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Review CornerSoftware
JumpStart Study Helper: Spelling Bee
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
This CD-ROM effectively turns studying into a game, offering elementary-age children fun ways to practice spelling. Children can practice spelling words from the program's large database and/or add their own spelling lists. Targeted practice is the program's main strength, and a lack of variety in gameplay is its weakness.
Ages: 7-10   Subject: Reading/Pre-reading/Spelling   Brand: Knowledge Adventure/Vivendi Universal
Review Sections: Product Overview  Technically Speaking  Skills Covered  Educational Value  Entertainment Value  Design  Replayability  Dollar Value
 
 
image Product Overview
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 words—both 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 allowed—if 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.

Technically Speaking
Minimum system requirements are Windows 98/2000/Me/XP, Pentium 233 MHz, 64 MB RAM, and 12X CD-ROM. Mac users require a PowerMac G3 233 MHz or faster, System 8.6, 9.2.1, 10.1.2, 64 MB RAM, and 16X CD-ROM. The program requires 100 MB of hard drive space.

Skills Covered
Spelling words commonly encountered in first-fifth grade.

Educational Value
Targeted spelling practice is possible with the program's ability to incorporate customized spelling lists into the games and its automatic leveling.

Entertainment Value
The games are entertaining for children who enjoy arcade-style activities. However, there are only three activities to choose from.

Design
This program boasts excellent design features, including hints when children are struggling, content editing, options to play against the clock, and the ability to manually adjust difficulty levels for both the academic content and the game play. Automatic adjustment of levels helps children stay at a comfortable level of learning and recycling of problem words means children get extra practice where they need it most.

Replayability
A large variety of words at six difficulty levels translates to large academic content. However, some children will want more variety in game styles (there are only three activities).

Dollar Value
The program carries a suggested retail price of approximately $19.99 US.

Released: 2003
Reviewed: June 2003