Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Literacy Soft~ McGuffey Reader App for the iPad

Ever since we have had an iPad in our home, it has been taken over by an incredible number of educational apps (we say the iPad is mine, but I think we know better...). Regardless, it's all good. :) The McGuffey Readers are a classic standby, so I was curious to see how they were treated when I was given the opportunity to review LiteracySoft's Phonics and Reading with McGuffey.

Once you have your user set up, they start at the beginning with lesson 1. I'm just going to walk you through an entire lesson, using screenshots (Mostly from lesson 1, but a few from further on). There is an "instructor" or "narrator" voice that gives direction for each screen in the lesson, and pushing the "Volume" icon repeats them, if necessary.
Screenshot of Lesson 1 Overview, which can be reached from the Table of Contents button on the home screen. Note: It *is* possible to move ahead in lessons via the Table of Contents, if there is material that has already been covered. 

Letter Sounds Screen (Lesson 1) 
Letter Sounds: Each lesson introduces a number of new sounds. In this case, the letters "short a," "hard c," "d," "n," "r," and "t."  The letter sounds are voiced as each letter is touched.

New Words: lists new words, which are sounded out, and then read as they are touched. The reader is encouraged to echo the sounding out and reading of the word (This struck me as a mix between phonics and sight reading). The narrator does mention spelling rules as they come up, but I think those must be pointed out for the younger reader to catch them.

Phonics Flashcards (Lesson 1)
Phonics Flashcards: a "quiz" page, where the reader is to touch the letter that represents the sound being spoken. Each time the answer is correct "light" is added to the a lightbulb. When all 6 lightbulbs are lit, that part of the lesson is over. This is a fast and effective drill, that creates a nice sense of accomplishment.

Phonics Blender
Phonics Blender~ This is actually my least favorite aspect of this app, even though my son enjoys playing here. This is a screen where the reader can build a word out of ANY letter combination. They can make real words as well as nonsense words, which is well and good. However, my issue with this is that the vowels are represented phonetically. I am finding causes confusion when working on spelling. There is nothing to distinguish WHY a "long e" is pronounced "EEE." I wish that the vowels were shown with their correct spellings "ee" as they are taught, rather than phonetically. When "ch" and "th" are taught they are represented correctly, and I just wish the vowels were as well.

Moving right along...

Lesson 13 overview with the lesson illustration
*Note~ each section of the lesson
be reached by clicking on the button on the left.
I love that flexibility! 
Lesson Illustration ~ Has a picture that coordinates with the reading practice. There is nothing to "do" on this page, other than to observe what is seen. LiteracySoft offers a free pdf download of the McGuffey Primer which corresponds directly to the app, so you do have the option to reinforce with a paper (or computer) copy if you so desire. I found this handy so that my son could see the Illustration and the Reading Practice on the same page, but I only used it AFTER going through the lesson on the iPad.

Reading Practice (Lesson 12)
Reading Practice~ A set of words are shown. I have my son try to sound them out on his own first. If he runs into trouble, then I have him touch the word he is having trouble with. The program then sounds it out for him, and reads it for him. After than, he starts over, and continues till he gets to the end. He then enjoys dragging his finger across the boxes to hear the words spoken without being sounded out.

Quiz~ is a page that quizzes the reader on the new sounds that were learned. Fairly simple screen, which shows the lesson letters. The "narrator" asks them to touch each letter by sound.

Spelling Practice
Spelling Practice~ Asks the reader to spell a particular word, and they have to drag the correct letters from the sky to the correct box on the flatbed before the truck will drive away, and a new letter will appear. This was fairly simple to start with, but now that we are getting further along, and there are more vowel sounds, youngest is finding that he has to listen VERY carefully to distinguish which one he needs to use. This is a good thing!
    Sight Word Drilling
    Sight Word Drilling~ In this last section, three words from the current (And possibly previous lessons) are shown, and one is spoken. The reader taps it, and the list of words changes immediately, and another word is spoken. The faster the words are tapped, the faster the engine runs. Accuracy counts, though, because a wrong word slows down or stops the engine. At the moment, our goal is for youngest to get through this part of the lesson in less than 100 seconds. Sometimes he zones out or gets flustered by the "timed" aspect and starts tapping random words. At that point I have to remind him to focus, and repeat the word that was said, before tapping it. When he is successful at beating the 100 second mark the first time through there is great excitement and jumping up and down, so I'd say this is a fairly effective tool.

    TOC Lesson "Jump Menu" home page
    All things considered, I am fairly happy with the way this app works, with the exception of the phonics blender~ and I'm guessing there was a valid reason for its inclusion, it just doesn't quite go with my teaching reading philosophy. The good news is that the app allows for any section to be skipped. While this is a very positive feature of the app, some students may require an adult overseeing their use to make sure that too many sections aren't skipped over... ;)

    Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
    • Company: LiteracySoft
    • Product: Phonics and Reading with McGuffey
    • Ages: Beginning Readers
    • Price: $19.99 for all 53 lessons (The first 10 lessons are available to download for free, so that you can check it out for yourself!) 
    Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.


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