It’s back to school time, and you may be starting to think about how you could incorporate the iPad into your child’s learning time this school year. A hot trend right now in educational apps are those which offer your child a learning experience that is intended to follow a progression. These phonics apps can be used over a longer period of time, may include a subscription fee, and contain more content than a traditional app. In the next few weeks I will be reviewing the pros and cons of these types of apps, and hope that you will find a few that will work for your children during this school year.
Phonics Museum (iOS only)
The Phonics Museum app is a colorful engaging phonics app for children. The app is aimed at serving children in preschool/kindergarten range who are just beginning to learn their letters and the associated sounds. The app is based on a classical approach to education and has been developed by Veritas Press. There is an intense focus on phonics with the intent to help children beginning reading skills which makes it a great supplement to other language arts activities your child is learning.
The app proceeds with a systematic series of lessons that introduce your child to capital and lowercase letters, sounds, and how to write the letters. Consider using a stylus with your child instead of their finger to facilitate the transfer to writing. There are several styles of fonts used within the app which could be confusing for some children, however, this allows your child the opportunity to see the letters as presented in in various print and manuscript formats. The app follows a progression of watching an engaging video with a real teacher and short activities interspersed within the videos. The videos have a mix of a cartoon and a real teacher, Miss Biddle, who is reminiscent of Fred Rogers, Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow, and Captain Kangaroo (that many of us may remember) but with an updated feel. The app has delightful characters and a unique museum setting with graphics that are bright and engaging.
The app does begin with a sign-in procedure and an option to join free for two weeks. This is a great way to test the app with your child to see if you would like to purchase a monthly or yearly subscription. Parents, take the time to set up the app and download the content before working with your child. The app has lots of content so it does take longer than a traditional app to get started. Your child can only start at the beginning of the app. In future iterations, I hope to see a way to choose where a child can start interacting with the content. The app works nicely on the iPhone, so it would be great on the go!
Read4Kids (iOS only)
This app focuses on phonics skills and works through twenty lessons. It is heavily based on the phonetic approach to reading, but does incorporate sight words into the instruction. The lessons begin by introducing each individual letter and the sound associated with the letter and children are expected to progress through after starting at the beginning. There is an optional area with activities that parents can choose where their child engages and match skills and concepts they are already learning in their current curriculum. There is a helpful question mark to guide your child if he needs support. The voice in the app is rather robotic and may not be pleasing to your child’s ear. The stories are phonetically based and not accompanied by any picture support; therefore, you will want to provide your child with many reading experiences outside of the app. There is also no reward of gameplay associated with the app. The app is $2.99 and appropriate for children ages 4-6.
Hooked on Phonics (iOS, Android, Kindle)
Hooked on Phonics features over 250 songs, videos, and games to teach your child essential phonics skills. It comes with a seven day free trial and then you can opt into a subscription service. The app relies heavily on music video content to teach your child letter sounds. It also uses word chunks to teach your child how to begin to read and make associations between words. This app could carry your child beyond just learning the letters and sounds as it introduces small words and short phrases. As with many apps your child needs to “start at the beginning” and follow the progression mapped out by the creators. It would be helpful to have a placement area where parents could decide how and when their child progresses. Each lesson includes a video, games and activities for your child to explore the concept taught, as well as a short story. The app contains many different kinds of in-app purchases ranging from a one year subscription for $39.99 to a monthly option for $6.99.