AppStore User Rating:
Phonics: Fun on Farm offers users a systematic and thorough introduction to early literacy skills. It uses engaging games to teach letter sounds, letter matching, tracing, blending and segmenting sounds, spelling, sight words and emergent reader fluency.
- 12 different games
- Systematic phonics approach
- Includes over 250 decodable words and many sight words
- 6 motivating scenes with stickers for rewards
- Record-keeping for multiple users
Phonics: Fun on Farm is an outstanding app that will keep the kids learning all through their early years as they develop reading skills. The app includes a clearly-written teacher/parent guide that explains the rationale for the exercises and their presentation. The “Settings” section allows control over the basics of the app, such as background music, the language used (American or coming soon British or Australian English), capital or lower case letters, and a choice of two different fonts. There is a “hints” function that can be turned on and off, but I could not find a difference in any of the levels I tried on both settings. When a new player begins, he or she can choose the matching account (or set one up), choose a group of letters to work with and then choose the specific game to play. The games are listed in order of complexity and a suggested learning strategy, but there are no constraints on students to play them in order.
The app is remarkably easy to use, and is nearly perfect for the very young or inexperienced users. The interfaces and directions are very clear and easy to understand. A few concerns did crop up during trials, however, that developers may wish to investigate further. In the j/v/w/y/z letter set, the Initial Sounds game, the yo-yo graphic does not show up on its card (it’s blank with the word “yo-yo”). The greater problem is that if this card is the target (the one asked for), the entire system hangs up and needs to be restarted. Another mild concern is that some vocabulary matches unexpected words with pictures, particularly for an American audience. For example, there is a picture of a pinwheel that is labeled as a “windmill” and a picture of a magnifying glass that is labeled “zoom.”
The makers of this app have worked very hard to ensure that the educational content is outstanding. They’ve covered all the bases needed for early reading, and the system of clustering letter sounds together into small groups makes it very manageable. It’s very cool that even when the same activity is repeated with the same letter group, the presentation order and details are randomized. With twelve games and six letter groups, there are nearly endless possibilities for learning. Games include matching sounds, choosing words that begin with target sounds, tracing letters, matching capitals and lower case, blending and segmenting sounds, spelling, and reading words and simple sentences. The app also includes short vowel sounds and sight words.
One concern is with the Reading section. Users are encouraged to record themselves reading the given word, then to listen to the narrator read the same word to see if they got it right. I had a great deal of difficulty getting the system to record my attempts correctly. I frequently was able to record the first two sounds of the word, but it did not pick up the final sound, no matter how long I held the record button. I’m not sure exactly what I was doing wrong, or if it’s a shortcoming of the software, but it might be very frustrating for a young child.
The app’s reporting section might be more functional, though. As it stands, parents are offered a percentage score for each of five areas (phonemic awareness, spelling, sight words, blending and reading fluency. However, adult mentors need to keep in mind that children are allowed infinite tries on each item, and can eventually respond correctly by process of elimination. I intentionally went through a level trying all three incorrect responses before giving the correct one on every item, and still managed to score 33%.
This app is highly engaging. Young users will be thrilled with the animations, illustrations, and sound effects. In addition, successful completion of each activity awards a sticker, and each of the six letter groups uses a different background and sticker set. Children can choose to play with their sticker collections by moving them around on the background to create new visual effects.
In spite of the few rough spots, this app is an excellent value. The early reading skills addressed are appropriate for toddlers through early elementary students, and the combinations provided by the six levels (letter groups) and the twelve games will occupy young children for hours and hours of productive game play.
This app is very child-friendly. There are no advertisements, no in-app purchases, and no links to social media, the App Store, email or the internet. Children can access the Parents’ Area, but they will not find any way to get into trouble there. The dense text will quickly send them off in boredom, yet parents can get the information about the app’s workings, its pedagogy, and can copy down contact and website information for the developers. Children can, however, access the records and information for their individual user accounts, and it would be possible for a persistent child to delete a user account or modify the user accounts.