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Review CornerSoftware
Flash Action Phonics Made Easy
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
This cheerful and bright program provides children with an encouraging environment for honing phonics skills. Excellent practice for children in first and early second grade.
Ages: 6-8   Subject: Reading/Pre-reading/Phonics   Brand: School Zone Interactive
Review Sections: Product Overview  Technically Speaking  Skills Covered  Educational Value  Entertainment Value  Design  Replayability  Dollar Value
image Product Overview
Clever games and bright screens enliven phonics activities in this encouraging program that helps children develop essential phonics skills. Part of the Flash Action series by School Zone Interactive, Phonics Made Easy features a nice blend of electronic flash card activities and unique games that incorporate academic content.

The program features four sets of activities that develop skills in phonics sounds, vowels, rhymes, and blends and digraphs. Once children have completed enough activities in each set, a game is unlocked. The flash card activities include completing words, "drawing" lines to connect related pictures and words, building cars to spell words and match rhyming words, typing in letters to complete words, and more. Children work with rhyming word families, associate words with the same beginning or ending sounds, and identify letters and groups of letters as those with long vowel sounds, short vowel sounds, blends, and digraphs.

For each of the four categories, a meter runs alongside the screen that helps children visualize how much of the category they have completed before a game is unlocked. Congratulatory animations appear from time to time—fun characters cheer and dance across the screen as rewards for correct answers. The games include painting activities, silly sentences, playing with rhyming families, and "blend and bend". These games are unique in that they incorporate phonics exercises into play time. Kids can watch animations of the silly sentences they have built, add letter blends onto the board to create fun designs, and so forth.

The program's exercises are varied and the narration is exceptionally clear and encouraging. Letters and blends are sounded out for extra reinforcement. Pictures of words can sometimes confuse young children when they don't know the intended word that is associated with the illustrations. Fortunately, the program allows children to move their cursor over a picture in order to hear a clearly spoken word, thus eliminating any confusion.

Phonics Made Easy is a positive and unique program that features useful academic content for children in first to second grade. In fact, it would be most appropriate used as a review of first grade material. Only one activity (the bonus questions) confused child testers at first. They had a difficult time distinguishing between the terms "blends" and "digraphs". Otherwise, the program is suitable for independent play. Children found the program very motivating, worked hard to unlock the games, and stuck with the exercises even after all the games were unlocked.

Technically Speaking
Minimum system requirements are Windows 95/98/Me/2000/XP, Pentium 166 MHz. Mac users require a PowerPC 150 MHz or faster, System 7.6.1 or higher.

Skills Covered
Letter sounds, rhyming words, word families, long vowels, short vowels, blends, digraphs.

Educational Value
Motivation to play this program is high, and the exercises are just as appealing as the CD-ROM's games. The format of the game is logical and the exercises are on-target for young children in first to second grade.

Entertainment Value
Everything about the game is bright and cheerful, from the animations and illustrations to the narration. The learning environment is positive and encouraging and children enjoy completing the varied exercises.

A thoughtful design allows children to visualize their progress, complete most exercises independently, and work towards a goal. The program tracks each child's progress and allows them to pick up where they left off.

Motivation to return to the program is high due to its colorful environment, unusually fun reward games, and unique exercises.

Dollar Value
The program carries a suggested retail price of approximately $12.99 US. It is also available with a companion workbook for $19.99 US.

Released: 2003
Reviewed: June 2003