At a recent conference I had the opportunity to connect with the couple at the head of Common Ground International, who have recently put out an app for iPad (and iPod Touch and iPhone) called High School Spanish (check out their website). It’s a useful, intuitive resource for students studying Spanish, and is especially tailored for students studying for advanced exams like IB or AP.
A word of advice: At first, I had a lot of trouble getting this to work in iPad 1. The memory wasn’t enough to load the data and run other apps at the same time. To try to bypass the problem, press the home button twice. Along the bottom you’ll see all the apps the iPad is using its memory on. Tap and hold one until they all start shaking. Tap the (“-“) icons on each app until they’re all closed except High School Spanish. Now the data download should proceed. The first time you load it, you’ll have to wait for a data download. I still got tossed back to the home screen, and sometimes if I reopened it would work, sometimes not. BUT, after a recent app update I haven’t had a repeat of any of these problems on iPad 1 or iPod, so it’s likely you won’t notice anything.
This app consists of several categories I’ll treat separately below.
The writing tips section is divided into categories by the purpose of the writing. This helps students develop a sensitivity to purpose and audience.
There is a section on “Debates” that should not be used for the persuasive writing section on the AP exam. On the exam you don’t want a greeting, and you don’t want to announce what you’re doing.
My favorite part here is definitely the “useful writing words.” Words students can use to make transitions, show cause and effect, sequence, and so on, are so important not just for the exams, but for overall proficiency.
The grammar section is a good reference, though if you’ve known me for long you know it’s obviously not my favorite for students. But it is good for review if you like that sort of thing, and for the advanced students the app is intended for, explanations of patterns may help them improve accuracy. Students who are looking to understand accurate grammatical patters will really appreciate it. The section even includes videos like a song for irregular preterit- which, like all the content, is available offline, a feature I love since I can only access internet when I’m near wifi.
I love, love the dictionary/flashcards feature. You can add words to a particular folder (e.g. Verbs) or create your own folder (e.g. Medioambiente) to make flashcards for yourself. At first I thought it was a bit cumbersome that both languages are together, but on second thought, that’s one thing that bothers me on the WordReference app- having to tap back and forth between languages. So after using it a bit, I like the HSS format better.
One note, it would be a great feature to be able to tap on a word in the translation (often there are several) to take me to see that word, so I could get more detail on the nuances of the meaning.
The flashcards are my favorite section. Ok, so I don’t like translation in class, but personally, flashcards have always helped me, particularly as my proficiency advanced. It’s always been helpful to me to keep a select list of words I’m working on somewhere where I can regularly, well, work on them.
If you created a folder in the dictionary section, you have a new category of words you’re working on. Or, you can add words to existing folders. If you “check” the flashcard, telling the app you think you’ve got it, you won’t see the word again, not in that language order anyway.
The comprehension section is particularly useful for students preparing for advanced exams like the AP, where they’ll have to answer multiple choice questions about authentic sources. HSS includes reading and listening comprehension. You can even play the audio for listening comprehension questions. The comprehension sources and questions are not static; Common Ground updates the content here. They’re actually getting ready to roll out new sets of listening exercises from native speakers from around the Spanish-speaking world.
Quizlet – a new feature of the app is that for an additional $0.99, can search for Quizlet flashcards by keyword (like “Paso a Paso ch 1”) by Author (like their teacher’s Quizlet ID) and download flashcard sets to their device.
Look like something that would help your students out? Common Ground is giving this app away free to 10 Musicuentos readers. Here’s how to win:
Common Ground and I want to know-
1) Who are you? teacher/student/parent? What level do you teach?
2) What is your/your student’s biggest obstacle to developing proficiency in Spanish?
- Comment with your answers on the blog
- like Musicuentos on Facebook and answer the questions by commenting on the post mentioning this giveaway
- follow me on Twitter and tweet the answer to @Musicuentos with a link to this post.
- like Common Ground International on Facebook and comment your answers on the post mentioning this giveaway
Each method gives you one entry. I’ll notify randomly selected winners on Saturday, August 24. Go!