Sight Words with Pixopop is the first of two sight words Apps by Sogabee that I’m reviewing. Thanks to Marcel Widarto from Sogabee for giving me the Apps to review. Pixopop art is the work of Ali Sabet, and you can see more Pixopop art and merchandise on the Pixopop website. Stitch, the cute rabbit on the App’s icon, is just one of three characters or mascots your child can choose to guide them through the app.
There are three activities in the app: Flashcards, Word Challenge, and Spelling. Each activity uses one of 24 word lists, each with 10 words, or you can create your own custom lists quickly and easily. You can view the contents of each list via the settings control on the main screen, and this could help to match word lists to your child’s homework sight words and spelling lists.
Normally I wouldn’t have much to say about flash cards as they mostly work the same way: tap or swipe the screen to hear the word spoken. You’ll get that function in this activity, but you can also activate Quiz Mode, where the word is displayed without the speech so that the child can attempt to read the word before tapping to hear if they are correct. Choose from one of 24 lists, or create your own list.
This activity works as a kind of reverse hangman, where the character is revealed piece by piece as questions are answered correctly. Children hear a word and then select that word from one of four written choices. The first few levels are available, but the other 21 levels are unlocked as the child successfully completes the activity. You can also select a custom word list. Praise is given for each successful answer, and trophies are awarded for levels completed with %100 accuracy. An incorrect answer results in a buzzing sound, the incorrect choice greyed out, and one of the three flowers at the top of the screen being crossed out. Three mistakes means the game has been lost. Using the settings controls on the main screen, you can set the difficulty level to either Easy or Hard. The hard level uses words that might look similar and/or start with the same letter while the easy level uses random words.
Children hear a word then use the keyboard on the screen (not the iPad keyboard) to spell the word. You can use the App’s settings to switch between a QWERTY and an alphabetical keyboard. As with Word Challenge, initially only the first free levels are available, with more unlocked as the child progresses.
- Create custom lists – This is the stand-out feature for me as it lets you adapt the App to meet the specific learning needs of your child or student. You could create sight word and spelling lists that match those in homework, a list highlighting a particular phonic element, theme lists, family names, or whatever you’d like to focus on. It is very easy to create a word list and I’m sure that most children would be happy to give it a go. Creating a weekly spelling list is another learning strategy itself!
- Special lists – In addition to your custom lists, the App keeps track of errors and automatically creates a lists of “Tricky Words” for the Spelling and Word Challenge activities. I love this feature, as it means you can concentrate on problem areas.
- No external links – You have to love a developer who resists temptation and does not put in any external links to social media, websites, or the iTunes store. There are also no in-app purchases, and no personal data is collected. In short, this is a safe App for your kids to use.
- Activity Length – 10 words is just the right length for my children, although you can create custom lists that are shorter if you find the lists are too long for your child.
- Penalties and Rewards – The “three strikes and you’re out” system discourages children for randomly tapping until they hit the correct answer. Children will enjoy unlocking new trophies in the form of virtual stickers. Although trophies are simple graphics and you can’t do anything with them (unlike the rewards in Tell Time that let you give your monkey a makeover), my children still like to “collect” them. They get very excited when they unlock each sticker. Word challenge trophies appear in grey, but the spelling ones appear in colour.
- Progress Reports – You can view your child’s progress by tapping on the controls on the main screen. At a glance, you can see which word lists have been attempted in which activity and when, and then you can tap on these results for more detailed information about performance with each list.
- Bright, Quirky Graphics – The simple cartoon style of the characters and screens reminds me of Japanese anime and you’ll see similar motifs on a lot of teen and pre-teen fashion and accessories. Younger children will love it, but it is still “cool” enough for older students to use, making it suitable to support older learners who may have learning difficulties or disabilities. Stitch the rabbit, and Pinku the little girl, were deemed ” too girly” by Master 8, but he likes Draco, a kind of green, boy-lizard hybrid.
- Sound – The App uses a pleasant female voice in the standard word lists. You can record your voice, or your child’s, in custom lists. There is a cute theme that plays when you are viewing the main screen. You cannot adjust the volume or turn it off, which might be a little annoying if it is being used in a public place or classroom. The sound disappears when you select an activity, which means there is no distracting background noise during activities.
- Homonym confusion – In the spelling activity, homonyms are marked as incorrect, even when spelt correctly. We first encountered this on level 2, where two and too were marked incorrect when the word was to. To avoid this confusion, it would be better to include a sentence that clarifies the meaning of the word, rather than just the word alone. “To: We went to the park” would have made the meaning clear. Another idea is to go through the flash cards for that level before starting the spelling, which may also help with revision.
- Feedback confusion – While most of the positive feedback is easily distinguished, some words, in particular mastered, are delivered in the same tone as the spelling words, and one of my children occasionally mistook the praise for the next word and started to type. As he had already started typing, the word was not played. You can get around this by encouraging children to tap the repeat button to listen to the word again.
There is very little I’d add to this App. I can already create custom lists, which is the main thing I’d be looking for. But still, there is always a few wishes.
Individual Profiles – I’d love each of my children to have their own tricky lists and rewards, and to unlock levels at their own pace, rather than having their siblings unlock them. Masters A, B and M are all different ages and ability levels, and they can get a bit possible of progress points. Individual profiles would solve that problem, and might also make the App more attractive to schools for classroom use.
Boy Characters – Although they love Draco, my boys would like another “boy character.” They suggest someone with a cape, or perhaps a robot.
Sound Controls – Although the theme is cute, I’d like to be able to turn it off. Please.
Sogabee has come up with an entertaining, motivating and adaptable App that will take some of the pain out of homework. Any parent or teacher of children in the Prep to Yr 2 age range will find it is an excellent addition to their iPad, and well worth the few dollars investment. It will be useful for a few years, and those of us with several children will get even more value from it.
Disclaimer: Sogabee kindly provided me with this App and one other for review purposes. I am happy to accept codes for review purposes, however this will not affect my reviews. I take pride in the reviews being thorough and honest, whether I have paid for an App or received it for free. Happy to say, this one is a beaut!
Pixopop – (pixopop.com)
Out & About – (onsarahsipad.wordpress.com/2012/01/17/out-about/)