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4 Android-friendly reading and writing apps for middle school

By Common Sense Media

A good app can bring reading and writing to life for students; they can produce and narrate their own slideshows, enrich their vocabularies, or collect all their writing assignments in one central place. The following apps are engaging for students and also help them develop important skills. For more information, check out the full reviews of these apps and others on Common Sense Media’s website.

1. Animoto Videos

  • Price: Free (with paid in-app upgrades and free educator upgrade available)
  • Subjects: Language & Reading
  • Skills: Creativity: combining knowledge, imagination, making new creations; Tech Skills: digital creation, social media, using and applying technology; Thinking & Reasoning: decision-making; Communication: multiple forms of expression
  • Grades: 7th-12th

Animoto Video Maker is a video slideshow creation tool that allows teens (Animoto requires users to be 13 or older) to combine pictures, video, music, and text for digital storytelling on a mobile device. The app connects to an auto-generated Animoto Web account so teens can create, share, and access their videos on a computer, too. Kids use an in-app camera to capture images or import images from their camera roll, then add music and text to make a 30-second video slideshow. Unlimited-length slideshows are available with paid upgrades or with a free educator’s upgrade (email address required). Animoto stores all the videos kids create within the app and in their account on the Animoto website.

Animoto excels in its simplicity and impressive final product. The app uses “Cinematic Artificial Intelligence” to analyze music, photos, and video clips to produce customized and orchestrated transitions between photos and video clips. There are helpful in-app editing tools to allow teens to spotlight, rotate, duplicate, or delete images within their video slideshows. The text tool lets teens add relevant messages, statistics, and captions to entertain and educate their audiences. Animoto offers students and teachers a great way to document and present any school experience–class assignments, field trips, science experiments, school plays, and more–in a skillful and engaging way, all with the added benefit of easy sharing.

2. Evernote

  • Price: Free
  • Subjects: Language & Reading: Writing
  • Skills: Self-direction: academic development, working efficiently; Tech skills: using and applying technology
  • Grades: 6th-12th

With a history of rave reviews on the business, personal, and home management fronts, Evernote has moved into the classroom. This productivity app can shift the way kids manage information in school and the way teachers share it. As a cloud-based storage system, it allows teachers and students to share and access information from multiple devices and locations. The developer’s website has many ideas for teachers on using Evernote for lesson planning, classroom management, and instruction.

The interface is easy to use, especially for the touch-screen generation. Notes save quickly and can be accessed easily. With audio, text, and image capabilities, Evernote can track almost any piece of information and make it searchable. In a time when many teachers have their personal smart phone and a tablet for school, Evernote takes away the worry of not having the right device when needed.

3. Grade 6 (or Grade 7) Vocab Audio and Pics

  • Price: $2.99
  • Subjects: Language: reading comprehension, spelling, vocab
  • Skills: Thinking and Reasoning: decision-making, memorization; Self-direction: academic development, self-assessment, working to achieve goals; Communication: listening
  • Grades: 5th-7th

Grade 6 Vocab Audio and Pics is one in a series of highly effective vocabulary building apps that make learning words fun. Quirky cartoons depict each word, and coherent, fully formed audio recordings present “short stories” or usage examples at the touch of a button. Through study, flashcard, and multiple-choice quiz modes, tweens can learn 218 middle school-level words such as deluge, gainful, and nonconformist. Words are separated into “mastered” and “don’t know” lists depending on personal choice or success on quizzes. The graphics are crisp, navigation is intuitive, and the audio feature is great for kids who struggle with reading or learning disabilities. Entries also feature spot-on definitions and parts of speech that are sometimes left out of competing products.

4. uVocab Vocabulary Trainer

  • Price: Free
  • Subjects: Language & Reading: vocabulary
  • Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: memorization
  • Grades: 6th-12th

uVocab can help kids learn challenging vocabulary words and their definitions. In the Learn Words module, students can browse words, scrolling through the definitions and clicking the sound icon to hear the pronunciation. Hearing the word is especially helpful for making sense of the word in context. In the Browse function, students have the option of jumping to a certain letter or starting from the beginning or end of the list. There’s no search function to find a specific word, though.

Students read these word lists and definitions for understanding and memorization. From there, they move on to the Test Vocabulary module where they can start a new test or review a history of tests they’ve taken. The Revision Lists module tracks “failed” words that have been missed in prior tests, helping students drill down to troublesome words and commit them to memory. The app is somewhat limited, however, because it doesn’t have a teacher dashboard and doesn’t offer separate log-ins for multiple users. This app would be most helpful in a classroom situation where each student has a device.

This article is commissioned by Amplify Education Inc. The views expressed are the author’s own, and do not represent those of Amplify Education Inc.