Phonics Island Early Reading, Spelling & Tracing

App review by
Dana Anderson, Common Sense Media
Phonics Island Early Reading, Spelling & Tracing App Poster Image
Ease kids into letter sounds with cute animals and games.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn basic phonics skills such as letter sounds and the beginning letter sounds in words (animal names), as well as practice tracing letters on Phonics Island. Kids can view capital or lowercase letters, hear the letter sounds pronounced, and view the letters next to cute cartoon representations of the animals that start with that beginning sound. As kids play the mini-games, they practice prereading skills such as visual discrimination, listening for the beginning sounds in words and trying letter formation through tracing (although that formation isn't always standard). Phonics Island's strength is in the simple games that encourage phonics practice.

Ease of Play

Very easy to play. Kids are guided through systematic lessons with audio instructions and visual prompts. Stars show game level progress, and, after kids complete a game or level, they can return to that level for more practice. Parents or kids can choose capital or lowercase letters, as well as skipping the intro.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Phonics Island Early Reading, Spelling & Tracing explores letter sounds and tracing through a series of mini-games with cute animals on an island. Letters on this app are divided into groups that are often used in Montessori classrooms  (such as A, S, M, and T or H, L, B, and O). Games encourage kids to hear the beginning letter sounds in animal names, choose the correct letters visually, play a memory match card with letters on the backs of the cards, and trace the letters. As kids progress through the games, they earn stars and animal stickers. Once they complete the games for one group of letters, they move onto another group, eventually completing all 26 letters of the alphabet. Parents specifically looking for a Montessori-style learning app should know that even though the app's full name includes a Montessori reference, not everything on this app aligns with Montessori philosophy.

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What's it about?

First, kids watch and listen to a brief story intro, then play mini-games with the first group of four letters on PHONICS ISLAND EARLY READING, SPELLING, & TRACING. Games includes tracing letters, popping balloons with the correct letter sounds as spoken by the narrator, matching cards in a memory match game, and dragging the correct animal that matches the requested letter sound onto a train. After earning enough stars, kids choose a sticker for their sticker collections and move on to the next letter group.

Is it any good?

Phonics Island Early Reading, Spelling & Tracing includes fun games with cute animals. The progression through each game is quick enough to keep kids' attention without being too fast-paced for preschoolers. Some of the suggested patterns for letter tracing are not typical and may confuse kids who are learning more traditional letter formation. Some parents who purchase this app because of the Montessori name will be pleased to see familiar letter groupings and the focus on beginning letter sounds, but they may be disappointed to see a star-and-sticker reward system, not the norm in the Montessori learning style.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about letter sounds. Notice and exaggerate beginning letter sounds of your kid's favorite things around the house, outside, or anywhere. Focus on a new letter each week or until it's clear that your kid is hearing and can repeat that isolated sound.

  • Encourage your preschooler to trace letters in sand, flour, or shaving cream -- anything that can help them "feel" their way into writing by having fun and without undue pressure to do things perfectly the first, second, or even 20th time. 

  • Read, play rhyming games, sing, and just talk a lot with your kid. The more ways your kid is exposed to language, the easier it will be for him to distinguish the letter sounds that lead to reading. 

App details

For kids who love learning to read

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