group. However, there are basic identification tasks, sequential tasks (touch ___ then touch____), and before/after concepts. I have found this app to be good for some of the my kids with ASD. The focus of the app in getting “work” done allows the kids to get to the task and then get reinforcement from other apps or activities.
Splingo’s Language Universe ($2.99): This app is a lot of fun, and I have found that many kids truly enjoy it (instead of thinking it’s work!). The goal is to get Splingo back to his planet (it can be either American or British English speaking). Rounds are 3 items each after which you bolt on a part to the spaceship or refill it with fuel. After 5 rounds, you launch to the next planet (there’s even a countdown- the kids love that!). You can ask for repetition and it collects points, although no direct data collection or storage of data. You can capture the screen in the newest update- I like the idea of screen capture for some apps, but don’t see the purpose in it for following directions. All in all, the engagement and “fun” of this app really makes it a hit for groups.
Virtual Speech Center: School of Multi-Step Directions($24.99) This app is good for targeting multi-step directions (who would have thought?), and you can specify the level of the directions (i.e.; number of steps). There is a reinforcement game, and feedback given for errors. What’s also nice is the “areas” of following directions- math, science, etc. It collects data as well. I have found the navigation of the app to be challenging at times, and as of my last check, there was only one reinforcement game.
Super Duper Publications Hearbuilder Following Directions ($59 a year; 1 student $99 a year; 20 students): This app is about as complete as you can get for following directions. It’s based on the concept of a toy factory where you learn about making toys, and get to “make”your own toy factory. There are multiple areas for following directions as well (basic, temporal, sequential, quantitative, conditional). There are multi-step directions and repetition built in. Data can be taken for an individual student or a group, and levels can be specified before you work, or you can start the student from the beginning. Data can be shared via email and is printable. You can access the program from the web, or via the app (free download) It’s truly amazing, and well worth the money. What’s more, you get access to the other Hearbuilder apps (Auditory Memory, Phonological Awareness, Sequencing) all for the price you pay for the year.
Non-Traditional Apps (also searchable through the Apple App Store)
Mr. Potato Head ($5.99)- And you thought that playing with the real Potato Head was fun. This app allows you to choose from 20+ characters to dress your Potato. After dressing them, you can send them off to a world where they interact with you after you tap certain buttons. It’s great fun for individual and group students. I like to build in following directions during the “dressing” stage, and then allow playing in the world to be the reinforcement. I have had groups loving making their own Potato Head from different characters clothes (hat from a cowboy, shoes from the superhero). It’s great for breaking down steps and following multi-step directions.
My Play Home ($2.99- there’s also Stores, Hospital, and School)- This app allows you to interact with multiple characters in a digital dollhouse. Students can pick their character, and you can run with the directions. “Put the boy in the tire swing, and then dig a carrot out of the ground,” “Take some pizza out of the fridge, and then feed the boy.” The options are almost endless. When you add the additional fun of the other worlds (Stores, Hospital, and School), you can take characters out of the house, put them in the car, and then travel somewhere else. I have yet to find a group or individual student who doesn’t LOVE this app. Well worth the 3 bucks!
The Robot Factory ($3.99) This app really inspires wonder in some of my kids, and you can even say you are working in some STEAM aspects of curriculum. You can create robots by picking out and customizing parts and colors. After constructing them, you get to go test them out. This is the real fun for the students because they get to test out what works and doesn’t work. I definitely recommend it for Kindergarten and above as it might get too technical for preschoolers. I like this for directions such as- “Pick out a skinny arm and put it on top of the robot body” “Pick out a strong arm and put it where the legs go- let’s see how that works!” The experimentation is a big kick for the students (and the teachers too!)
Toca Kitchen 2 ($2.99) This app is almost too fun! You get to pick from 3 characters, and then get to experiment with different foods, sauces, and cooking styles. Like spaghetti but don’t want to boil it? Cook it in the oven! Like octopus, but don’t like to grill it? Make a smoothie! Too bad the characters have to try your creations! Imagine they way you might prompt directions while cooking in your own kitchen, and you can do it with the app. It really is great fun!
Overall, we want an app that is going to keep our kids engaged, get our goal work in, and collect data. While most of the traditional apps meet at least 2 of the aspects, the non-traditional will not collect your data at all. Pencil and pen to collect, or “Fun Friday” downtime activities are necessary to make these apps work for you.
Want more apps and ideas for therapy??
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