The character of Franklin is refreshingly simple and sincere, making this adorable turtle the perfect little software companion for kindergarten-age children. One of two new CD-ROMs this fall starring Franklin and his friends, Franklin the Turtle Goes to School focuses on early curriculum skills in language arts, math, science, art, and social learning.
This 2 CD-ROM set contains 8 multi-level activities in various school settings. Rewards for success and persistence in the activities take the form of collectible items for playersí school bags, and, ultimately, a personalized and printable graduation certificate.
Kids hop on the school bus with Franklin and his charming animal friends, then elect to visit either the schoolhouse, playground, or theater. Oddly enough, the playground holds the most academic of the programís offerings, one of which is an excellent "I Spot" game where mice display the objects theyíve collected, and kids must pinpoint an item that corresponds to clues. On level one, beginning sounds are offered and then children progress to ending sounds on the higher levels. Another superb activity has children matching letters to letters, uppercase to lowercase letters, and arranging letters in alphabetical order (depending on the difficulty level) as they match lunchboxes with their animal friend owners. Each letter is associated with a food item in the lunchbox (for example, q is for quiche). The last activity in this area is also exceptional. Bugs must be sorted according to their colors and patterns, given either one, two, or three attributes but kids will have to catch these fluttery and squirming creatures first!
In the Theater, kids count, add, and subtract (depending on the level selected) as they help birds arrange flags for the theater tent. They engage in a delightful story-making activity that is downright silly Ė and great fun. All they need to do to create a play is select a star, the setting, the weather, an action, and, finally, an outcome, then sit back and watch their friends perform. The school band plays instrumentals of four different songs in the third activity, as lyrics are displayed and a simple animation runs.
The schoolhouse, ironically, holds the titleís least inspired activities. While Franklinís stick puppet activity teaches kids about numbers and measurements, the open-ended creativity activity is rather staid, and the storybook section misses some opportunities to teach. This latter activity contains a variety of nice stories, but the words are neither highlighted nor "clickable".
These latter "misses" are more than made up for by the rest of the programís solidly educational and fun activities. The reward system used throughout is effective without being intrusive, and kidsí "schoolbags" not only hold these sticker rewards, but they are also filled with wonderful printable extension activities. These offerings are clever tie-ins with the activities without being repetitive, and include instructions for make-your-own stick puppets, a "build your own theater" instruction sheet (that can be used with the stick puppets), printable (and collectible) bug cards, and more.
Parents concerned about their childís progress need only access the Progress Tracker feature that shows statistics organized by subject area.
The second CD in the set is something for parents and kids to share it contains a nice set of workbooks entitled Language Arts, Alphabet Cards, Math, and My Very Own Franklin Number Book. The latter workbook contains clip art that can be cut out and used to create a number book. Though this supplemental CD contains a handful of other options like an educational overview of the program and a behind-the-scenes look at the creators of the Franklin character, its content is a little skimpy.
The activities included in this kindergarten title match the simplicity and sincerity of Franklin the Turtle himself. They are open-ended, yet goal-oriented, without either of these features going overboard. An intelligent design and educationally valuable exercises mean parents can be confident that time with Franklin and the computer is time well spent.
Minimum requirements are Win 95/98, Pentium 133, 32 MB RAM, 12X CD-ROM. Mac users require a Power PC 120 MHz or higher, with 12 MB RAM free, System 8.1, and a 4X CD-ROM. This program requires 50 MB of hard drive space.
The graphics are excellent they are colorful and crisp and the audio is clear.
letter recognition, "partner" letters, upper- and lowercase letters, alphabetical order, reading, initial sounds, rhyming, end sounds, counting, basic addition, basic subtraction, measurement, ordering, sorting by 1, 2, and 3 attributes, creativity, and music
The educational content of this package is well suited to the average kindergartner's abilities, and many preschoolers will be able to play the program on its lower levels as well. Advanced 5 year-olds would probably do well with a more challenging title. We love the extension activities and printable workbooks for learning and fun away from the computer.
Bold graphics, endearing characters, and amusing moments will keep Franklin fans entertained for hours. There is enough variety in the activities to ensure that most kids will find something right up their alley.
Most of the programís activities have 3 levels of difficulty that can be changed at any time on the activity screens. At times, dialogue cannot be interrupted with a click of the mouse but, all in all, this wasnít a hampering problem. The reward system is excellent, and the hosts of the program provide smart feedback.
Most kids will return to this charming program often. There is a good amount of content here with multiple-level activities to grow with a child.
This CD-ROM set sells for $30 US.
Reviewed: November 2000