This article is courtesy of Wynsum Arts’ Every App Has a Story, the stories behind Wynsum Arts’ distinguished apps.
“The questions in Reading Comprehension Camp give young students ample opportunity to practice inference and to learn to compare and contrast. These skills are critical to reading comprehension.”
— Jonathan Fernandes, creator of Reading Comprehension Camp
Reading Comprehension Camp
Jonathan Fernandes taught high school English at an inner city school in Dallas for seven years before joining the staff at Smarty Ears Apps, which was founded by his wife, Barbara. Smarty Ears focuses primarily on speech therapy apps but the products offered by the company range from AAC apps to social skills apps to stuttering apps.
“Barbara and I are always brainstorming app ideas,” Fernandes says. “We look at the existing apps and fill the unmet needs.”
As a teacher, Fernandes saw students who struggled with reading and he realized that a fun and engaging app could help students improve their reading skills.
Why Did You Create Reading Comprehension Camp?
Jonathan Fernandes: There are actually a few reading apps in the App Store, but most of these were created by people who lack experience in education and we feel that most of reading apps do not really address the needs of students. The questions in Reading Comprehension Camp give young students ample opportunity to practice inference and to learn to compare and contrast. These skills are critical to reading comprehension and most apps just don’t offer the higher level questions that encourage students to analyze the stories they’ve read.
How Does Reading Comprehension Camp Work?
Jonathan Fernandes: Reading Comprehension Camp includes 50 stories, and each story is followed by a quiz. A teacher or parent can choose which types of questions are asked in the quizzes, based on the student’s ability level. There are 11 types of questions: who, what, where, when, why, how, inferences, cause & effect, compare & contrast, sequencing, and vocabulary & context.
The stories range from a second grade reading level to sixth grade reading level, and all stories have accompanying audio, which helps children to work on auditory processing and to access stories that may be a little beyond their reading ability. Often kids need support to reach the next level in fluency, and audio support helps us to scaffold the learning so that kids can reach the next level. (Please note that the audio is optional and can be turned off.)
The app also supports kids who struggle with reading comprehension by offering hints during the quiz. If a hint is requested, the app will highlight the portion of the story with the information relevant to the answer for the quiz question.
Each story also has at least one “big word.” In addition to improving vocabulary, this helps kids to learn how to use context to understand the meaning of an unknown word.
I like to incorporate humor into the stories to keep kids engaged — and this is often where I ask inference questions to make sure the kids understand. For example, following a story about planting trees, including the fictitious money tree, we ask why one character regrets planting his allowance!
The app also allows students to write and record their own stories. While the 50 pre-made stories serve as great tools and excellent models, students will grow so much more if they practice both reading and writing. When they create their stories, they record them. Hearing how they sound helps them make progress in their reading.
They also write questions for their own stories. This metacognitive exercise helps students to think about writing, to think about the information they are giving to the reader and to better understand how they should process information when they are the reader.
Reading and writing are so intertwined. A good writer is typically well-read, and writing helps to take a student’s reading abilities to the next level. The two activities should be introduced together and we do this in Reading Comprehension Camp.
Reading Comprehension Camp covers many Common Core State Standards in Reading Literature and Reading Foundational Skills, as well as some standards for Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language.
We have also worked hard to make Reading Comprehension Camp easy for teachers to use. The app can be used with multiple students, and it is compatible with [Smarty Ears’] Therapy Report Center app, which helps teachers organize data from many of our apps in one place.
The Reading Comprehension Camp app tracks student data, showing the types of questions attempted and which questions were answered correctly or incorrectly.
You can use iTunes to back up the app, which ensures neither data nor student-created stories are lost.
To find more apps to help your child with autism, download Wynsum Arts’ free app, i.AM Search – available on iTunes.