Friday, February 15, 2013

Not Up to Snuff: Verb Tense and Multiple Meanings Apps

I have reviewed three apps from Virtual Speech Center and have found each of them to be winners. Unfortunately, I am less impressed with their apps for verbs and multiple meanings. When I set out to review them in October, both of these apps had irregularities. I contacted Beata Karlowski, the developer, to offer her the opportunity to correct them before I posted my review. These apps have been updated and my reviews are based on them.

Verbs News, and Multiple Meanings Library: Like Expedition with Plurals and Magical Concepts, my two recent reviews, these apps also have a database that holds information about the date, time, and score for each session for each student and the option of emailing reports. Like their sister apps, these apps are colorful and the overall look of them apps is pleasing. Again, some pictures have slight distortions.  Unlike Magical Concepts and Auditory Workout, these apps do not have a reward system built into them.

These apps offer a variety of words to select from specific to their category and different modes of practice. Each offers auditory bombardment, fill-in-the-blank, and make-up-a-sentence. In Verbs News one can opt to work on the simple present, past, simple future, present continuous or all tenses for a nice selection of regular and irregular verbs.

My problem with these apps is the picture and narration irregularities. The pictures in Verbs News do not demonstrate the tense as when the same picture is used for all tenses of the verb. In other words, the pictures show the present and continuous present tense only. The other tenses need to be inferred or explained since they are not demonstrated in the pictures. I understand that providing verb tense specific pictures is additional work and cost to the developer. However, when a child needs work with the concept of differing tenses and their related syntax, then the pictures should aid them in their understanding. I just do not see how using Verbs News will achieve this. I found other irregularities. The picture for “bow” shows two actors with one bowing, but the narration indicates that both should be bowing, “The actors always bow in front of the audience when the play is over.” Also, as this latter sentence demonstrates, the sentences can be  long and complex. When I work with a child who needs to work on tenses, I prefer that the child hear simple and clear sentences, such as “The actors bowed,”  “The actors will bow,” "The actors are bowing." Shorter sentences highlight the task whereas in longer sentences there is a risk that the verb target will lose its oomph. That is the case with this app.  I found irregularities in Multiple Meanings as well. In this app, two different pictures for each word are presented on a screen showcasing its different meanings. For the word "pen," one of the pictures shows pigs feeding at a trough. However, the narration states, "Pigs are eating at the pig pen." One of the pictures for the word “before” is a puppy sitting with three trophies above a calendar for September, 2011. The narration and text state, “The day before Tuesday is Monday.” I do not understand how the concept "before" is demonstrated in this picture.

Whether one is working with children who have disabilities, are ESL students or children who need practice in these language areas, these materials will require that an adult be present to explain what many of the pictures should be rather than what they do show.
Ages: Verb News 4-8; Multiple Meanings 5-10
Ratings: + for both apps
Developer website:
Costs: Verb News $9.99; Multiple Meanings $12.99. Available for iPad/iPhone only.


  1. Have you looked at TenseBuilder? It's an app specifically for verb tense. I think it's great, but I'd be interested in your opinion on it. Liana, Perth, Australia

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  3. Hi Liana,
    I went to their Apple page and looked at the pictures they posted. It looks to me like they have the same problem Verbs News does---they use the same picture for all tenses. Am I correct? What do you like about the app?