Wonster Words - spelling with ABC and phonics by Puzzingo

App review by
Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Media
Wonster Words - spelling with ABC and phonics by Puzzingo App Poster Image
Phonetics, vocab star as kids drag letters to spell words.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn phonetic awareness as they manipulate letters and letter pairs. Exploring multiple words with a common sound can help kids identify and recognize the building blocks of language and reading. As they watch animations and listen to definitions of words they may never have heard before, kids can learn new words. Though requiring kids to place letters in the correct order and offering a few varied phonics activities would boost learning, Wonster Words - spelling with ABC and phonics by Puzzingo has features that many phonics-focused apps don't.

Ease of Play

Tap-and-drag games have no explicit instructions but offer sufficient how-to scaffolding. When constructing words, there are lots of letters to choose from and it's sometimes hard to get the one you want.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Language

Some parents may find some videos or words inappropriate -- for example, kids spell the word "belch" and watch two characters let out some pretty loud ones.

Consumerism

The free version includes two word packs, with the rest locked away awaiting an in-app purchase.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Wonster Words - spelling with ABC and phonics by Puzzingo introduces spelling, word families, phonics, and new vocabulary words. Kids drag animated letters to spell and sound out words that are organized in groups according to a common sound, such as "sh." The audio track supports kids in their efforts to sound out the word as they spell. The free version offers two word sets (eight words each) and an "Outdoor Adventure," which offers more advanced words strung together as part of a story. For more, parents must make in-app purchases.

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What's it about?

In WONSTER WORDS - SPELLING WITH ABC AND PHONICS BY PUZZINGO, choose a word family that contains similar patterns and then choose from the available eight words. Select floating letter "ghosts" to drag them to their correct place and spell the word. When kids tap a letter or the target combination of two letters, they hear the sound it makes. Once they spell the word, kids watch a short animation demonstrating the word's meaning. There's an occasional mini-game, such as playing with an animal after spelling its name. The paid version includes a progressive story line with word puzzles and games along the way.

Is it any good?

Animated letters with spoken letter names address the idiosyncrasies of written English, but some details detract from the overall appeal. On the upside, instead of singling out each individual letter sound, kids work with phonemes, or the language sounds actually present in words, but only for the target sounds. Though the animations and accompanying sentences give context, they're sometimes a bit off: In one animation a character ignites himself, and kid's are told to "be careful." In another, a character purposefully makes a mess as a "brat" and kids are advised, "Try not to be one." In terms of design, it would be better if kids had to place letters in the correct order and if the user could turn the music off. The phonetic approach and vocabulary context make this a step up from simple sound-it-out apps, but at the steep price of $14.99 for the whole set, parents should make sure they -- and their kids -- are into the whole package before diving in fully.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about additional words that contain the sounds featured in the app. When you come up with a word, spell it, read it, and define it.

  • Read books like those by Dr. Seuss that use simple rhyming words to help kids read. Point out the part of the word that stays the same.

App details

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