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Pirate Phonics : Blackbeard's Alphabet

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BlackBeards’s Alphabet, by Unit11, is an educational game for preschoolers that will help them learn the alphabet, the letter sounds and even practice writing. It is a fun and engaging learning game that, because of the pirate theme, we feel it might appeal more to boys.  The app allows young learners to personalise their experience by giving them the option to choose the representative words for each letter. BlackBeards’s Alphabet is a great tool for learning the alphabet and receives a 5 star EAS Certification.

Teacher Review

The name of the app is inspired by one of the most well-known English pirates, Blackbeard, and the app relates to piracy in a fun way, by suggesting words like anchor or cannon instead of more common ones like apple or cat.

What adults need to know is that on opening the app you will see a main screen where you have in the middle the start button, in the bottom left corner 2 buttons and the Settings button on the bottom right corner. It is important to check what the learners will be able to access if they are left alone with the app. The button on the bottom left corner that has the developer’s logo on it is actually advertising another app from the same developer. There’s no problem showcasing your apps as long as you protect the feature with a password. Unprotected links are not user friendly when the app targets young learners as they can be a distraction and will take the children out of the app.

By pressing start you will be able to see and listen to a short story explaining what is expected from the user and to give you an idea about the whole pirate theme. Two characters are explaining that they’re making a poster to help them learn the alphabet, put the letters in alphabetical order and choose a picture for each letter. Uncertain of what words to choose the pirate joins in and tells them not to pick predictable words like ‘apple’ or ‘ant’ and you’re shown the BlackBeard’s Alphabet. The animations are funny and the voice over is easy on the ear. To us it sounded like all the characters were voiced over by the same person but we’re sure the kids won’t mind the friendly tone. 

You are then taken to the ‘My alphabet’ section where you will see all the letters of the alphabet each with a corresponding image. On the top right corner you have a zoom tool that will help with identifying what’s in the image on devices with a smaller screen. On the bottom left corner you will see the ‘Learn’ section and on the right side the ‘Games’ section.

We first recommend going through all the letters in the alphabet first and let the children pick the photo they want for each letter. They will be given 4 options and for each letter there will be at least one word related to the pirate theme. For example we selected letter ‘g’ and we were given the following words: gate, goat, gold and gun. By tapping on the photo you’ll hear the word (we think that the background music should be off or at a lower volume because it interferes with the sounding of the word). For each you’ll get a funny comment from the captain. We were a bit confused to see names like Captain Scrag and Captain Gladis in the comments, considering the name of the captain is BlackBeard. Pick the photo and the word you want to represent the letter just by tapping on it. On the top of the screen you’ll be able to access the section where children can practice letter writing by following the contour of the letter. For some reason there are two separate sections for the same function of letter writing, the only difference being the badges earned for each correct contour. The app is very precise and shows children in a small video how to do the work and also features another button that helps them with the letter sounds.

In the ‘Learn’ section children can see the letters in the alphabetical order and hear the phonic sound of each letter. It’s a good feature of the app and children should be encouraged to return to it.

In the ‘Games’ section there are 4 types of games that are teaching the correct alphabetical order: ‘Pictures’ – where you have to drag the picture beginning with the missing letter into the space; ‘Missing Letter’ – where you have to drag the bubble with the missing letter in the correct space; ‘Jumble’ – swap the portholes of the ship so that the letters are in alphabetical order; ‘Alphabet order’ – you’re given an incomplete alphabet and you will have to drag the letters in the correct alphabet order. The first two games are very similar and we had only one concern regarding the ‘Jumble’ game. You are shown how the letters change their position before you start so you’re actually given the solution of just swapping them back. Except for the last game, the others focus on just three letters and the next level focuses on the next three letters in the alphabet. Repetition will help learners with the learning and games are based on that formula.

The app is fun to play with and kids will learn easily by seeing the letters, hear their sound, and hear up to four words beginning with the letter and also the images for each one of them. Memorisation is encouraged by how the games and the whole content of the app are structured. In terms of correction and feedback to the learners the app provides whether the answer is correct or incorrect with the possibility to try again. In order to identify progress both teachers and parents will have to watch the children when they play and also extend the learning experience by asking them to identify real objects starting with a specific letter or to repeat the alphabetical order.


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From the Developer

Rated 5/5 and Recommended by, official advisor to the Tablets for Schools scheme. 

Blackbeard's Alphabet is a great way for kids to learn the letters of the alphabet, alphabetical order, the phonic sound each letter makes and even how to write each letter!

The app is all about making your own alphabet. You can choose boring - I mean popular - words like apple or cat, or you can choose awesome words like anchor or cannon.
The choice is yours, but fear not - I'll let you know which words I think you should be choosing!

The app uses a phonic alphabet, so it's perfect for kids beginning to read.

Its funny, engaging and educational - what more could a young pirate ask for?

Fully compatible with iOS 7. |

More Less

Learning Outcomes

Key Features

In-App Purchases - No

In-App Advertising - Yes - 1st Party