Friday, January 6, 2017

Developing Categories with Toca Life Apps

In a recent post for Mindwing Concepts, I described and demonstrated how the various contexts within the Toca Life apps, specifically Toca Life: Farm ($2.99, also available for other platforms), can be used to build narrative language skills. I have recently been using these versatile sandbox apps in other ways, including targeting category development. If you are working in the school setting, especially, working in context just makes sense. Doing so allows you to tie in with classroom topics (in this case, the basics of plant life cycles and animal biology) and sync with the topics of picture books. This practice is also supported by emerging research; Gillam & Gillam (2012) conducted a study that "revealed signs of efficacy in an intervention approach in which clinicians treated multiple linguistic targets using meaningful activities with high levels of topic continuity."

Toca Life: Farm includes scenes such as a field, barn, farmhouse and farm store, each containing movable items in a variety of basic and more abstract categories relevant to the context. Just a few I have noted and used include:

Field: fruit, vegetables, tools, containers, vehicles, ways to water plants
Barn: animals, tools, machines, cleaning items, containers for plants
Farmhouse: rooms, furniture, meats, grains, vegetables, fruit, spices/condiments, school supplies, personal care items appliances, clothing, musical instruments
Store: food categories, dry goods/refrigerated items, containers, as well as a fabulous machine that allows you to "make" products, e.g. items made from milk

Field Scene

Farm Store Scene with Machine

In context you can approach this to target both receptive and expressive categories with students:
"Can you gather 3 tools we need for planting?"
"I just had the girl sit on the chair, bed, and then couch. What category are all these in?"

Check out this and other Toca Life apps (see the Toca Boca website to start) to develop contextual storytelling and semantic skills.

Gillam, S.L., Gillam, R.B., & Reece, K. (2012). Language Outcomes of Contextualized and Decontextualized Language Intervention: Results of an Early Efficacy Study. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 43(3), 276-291.

Disclosure: author is a paid consultant for Mindwing Concepts, Inc to provide blog and presentation content.

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