Achieve! Writing & Language Arts Grades 3-6 includes four previously released titles, updated for current operating systems, as follows:
- Schoolhouse Rock! Grammar Rock
- The Writing Trek
- Strategy Challenges Collection 2: In the Wild
- Word Munchers Deluxe
These titles vary in their approaches and difficulty levels. Schoolhouse Rock! Grammar Rock requires children to play grammar games in order to prepare for a "Knowledge is Power" party. As they play, kids earn Rocky coins to use in an arcade. This program features nine Schoolhouse Rock videos, all grammar-themed. These include the likes of Conjunction Junction, Interjections, and the Tale of Mr. Morton. The videos provide much of the game's grammar instructions, and they are creative presentations of grammar basics, particularly for children who learn best through song. The program's activities are loosely based on the videos. For example, children work with adverbs at Lolly's shop (based on the Lolly, Lolly, Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here video), and children take Mr. Morton for a jog while they work with subjects and predicates. The activities help children practice and master a variety of grammar skills.
The Writing Trek is a strong educational title that is best for homeschool situations or for children motivated to develop their writing skills. This unique program offers six areas to explore in a fantasy village setting. Children learn about different writing genres, such as tall tales, retold stories, and biographies, through videos and examples. Kids are presented with a number of practice opportunities, quizzes, and a plethora of project starters meant to inspire kids to write their own work. Children can develop a variety of writing skills through exercises and quizzes. For example, kids learn about active and passive vocabulary, participate in a vocabulary word challenge, practice their skills at paragraph breaks, learn about setting, character, and plot, and so forth.
Strategy Challenges Collection 2: In the Wild offers three unique games Tablut, Jungle Chess, and Surakarta that require drawing on strategy and critical thinking skills. Each game can be attempted at three different difficulty levels, and can be played either against a friend or a computer opponent. The emphasis here is on offensive and defensive strategies, and these are related to strategies of wild animals through videos. For example, children learn about a coyote's offensive strategies for survival in the wild. During game set-up, children can choose either an offensive or defensive computer opponent. Children receive instructions and helpful advice while they play the games. In Jungle Chess, for example, players own animal pieces that each have a number value. Their goal is to move a piece into their opponent's den while avoiding traps on the game board. They must pay attention to a number of rules. For example, an animal piece can only capture an opponent's piece if it is greater than or equal to its own value, with one exception. Also, the rat is the only piece that can move into the water, where it is safe from all other animals except another rat. All three games are fun and challenging.
Word Munchers Deluxe offers simple arcade-style games, at a variety of difficulty levels, that strengthen word skills such as vocabulary, grammar, and synomyms/antonyms. The basic idea is to direct the Muncher to the correct words while avoiding Troggles. This program is not outstanding, but it is appropriate for children who need encouragement to practice word skills.
This collection of programs is a rather unusual mix, simply because the titles range from arcade-style (Word Munchers Deluxe) to software that was originally intended for school use (The Writing Trek). However, the variety offered is a strength, and families (especially those with more than one child in the recommended age group) will appreciate adding four strong titles to their software collection for the price of one.
Minimum system requirements are Windows 95B/98/ME/XP, Pentium 166 MHz or faster, 32 MB RAM, and 8X CD-ROM. Mac users require a PowerPC 120 MHz or faster, System 8.6 to 9.2.2, 32 MB RAM, and 8X CD-ROM. The program requires 45 MB of hard drive space.
Children develop skills in writing, vocabulary, phonics, synonyms/antonyms, adjectives, adverbs, nouns, pronouns, verbs, prepositions, reading skills, writing genres, creative expression, analysis, anticipating obstacles, strategic behaviors.
A range of skills are developed in different styles of learning environments. Two of the titles in the set, Word Munchers Deluxe and Schoolhouse Rock! Grammar Rock are programs that offer skills practice, while the other two titles feature active and creative learning environments.
Most of the programs in this set grab children's attention through videos and fun challenges.
For the most part, the programs feature smart design elements that promote independent play. The programs keep track of children's participation, and most offer help when a child needs it.
This 4 CD-ROM set offers plenty of content and engaging material that will motivate children to play the games over the long term.
This CD-ROM carries a suggested retail price of approximately $20 US.
Reviewed: March 2003