Bottom Line: Smarty Ears uses kids’ admiration of ninjas to help them build grammatically correct phrases and sentences in Sentence Ninja. With real life photos, easy to understand voices, and a lot of options for personalization, this app would be good for therapists. However, its price may make it out of reach for many people.
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Ninjas are cool, and Smarty Ears knows it! Developed by a certified speech-language pathologist, Sentence Ninja can be used with individuals or groups to help improve sentence structure skills. It is easily customizable and individuals are free to work at an appropriate level to meet their needs. Once the appropriate level is selected, the user is shown a picture with scrambled words around it. The student is required to touch and drag the words to place them in the correct word order to formulate a phrase or sentence. Each level consists of 10 tasks, and it takes approximately five minutes to complete each level. The user is able to keep track of his or her progress within the level by watching the ninja move above the picture.
My students seemed to really like this app. Just thinking about the ninjas seemed to occupy and entertain them. I know if I said, “We are going to unscramble sentences today!” my students would look at me like I was crazy and would not be even a little excited. However, when I said, “We are going to play Sentence Ninja today!” I thought the squeals of joy would never end.
You can select a level to work on, and easily adjust the levels as needed once the player is selected. Each level gets slightly harder, but will build on the concepts learned previously. At the end of the level, an option is given to move on to the next level or continue practicing on the same level. I found this to be a great option to let the students determine if they felt they understood the concepts adequately before moving on.
The levels are organized in six different groups: phrases, sentences, question format, negation, advanced sentences, and complex sentences. The students earn a belt in their player reward hall by completing an entire group. While this is nice, the down side is that the user has to complete the whole group before earning a belt. This meant if I had a student who was more advanced and able to move up to group 2 sentences, he did not earn the belt in group 1.
Another great aspect to this app was the homework portion. While it was slightly difficult to find (I stumbled upon it by accident in the report center), this was a great addition to Sentence Ninja. The homework can be emailed, printed off, or opened in a different app to be shared with families to continue to work on the goals addressed in speech/language therapy. Once again, my students did not even mind that this was paper and pencil work because it had the word ninja on it! The homework consists of 10 different work sheets addressing the first five groups of the app.
This app also features voices that are easily understood and an easy to find option to turn the music on or off on every page. The user is able to record his answer, which I found to be wonderful, especially in the phrase level. I started using this option by asking my students a question (e.g. Where is the boy?). My kiddos then responded in the full sentence, which always included the targeted phrase words in the correct order. This meant we not only worked on forming grammatically correct phrases, but also on answering questions.
Overall, this was a nice app to work on building grammatically correct phrases and sentences. It starts out simply with a two word phrase and slowly progresses to more difficult tasks (Even I thought Level 39 was difficult and did not score 100 percent at first!). While this would be a good app for therapists to use, its price may be unreasonable for many families to purchase.