Hearbuilder Phonological Awareness

App review by
Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Media
Hearbuilder Phonological Awareness App Poster Image
Sound-based activities build listening and phonics skills.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn to recognize sounds in words and notice syllables. They'll play with words, changing ending sounds and beginning sounds and rhyming, adding, deleting, and blending phonemes and syllables. They can customize difficulty settings to low, medium, or high. In the full version, parents can view reports showing how kids progress, and kids earn more for their rock bands as they complete the activities. Hearbuilder Phonological Awareness is an impressive resource -- with or without the subscription -- to build early literacy skills that not all kids can pick up on automatically.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Hearbuilder Phonological Awareness is a subscription-based program that helps kids develop phonological awareness, the ability to pick up on the sounds in spoken language, which can improve reading. Conversely, reading improves phonological awareness, so some emerging readers might struggle with some of these auditory exercises that test attention and listening skills as well. Kids will advance through rock-band-themed activities; since the app is generally for classroom use, you may want to work through the games along with your child.

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What's it about?

Kids work on nine phonological awareness skills: sentence segmentation, syllable blending, syllable segmentation, rhyming, phoneme blending, phoneme segmentation and identification, phoneme deletion, phoneme addition, and phoneme manipulation. The activities' story revolves around a rock-band theme, with each activity relating to the band: album titles, making music, getting new band members, and so on. In the activities, kids hear words and manipulate them, changing vowel sounds or beginning sounds to create new words, all of which must be identified by how they sound. They can hit the redo arrow to hear the instructions and words again, but no visual hints are offered. 

Is it any good?

HEARBUILDER PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS is designed with classrooms in mind, but parents may find it useful to check kids' awareness of sounds. The activities are game-show style, with voice-overs asking questions and giving options for kids to choose answers from. The rock band backstory is fun, and the music theme will get kids excited at the same time it underscores the sound/listening concepts. The activities themselves are challenging and require focused listening skills; parents would most likely want to sit with kids to work through them one on one.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about syllables and sounds in words. Be careful to speak clearly and enunciate well around prereaders.

  • Practice reading aloud with your kids; help them with challenging words. 

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