The Pocket Phonics Stories application is a program to teach students to read using phonics. It is designed to be used with individual or multiple students and is great for classroom or group use. Students are asked to master and practice letter sounds, a mix of vowels and consonants, letter tracing and repetitive sounds. Students can then move onto reading short books focused on letter sounds previously learnt. Teachers and parents can view a report of their child’s, student or class progress and how much time has been spent on each section. Students receive fantastic printable certificates when a level is completed. In-app purchases can be made for further letters and books. Pocket Phonics Stories is a complete program for teaching kids to read, starting with single-letter sounds and advancing to blends and long-vowel sounds.
Upon opening the application, the user is greeted with a fun splash screen and a chance to set up a user profile. It is good to see that the profile set up is protected by a multiplication secure question. There is also a secure set up for the parent’s zone where you can find help and support, your account and links to other apps from the developer. The app can also be used to set up individual users, small or large groups and organisations such as a school. This option can be managed within the on-line platform for the app. We love the fact that each user can add their name, date of birth and photo, this would be ideal for use in a classroom situation. Once a profile has been set up the teacher or parent can set letters to uppercase, lowercase or cursive and also an American or British style of hand writing. This is a great feature as many phonic apps miss the option of lowercase and capitals or they are purely designed for an American audience.
Once the user has entered their profile they are asked to master 1 of 24 levels. Each level has a mixture of games focusing on a series of letters in turn. The first section focuses on letters S,A,T,P,I and N. Once a letter is chosen the user needs to trace the letter correctly, this then moves onto matching letters into simple words. We love the letter tracing and this really helps with fine motor skills and letter construction. We also love the animations that accompany the words. Once the user has completed the set of letters and words they can move onto the next level. Once again there is a parental or teacher lock for these levels to see if the child is ready.
Level 2 looks at a set of 6 books which include words and letters that have been previously learnt. Two of these books are unlocked where the other books require a subscription. Reading a story introduces words and pictures. Tapping on the word helps the child to further their knowledge. There is also a series of picture games and card games to test their knowledge. We really like the fact that the audio recalls the child’s name making it very personalised and if a child gets an answer wrong choices are eliminated so they can try again. Our only concern was with the character “It”, some children found this difficult to read as a capital “I” appeared mid sentence. Once the book has been mastered the child is rewarded with 3 stars. All these levels are linked to some fantastic personalised on-line platform certificates where the teacher or the parent can monitor the progress of the child and print then off accordingly. These reports can be handy for parents and the certificates are great for motivation. We found at times the app was a little slow for some of our users and books were a little dull. Although as an initial app for young readers it is highly effective. It is clear that the app is more instructional rather than fun but the increasing levels should keep the users engaged. We did notice that levels can be skipped and unlocked by parents or teachers if previous levels seem a little slow.
The in-app purchases offer a lot of material, customisation and reporting. Access to the on-line platform is really where this app comes into its own and the developers can be congratulated for the way it which this works. Being able to see the progression of each child in several formats such as letter sounds, books, numbers and the alphabet that has been covered. The ability to send tracker invitations and a weekly report for progress is excellent. Our students really enjoyed the certificates which helped to create competition and motivation within the classroom. Parents also receive emailed progress notifications and they can also can get a free ebook on teaching kids to read via the settings.
It is noted that parents and teachers can try the app for free and there is availability of low-cost subscriptions for both parents and schools.
There are a number of phonic apps available in the appstore and the Pocket Phonics Stories application in by far one of the best. Not only does the app contain a vast amount of content but along with the support of the on-line platform it is a great way for children to engage in an educational, instructional and fun way.
From the Developer
PocketPhonics Stories is the award-winning 'learn to read' app for 4 to 7 year-olds. One of only nine education apps awarded the top A+ rating by Balefire Labs. Our apps are used in hundreds of UK primary schools.
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The app uses a British voice and the synthetic phonics method of teaching reading as outlined in the national curriculum. It guides children through the literacy journey, beginning with helping them to learn and write their first letter sounds and ending with them being able to read the app's 43 stories by themselves.
PocketPhonics Stories is split in to 12 groups of letter sounds, each group is followed by a set of storybooks that use those letter sounds. Kids read storybooks that are on the right level for them.
In the first group of letter sounds, there are six sounds to master before the child will be able to read their first storybook. Most children aged 4+ will start to read their first storybook within 10 weeks if they are using the app for 15 mins everyday.
Parents and teachers can easily monitor children’s progress online. They can see what stage the child is currently at, any letter sounds they are having difficulty with and what storybooks have been read. Furthermore, teachers and parents are also emailed a certificate when a child completes a task.
Children can tap an unfamiliar word in a story, and the app will sound out the letters to help the child understand what the word says. If that’s not enough, they can tap again to hear the actual word and see a picture that illustrates its meaning.
The storybooks gradually introduce high-frequency words like “the” and “to” that are harder to read because they follow less common spelling rules. Words that the child is likely to find difficult to read in a story are highlighted in red. This takes into account what the app has learned about the child’s phonics knowledge and ability to read longer words.
As the child reads a story, the child’s ability to read certain keywords in the storybooks will be tested to make sure they can read them and understand their meaning.
At the end of the story, the app tests the child on the new words in that story. Each word is spoken in turn, and the child has to select the written form of the word. Only once they are able to correctly identify all the words in all the books on this level, does the app move on to teach them the next group of letter sounds.
Specifically, children master the following skills:
* writing letters (more choice of handwriting styles than any other app)
* recognising 72 letter sounds (e.g. ‘ch’ are the letters that make the initial sound in ‘chat’)
* blending letter sounds together to make words (e.g ‘ch-a-t’)
* hearing a word and selecting its written form (e.g. the app says, “chat”, the child has to select ‘chat’ from a group of words - some of which are similar to chat)
How it works
* 7-day free trial
* The £1.49 monthly subscription unlocks access to all books and phonics levels for an unlimited number of children
* The subscription gives you access to more books as they are added
* Once subscribed, your subscription auto-renews each month. However, you can easily turn auto renew off via the Settings app
* Payment will be charged to your iTunes account at confirmation of purchase
* Subscription automatically renews unless auto-renew is turned off at least 24-hours before the end of the current period
* Cannot cancel current subscription during its subscription period