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Review CornerSoftware
JumpStart Learning Games: Phonics
Rating: three and a half stars
The Bottom Line
This value-priced program should be fun for most children. Although more entertaining than educational, it does provide some reinforcement of early reading skills.
Ages: 4-6   Subject: Reading/Pre-reading/Spelling  Brand: Knowledge Adventure
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
JumpStart Learning Games: Phonics Product Overview
Why did the JumpStart school bus stop on its way to school? Kids will earn clues to solve this mystery by playing early phonics activities in this low-priced software. There are 3 games to play:
  • In Farmer MacDonald's Barn, players move a basket to catch falling objects according to the instructions from Hatty Hen. For example, she may ask "which ends with the same sound as this object — fox?"
  • In Firehouse (pictured at right), players move CJ the frog around a firehouse using the arrow keys on the keyboard. They must collect words that rhyme with the given word. Pressing the spacebar when the firehouse dog crosses CJ's path will prompt CJ to throw the dog one of the bones collected along the way.
  • Kids tickle cuckoo birds in the Train Station activity. They must match uppercase and lowercase letters.
Players can also visit the Band Stand to watch and sing along with adorable music videos, some of which have a strong learning theme. For example, "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" has a bit of phonics thrown into the song — "and on that farm he had a C-C-C Cow" — that helps reinforce a handful of letter sounds in a fun and engaging way.

There is a Look and Listen window which displays the earned clues, and once all 3 activities are completed, kids can use these clues to solve the mystery. They are rewarded with fun printable goodies once their "mission" is complete. Each time kids play, they are provided a new set of clues.

A preferences screen gives players a few options — from this screen, they can change the difficulty level and volume, for example. The program uses JumpStart's Adaptive Learning Technology which means the program adapts automatically to a child's performance. When kids are displaying mastery of skills, the program will move on to a higher level, and will not advance if a child is struggling. The preferences screen allows a parent or child to adjust the levels manually if so desired.

Although children found the activities to be fun at the outset, they were not hugely enthused about returning to them. They enjoyed watching the music videos — the songs are very catchy and upbeat.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98, a Pentium 90, 16 Mb RAM, and 4X CD ROM. Mac users require a Power PC 120 MHz with 16 Mb with 15 Mb RAM available, System 7.5.3 or higher, and at least 4X CD ROM.

The game features gorgeous cartoon-style graphics.

Skills Covered
phonics, letter sounds, upper- and lowercase matching, rhyming words, music appreciation

Educational Value
This program's educational value lies mainly in reinforcing skills -- there is not a whole lot of teaching going on.

Entertainment Value
The characters and songs are wonderfully entertaining. Many kids will love the idea of collecting clues and ultimately solving a mystery.

Children should have no problem navigating this program — it features clear and explicit instructions as well as obvious navigational icons and arrows. Adaptive Learning Technology minimizes frustration by automatically adjusting the difficulty levels according to a child's performance.

As this is a value-priced program, there is less content than a typical JumpStart program. Each time a child plays, there is a new set of clues, which helps to boost the replay value of the game.

Dollar Value
The suggested retail price is only $10 US. Considering parents will spend at least that much on a children's video, most parents will find this program to be worth the outlay.

Released: 1999