JumpStart Advanced 1st Grade is an all-new first grade title featuring new content and familiar JumpStart characters.
Through the program's introductory video, children learn that Squirt's scooter is broken after "mean old" Jimmy Bumples pushed him--and this, right before the JumpStart Scooter tournament! Kids will want to help the JumpStart gang train, practice, and collect power-ups for the big tournament. They do so through a series of skill-building activities.
The activities offer a wide range of skill-building exercises. Our favorite activity in this new title is reminiscent of the excellent cafeteria activity in the program's very first incarnation. In this pizza-making activity, kids practice fractions in exciting ways. Children create pizza ("a good pre-race meal") by placing toppings on the dough, according to instructions. For example, they might be required to make a pizza with 1/4 onion, 1/4 gummie bears, and 1/2 pepperoni! This activity is excellent for helping children visualize fractions.
Some activities are arcade-style, such as one in which children direct Pierre through an icy maze, collecting balls of ice in logical order (they may need to count by tens, collect objects in order of their size, or determine the sequence of a series of pictures that tell a story, for example). Reading comprehension is tested while children help Eleanor create news reports after reading and listening to stories. The creativity activity features a rather standard "paint" studio, as well as an especially nifty "card show" activity. In the latter, children arrange music for the award show at the end of the scooter races. Children go "shopping" for items to decorate the race tracks, and insert coins into a machine that only accepts correct change. Other activities require completing math equations, spelling words, identifying parts of speech, sorting objects into similar groups, and more.
One of the things that makes this title different than the rest is its "tailored learning styles" feature. Before children begin, they can choose a learning style that is associated with a JumpStart All-Star character. Alternatively, they are assigned an All-Star guide after answering a series of questions about their personal preferences. For example, kids can choose Eleanor "the reader", Kisha "the artist", Casey "the athlete", and so forth. This selection determines the style of help given throughout the program. For example, if children are struggling with a question that involves identifying nouns, and Eleanor the Reader is their guide, they will receive a short tutoring session that teaches nouns largely using the written word. Or, if Kisha the Artist is their guide, and they have demonstrated an inability to identify the letter B sound, Kisha will "paint" the letter B as she says its sound (using a visual-spatial learning style).
Our copy came with a bonus JumpStart Animal Adventures Karaoke CD-ROM. This CD features the excellent music videos from the JumpStart Animal Adventures software title.
At times, the program is slow-moving, largely because not all instruction or feedback can be skipped. Also, the program is very busy, with a number of goals to reach within the main mission, so that kids are not always clear what they are trying to accomplish. Despite these complaints, JumpStart Advanced First Grade is a very worthy title that adjusts difficulty levels according to a child's performance. Some of its educational content reaches beyond first-grade curriculum, making the software most appropriate for children in the midst of the school year, or those reviewing first-grade skills.
Minimum system requirements are Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, Pentium (or equivalent) 233 MHz or higher, 64 MB of RAM, and 12X CD-ROM drive. Mac users require a PowerMac G3 233 MHz or higher, System 8.6, 9.2.1, 10.1.2, 64 MB RAM, and 16X CD-ROM drive. The program requires 50 MB of hard drive space.
Children learn and develop skills in phonics, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, syllables, sentence building, reading comprehension, parts of speech, addition, subtraction, fractions, counting coins, money math, comparisons, measurement, counting and skip counting, logical thinking, problem solving, listening skills, life sciences, creativity, memory, and more.
As is often the case with grade-based titles that attempt to cover the curriculum for the entire grade level, learning is not focused on any one topic. Still, this title does a super job of covering a wide range of basic skills, with special emphasis on math and language arts. Some of the educational content is a little "advanced" for children just entering, or about to enter, first grade. However, tutoring sessions and automatic leveling help to keep children at a comfortable learning level.
Children's academic efforts earn them exciting power-ups that they can trade in to make "tricks" for the racetracks, such as "Edison's Lights-Out Zone" or a bumpy carrot patch. Once the program's reward system is understood, children have a great time trading in their rewards, and most of all, taking part in races.
This program is busy with features--perhaps a little too busy in spots. An optional assessment test can be taken before beginning the program's activities. After answering a series of multiple choice questions, the program "places" children at different skill levels for various activities. Whether or not children take this test, the program automatically adjusts difficulty levels according to their performance. While this feature is not uncommon in software programs, it worked especially well in our tests.
The content is strong for this genre of children's software. The addition of an overall goal to the program generally encourages children to play all of the activities until their special "mission" is accomplished.
This package carries a retail price of approximately $30 US.
Reviewed: June 2002