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Review CornerSoftware
Vowels: Short and Long
Rating: four and a half stars
The Bottom Line
An excellent title for early language arts development, Vowels Short and Long is a positive and encouraging title that kids will enjoy.
Award of Excellence
Ages: 5-7   Subject: Reading/Pre-reading/Spelling  Brand: Sunburst Communications/Tenth Planet
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
Vowels Short and Long Product Overview
Designed for kids from grades kindergarten to two, this program helps to build language arts and reading skills by working with short and long vowel sounds. Like another title in the Tenth Planet Word Building Series, Letter Sounds (see our review), this one helps to develop phonemic awareness. It is set up similarly to Letter Sounds and contains more of the adorable video clips that introduce each activity. The activities are as follows:
  • Sound Sorting: Kids sort words based on the vowel sounds they have in common.
  • Combining Sounds: Add beginning and ending sounds to vowel sounds to build words.
  • Word Families: Create words by blending sounds or blends with common endings. Word Ladders: Kids build a series of words by changing only one letter or sound at a time (for example,. big to pig to pin, etc.)
  • Rhyme Time: Kids build phrases filled with rhyming words by dragging words and pictures from a palette at the bottom of the screen.
  • Down by the Bay: Create original lyrics for the popular children's song, "Down by the Bay."
The Journal is available at all times, throughout each activity, and is a place for kids to save their work. They can record their own voice reading their work, and teachers or parents can add comments to the children's journals as well. Journal entries can also be printed.

A Word Bank is available for some activities. Kids bring words they have built to their personal word bank, and they can be used in other activities to be included in compositions. The Word Building Tool allows kids to simply build words from scratch and hear them read aloud. The Word Study Notebook provides a place to organize and sort their word bank words. They may sort words like "hat" and "bake" into short "a" vowel sound, and long "a" vowel sound pages.

The host voices are fresh and clear, which is extremely important in an early reading title such as this one. The program is well-organized although the interface is slightly confusing to kids at the outset. Each activity has a Help movie that provides an easy to understand walk-through of the activity.

As with its companion program Letter Sounds, this program is designed for school use, but it is highly appropriate for home schooling families and as a home supplement to learning for kids who go to school. Teacher options and supplemental guide are excellent and contain off-the-computer activities that are directly related to the computer program. Parents who like to get involved with their kids' learning will appreciate the suggestions. Although they are not necessary — the CD-ROM does a great job on its own — they are wonderful extras that help make the program a rich multi-sensory experience.

Kid testers found this program very appealing, and were thrilled to be able to build their own words and store them in their personal word banks. The program is very forgiving and positive — you won't find any negative feedback (like "wrong" sound effects) in this game.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are a 486 DX2-66, 8 Mb RAM, and 2X CD ROM. Mac users require a Macintosh LC III/68030/25 MHz with 8 Mb RAM (and 5 Mb available), System 7.1 or higher, and at least 2X CD ROM. An external or built-in microphone is recommended.

Skills Covered
identify vowel sounds in words and connect those sounds to letter patterns, sort pictures into groups based on like vowel sounds, build words with short and long vowel patterns, explore word patterns by blending consonants and vowels, read words and sort them by vowel sounds and spelling patterns, compose rhymes and song verses using rhyming words

Educational Value
The exercises are excellent and provide good skills practice. This is a very encouraging program that allows kids to experiment without pressure to be perfect.

Entertainment Value
The video clips are very entertaining — and educational at the same time. Focus is on word building and skills practice.

Although kids were somewhat confused by the interface at the beginning, it wasn't long before they understood how to get around the program.

There is a good amount of content, both open-ended and structured that will keep kids busy.

Dollar Value
This is a school version and costs $80 US. We consider this program to be an excellent addition to our collection of early reading titles.

Released: 1999