One of the great mysteries that has challenged researchers is how people learn to read and comprehend text rapidly with ease. One way is by decoding. We can either sound out or blend graphemes into phonemes, or we can work with larger chunks of letters to blend syllabic units into recognizable words.
Phonics instruction helps children learn the relationships between the letters of written language and the sounds of spoken language. For most children this is what makes up the basis for a strong foundation in reading readiness. Children are taught, for example, that the letter f represents the sound /f/, and that it is the first letter in words such as four, fan and few. TWA has put together this review of best five phonics apps that give kids practice with basic phonics skills, including recognizing the letters of the alphabet, learning uppercase and lowercase letters, alphabet matching, and word building. These apps help kids work on practicing the alphabetic principle and help prepare kids to get ready to read.
AlphaTots Alphabet by Spinlight Studio – On the opening screen, children are greeted with the alphabet song, played softly and pleasantly. A robot appears and the child must intentionally push the letter for approximately 2 seconds. The letter name is given, as well as the sound of the letter. Each letter then has a picture that is interactive. Watch your child laugh as “nibbles” are taken out of the gingerbread man to demonstrate the letter “n”. Children will be completely engaged as they pound down the nails of a “hammer” or “mix” colors for the letter “m”. The menu allows the choice of both uppercase and lowercase letters, and the option to select ABC order or random letters. AlphaTots Alphabet offers a fun introduction to the ABCs with colorful graphics, interactive mini-games and a toe-tapping sing-along song. With each tap, they’ll see the lower- and upper case version of each letter, learn its sound and launch a fun game that engages them as they learn.
Interactive Alphabet by Piikea Street – The visuals are clear and colorful in this app which is most suitable for toddlers and preschoolers; however, if you are not able to keep a watchful eye on your little ones as they play, it would be easy for them to continually hit buttons that would interfere with sound quality and teaching. You are not without options though. For one thing, you can set a baby made by holding down a tab, which plays the interactive scene automatically for each letter in ABC order. Another option is to activate the button in the lower left hand corner with the musical note to hear the ABC song. Since most of us are not apt to leave our iPhones and iPads in the independent hands of toddlers and preschoolers, you can encourage good listening and appropriate pacing and likely make good use of this educational app.
Simplex Spelling Phonics – Rhyming With CVC Words by Pyxwise Software Inc – Teaches rhyming, segmenting and blending of over 300 three letter consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words. This newest version of Simplex Spelling can be customized to produce either the primary letter sounds or letter names for the alphabet. Additionally, all words are segmented and blended to help children build the phonemic awareness skills that are critical in becoming a lifelong fluent speller and reader.Simplex Spelling Phonics – Rhyming With CVC Words extends the Simplex Spelling series to create a comprehensive phonics curriculum that now spans kindergarten through grade 5. Simplex Spelling uses Pyxwise’s unique “reverse phonics” approach that acts like a personal spelling coach and guarantees success on every spelling word. A powerful combination of phonics lessons, spelling/word patterns, “reverse phonics”, and contextually relevant spelling rules have been seamlessly merged into an effective teaching tool.
Word Wizard by L’Escapadou – An exemplar app for multi-sensory, play-based learning of pre-literacy skills. This app has sophisticated text to speech capabilities used in conjunction with moveable alphabet tiles. This unique text to speech feature gives children the opportunity to play freely with letter sounds and with letter combinations, as well as to practice building spelling skills in a structured quiz mode. The developers are a homeschooling family, who have been inspired by the Montessori method. They have a strong belief that creativity is essential to a child’s development and well-being so therefore have incorporated that into all the apps they have developed.
Word Wizard is a unique app that lets kids hear the sounds of letters and words using a talking movable alphabet. Featuring advanced text to speech capabilities, the app can pronounce and spell-check an unlimited number of original words.
Smarty Pants School by Smarty Pants School LLC – An awesome application for the iPad that enables parents and teachers to introduce, teach, and reinforce a wide variety of pre-reading and reading skills games to their children. We guarantee the kids will have FUN playing! There are five different games or classes, each having multiple levels. There is also an assessment tool to gauge where to start each child. The look and feel of this app, as well as its user friendly, intuitive interface, is without a doubt one of the slickest we’ve seen. We were awed not just by the presentation, which is very COOL, but were impressed with the depth and scope of material that this very comprehensive app contains. The developers are a collaborative group of friends and parents that went out and did their research beforehand, and it shows! The music grabs you right away, the photography is sensational, the content is totally engaging, their mascot adorable, as are the little Smarty Pants voices, and the lessons to be learned are a must have.
Two Honorable Mentions
CHECK OUT these two oldies but goodies phonics apps: ABC Shakedown and the extended version, ABC Shakedown Plus. (Developed in ’09 – iPhone Only!) Both of these apps by i-Itch inc (aka Jayne and Anne) teach the sound-symbol correspondence of each letter of the alphabet in a 21st century way. Letters are viewed in a slideshow format with user friendly prompts to shake your way from A to Z. The game is based on a tried and true, educationally sound technique of seeing each letter of the alphabet while hearing the corresponding sound each letter makes. What really sets these apps apart from the others, is that all the sounds are enunciated, articulated and properly spoken with guidance from a speech pathologist. The Plus version has three games in which to master the letters of the alphabet through multi sensory, interactive play that incorporates delightful animation. Each game builds upon the next, reinforcing skills that will put your child on the road to reading in no time.
Want more? Read 5 things kids need before they’re ready to READ