Tiki Bear Phonics
Children in Prep and year one will be busy learning their alphabet and their associated sounds as a basic reading skill. Two fun Apps on my iPad might be just the thing to help reinforce the sounds. Tiki Bear phonics has two apps that cover all the alphabet. The free App covers the short vowel sounds while the second App covers the consonants.
After tickling Tiki Bear’s tummy, the child selects either a boy or girl character who is then displayed on the screen with the bear. They can then choose to practice their sounds or play one of three games. On completion of a game, the child receives a moveable sticker which is displayed on the home screen until the child quits the App.
Practice – Each letter has a separate screen featuring the letter and several pictures with their written names. The pictures can be moved around the screen. Children can hear the names of the pictures or the letter’s initial sound by tapping them.
Pairs – Children turn over pairs of cards featuring different pictures. Two of the pictures will begin with the same sound, such as snake and sock. Once the pair has been found, the cards are replaced with six different cards.
Matching – the child is presented with a picture in the centre of the screen and four letters placed in the corners. The task is to drag the picture to the correct letter. Children can tap on the pictures to hear their names, or the letter to hear the sound.
Touch the Turtle – children touch the turtle to hear a sound then select a picture that starts with the same sound from three pictures.
Graphics – All screens are clear with lots of space around the elements, making it easier to discriminate between the different elements. The images a
Spoken directions and prompts – All directions are clearly spoken and can be repeated if necessary. Sounds are played when the corresponding letter is tapped, and all pictures are spoken if tapped. This helps to avoid confusion as a few of the graphics may have several possible names. The picture of a panda is actually jog, as the panda is jogging, and the truck is actually a van.
Speech – The speech is a clear and well-paced British accent, so pronunciations are closer to our Australian pronunciations than American or Canadian accents for example vase.
Letter sounds are not voiced– By this I mean that vowel sounds are not added to the letter’s sound. For instance, M says mmmmm and not muh. This makes a big difference when learning to read and sounding out words. Think about the word men being sounded as mmm-en as opposed to muh-en. Ruth Alice Jurey, a speech-language pathologist, has a good article about this at http://www.aability.com/phonpron.php
Built-in Success – There is no negative feedback. Instead, children try again until they get the correct answer.
Rewards – A reward graphic and sound briefly pop up after each correct answer and then the game quickly moves on. After 5 questions, the game finishes and a reward sticker is added to the home page.
Fun activities – The activities are lots of fun. My four-year old loves to use this app. You might think that the games would be more fun than the practice section, but they are interesting as the games, at least in my home.
I have only minor concerns with this App, and most can be viewed as strengths. Let me explain:
- There are three different reward stickers (one for each game) but you can only earn one of each, no matter how many times you play a particular game. This could be a strength as it may encourage children to complete each of the games instead of focussing on just one game.
- The reward stickers disappear if you quit the App. My son was very disappointed that his stickers had disappeared, but now he knows he can get them back each time by playing the games again. The disappearing stickers have turned into a motivation.
- While it is nice to be able to choose a boy or girl character, it doesn’t add anything to the game except a graphic. Maybe I’m being politically correct here or over-sensitive, but I am not sure that having only Anglo-Saxon characters is a good idea. I have a niece and nephew of Australian Aboriginal descent who might like to pick characters with a darker skin. Looking around at the children in my childrens’ classes and the variety of nationalities represented, I can see that it would be better to have a variety of characters to choose from, or none at all.
These are two Apps that parents and teachers of children in early childhood will want to have on their mobile devices. Minor cultural sensitivities aside, I think both of these activities are suited very well to supporting our early childhood curriculum, particularly in Prep and year one. I haven’t seen too many Apps or software programs that do initial sounds so well, as many seem to voice their sound and/or have strong accents with different pronunciations to our Australian ones. The game is probably too childish in looks for older children but you could try them with the free version to see how they respond. I hope the developers bring out more Apps to cover other phonic elements such as long vowel sounds and blends.