A common way to increase reading fluency is to practice reading word families (WF). I have done this by using WF sliders (such as a picture of a boat with ___oat and a piece of paper that slides to reveal beginning sounds b,bl,c,g,gl,m), flip books, posters, etc.
Apps that practice the same skills and meet the goals* for teaching tools:
Word Families by 24X7digital LLC (free version has 10 WF -ab,-ack,-ad,-ag,-ail,-ain,-ake,-ale,-all,-est and ads and the paid version, currently $.99, has over 40) This is your basic WF practice (I haven't bought the paid version yet but I probably will break down soon) and I would consider it an improvement over flipbooks. I hate making flip books, they take a lot of time, paper and then you have to store them and be able to find the one you want. Plus flip books don't read the word to the student.
Again, I have the free version. It has a wheel with the word families on it, and an i (info about WF and other apps, family (takes you to the wheel), next word (will display a word, such as chest), and say word button (pronounces chest). you select one such as -est and then either next word or say word. The words for -est are chest, contest, crest, forest, jest, nest, pest, quest, rest, test,vest, west, best. Simple but effective. I haven't used this in the class yet. I will update this post if there are any tips/problems after I use it with them.
Make a Word by iphoneapp4fun (I believe it cost $.99) This is one of my current "dock apps" so I hope you understand I like it and think it a good use of precious learning time. It has WF practice for -an,-at,-en,-et,-ip,-ig,ot,-og,-ug,-ink. The main screen is simple- with each of the 10 WF's having a button to select it with, there are no settings to change. When selected it says "Make a word with /i//p/ ip (highlights the letters as it sounds out then blends) to match the picture. Rip." the screen shows a page with a rip, the letters _ip at the bottom and four letter choices on the left, s,z,r,d. You pull down a letter next to ip and if it's the wrong one the letter is put back and you hear "oops." the correct letter results in the word sounded out as /r/ /ip/ /rip/, again with the letters highlighted as they are read, and then you are given sip, dip, zip pictures and then "allright, you know: rip, sip dip, zip" shown in a list along with pictures as they are read to you. You can touch the word, picture or WF on this page to hear it read while highlighted. Then the student is given the choice to replay or go to menu.
Why do I think this app is better than the WF sliders, flipbooks, posters.... the illustration, the spoken word, the blending of the word with visual support. the opportunity for practice that doesn't involve me (no copies, cutting, laminating or time).
Plus, the kids think it's a game. They never think the flipbooks are a game. I have used this in class, as a center activity kids can choose off the dock and as a small group "transition activity" while I got something ready for the group. The iPad works great to fill a few minutes while I answer the phone, deal with an issue, etc when a group of kids are waiting on me. I have the ipads there anyhow, and just say "choose a dock activity" and run off to do what I need to do and know that my kids aren't wasting our precious time.
Here's a new (to me) app...
Short Word Maker 1.0 by Kevin Neelands (free).
has 3 letters on top of screen and definition of the word below. At the bottom of the page are two buttons, next word and random. You can tap one of the letters and it will scroll to the next letter that will make a word, or next word and it will make a new word by changing one letter, or random for all letters to change. I like the definitions. I would rate this app higher if the words and definitions could have audio attached.
to use for word families; the screen shows let- give permission. touch the l and it changes to m- met- to come face to face with. keep going and you have- net, pet, set, vet, wet, yet, bet, get, jet and their definitions. I like that it demonstrates how to flip through the letters to make a new word (it scrolls past letters quickly that would make a nonsense word.) I would actually like it to have the option to show nonsense words- maybe with a ? symbol. This app also lets you change the middle vowel and ending consonant too.
I would have kids use this as a making words alternative. It could be done in a small group or with me displaying on the board to a whole group for quick blending practice. I like the definitions too. I haven't used this in the class yet. I will update this post if there are any tips/problems after I use it with them.
*Teaching tools should improve traditional learning activities by:
1.) saving time.
2.) allow for differentiation to meet each child's learning needs.
3.) motivating reluctant learners.
4.) make learning fun.