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Review CornerSoftware
Spelling Spree!
Rating: four stars
The Bottom Line
Spelling Spree! succeeds at what it sets out to do — it provides spelling practice in an engaging format. This program is well-designed and covers 4 grade levels, allowing it to grow with your child.
Ages: 8-12   Subject: Reading/Pre-reading/Spelling  Brand: Houghton Mifflin Interactive
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
Spelling Spree! Product Overview
Spelling Spree! was developed to be used in schools along with the Houghton Mifflin's Spelling and Vocabulary 1998 series. However, home users will find it engaging as well, whether or not their kids are using this spelling program at school. It is certainly not necessary to own or be familiar with the spelling program in order to play the software program.

It covers 4 years of spelling curriculum, including material for grades 3 to 6. The setting is an amusement park, and the hosts of the games are animated pets. There are 5 types of activities altogether, and there are 2 activities for each of the 30 spelling word lists for each grade level. While every word list contains the Proofread-o-Rama activity, the second activity may be any one of the remaining 4.

  • Proofread-o-Rama can be found at the Ferris Wheel and is an activity common to all 30 word lists. Here, kids must read a short story that contains some words from their word list that are misspelled. First, the misspelled word has to be identified, then the correct word should be typed in.
  • In Whack-a-Word (pictured above), players choose a mallet and play against Bruno the Bear. They try to smash the letters in order to correctly spell the given word and collect points.
  • In Bumper Cars, players direct their bumper car to other cars that contain the next letter in the given spelling word.
  • Crazy Maze involves navigating the bunny through a multi-level maze. Kids must try to dodge floating bunnies and they can enter doors and tunnels to be transported to other areas fast. They go up and down ladders, collecting the letters of the spelling words. Great arcade fun!
  • Word Chuck involves choosing a beaver boat for Dobie and navigating him around in the water, shooting at targets that contain the correct letters or groups of letters to spell the given words. Kids pan left or right, and the targets change after a short period of time, providing some arcade-style challenge.
All activities require that a word be spelled out on the keyboard after the arcade portion of the activity. Before playing an activity, players are asked to study the selected word list. They can click on any word to hear it pronounced, and to see its definition, as well as a sentence containing the word.

Each word is always accompanied by a sentence containing the word, which provides context and helps if a child didn't hear the word properly in the first place. This feature is important — not being able to understand a spoken spelling word can be frustrating.

Words that break certain spelling rules have an elephant icon beside them, which conveys the message that a child should make an extra effort to try to remember the special spelling of the word.

The word lists are organized nicely into categories with names like "Unexpected Consonant Patterns" (words containing "kn", "wr", "tch"), "Contractions", "Changing final 'y' to 'i'", etc.

The Parental Controls can be accessed in the program group outside of the program. This is where parents can view the user list and progress, view word lists, and add a new custom list. Adding a new list can be a rather lengthy process since each word requires a clue, a definition, a context sentence, and distracters in the form of single letters. My guess is that most parents will let their kids stick with the provided word lists that are probably sufficient for practice.

The games are surprisingly fun. We had a great time with them all — especially Crazy Maze. Arcade-style activities are good for practicing words, and each time a word is completed, kids must type in the word in full as further reinforcement.

The characters are cute and might be "too" cute for kids in the older range of the suggested age group, but the spelling practice remains excellent. The proofreading activity for all word lists is superb and helps reinforce spelling words and editing skills.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are a Pentium processor, 12 Mb RAM, 2X CD ROM. Mac users require a Power Mac with 12 Mb RAM, System 7.5 or higher, and at least 2X CD ROM.

Skills Covered
spelling, proofreading

Educational Value
Spelling for many children requires a lot of drill and practice, and Spelling Spree! provides this kind of reinforcement quite well.

Entertainment Value
The activities are arcade-style and quite fun.

Most of the desirable design features you can find in edutainment software can be found in this title — the ability to click through instructions, difficulty levels (which, in this case, are found in the 4 grade levels), etc. The only awkward feature is the Parental Controls option that can only be accessed before or after playing the game.

Multi-level content boosts this program's shelf life.

Dollar Value
The title retails for $39.95 US, which is a little steep compared to most home-use products.

Released: 1999