This is a fantastic app that has been extremely well developed by professionals proficient in not only the topic of phonics but also with a very good understanding of the education and classroom setting. From visiting the developer’s website it is clear to see this knowledge in evidence with their understanding of both these areas. The developer is a Yr1 primary school teacher and their knowledge of synthetic phonics in practice is clearly evident throughout the app. The website itself hosts a treasure trove of information including videos on making as much of the app as possible and further information behind why the app has been developed.
The aim of the app is to make learning to read as simple as possible using synthetic phonics, the government choice in UK schools. Utilising the 44 sounds of the English language the app breaks these sounds down into 4 stages and has the user work through these. The stages progress naturally, as they would be taught in schools, meaning that there is a sense of familiarity between using an app like this at home and how reading will be taught in school. This is definitely beneficial and much better than an app that tries to teach phonics in a different way from how the user would be taught it in schools, potentially confusing the child and undoing some of the work happening in school.
Once the user logs onto the app they are welcomed to the home screen where they can select from the 4 stages to access the content. Once a stage has been selected then each of the letter sounds in that stage is given on a new screen. If a user has already accessed some of the content then this will be shown in how much of the letter (in the main screen) has been highlighted. If none has been accessed then the letter remains white however if all has been accessed then the letter becomes yellow. Varying amounts of content accessed are then shown by the level of colouring in. This is ideal in seeing at a glance how much content someone has accessed and whether it has been ‘completed’ or not.
Once a letter sound has been selected the user then works through 7 different games aimed at helping the user to learn, practice and compound their understanding of each of the letters. Employing gamification the user has three lives in the games, losing a life for every incorrect answer. Losing all lives takes the user out of that letter encouraging them to re-access the letter and start from the beginning. This is good as it encourages users to practice each sound over and again until they master it.
Although the app is free and can be used at home or in an education setting there is another option to accessing the content in the app. This is through setting up an account via the website and accessing a number of extra tools. The first two months of this are free and after that it is still value for money considering what you have access to. The tools, through this option, allow you to track users. This is perfect for an education setting, although could also be used by a parent if they wish. However for a school it allows the teacher to see the progress of their students and to act on this and target either specific students or areas for students to work on. This certainly adds a lot of value to the app and the way that it can be used by professionals.
Overall, I would say this is one of the best phonics apps I have come across especially for UK schools. It is tied in very well to the curriculum and the processes children are used to in school and with its clean, easy to use functionality it is perfect in helping young children to read through synthetic phonics.