Some school subjects require plenty of practice and drill, and spelling is certainly one of them. JumpStart Study Helpers: Spelling Bee features arcade-style games that help reinforce spelling wordsboth common spelling lists as well as customized lists that children (or their parents) can add to the program's word database. In effect, kids can practice their weekly school spelling lists and more in a fun and positive environment.
There are three activities in the program, all arcade-style: Crab Attack, Fish Frenzy, and Sea Horse Speedway. Children choose a starting level of difficulty (levels 1 through 6) and a category to begin with (such as "words with ew") before playing the games. From this starting point, the program automatically adjusts levels according to each child's performance. In Crab Attack, children "bubble-shoot" crabs that hold missing letters in given spelling words. Fish Frenzy requires use of the arrow keys on the keyboard as kids maneuver Frankie the dog in attempts to collect correctly spelled words. Finally, in Seahorse Speedway, kids move Frankie along a course, catching letters that help them spell words.
The games are fairly straightforward, although slightly tricky for younger children in the suggested age group. Once they figure out how to play, most kids should find the games entertaining. One of the games requires kids to discriminate between correctly- and incorrectly-spelled words, and the other two are "fill in the blank" style. The difficulty levels cater to children from first to fifth grade, and spelling words range from words like "hid" on level 1 to "circumnavigate" on level 6. Word categories include such things as compound words, blends, and more. Misspelled words are "recycled" so that children will encounter problem words frequently until they get them right.
The CD-ROM includes 1700 pre-programmed words organized neatly into categories, and the option to add customized spelling lists. The Editor feature allows children or parents to select content. Words added to the program must include "distracters" (incorrect spelling of the words), so parents should probably set up the customized lists themselves. If an added word is not in the program's database, the speech used for the word may not be entirely accurate. Although parents can adjust the speech by spelling the words phonetically, the results are not always perfect. This can be a problem in some cases. Questionable words are not allowedif children try to add them, they are told "Yeah, right...I don't think so!" The program includes progress reports and keeps track of game scores. Children can choose to play against the clock if they desire, and they can choose the difficulty level of the arcade games.
A nice option allows instructions to be played in Spanish, making this program useful for learning English as a second language.