Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Phonics and Readng with McGuffey App

My kids love using the iPad, and I love giving them educational apps to use. That's why I was excited to review Phonics and Reading with McGuffey from LiteracySoft.

The app is based on McGuffey's Eclectic Primer Revised Edition, the most successful education textbook of all time. The 53 lessons allow the student to learn at his own pace and gives him the confidence he needs to read at a first grade level.

The app is designed to accomplish the following:
  •  Ensure no expert phonics supervisor is needed for students to gain maximum value from the lessons
  • Work for any literacy level 
  • Act as your own personalized tutor, except in a computer 
  • Let students set their own pace, repeating or slowing down lessons as much as they like 
  • Guide your student step-by-step through reading and spelling practice 
  • Provide multi-sense learning including sound, vision, and motion to appeal to a wide variety of learning styles 
  • Utilize the power of synthetic phonics – the dyslexia-busting learning technique 
  • Be simple and easy to use for students at any level

I downloaded it to the iPad (also available for PC) and handed it to Alyssa, my 5-year-old. The set-up was easy. She chose a spot on the user screen and typed in her name. From there, she started the lesson. The app is designed to be the teacher, so my presence was not really needed. I sat with her as she completed the first few lessons, but she often went off by herself after that. (Though that was because she was trying to get away from her noisy brothers!) 

I really have mixed feelings about this app. For one thing, when it gives the sound of r in lesson one, instead of saying a true r sound, he says "ruh." It does the same thing with p, b, and g also. Alyssa used to pronounce the sounds correctly when she was sounding out words, but I've noticed her adding that "uh" to the end of the letter. 

Another pronunciation that I don't like is the word a. In this case, the word should be pronounced "uh," but it is said as a long a (ay) sound. 

One more thing, and this may just be me being picky, but I'm a little undecided about the phonics blender section in the levels. While Alyssa (and her two brothers) loves switching the letters to make words, I'm not so sure it's helping with the spelling of real words. For instance, since the McGuffey Primer teaches the z sound of s (like in has) before it teaches the typical s sound (like in sat) or before it teaches the z sound, the app teaches it that way as well. So, as the kids were playing around, Alyssa decided to spell Zac's name since when she touched the s, it sounded like z. She wrote sac, but it pronounced it as Zac. Does that make sense? They were able to make many real (and silly) words as the lessons went on, but many times it was not as they were truly spelled. One of them would say, "Look, Mom, I made _____!" And though that's what the voice said aloud, that's not actually what they spelled. For instance, pal would be pronounced as pale because they chose the ā, mon is said as moon, rum becomes room because of the ū, and so on.

But there are some good points that I really like, too. For one thing, it matches up to the McGuffey Primer. We've used some of the McGuffey books with our oldest and now I can use the Primer right along with the app to reinforce what Alyssa is learning. And what's even better is that she likes using the app and even asks if she can do it! Even though little Zachy is only 3, he likes "playing" it, too. They always laugh at the silly little animated graphics and really enjoy making words in the phonics blender. While there are aspects that I don't like, the two of them are learning from it. I have seen an improvement in Alyssa's reading.

The full version of Phonics and Reading with McGuffey costs $19.99. You can also try the lite version or the first 10 lessons on the PC for free and download a free copy of McGuffey's Primer in color to aid in the lessons.

Want to see what other families thought about this app? You can head over and read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

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