TenseBuilder App Review
App Name: TenseBuilder
Mom’s Rating: 5/5
Kids’ Rating: 5/5
Recommended Grades/Ages: Grades 1-6
Skills Developed: Language Development, Verbs, Grammar, Sequencing
Available On/Price: iPad – $14.99
Reviewed on: iPad
TenseBuilder is a specialize language learning tool that helps children learn to use verbs in the proper tense through fun animated videos that illustrate both concrete and abstract verbs in the past, present, and future tense with both regular and irregular verbs included.
The app currently includes 42 verb-teaching animations with plans to expand to 58 before year’s end. Each of these animations supports all three verb tenses so each provides three different practice activities.
Once an animation is opened there are three choices – to play the movie, play the full lesson, or move to the next sentence. The full lesson explicitly teaches how to use the verb used in the animation. Whether the verb is regular or irregular is indicated, and verbal instructions on using the verb properly are given along with the movie including brightly colored helping words and suffixes that change when the verb tense does.
The movie itself moves through a scenario from past to present and into the future (this movement through time can also help to indirectly reinforce sequencing skills). Your child is then asked to answer a question about verb tense for the given verb depending on the selected level. There are two levels of play included in the app (found in the user settings).
The first level plays the animation and then asks your child to tap one of three images to answer a question about the verb tense indicated, “Tap on the picture to choose what has already happened/is happening/will happen.” Followed by a descriptive example sentence. Three still images are shown (past, present, future) and your child simply taps one. If correct your child will be praised, if audio correction is turned on the concept will be briefly reviewed positively within the praise statement. If incorrect the grammatical lesson for that verb and tense will play, followed by an opportunity to try again.
In the second level, your child watches the movie and is asked to tap and drag the correct word or words into the blank in a sentence. The word choices speak when tapped and dragged. The teaching statements after an incorrect answer are tailored to the wrong answer that has been given, creating adaptive instruction. The settings allow you to choose the maximum number of answer choices that are displayed in this level.
The app supports multiple users and stores both voice recordings and user settings for each child. Audio instructions can be turned on and off as can correct answer reinforcement and the option to record your child reading the correct sentence once completed.
You can select future, present, or past verb tense to focus in on, or choose all verb tenses as well as specifying regular or irregular verbs, or choose to present them all together. You can even choose specific verbs from a list that displays the tense and form options that you’ve chosen to have your child practice. Lesson style can also be set to long or short.
A video tutorial is included to help explain the app the first time you open it.
Other Notes: This app does not include in-app purchases, advertising, social media, or external links. It does include email links to share recorded sentences and statistics.
What We Liked:
The animated, cartoon-style videos in TenseBuilder are just so fun! My oldest daughter (9) can’t help but lean over my shoulder and tap to answer my questions before I even get a chance! “I just can’t help myself!” she tells me as she waits for the next video to play. In all honesty – she’s been exploring the app and its activities just for fun in her free time. The innately humorous circumstances the animations display often prompt her to elaborate and embellish her recorded readings of the sentences.
There is also a great deal of audio built into the app – from the correctly reinforcing grammar review statements to the full length grammatical explanation lessons for each verb, right through to the app’s instructions. A few parts of the app aren’t narrated, but the fact that so much of it is really speeds up the number of grammar questions and corrective teaching a child can receive, particularly younger pre/emerging readers.
Clearly, the app is intrinsically appealing – better yet, it’s also an effective tool that allows for multiple users, statistics gathering, saving of recorded voice files and a wealth of customized options to maximize learning for each child. I love that you can precision-focus in on the verb forms that need work by selecting any combination of verb tense and type, or do a broad general overview and review of all verb forms and tenses – you can even select out specific verbs to work on. Even the corrective grammatical teaching adapts to the question and your child’s response.
TenseBuilder just has a great ability to serve up precision-focused lessons on verb tense and form to help with language development in special needs children, grammatical review and correction in the elementary grades, and even in refining the speech of ESL learners.
What We Didn’t Like:
I’d love to see the statistics presented in a more detailed way. The app currently displays the number of sentences that were correct in each level on the first, second, and third attempts, but it doesn’t pinpoint problem areas with certain verb types or tenses. Children might struggle more with a specific tense or verb type and that would be nice to know at a glance for future practice sessions.
The animations at times include dialogue balloons, but these aren’t narrated. Children who aren’t confident readers will need to have an adult read these for them.
TenseBuilder combines the fun, engaging properties of cartoon videos and voice recording with a serious, tool-based approach to the customized learning and practice of verb tenses. Whether used for language development with a special needs child or for grammar practice in the elementary grades – TenseBuilder is naturally engaging and a powerful tool in the hands of an educator who can make the most use of the many customization options.
Have you downloaded this app? Let us know what you and your children thought – leave a comment!