A nice app for engaging both early-stage English learners and those who are learning English as an additional language.
The FunSongs app is an interactive addition to a large well-established range of FunSongs teaching resources, which aim to teach children English using action songs to increase their English vocabulary. The range (including this app) have been developed with children in mind who do not speak English as their first language. Although the app could have some value to children whose first language is English, it is worth noting that the app in this instance is likely to be pitched for slightly the wrong age group compared to the likely vocabulary needs, and as such this review will be evaluating its usefulness within the intended context instead.
It is worth visiting the FunSongs website before starting to use this app, is it provides useful background information and a wealth of ideas and resources. The app itself is quick to load and has an easy to navigate interface, with a simple menu of four options, and a small button to access the section of notes for teachers and parents. These notes are very helpfully laid out, with a single page explaining each of the four menu options in exactly the required amount of detail.
The main activity within the app is an action song, which consists of a soundtrack and an animated little girl performing the actions in her bedroom. The animation is well-designed to allow children to join in with the actions of the song. The song itself is incredibly catchy and is likely to appeal to young learners. Useful concepts such as numbers and playtime vocabulary are covered by the song. For children whose English learning has progressed beyond listening and repeating words, there is a button which toggles the animated girl and the lyrics to the song, meaning that as an alternative activity the children can follow the words as they come up in the song. It is a little bit of a shame that it is not possible to run both the animation and lyrics together, since this would really help reinforce concepts and vocabulary, but it is easy to see why this design choice has been made when using the app on a smaller screen.
Once the children have listened to, and hopefully joined in with, the action song, there are a couple of activities to practise the English vocabulary that they have learnt. The first of these is called “Symbol Game” and gives learners a verbal instruction, from which they have to choose between two symbols or pictures. A score is kept, with a correct answer giving another star and an incorrect answer taking a star away. Once the learner reaches a score of ten stars, they are rewarded with a new stamp to be used later on. The second game is a spelling game, with tiles to spell out words from the song. The correct spelling is given on the screen, so this is a low-stress way for young learners to practise spellings without too much pressure. The scoring system and rewards are exactly the same as in the other game, giving a consistency to the activities.
The final activity available in this app is the painting activity, which includes quite basic painting tools (crayon, paint brush, eraser etc), but nonetheless is likely to appeal to the target age group. The best aspect of this is the stamps that children have received as rewards from the games they completed - each stamp gives them more opportunities for creativity in the painting activity and so feels like a genuine reward for their learning and practise.
Overall, this app will certainly help to support learning of English as a foreign language, although in future it would be nice to see updates with different vocabulary sets to extend the scope of the learning opportunities it provides.
From the Developer
FunSongs Education, shortlisted for a British Council award for excellence and innovation, presents its first iPad app.
"It is a super app - I showed it and some other educational apps to some teacher friends and they rated FunSongs as best by far!" (Sarah M. Howell, author Treetops Primary Course, OUP)
The FunSongs app is both for kids learning English as a second language and for young native speakers of English starting to read and write.
• FunSong's beautifully animated and interactive action song “Time to Play.”
• Two educational and engaging learning games based on the action song
• A creative and sophisticated painting and artwork feature that serves as a reward for playing the games
The FunSongs app is a highly original learning and gaming experience designed to motivate your child to be creative and expressive - linguistically, musically and artistically.
Learning the song
Children are free to interact with “Time to Play” in several ways. They can sing along with Katie or simply follow the words and sing over the music.
An effective way of helping learners coordinate sound, touch and language recognition. Based on the words and language chunks of “Time to Play”, players win stars and prizes by matching the sounds with the right pictures.
A captivating and pedagogically valid learning game for children beginning to learn to read and spell English. Listen to Katie and fill the boxes with the letters she says.
Painting and Artwork - the reward
Children use their fingers to express themselves artistically on the iPad. Its wealth of features, full color palette, unique drawing tools and the many beautifully designed graphic prizes to be won for successfully completing the language games allow young learners and artists to express themselves artistically through colorful pictures that can easily be saved and printed out.