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iTooch 6th Grade Language Arts
Pros: The quizzes require students to think critically and analytically, and lessons explore a wide range of critical topics.
Cons: 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.
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.
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.
iTooch 6th Grade 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.