Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Review!

So a friend of mine () over at Sceleratus Classical Academy recently posted a review of ABC Reading Eggs, and it occurred to me that I ought to do the same - we have similar boys, in that both her Early Bird and my Monkey are about the same age, and working at about the same level, but the boys have vastly different styles and needs, so it seemed appropriate.

Reading Eggs seems, on the surface, to be another entry in the field of "edutainment." The notion that this program fits the "educational elements added to make a game seem more valuable to parents" bill, however, is silly.  The format is simple: a lesson is presented, then games are played to reinforce that lesson. We have been using it not as a supplement, precisely, but as our primary means of reading instruction. 

The system is phonics based, which I love, but it has a component of whole word instruction, which Monkey loves. Monkey has an incredible sense of recall, which means his preference is for whole language instruction. My preference is for phonics, and I have little idea of how to teach whole language, so we have a bit of an impasse. Reading Eggs bridges this gap exceedingly well, which is why it is our primary format.

More about the program:

This is an Australian-based program, so most of the voice overs are accented to our Mooselandic ears. This also means that some slang is different - chips are fries, a clothespin is a clothes peg, a cabinet is a cupboard, and other British-seeming changes.  As we have several British friends, and are a mixed-nationality family ourselves, we already see American, Canadian, and British English on a daily basis. This makes the differences no big deal to us, and I often don't notice them - and neither does Monkey.

There are a large number of positives to this program, most of which will be covered below. However, I'll start here; at the Parent Dashboard.

The dashboard is parent friendly. I like that it not only gives me an average age-equivalent, but it also tells me the progress he's making - how many phonemes he knows, sight words, and what he's been doing lesson-wise. While it doesn't include the actual games - the "arcade" or edutainment section of the program - it gives me all the relevant educational data, which lets me keep track of his progress versus how I expect him to progress. It also gave me the option to test Monkey to see where to start him in the program, or to start him at the beginning. Much like theYoungerMrsWarde's Early Bird, Monkey went through the 15 question test easily, missing one question, and starting at the beginning of map 8 - lesson 71. The issue Monkey had with the test was simply his innate desire to click on everything in sight without waiting for the question to finish. So, I simply had him sit on my lap and point to his answers with a finger, and I did the clicking rather than him. Problem solved.

The Map:
The map is how the child goes from one lesson to the next.  All the completed lessons are in pink, the ones upcoming are in green. You can go back and redo any lesson you've already completed, but you must complete your current lesson to move on.  Each lesson 'hatches' a critter from an egg. All the critters are displayed on the map by the lesson that they came from.

Lesson Part 1:
This is the introduction to the lesson. In this group (lesson 94), the long /a/ and silent e combination are being introduced. The first piece of the lesson was to click on the ape, which was the gorilla with a 'p' on him. The gorilla jumps between the a and the e, and now we have ape. The program calls out a combination, and the c child clicks the corresponding letter(s) - so "let's make cape!" the child clicks on 'c', and the program responds, "yes, /c/ and /ape/ make cape!" If the child picks the wrong option, the two incorrect options disappear, and the program says "no, it's this one." and then waits for the child to click the correct answer. It is learning by repetition, and this particular lesson goes through ame, ape, ave, and ane.

Word Families:

Word Families is the second piece of this lesson. The child is given the final letters of the word, and has to choose which initial sound belongs with the picture. Now, in this go around, the letter 'd' is unused. The only issue I have with this game is that it doesn't ask for any accuracy. This hasn't been a problem for us, but it might be for others - the child can guess each box in turn and the only consequence is that it takes more time. 


Snowman, while also not requiring accuracy, does require some measure of it in order to progress. The point is to choose the appropriate word from the falling snowflakes and drag it to the snowman. If you choose a wrong word, nothing happens, but you cannot continue until you've chosen the right word enough times. In this case, the object is to choose pour, then icing, then cake. Once that's done, the child can move on to the next game.

This came requires some accuracy. If the child gets too many wrong, the game is over, and they have to start again. In this game, the child is to take the end of the word, and choose the lane that matches - so in the pictured example, the child needs to match 'rave' to 'ave' in order to succeed.  This is a more difficult game for Monkey, as he has a hard time listening for ending sounds. The reinforcement of this skill is a great thing.

Look, Listen, and Spell:
This game is another that needs some measure of accuracy, but not much. As seen, a picture is given, as is the alphabet. The task is for the child to correctly spell the word. They choose each letter in turn, and are rewarded for a correct choice with the green check mark. If they choose incorrectly, nothing happens, and they can't move to the next letter. This is helpful, as it reinforces the notion that the order of letters in words is important. Monkey is fairly good at this game, and while he doesn't love it, he is more than willing to continue to play in order to move ahead.

Dragon Fire:
Monkey really likes this game. He will go through almost anything else in order to play this game. The game is fairly simple. The dragon flies around, breathes fire, and when the fire dissipates, there is a word left behind. The game reads the word, then the child is to choose the cake that matches. If they choose correctly, a candle on the cake is lit. If not, they lose one of their five 'lives' and the game continues. These are words with difficult rules, compound words, or words that are otherwise seen as much more challenging for the kids, which leaves Monkey feeling like he's done something very difficult.

Bird Words:
 Bird words is fairly simple. The program reads the sentence aloud, then asks the child to read it (while highlighting each bird in turn) slowly, and then the birds descend and mix up. The child's task is to sort the words out and put the birds back on the wall in the correct order. If the wrong word is chosen, the bird flutters back to the grass. Monkey has done this many times, and enjoys it, even if he repeats the sentence back much faster than the program expects. He has also done as many as seven birds at a time, I'm not sure if any lessons have more birds than that.

 Pack the Shelves:
 This game is a new one for Monkey, he hasn't played it much before. The object is to pick out which word makes sense in the sentence. However, the sentence isn't read aloud - the three words at the bottom are, but the child has to read the sentence, then work out which word to put there. This is a significantly harder game, and I enjoy watching Monkey play it. He catches on quickly, and moves through the challenges easily, but at least he's paid enough attention to understand what he's doing and how to solve the problem.

Read Aloud:
 This, with the exception of the actual hatching animation, is Monkey's favorite part of the lessons. Reading Eggs uses storybooks to reinforce the reading lesson. At the end of the lesson, the book will be read aloud to the child, at the child's pace, unless the child turns the sound off.  Monkey particularly enjoys this, and is often glad to see it. He also is able to complete specific tasks based on the book, regardless of when it was last read, which I suspect has a good deal to do with his retention and favoring of whole words.

At the end of a group of ten lessons, the child takes a 15 question quiz on the previous ten lessons. If they get 12 or more right, they move on. If not, they are asked to replay the lessons and try again. The number of errors in the final quiz determines the "ribbon" the child gets for their quiz, and once the quiz is completed, not only does the child advance to the next map, but Reading Eggs sends an email to the parent letting them know what was covered, what the child's score was, and that they're ready to move on or need more practice.

All in all, while I can see why this wouldn't be a format a lot of people would use as their primary instruction, Monkey's recall and his solid base in phonics means that this is an ideal solution for him. He is able to sound out words, and he is able to use his whole word approach whenever he can, which makes reading not a chore for him - and since both The Ordinary Parent's Guide To Teaching Reading and BOB Books were a chore, and Hooked on Phonics offered little to no interaction... This turned out to be a wonderful solution. We paid approximately $85 for the full year of the program, which was well worth it. If we had more than one child, however, using this might be outside of our budget.  End result, however, is that Monkey loves Reading Eggs, I appreciate that he's learning, and I don't have to hound him about it, and he really does learn. I would, and have, recommended it often.