Bam Boomerang by Open Reading is an INCREDIBLE app designed for children aged 3-7. The combination of phonics instruction, a physics-based game, and engaging characters keep children interested and entertained. The phonics focus in this app is considerate of children. It begins by teaching three letter sounds and progresses by asking the children to put those sounds together into words. This pattern repeats throughout the app: introduce new letters and then use those letters to create simple words. Children succeed immediately and often.
A physics-based game is embedded throughout the app. The main character, a colorful parrot, asks the children to find a particular letter sound or word. Children must take aim with a pea-shooter and avoid obstacles such as boards and pea-eating worms to hit the specified word or letter. Rubber bands are also placed throughout the game to add the pea’s trajectory. Once the appropriate word or letter is hit, children receive drops in their honey jar. Next, children will be asked to read/say a specific word or letter sound Then the app will record the child’s voice saying the word or sound (remember this: it’s important). After a correct letter or sound bubble has been broken, the children are asked to hit the key. Each key hit results in the ice that it’s hidden in becoming cracked and eventually broken. Once the key is broken free of the ice it is in(and more honey is given), children are taken to the home screen where they get to open a lock. Four open locks allow the children to move on to the next level.
Every day children open the app, the parrot begins by replaying three or four of the recordings the child created the previous day. The app magically uses voice recognition software to allow the child to hear their recordings. Encouraging the child, the parrot informs the child if what they said was correct or incorrect. If all parts of the sound or word were correct, the child receives three honey drops. If a part of the word is incorrect, they receive fewer drops. For example, if the initial sound in incorrect and the remainder of the sounds are right, the child will get two drops of honey. As a reading teacher, one of the most difficult skills to get students to understand is the importance of including ALL the sounds in the word. Bam Boomerang has ingeniously found a way to get children to pay attention to those all-important beginning and final consonants in a non-threatening way.
The drops of honey that are collected throughout the game are used as money to purchase items to decorate a house.
Gameplay was a little slow for my taste. While playing with my six-year-old son, I found myself wanting the game to hurry to next step. The graphics are also simple. While bright and colorful, the animations and graphics seem plain and a little boring. However, my son never hesitated in his enthusiasm. The game is perfectly paced for children. It is obvious the app-makers spent their time designing a developmentally appropriate app that makes learning to read fun!
Bam Boomerang is also courteous to teachers. Several students can create accounts on the same tablet. Additionally, teachers can elect to listen to their students work. The app saves the students’ recordings and teachers can go into the app and listen to their students’ progress. It allows for quick assessment of students strengths and weaknesses.
Overall, I highly recommend this app. It is difficult to find an app that takes literacy seriously. It is more difficult to find an app that presents early literacy in a developmentally appropriate way. This app does both with ease.
Katie Chirhart is a National Board Certified Teacher and has been teaching for sixteen years. She has specializations in early childhood and reading. She began her career in College Station, TX teaching a full inclusion pre-kindergarten class. Currently, Katie lives and works in Shreveport, LA. After spending ten years teaching third grade, she now teaches in an elementary iPad Lab. When time allows, she enjoys working with teachers far and wide sharing the wonders of technology. Her current job is a dream come true.