APPealing and APPropriate APPs for students

Apps are an excellent way to support students with language and learning difficulties at home. They are also an effective way to engage students who are turned off from the traditional methods of instruction. However, we have found that apps can promise a lot and deliver very little. We have also learned that many educational apps are not “set and forget”.

APPsolute holiday fun


Holidays are fast approaching and kids are usually busy with play dates, trips to the movies and family trips. But it is still beneficial to continue consolidating the skills they have learned at Gameplan. Rather than sitting the kids down to fill in worksheets, we recommend using Apps and games to help facilitate practise of language and literacy skills in a fun and exciting way. It is also important for kids to talk about what they are doing, and discuss their ideas and new vocabulary with you while they’re on the iPad.

Puppet Pals is great for younger kids who want to practice sequencing and narrating a story verbally. The kids can choose their characters and record their story to be shared with family and friends.

Scribble Press is a fun and handy app for writing and illustrating your own story. Practise writing a draft first, then your child can type up the story in this app and illustrate it with their own drawings.

World’s Worst Pet-Vocabulary

This game has a number of games that help students expand their vocabulary. Students are required to match synonyms, antonyms, find match words to descriptions and put the words in a sentence. There are a variety of levels and sets and words are grouped by specific categories. This app would suit upper primary to secondary school students and is a great was of learning new words to incorporate into your writing. And it’s free!


Beat the clock and spell as many words as you can! Wurdle requires players to find as many words as they can by connecting letter tiles. You can play against the clock, or against another play in split screen mode. This app can be modified to include a smaller or larger number of letters or to give players a longer amount of time to play. It’s great for sounding out words and spelling. Appropriate from ages seven and above (even adults can get addicted!).

Word Scramble is an engaging word game which involves making words from the letter tiles provided. This App allows kids to practise their spelling and phonics, but can be a challenging game for younger kids.

Audiobooks The Audible by Amazon App allows you to listen to books on the go. Audiobooks are a great way to motivate reluctant readers to engage in the process of reading, even if it is just by listening. Children are still able to access a range of vocabulary and practise their listening skills. They’re also great to use during long road trips or flights these holidays.

Smiley Minds is modern meditation for young people. It is a unique web and App-based program, designed to help bring balance to young lives. It is a not-for-profit initiative based on a process that provides a sense of clarity, calm and contentment.

This website suggests various fun language and literacy activities to do with your kids these holidays:

Language games:


A fun family game which targets receptive and expressive language. Take turns to describe your partner’s picture using the necessary vocabulary. This is a great variant to Celebrity Heads.


A game for generating items within a category while thinking about letter sounds.  You can also download printable score sheets online and modify the difficulty level for your kids.

Other games:

  • Rory story cubes
  • Articulate for kids
  • Boggle
  • Scrabble
  • Scrabble Trickster
  • Upwords
  • Quiddler Junior card game
  • Charades for kids
  • Pictionary
  • Rapidough (Like Pictionary using play dough)


Gameplan wishes you a wonderful festive season and a great start to the New Year.

Enjoy the holidays!

Intervention for expressive language difficulties in children


Speech Pathologists often use the term “expressive language” to describe a child’s ability to verbally communicate. But what does this term mean?  How do we improve a child’s expressive language?  Why is developing expressive language important? The aim of this month’s professional development at Gameplan was to investigate the evidence for intervention approaches to improving children’s expressive language skills.

What is expressive language?

Expressive language refers to the ability to express our thoughts (both verbally and through writing), whilst using correct grammar, word endings, appropriate vocabulary and sequencing of ideas. It is our output - what we say, and how we say it. Language can be divided into three main areas: form, content and use. More information can be found on the ASHA website:

Language is the building block on which reading and writing are built. There is a strong correlation between vocabulary and later reading ability. Not only that, but a strong vocabulary allows us be effective verbal communicators, as well as proficiently express our ideas in the written form.

Bloom, L. and Lahey, M. (1978)  Language Development and Language Disorders  New York: Wiley.

Bloom, L. and Lahey, M. (1978) Language Development and Language Disorders New York: Wiley.

What is the evidence for intervention?

This month, the Gameplan team read and discussed recent journal articles on areas of interest related to language interventions.

Some of the findings that we found interesting were:

  • Vocabulary development in young children (preschool) is very important for language development. It should focus on short term, intensive conversation approaches. This includes asking open-ended questions (e.g. What did he do next?), as well as recasting of words or phrases (e.g. “big car;” “Yes, that is a big fast car.”) This increases exposure to more vocabulary and models grammatically correct sentences (Ruston & Schwanenflugel, 2010).
  • Learning new words requires a strong network of semantic (word) and phonological (sound) knowledge. For example, if we take the word “cat,” the network of connections surrounding this word are: semantic -  (a cat is an animal/kitten); morphological (cat is a noun and singular) and phonological information (the first sound in "cat" is /k/). By building strong semantic relationships between words, it is easier to retrieve them when we need them (Zens, Gillon & Morgan, 2009).
  • When teaching grammar to school age children, there are two main approaches: implicit and explicit. Through the implicit approach, the clinician models the correct grammar and rephrases the child’s utterance. Explicit approaches involve direct teaching of correct/incorrect grammar and describing why. This includes the use of Colourful Semantics and Shape Coding. The evidence has shown that implicit approaches work well for pre-school and early school-aged children, while the explicit approaches can help school-age children, and those of secondary age with difficulties understanding language (Ebbels, 2013).
  • Phonological awareness (the ability to manipulate sounds in words) and semantic interventions (vocabulary) have shown to improve word learning to some degree. Improving children’s phonological awareness skills improves their ability to learn new words. It primes them to be attuned to the sounds in words, helping them to build stronger connections of words (Zens, Gillon & Morgan, 2009).

Helpful resources and tips:

  • With younger children, ask them to identify the sounds in spoken words (e.g. first/middle/last), as well as words that rhyme.
  • Read books that incorporate rhyme, sounds ("oink", "choochoo") and make an effort to discuss unfamiliar words, relating it to something they have experienced before, as well as discussing the different contexts in which we can use that word.
  • Help to model the use of correct grammar by rephrasing the child’s incorrect utterance, e.g. “the mouses ran in the house.” Your response: “The mice ran into the house, did they?”

I hope you enjoy the resources!

Violetta Bassovitch
Speech-Language Pathologist, Gameplan