App review by Ashley Kemper, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2015
First Phrases HD
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First Phrases HD

Robust grammar tool is perfect for language development

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Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, English-Language Learning, Communication & Collaboration

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Pros: Three levels provide thorough practice of manipulating prepositions, nouns, articles, and adjectives. Drag-and-drop feature makes for easy use for all learners.

Cons: The tool doesn't save voiced phrases or number of tries.

Bottom Line: With little background clutter and targeted language practice, it's a must-have for language delays.

Teachers should first determine which skill they want students to practice. Pre-set the features to match the desired outcome, and have students practice creating and manipulating prepositional phrases. Teachers might use this as an independent or group station among other language practice or reinforcement activities. If more than one iPad is being used, students should use headphones to focus their attention to the directive their device is giving them. For those hoping to hear students practice the phrases, one-on-one practice might be more beneficial to make quick and effective corrections to phrasing or articulation.

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First Phrases HD is a tool for helping kids develop core English-language skills. The app opens to a white background screen where kids can press play to begin or adjust the settings. Teachers can pre-set these features for students, which may be especially helpful for younger students or for targeting specific skills.

On the first level, kids tap on the screen to hear an entire phrase read aloud while a short animation illustrates the phrase. On the next level, kids can tap on each part of the phrase (in order) to complete the phrase. This causes the character (bear, cat, mouse, dog, girl, or boy) to do that action. First Phrases HD also provides a challenge stage where kids drag and drop each part of the phrase in the correct order and record themselves saying the words in sequence. The icons within the app are simple and well defined within their boxes. Visual cues within the app also make it easy to find your way: The illustration and included animation match each part of each phrase.

Though the graphics are purposefully simple, First Phrases HD packs powerful language practice for kids who need reinforcement in multiple word phrases. The leveled approach and numerous verb combinations give kids infinite opportunities to hear two- and three-word phrases, see them in action, and practice speaking them. First Phrases HD seems especially helpful for kids with receptive or expressive language delays or kids who might benefit from limited sensory input.

For teachers hoping to use it in a therapy setting, it's important to note that this tool does not save attempts or recordings for assessment. This a practice-only tool. That being said, it's a great fit for practice, and it's especially effective when coupled with a teacher's encouragement and guidance.

Overall Rating


The graphics are simple but engaging. Some kids will get a kick out of speaking a phrase ("Eat the carrot!") and watching an animated character follow the directions.


First Phrases HD has three levels that teach and reinforce prepositional phrases. Teachers and students can customize word lists for focused practice. Clever animations reward correct answers.


Teachers can adjust the number of phrases, types of words, or amount of challenge to meet their students' needs. The information icon provides a list of helpful hints and support.

Common Sense reviewer
Ashley Kemper STEM Project Manager

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