Monday, December 01, 2008

Learn to Read with Starfall

I was just searching for educational games that might help my 2 1/2 year old son Orion recognize letters and their sounds a little more consistently. I stumbled upon Starfall and started playing some of the A, B, C games and I now realize that I know some elementary teachers that use it. Although it is somewhat excruciating and dull for me to play the games, I think that they would be engaging to a beginning reader.

In the alphabet game, the letters of the alphabet appear on ordered blocks. The child can click on the letter they would like to learn about and then are presented with both the uppercase and lowercase letter while experiencing a word that starts with that letter. For example, the letter 'H' is introduced with the sound and image of a horn. Once a letter has been presented, the sound it makes is made and then animated words that start with that letter and sound are shown. The words are said aloud by either adult or child voices. After several words are sounded out with the initial letter, the child is given a game to play. The progression through a letter activity seems appropriate and engaging.

There are a number of more advanced games where children can practice phonics as they read a story. My husband and I will definitely be using this site with our son.

Heidi Thibodeau AKA Heidi Beezley

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Itzabitza - Creativity & Reading in a Drawing Program

A small Seattle-based company called Sabi has recently teamed up with Microsoft to develop an interactive drawing/reading program called Itzabitza for the Microsoft platform. The game is unique because of its ability to recognize drawings and create interactions with the drawings that have been created.

The goal of this educational egame is to inspire creativity and promote reading in target audience of children ages 4+. As children draw, their drawings come to life. The program is able to recognize what has been drawn with the help of a drawing recognition program incorporated into the game called Living Ink. Because the game can recognize what has been drawn, the characters in the game can interact with it in natural ways. So for example, if a child is asked to draw a house, the computer will recognize the various elements that compose the house that is drawn and insert interactive components. A door and windows will appear, and once they have appeared, they can be opened. If the child draws doors, windows, or chimneys for example, the program recognizes them and uses them in the story. The characters can enter the house that has just been drawn by the child, climb the stairs, and be visible in the window on the second floor.

Children play the game by initiating quests. Each quest will prompt them to move or to draw. When they draw, their drawings become a part of the story. Part of the motivation, in addition to seeing your artwork incorporated in a story, is that you can only proceed to the next quest, or story line, after you have received enough stars. This unlocks the next quest.

The game has received high praise as an enticing way to inspire kids to read. Words, when they appear are clickable and can be read aloud. As the child begins playing, words will appear that will begin the quest. Once a child chooses a word, the child is prompted to do something related to that word.

More info.
Itzabitza Website
The Itzabitza Blog
Itzabitza Video Demo - Highly recommend the demo video. It's pretty amazing.

Heidi Thibodeau AKA Heidi Beezley

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