Common Sense Review
Updated April 2016

iTooch 6th Grade Language Arts

Quality lessons, challenging quizzes help kids learn core concepts
Common Sense Rating 4
  • iTooch features an avatar who earns martial arts-style belts of different colors depending upon the user's performance.
  • Play scratch-off games and log in daily to earn points toward power-ups.
  • Most questions are multiple-choice, but fill-in-the-blank questions offer other ways to demonstrate knowledge.
  • Tap the settings menu to tune your experience.
  • User power-ups such as hints and unlimited time to scaffold kids' learning and give them a little extra help with the quizzes.
The quizzes require students to think critically and analytically, and lessons explore a wide range of critical topics.
Some of the design is a little busy and unclear; the example texts could use more diversity, and some images are a little dated.
Bottom Line
This solid companion to the ELA classroom offers brief lessons and quizzes to reinforce key concepts and skills.
Patricia Monticello Kievlan
Common Sense Reviewer
Foundation/Non-Profit Member
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

Though the questions are mostly multiple-choice, their subject matter and format are varied enough to make each quiz surprising and rewarding. The app integrates nicely with the iOS Game Center, allowing kids to track scores and share results.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

The content is solid: Topics range from concrete exercises in reading, grammar, and composition to more enrichment-style lessons on vocabulary and communication skills. The lessons are thoughtfully written, and the questions have depth.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

Kids can toggle between test and practice modes to review lessons before answering test questions. There are several ways to get more information, including an extensive FAQ page and the developer's own well-maintained website.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

Within the app and on iTooch's FAQ page, there are several thoughtful recommendations for how teachers and parents can use the curriculum with kids. In general, it could work well as pre-class homework to introduce a topic or as a featured in-class activity to reinforce key lessons. One teacher tip recommends that kids navigate the lessons in pairs or small groups. No more than four students per device, the developer warns, but that seems more validating than limiting. It's clear that this app would work well both as a tool for solo studying or for collaborative group work.

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What's It Like?

iTooch 6th Grade Language Arts is a resource for middle school language arts classrooms. Its five sections offer lessons, practice questions, and quizzes on a wide range of topics, including reading comprehension, grammar, composition skills, vocabulary, and communication. The quiz questions are notable for their depth: There are tough questions about tone and thoughtful questions about writing mechanics and grammar. Passages include fiction, nonfiction, and poetry and offer a range of topics, from a speech to children about staying in school from President George H.W. Bush to a speech about American values from President Barack Obama. Kids can navigate to individual lessons and quizzes from the app's main page, or they can work through each lesson prior to taking a quiz on that subject. Kids are rewarded for answering quickly and for answering correctly; they earn a green badge for completing a quiz and a star for a perfect score.

When kids choose a section, they encounter a cartoon avatar that acts as their guide. As kids advance through the game, the avatar earns different martial arts-style belts. Meanwhile, each time kids log in they earn a daily reward, where they play a scratch-off game to win "power-ups" they can use to get hints or take shortcuts in quizzes. While the belts' progression and the app's point system aren't fully explained, it feels good to earn these rewards, especially since they're tied so closely to the game's learning content.

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Is It Good For Learning?

iTooch Language Arts could be a good choice for learning if only because it includes so much high-quality content. The quizzes are refreshing because they're genuinely challenging. There are no easy sections here, and each lesson requires serious attention and effort. Some questions -- such as those about tone versus mood and others about root words -- feel aspirational but achievable. These lessons address critical skills for accomplished readers and writers, and it's exciting to find an app that's age-appropriate for younger learners without being condescending. The language is sophisticated enough for middle school students but simple enough to be accessible to readers who aren't as strong. It would be better if there were a more diverse range of authors, but the passages included are used to great effect to challenge students and elicit great insights about literary devices and author intentions.

The only frustrating thing about the app's interface is its inconsistent navigation. The progress bar in test mode is straightforward; however, in practice mode, a different system of graphics is used. Oddly, there's also a drawing feature: Kids can click on a pencil at the bottom of the screen to reveal a chalkboard screen. While this feature probably works well in the developer's other apps (especially those for math), it's a bit puzzling in this context. In addition, while the language is fresh and relevant, the photos and images look oddly dated, especially on an iPad, and could undermine the lessons' resonance with a modern audience.

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