Monday, October 28, 2013

Fokes Sentence Builder-like iPad Apps for Writing

Do you remember the Fokes Sentence Builder?  Okay, I'm not THAT old, but we did have one buried in our clinic's closet in college.  The box didn't look fancy and when you opened it up it was equally unimpressive.  If you took the time, however, to actually read the book and figure out how the little boxes worked, it was a fantastic tool for sentence writing.  Fast forward 10 or so years (okay, I am starting to get older), as I was cleaning out another closet, low and behold, what did I find?  The Fokes Sentence Builder.  Its colorful boxes and sentence markers were all intact.  I hit the SLP jackpot!  Okay, so some of us get a little bit excited.  These things are hard to come by.  I digress.   So, what's the Fokes Sentence Builder?  The Fokes Sentence Builder is a big box with six smaller boxes inside with hundreds of picture (and some words) cards inside that.  Joann Foke's developed a systematic approach to teaching students how to construct sentences for readers and non-readers.  

So that brings us to present time (by the way, the Fokes Sentence Builder came out the same year I was born--1976).  Now we have all of these gadgets and advances that give us instant access to materials.  Many speech therapists continue to use the traditional method of using paper and pencil tasks or flashcards with students as manipulatives to teach sentence writing (structure).  Believe me, I still like to use these, but now that some of us are technology crazy (me), I like to venture out by using the SMART Board, computer, and iPad to teach the same concepts.  What would be great?  ...if there was a Fokes Sentence Builder app.  Unfortunately, as far as I know, there is not.  There are, however, lots of other similar apps and programs out there that can do the same thing.  So, I thought I'd share the 21st century versions of the Fokes Sentence Builder with you.

Sentence Builder $5.99

iPad Apps That Are Similar to the Fokes Sentence Builder

Sentence Builder
This app allows users to practice creating grammatically correct sentences by building them from word wheels.  The app features 100 pictures and also keeps statistics to show progress.

Rainbow Sentences
Rainbow Sentences $7.99
This app is pretty cool in that it color codes the who, what, where, and why parts of the sentence to help the learners understand how basic sentences are put together.  The app has over 150 pictures to use when building sentences.

Clicker Sentences
Crick Software developed this app after its success with its Clicker software developed pre-iPad.  This app is pretty extensive (it also costs quite a bit more) as it allows you to choose from a variety of levels of sentence structure.  One of the cool features is that it allows you to use your own pictures.
Clicker Sentences $26.99
Check out for an incredible resource for 
Apps for Children with Special Needs

Sentence Key: WHO is DOing WHAT
This app, from initial appearances, mimics the Fokes Sentence Builder in the way that it is structured.  Used with Mayer Johnson's Picture Communication Symbols (PCS), this app requires users to construct sentences using picture symbols paired with words.  If you know the Fokes Sentence Builder, you know that this is the second level after "Who + is doing."
Sentence Key: WHO is DOing WHAT $3.99
Now, I haven't had time to play with all of these apps.  I should probably disclose that.  I really wanted to see what was out there to supplement the Fokes Sentence Builder.  This would be great additional practice for students during independent time.  Let me know if you have used these.  What did you like and dislike?  What are your favorite apps that you use for students who are "building" sentences?


  1. I have a Fokes set and still use it every week in therapy. I work primarily with preschoolers and non-readers so the Fokes pictures are perfect. It is especially helpful for teaching questions. You physically move the auxiliary marker card to the front of the sentence and kids can see how the word order changes - perfect for my visually-oriented ASD kids.

  2. You know it! It really is a great activity. Don't you wish they had an updated (not 1976) version? I think that people would continue to buy it if they did. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I miss having the Fokes. I've been looking for a copy to buy

  4. I went to the same graduate program as Joann Fokes, although we were not there at the same time!. Her program is a take off of the Fitzgerald key that was used to aid students who were deaf with sentence structure. At the time we went to school, syntax was the key language feature (think Chomsky and Menyuk), so all therapy activities were filtered through a sentence. I wish the program was updated as well, but I still love the concept and have all my ancient picture cards that I created back in the 1970s to use with the Fitzgerald key. A more modern note--on the TLC show "The Little Couple", the adopted son from China receives speech and language therapy at the neonatalogist Mom's hospital in Houston. One of the episodes showed the family practicing skills at home using print out copies of sentences using the Fokes cards! I was excited to see them in use!!!

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