Short Vowel Word Study offers three levels of developmental spelling activities and two mini-games to help beginning readers learn the phonics patterns that involve short vowels. The focus on short vowel sounds is perfect, since learning vowels is usually the toughest part of learning phonics.
Dozens of practice words at three levels of difficulty
Games open after children have “worked” on words
Clear narration makes it easy to discern the differences between short vowels
Developmentally appropriate and sequenced exercises
Detailed parent information section
Short Vowels Word Study is a high quality app that will truly help most children master concepts related to short vowels, word families and closed syllables. The app is mostly intuitive to use and the games are fun. Background music can be turned on and off by the user, but some graphics and the “age” of the voice overs may make this app less appropriate for older, struggling readers when the activities themselves would be very helpful. In addition, the “spell it” activity can be completed too quickly and cause the voice over to overlay itself and/or to skip sounding the entire word.
This app is based on ideas from a series of books called “Words Their Way” that encourages teachers and parents to use a hands-on and experiential approach to teaching basic reading and spelling skills. Research shows the approach to be very effective with most learners, and the app’s developers have given adult users access to some great information about the process of learning to read, both in their in-app explanation and in the links they provide in the protected parents’ section.
There are three levels of words presented to users. Simple three letter words are the focus of the Word Family and the Short Vowels section, with the first focused on vowels and ending sounds, and the second requiring users to discern similar vowel sounds without the stepping stone of rhyming or having a common ending sound. The third level presents longer words that have four and five letters while still retaining the single short vowel in the middle. Within each level, there are four sets of activities. The sorting exercise is a digital version of the types of word sorting activities recommended by the authors of “Words Their Way.” Children sort words based on one of three target characteristics. In the “Find It” activity, students are challenged to find the one word of four that does not match the other three. The “Spell It” activity makes a nice stepping stone to independent spelling, because it has students dragging letter tiles to the correct positions to spell. The easiest levels simply require fitting the initial consonant into place to match the picture, and the upper levels present a collection of tiles, some of which are needed to spell the word correctly. The “Write It” exercise shows a tracing guide, and allows students to trace and then to write the word from memory without the guidelines. A nice feature at the end returns the tracing lines so that users can assess their own accuracy. It was somewhat difficult to use the pencil feature on the writing exercise-the response to my touch was quite sluggish, and it was not clear to me that all I was to do was tap the pencil to see it go through the motions of writing the word. In addition, this sequence happens way too fast for many youngsters to process, and in my opinion, needs just a bit of work.
Spelling words eventually unlocks two extra mini-games, but I could not find any indication of how much work is needed to unlock the games. It would be nice to at least have this clearly indicated in the parents’ section. When I did finally unlock the mini-games, I found that there is a Bingo Game, which is pretty straightforward, and one called “Slingshot” that I could not figure out how to play. I did not see any directions anywhere, so the game would definitely benefit from a “help” system!
Short Vowels Word Study is fun overall, but seems a bit tame compared to some apps. I think kids would enjoy a more clear rewards system that helps them keep track of progress toward the goal of opening up the mini-games. It would also be nice to have more enthusiastic rewards after correct responses to encourage young users to continue.
This app is a great value at $2.99, especially if it will be used by multiple young readers. It provides a great framework for learning these early concepts and kids will enjoy the practice enough to keep going to cement the skills. Hopefully developers will come out with companion apps that help kids move even farther up the ladder!
Short Vowel Word Study is very child friendly and safe for young children to use with minimal supervision. There is a protected parents’ area with live links to supplemental information sites, but these open in the app rather than within your browser. There are no outside advertisements, no in-app purchases, no links to email or social media.
Protected parent area (contains links to additional information about the concepts)