3 apps to help with receptive language and processing verbal information

3 apps to help with receptive language and processing verbal information

How do we separate “auditory processing” from “receptive language” skills? How can we identify when weaknesses in attention impact young children in primary grades, thus laying a foundation of challenges in education down the line? When talking with primary grade teachers, there are many times when I am faced with these questions (I imagine you are too!)

As educators and SLPs, there are ways to collect information that help us with answering these questions. The Listening Inventory by Donna Geffner and Deborah Ross-Swain has been helpful in sharpening the focus of these questions for me, classroom teachers, and parents. The CELF-5 observational rating scale has been incredibly helpful in isolating concerns that classroom teachers have voiced. Through the use of this tool, I am able to use the teacher’s observations to gain a different perspective on a child’s learning challenges.

Educational apps are another way of dynamically assessing students. When apps include flexibility and data collection, then you can be sure that you are maximizing your time both in assessment and intervention. Sometimes we need more than just the initial evaluation or screening time to gain a full picture of a child’s skills. These apps collect data, allow for multiple skills to be assessed, and are engaging!

Keyword Understanding

The pacing of classes, especially as students get older require the ability to have fine-tuned listening skills. Understanding sequence and ordering of steps is hugely important when considering word problems in math. Sometimes we need to almost “drag” our students through the work to get the results that we need. How about something that can help shore up these weaknesses and maybe even make them strengths?

Keyword Understanding from Aptus can unlock some of these puzzles for you and help these students with improving their listening and language skills.

One of the earlier levels in Information Carrying Words

First and foremost, you need to check out “Information Carrying Words” within the app. It’s my favorite one to work in right now! This mini-game targets listening for attributes and target words (or adjectives and nouns if you want to get fancy!). While the initial stages can be “easy” for some kids, there are other levels that challenge both visual and auditory processing of information

A more complex level in Information Carrying Words

“Temporal Directions” allows you to work on those all important “before” and “after” concepts. What’s fantastic about this mini-game is the ability to set levels(1,2,3), type of concept (“before,” “after,” and “both”), and the positioning of the concept (Start of sentence, middle of sentence, both). In all of the years I have worked on following directions, I highlight positioning of the cues as an important way to “know” how to be successful with a direction. It is fantastic to be able to choose this aspect ahead of time.

Before concepts being targeted in Temporal Directions

Furthermore, as I have talked about in other posts (5 things developers should consider..), the ability to change and adapt levels is crucial for the strength of an app as well as for improving the skills of our students. “Temporal Directions” allows you to target one concept in one position on one day, and change it if needed another day. One of my students has been inconsistent in his performance with this mini-game. The flexibility of “Temporal Directions” allows me to move with the student’s skill level easily.

Check out how you can adjust position of your “before” and “after” words, or even randomize

This is what it looks like when “after” is moved to middle of the sentence

“Sequential Directions” give student’s input on first/then directions. Similar to the other mini-games, there are steady increases in challenge as you go up levels. I find that first/then directions are a great skill to target for some of my speech/language students because it requires them to listen through the whole direction, and not impulsively guess or start too early. This is particularly true for student’s work in classrooms, sometimes they need to wait before doing the next task.

What’s nice about the last mini-game “Comprehension Check” is that it breaks skills down into objects, colors, and sizes. For some of my students, this is a good assessment to see what they know and don’t know, while for other students, I am happy to get the more basic vocabulary and attributes mastered. Once again, you can cycle back to these items when your student shows inconsistency.

In the menu screen, there are a lot of options available to tailor for individual students. The ability to set these parameters ahead of time is a great feature. Too often, apps or programs can one “one size,” and it’s helpful to meet a child’s need with the appropriate level. You can set levels, pick the vocabulary, number of trials (up to 25), and also the kinds of reinforcement. The app uses the built in text to speech feature (voice sounds like Siri) which I think is superior to a recorded voice. Text to speech voices are getting better and better, and I feel as though most people understand them.

Another outstanding feature is the ability to email scores after completing a level. What a seamless way to communicate with parents, teachers, or monitor data collection.

Fun with Directions

“Fun with Directions” by Hamaguchi Apps is an excellent way of making practice fun and engaging. This app includes all of the necessary items to make for effective intervention: multiple levels, data collection, and feedback.

You can set up specific students as well as group them according to grade or ability level: you decide how to organize it. The levels of the targets are presented in “easy”, “intermediate,” and “advanced.” There are a variety of tasks including open/close, color/erase, push, and give. Concepts that are targeted include top/middle/bottom and color. Intermediate and advanced levels are no walk in the park. There are multiple elements presented within a direction, and the statements can be confusing to some students. It can really help with sharpening listening instead of just hearing similar directions that differ only in number of concepts.

Data is collected within the app, and PDF reports are available to be emailed for each session you record data. Data will even log over multiple sessions if you don’t tap the end session button. If you are using it with more than one student, make sure to end sessions so data does not overlap!

By far, the best feature is the “Superstar Direction”- this allows for teachers to see that the student can repeat back their direction. If necessary, you can even re-record to increase a student’s perception of success.

Do you have students who show weaknesses in following directions? How about processing verbally complex information? The pacing of classes, especially as students get older require the ability to have fine-tuned listening skills. Understanding sequence and ordering of steps is hugely important when considering word problems in math. Sometimes we need to almost “drag” our students through the work to get the results that we need. How about something that can help shore up these weaknesses and maybe even make them strengths?

Following Directions

This app works on 4 different skills. Items are presented in groups of 10, with data presented to you at the end. While you can’t store data to specific users as in other apps, it at least streamlines the data process so you don’t have to record after each item (or worse, try to remember how the student performed!)

One Step Directions

The drag and drop feature of this task is fantastic. You get to assess basic skills like shapes, colors, and early vocabulary (some might even call it Tier 1 vocabulary!). Drag and drop makes it really simple for some of our younger children to complete the task without too much motor requirement.

Two Step Directions

Before and after concepts are addressed in this task. A field of 4 does not overwhelm our younger learners and also requires them to look at the pictures in earnest before responding. For me, 2 step directions are an outstanding way to getting perspective on attention/impulsivity challenges. When students mindlessly tap through the pictures to get to the next item, you can start to appropriately raise concerns.


This is my favorite task in the app because it requires fine-tuned listening skills for children. “All” and “some” and color concepts are addressed. Inclusion and exclusion concepts can be difficult because it requires children to fully grasp the concept and the direction before being accurate. I frequently have to cue students to touch one more apple or animal to get credit and move on to the next item.

Motor and Conditional Directions

These are the kinds of directions that I remember addressing when I first start working. Motor based directions are fun and easy to administer- unless of course, children can’t rub their tummies and pat their heads at the same time (I still can’t!!). These 2 step directions get children moving and thinking and are a nice complement to the other directions activities embedded within the app.

Following directions and processing verbal information are skills that educators and SLPs are constantly assessing. The apps I highlighted not only make this kind of work fun, but also allow for data collection and multiple skills to be addressed. When completing an RTI process on a student, these are quick ways to address data collection to see if skills are being met. Moreover, it allows educators to get a specific look at what might be a child’s biggest challenge.

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