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The three R's and mobile tools help teach kids

First graders love to learn. They’re at an age when homework still involves coloring, yet they are learning to express themselves through not just pictures, but words. These tech programs can help and entertain them as well.
/ Source: Tecca

Believe it or not, first graders love to learn. They’re at an age when homework still involves coloring, yet they are learning to express themselves through not just pictures, but words — sometimes comically misspelled words, but words nonetheless. You want to see them improve, but homework is already a grind of repetition.

Here are some resources that make learning fun. To be sure, I tested each one with my daughter, who is a first grader. She’s not a fan of homework, believe me, but she loved the resources below that made learning fun.

Best mobile app for first graders
Of all the apps my daughter tried, TeachMe: First Grade by 24x7digital was by far her favorite and mine. The app covers age-appropriate addition, subtraction, spelling, and sight words for first graders. A pleasant female voice gives clear instructions for each problem and praises the child for the correct answer.

The math and spelling challenges require your child to write the answer with her finger to improve penmanship. If the wrong answer is written down, the app will show the correct answer and ask your child to trace the numbers or letters to earn points. The positive reinforcement used by the app and gentle way it steers your child toward the correct answer when a wrong one is given made this a big hit with me.

What really sold it to my daughter was the sticker reward system. For every three correct answers, your child receives a coin that can be used to purchase stickers in the game. Backgrounds such as a farm, the ocean, and a pirate cove are available for your child to place his stickers on. The more correct answers he gets, the more stickers he can buy. And we all know the power of the sticker reward!

TeachMe: First Grade is available for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Remember that when you buy an app for one of your Apple devices, you can download it for free on your others. Up to 4 children can create accounts on the app.

Great website for making reading fun
Starfall was recommended to us by my daughter’s teacher. Not only is it a great reading resource for kids, it’s a good way to get them comfortable with using a mouse, a keyboard, and the web.

Using a phonics approach, Starfall encourages children to enjoy reading. The letter recognition animations are geared for younger ages, but first graders will definitely gravitate toward the stories that focus on word sounds. Those stories come with games, music, and encouragement to make reading fun. Other sections, like the comic stories, give the option to hear the dialog spoken, helping kids who are struggling through tough sentences.

Starfall is a non-profit venture and free to use. I would encourage you to let your children explore the site instead of telling them where to go and what to do. At the same time, monitor them to make sure they aren’t leaving the site for other places on the web. And, of course, children always love it when you read to them or listen while they read to you!

Reading system on the go
LeapFrog’s Tag Reader has been so popular in my house that both my kids fight over it, especially on car trips. The Tag Reader is a special pen that the kids use to trace over the words in Tag books. The pen reads the words aloud, helping the kids understand the story.

LeapFrog provides titles to read with well-known characters such as Disney princesses, Dora, and characters from Pixar's Toy Story. Yes, your children can argue over who gets to read, too.

It’s not just for Pokemon
Can’t get your 6-year-old to put down the Nintendo DS? If you can’t them to pick up the Leapster, then compromise by getting in some learning time with education-based DS games.

Still shaking your head in disbelief? The handheld is already in use as an educational tool in Japan as well as museums in America. Even McDonald’s has adopted it to train new employees more quickly.

My Virtual Tutor is a great start. Using games, sounds, and interactive tools, it encourages kids to become familiar with beginning word sounds. My Reading Tutor does all this and lets your children record their own stories using the built-in microphone on the DS. The manufacturer's website has a video demo that allows you to see what the game has to offer.

The best choice for effective learning is always seeing what works with your child. A few apps I thought my daughter would enjoy, she instead quickly grew bored with. Other methods, like Starfall and TeachMe, she couldn't get enough of. Pay attention to what your children respond to and encourage them when they spend time learning, no matter what the source of the lesson.

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