Reading Eggs is a very popular early literacy program for young children, but to date I have not been much of a fan. Its logic has always seemed too Whole Language/Balanced Literacy. I didn’t include it in my Top Early Literacy Apps list earlier this year.
I was therefore pretty excited to hear that there is now a synthetic phonics version of Reading Eggs called Fast Phonics, and that it includes decodable books. I signed up for their 30-day trial (the sign-in options were “parent” or “teacher” so I tossed a coin and got “parent”), hoping to be able to enthusiastically recommend it. Continue reading
We have a new set of download-and-print decks of phonics playing cards, this time targeting more advanced spelling patterns. The cards are still child-sized (5 X 6.5cm) with words facing both up and down, making them easy to read from either side of a table.
The first few decks each target one sound (phoneme) spelt multiple ways:
- “you” as in “music”, “argue”, “dune”, “stew”, “Europe”, “view”, “beauty”, “nuisance”, and “vacuum”.
- “u” as in “much”, “front”, “cousin”, “blood”, and “does”.
- “o” as in “doll”, “swamp”, “fault”, and “cough”.
- “s” as in “since”, “cent”, “purse”, mess”, “scene”, and “whistle”.
- “l” as in “later”, “grill”, “beetle”, “final”, “model”, “lentil”, and “idol” (linguistics purists, these words contain only syllabic /l/ after an alveolar stop).
- “j” as in “joint”, “legend”, “large”, “judge”, and “adjust”.
- “f” as in “drift”, “effect”, “graph”, “laugh” and “sapphire”.
Most young children are already using apps on phones or tablets, at least occasionally. Whatever you think of kids’ screen time, we want it to be quality time. There is some evidence that interactive apps support early academic development, but finding quality early literacy apps can be difficult and time-consuming. Lots of what’s available is (IMHO) simply rubbish.
It’s helpful to read adult reviews of apps for children, but a lot of online information is available about them already, and to REALLY road-test an app, I like to watch a young child using it. My colleague Caitlin Stephenson and I have thus filmed Harrison (aged 4, nearly 5) trying out some of my favourite early phonemic awareness and phonics iPad apps for young children.
The resulting video is below. We hope it gives you a taste of how each app works, to help you decide whether it would suit the small person/people in your life. The video is 16 minutes long, and the apps tried are listed below (numbers in brackets are start times on the video clock):
The only tablet I have is an iPad, but some of these apps are available for other platforms. Many also work on iPhones. If you’re not in Australia, please note that my app store links are all to the Australian store, so you’ll have to search your local store for apps that take your fancy.
I’m not quoting prices here because they often change, and things that I’ve said are free suddenly aren’t, while things I’ve said are expensive drop in price. Also, some apps have hundreds of activities, while some have only one/a few, so it’s like comparing apples and banquets. I’ve decided to leave the value-for-money question up to you.
Other early literacy iPad apps IMHO worth considering for young children include:
Beginners’ decodable books allow children to practice phonics skills by reading stories containing simplified spelling patterns, and some of these are also available as apps:
Apologies to all the people who make good apps of which I’m not aware. I’d love to hear about them, and wish I had more time to search for and try them.
I hope this blog post helps you find apps that the small people in your life enjoy, and which help them develop great early literacy skills.
These days we all have the attention span of a gnat, so here’s a new, 60-second video about a simpler, faster way to play my free Twender word-building card game:
- Download the game from https://www.spelfabet.com.au/materials/level-5-twender-game-comic-sans-font
- Print the consonant cards in one colour and the vowel cards in a different colour.
- Ignore the original instructions, or try playing both ways.
- Deal the two sets of cards equally.
- Race to make words with all your cards. The winner is the person who uses all their cards up first, or if nobody can do this, the person who makes the most words.
Happy New Year from all of us at Spelfabet!
Just in time for our thank-goodness-winter-is-over school holidays, here’s a dozen more vowel-sound-focussed playing card decks, including two freebies, to download and print.
These decks are a little more advanced than the previous ones available here, here and here. They reflect the teaching sequence used in the Phonic Books Talisman 1/Rescue Series and the Sounds-Write program‘s Extended Code section and books, but can be used with other synthetic phonics teaching sequences and programs.
The decks work from sound to print, and focus on the following sound-spelling relationships:
- /ay/ as in “mistake”, “contain”, “holiday”, “navy”, “obey” and “great”.
- /ee/ as in “coffee”, “disease”, “secret”, “carry”, “believe”, “protein” and “compete”.
- /oe/ as in “remote”, “roast”, “follow”, “hero” and “mangoes”.
- /er/ as in “swerve”, “circle”, “burnt”, “search” and “worth”.
- /ou/ as in “aloud” and “trowel”, and /oy/ as in “point” and “destroy”.
- /oo/ as in “smooth”, “rule”, “true”, “fluid”, “jewel” and “group”.
- /igh/ as in “delight”, “despite”, “crisis”, “apply” and “allies”.
- /or/ as in “porch”, “before” and “drawn”.
- /or/ as in “stall”, “chalk”, “brought”, “daughter”, “author” and “warm” (there were so many spellings of this sound they wouldn’t fit in a single deck).
- /air/ as in “chair”, “declare”, “bear”, “where” and “their”.
- /ar/ as in “charm”, “past”, “calm”, “heart” and “aunt”.
- One deck of high-frequency words with a mixture of the above sound-spelling relationships (not available separately, but included to bring this set up to a dozen decks).
The decks can be downloaded individually (starting from the third item here) or as a discounted bundle of 12. We suggest printing the cards on A4 200gsm cardboard, available from major stationery shops, which can be used in most printers/photocopiers.
If you plan to use the cards a lot, we suggest laminating them, though this is not essential if you’d rather not add to the planetary plastic overload. We recommend that children be encouraged to practise their scissor skills by cutting them up, rounding the corners if a more professional look is sought.
All the decks can be used for any card game requiring a standard deck of cards, from very simple games of chance like War to complex strategic ones like Mancala. See this previous blog post for videos of other suggested games.
We hope these cards give many children many hours of well-targeted, high-intensity repeated reading practice, cleverly disguised as fun. Thanks once again to Caitlin Stephenson for the original idea and design.
Here in Melbourne’s inner north, we will have some phonemic awareness and phonics/spelling small groups running in the first week of October 2019 (our second week of school holidays). The groups will be for children in their first three years of school.
The sessions will be held at the Spelfabet office in North Fitzroy (Suite 3, 430 Rae St), and will be run by Tessa Weadman, Speech Pathologist. She is highly skilled and very smiley and nice, here she is:
Each group will have three one-hour sessions on Wednesday 2nd, Thursday 3rd and Friday 4th October (the days Tessa works). Children will be expected to attend all three sessions. Each group will include a maximum of three children, so they will be quite intensive. The cost of the groups will be $270 per child for the three days.
Times will be as follows:
- 9:00am-10:00am targeting Foundation/Prep children who are struggling to blend and segment and thus can’t reliably read or spell even little words with two or three sounds and simple spellings like “at”, “fun” and “hop”.
- 10.30am-11.30am targeting Grade 1 or 2 children who can blend and segment a little, and read and spell some two and three-sound words like “at”, “fun” and “hop”, but struggle with longer words and words with harder spellings.
Children not already on our caseload will need to come in for an initial assessment beforehand, so that we can be sure they are a good fit for one of the groups.
If these groups fill up, Tessa or other Spelfabet staff may be able run more, either in the afternoon of the same week or the first week of the school holidays. We are also now planning groups for the January 2020 school holidays.
Please email Tessa on email@example.com if you would like to find out more about any of these holiday groups and/or express interest in bringing a child to one of them.
There’s a new set of downloadable phonics playing cards in the Spelfabet shop, including a couple of free decks. These add a few new sound-spelling relationships and syllable types as well as mixing and reviewing patterns covered earlier. Spaced practice, people.
The sequence broadly matches the Phonic Books (last bit of Magic Belt/That Dog, and most of Alba/Totem) and Sounds-Write teaching sequence, but the cards should be able to be used with most other phonics teaching sequences. All four of us at Spelfabet have done some work on these, after Caitlin Stephenson had the original idea.
Use these cards to play any of the games shown in videos in this previous blog post, or any other game you like requiring a standard deck of playing cards. Continue reading