Categories Learning Center: A Review

Categories Learning Center

by Smarty Ears


An app designed by SLPs to improve language comprehension for all age groups. More specifically, it was developed to target categorization skills to improve word finding, memory, and reading comprehension difficulties.

Price = $9.99

categories learning center start up page

The Workings:

The app opens to a Home page where the user can select “Quick Play”, “New Session”, or “Report Card, in addition to the “Support” Button.

  • Quick Play: Allows for a general user, where no name is associated with use. Selection of 5 presentation choices for the categories.
  • New Session: An area which players/clients can be added, stored, and selected for continued use to track progress. Up to 4 students at a time can be selected to track data.
  • Report Cards: Area where individual students can be selected, progress reviewed, and results shared via email.

After clicking Quick Play or selecting students in New Session, users must select from 5 different activities including sorting (2 levels), “where does it go”, naming a category, and selecting a category. All the activities are based on a bank of 44 categories, with numerous items in each category.

What I like:

  • There are numerous categories (44) from general items such as food to more specific ones like vegetables or inside play.
  • You can select a combination of activities such as sorting and category naming during the same session, or only select one type of activity, your choice.
  • Selection of one, two, or all categories for a given activity – allowing specific areas to be targeted, or avoided.
  • The pictures are not confusing or stick-figure-ish. While they are not real images, the illustrations are still easy to identify. (Although, the pancake picture made me think twice)
  • For beginners or lower-level kiddos, you can alter the number of categories presented  to either 2 or 3 when sorting.
  • When you create user profiles, the app allows you to customize the name with either a provided Avatar or a custom picture from your camera roll.
  • At the end of Quick Play and when you choose users, it auto-prompts and asks if you would like to share results via Email, Print, or export to Therapy Report Center (by Smarty Ears, $1.99)
  • The entire app is narrated by a young girl. I think it’s unique and adds a certain character to the app, instead of a formal adult voice.
  • When a wrong category is chosen by the user, a large “Try Again” flashes across the screen and is read aloud.
  • For each activity, a child works towards 10 correct, makes for nice round numbers when summarizing data.

Where does it go level

What I would change or add:

  • The only activity you can alter the number of categories presented on-screen are Level 1 & 2 sorting. It would be nice if the minimum categories section wasn’t 3 for “Where does it go”. Some of clients may need a choice of two. I used additional prompts or my hand to block a categoryinstead.
  • In the Category Selection activity, no matter how few categories you select in Settings, it always puts up 4 options, I would like to be able to adjust that option.
  • Not requiring an Avatar for setting up students. When in a hurry, I may not want to add a picture right away; although it really only takes a few seconds.
  • When the categories listed “Dogs” & “Pets”, apparently a Chihuahua is a pet, not a dog (hehe) 🙂


Within the “About App” section, 3 different sources are mentioned:

  1. Semel, E., Wiig, E. H., & Secord, W. A. (2003). Clinical evaluation of language fundamentals, fourth edition (CELF-4). Toronto, Canada: The Psychological Corporation/A Harcourt Assessment Company.
  2. Richard, G. J. & Hanner, M. A.(2005) The Language Processing Test 3. East Moline, IL: LinguiSystems, Inc.
  3. Partyka, C. M. & Kresheck, J. D. (1983). A comparison of categorization skills of normal and language delayed children in early elementary schools. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 14, 243-251.

I would like to highlight another article more which adds to my reasoning for using Categories Learning Center:

  • Constantinidou, F. & Kreimer, L. (2004). Feature description and categorization of common objects after traumatic brain injury: The effects of a multi-trial paradigmBrain and Language, 89(1), 216-225. 
    • 13 individuals with TBIs were compared to a control group of 13 non-TBI participants. 3 part study including spontaneous description of items,  feature training, and application of features. Items trained were organized into categories: Food, sports, kitchen items, bathroom items, tools, and jewelry (20 total).
  • Results showed patients with TBI used fewer perceptual features before training, but were able to learn once given specific instruction in feature analysis.

Using Categories Learning Center in a similar manner by instructing clients on features to look for when categorizing may help increase describing vocabulary and identification of everyday items. The features used to describe in Constantinidou & Kreimer (2004) were color, shape, size, weight, texture, detail, and function. Young or old, these features help categorize items; thus this app has the potential to help with identification and application of feature/categorical knowledge and learn new vocabulary along the way.

Overall, I would recommend Categories Learning Center  for SLPs, parents, teachers, and other clinicians.

*Let it be known, I received a complimentary copy of Categories Learning Center for my full and honest review.*

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