Content and Methodology
Kid Phonics 2 (KP2) is a follow-on to Davidson's well-regarded Kid Phonics program, reviewed earlier this year by SuperKids. This sequel is set in the American old west, with a main screen portraying a scene right out of central casting, complete with a general store, hotel, jail, dance hall, and signs pointing to the stage coach and a rodeo. The user is free to click on any of these locations, in any order, to begin an activity.
Each of the activities associated with these locations has a phonics goal: word construction, learning about silent letters and homonyms, or recognizing phonemes.
Word Rodeo allows the user to construct words from a root word and a scrollable menu of prefixes, suffixes, and other words. Some of the resulting constructions, however, like nightstick, backwater, bluebook, and freeboard, were unknown to our 6 and 7 year old reviewers. ("Freeboard," by the way, is a nautical term that defines the distance between the waterline and the highest deck of a ship). Unfortunately, there are no user settings for difficulty level. Correct answers are rewarded with cheers of "yee haw;" incorrect answers with a "try again pardner."
In the Silent Letter Stagecoach, the user is asked if it is possible to make another word by adding a silent "e" to the end of a root word. For example, dot / dote, pop / pope, hog / --. A correct answer sends pursuing villains back, an incorrect answer leaves them close behind. Our young testers frequently had to ask mom if words existed.
At the Homonym Hotel, the user gets a break from answering questions, and merely has to click on a couple of oldtimers to hear them fracture the english language with homonyms. For example: "As a guitarist, he couldn't play the bass. Yup. And as a ballplayer, he couldn't reach base." Our parent reviewers felt this was "... a neat way to illustrate commonly misused words."
The Jailhouse offers a variation on a "brain teaser" game found in many newspapers where the goal is to unscramble letters to make a word. Fortunately for our reviewers, the words were shown before they were scrambled. Otherwise we think our kid reviewers would have given up trying to unscramble words like: JORCEPTOR (= projector) or TRAYLOT (= royalty)
In the General Store the user selects an item, then goes to the Word Builder Ranch. Here the word for the item has been disassembled into its phonetic components, which have been mixed with other sounds. The user has to click on the correct components, in the correct order, to rebuild the word. The word is then placed in an incomplete sentence, and the user is asked to complete it by choosing words from several pull down menus.
Ease of Install / Use
KP2 installed without difficulty on our Mac and PC test machines. During the installation on a PC, the user only has to answer two questions: which drive/directory, and if it's OK to install QuickTime for Windows. Our reviewers found the program easy to navigate, but as one parent noted, that's because "... this program is totally unstructured." The user can choose to go to any of the activities, in any order. That can be regarded as either a plus or a minus, depending on your child's needs.
Proxy Parent Value
Proxy parent value is SuperKids measure of how well a program grabs and holds a child's attention. KP2 scored well on this measure according to our kid reviewers (both said they "... really liked it"), but our parent reviewers were concerned that the difficulty of many of the words would either require an adult presence, or discourage their kids from using the program on their own.
KP2 is best for a child who has already begun to develop phonetic and sight reading skills. Difficult or unusual words may also require the helpful presence of an adult.
Kid Phonics 2 offers a useful collection of phonics skill-building activities for young readers.
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