"See Spot run." With those words, a generation of youngsters began their training in the language arts. While Dick and Jane may have been enough to stimulate those young minds, the technologically aware kids of today want more action. Whether increasing their vocabulary bank, writing creative short stories, or collaborating on multi-author papers, students nowadays have a greater choice than ever when it comes to language arts learning tools. Instead of just hundreds of texts, there are now also hundreds of software programs produced specifically for language arts, reading and writing instruction.
Additionally, there are more and more packages coming out for older students, and even some intended for educators and professional writers. This article will cover a range of language arts software, fro pre-K up to professional-level packages. Unless noted, all software is both Windows and Macintosh compatible.
* Phonics to the Forefront
Phonics has enjoyed a rise in popularity recently, due to good press and various research studies reproving its worth and recommending its inclusion in the curriculum. Consequently, many firms are releasing software that helps young learners relate symbols to sounds.
Macmillan/McGraw-Hill has just released 'Tronic Phonics, phonics software for grades 1-2. Comprising 14 CDs, each with three or four short phonics-based stories and related phonics and decoding activities, it features easy-to-use writing, painting and drawing tools, a recorder that lets children hear their own voice, and a reporting utility. Con Ton Y Son is a Spanish-language version that includes ten CDs and all of the same features.
As a follow up to Kid Phonics 1, Davidson offers Kid Phonics 2. The new program, aimed at kids ages six to nine (Kid Phonics 1 is for ages four to seven), combines a Western theme with seven phonics activities such as the Word Rodeo, Silent Letter Stagecoach and more. Students learn to sound out over 350 words, differentiate among letter sounds, understand prefixes and suffixes, use words in context sentences, and connect sounds to clusters of letters, building those clusters into words.
Focused at grades K-2, Reading Who? Reading You! Something Phonics, Something New is Sunburst Communications' first phonics program. It consists of five separate activities designed to enhance phonemic awareness. In Three Windows, students learn new words in sequential fashion. Success is rewarded with full-motion video, jokes and inspiring comments. Additionally, over 40 original poems teach children common sight words, and The Word Truck activity lets them build their own fun phrases or sentences.
Relatively new to the educational software arena, Panasonic Interactive Media offers its Phonics Adventure with Sing-Along Sam, for ages four to six. The software uses 15 original songs in a variety of musical styles to guide students through 12 separate lessons. As young learners complete lessons, they are rewarded with three reinforcing games. A status screen lets teachers and parents monitor progress, and a teacher's guide shows how to design custom reading plans based on the program.
* The Next Step
Through phonics and other early language arts instruction, youngsters are taught to read. Software that reinforces early language arts curricula is plentiful and better than ever. Far more advanced than simple "animated storybook" packages, today's software adds many elaborate learning exercises to those early products' appealing animation and interactivity.
To help three to six year-olds develop decision-making skills while laying a solid foundation in early reading, Theatrix offers Build-A-Book with Roberto, where kids direct the action and outcome of stories starring Roberto the Hippo. Once a story is complete, it can be viewed with accompanying read-along text, animated characters, music and sound effects. Kids can also print read-along books that coincide with their story, create masks and puppets and more. …