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Review CornerSoftware
Arthur's 2nd Grade
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
Packed with "smart" features and lots of things to do, this program is an example of "edutainment" at its best.
Award
Ages: 5-7  Subject: Curriculum  Brand: The Learning Company
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
 
 
image Product Overview
Part of the LearningBuddies line, this program features Arthur and his friends from the popular PBS television series and covers a full second grade curriculum.

This 2 CD-ROM set features multiple skill levels, personalized graphics, and automatic help messages. The first disc is entitled Disc 1: Take Your Kids to Work Day. Arthur and his friends go to each of their parents' workplace and players help their favorite characters get their job done, while learning important second grade skills. The activities are as follows:

  • In Binky at the Printing Press, Binky needs help spelling words for his father's printing press. Three sentences are presented at a time, each with a missing word. The letters of all 3 words are scrambled at the bottom of the screen and kids must spell out the missing words. If a child is struggling with any particular word, the letters of only that word are highlighted to help narrow down the choices.
  • Arthur's Main Course involves sorting food onto trays. Players must determine the pattern and fill in missing foods according to food groups.
  • In Buster's Editorial Notes, Buster needs help finding words for his mother. Kids are asked to find the rhyming words, antonyms, or synonyms for the given words and must choose between a handful of possible answers. On level 2, for example, kids must determine the antonym for "asked" and choose "answered" from a list of words. On level 3, kids may be asked to find the synonym of "walk" ("stroll").
  • Francine needs help reading the guide book in order to give tours of the museum in Francine's Museum Tour. Players must find the item that the guide book describes in the various sections of the museum, and hone their reading comprehension skills at the same time.
  • In Brain's Exhausting Pipe Job, kids must measure pipes and bolts using a ruler for Brain's dad, the mechanic. This activity can be played in either English or Metric system.
  • In D.W. Figures (see below), D.W. needs help counting jellybeans, and kids practice their addition and subtraction skills to arrive at the correct answer.
  • Muffy's Race (see above right) involves helping race cars across a map of the United States for Muffy's dad's company, Crosswire Motors. This activity takes the form of a board game. Kids select to play with one or two players, and follow directions to cross the country using the legend and compass as guides. A clue might read on level 3, "Move to a space that is west, has a city, and is cloudy."
  • In Telling Time with Arthur, kids must match the finishing times on the board with the correct clocks.
At certain points in between activities, there is a map game in which children must help Arthur navigate the streets of his town to find one of his friends by following clues. For example, a clue might be "I'm going to hook up with something different". Children might guess to go to the Bait Shop building, and steer Arthur to their destination using the arrow keys on the keyboard.

Disc 2: Activity Center contains 3 activity areas:

  • Card Creator is a simple but fun activity that allows children to make a variety of greeting cards featuring the Arthur and friends images.
  • In Storybook Maker, players select their cover art, type in a title for their story using a selection of different fonts, then create the text and place stamp images on the pages of their very own storybook.
  • The Print Activities option is excellent. Printable activities include crossword puzzles, making a "flip" book, instructions for making a "magic" can that always returns to you when you roll it forward, "patchwork" math, activities that reinforce safety concepts, and more.
LearningBuddies software titles monitor progress and adapt the program to meet an individual child's changing needs. There are Progress Reports available so that parents can know how well their children are doing. Clicking on the star icon on the screen will pull up a Preferences screen that allows players to adjust the volume of the music, to turn printer access on/off, to use auto-leveling or not, and to view the Goal Checker — a kid-friendly graph that shows how close children are to completing their mission.

This program does an excellent job of encouraging children and helping them when they are struggling. When a child is not making errors for some time, a character might suggest to move up to a higher level. If a child is encountering difficulties with a learning activity, some gentle help is given to get them back on track.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98 or NT 4.0, a 486/66 MHz, 16 Mb RAM, and 2X CD ROM. Mac users require a 60 MHz Power PC with 16 Mb RAM, System 7.1 or higher, and at least 2X CD ROM.

Skills Covered
reading, spelling, vocabulary, reading comprehension, compound words, antonyms, synonyms, addition, subtraction, measurement, geography, telling time, real-life skills, sequencing, patterns, creativity, logic, spatial relations, strategy

Educational Value
The program adapts to a child's individual performance, and does an excellent job of it. The result is a very positive and encouraging atmosphere for learning, and minimal chances of a child feeling frustrated either by a lack of challenge or by overly difficult materials. While some other second grade programs may have more educational content, this program's educational activities are done well.

Entertainment Value
The graphics, characters, and activities are all very appealing.

Design
This program is beautifully designed with an intuitive interface, clear instructions, and excellent "smart" features. Difficulty levels can be adjusted readily at any time during each of the activities and can adjust automatically as well.

Replayability
There is a good amount of content that will keep children busy for some time. Lots of things to do spanning 2 CD-ROMs helps boost replay value, as do the multilevel activities and positive atmosphere for learning.

Dollar Value
The $30 US suggested retail price is reasonable for the amount of content.

Released: 1999