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Review CornerSoftware
Word Way
Rating: four and a half stars
The Bottom Line
A no-frills, no-nonsense approach to improving and practicing language arts exercises is presented here. The activities are clever and valuable, compensating for the low-tech look and feel of the program. Excellent for schools, home schools, and supplemental practice in the home.
Award of Excellence
Ages: 8-10   Subject: Reading/Pre-reading/Spelling  Brand: Ingenuity Works
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
 
 
World of Fun Kindergarten Product Overview
From the makers of the Mathville series, Word Way focuses on developing reading and writing skills. This program contains 10 learning activities that support typical third-grade language arts curriculum. These are appropriate for children in adjacent grades as well for remedial work, review, or enrichment.

The activities provide students with the opportunity to practice language fundamentals such as vocabulary, spelling, form and style, comprehension, punctuation, and grammar. Though children can use the program independently, teachers and parents will find Word Way valuable as a diagnostic tool that will help evaluate a child’s ability in various language arts subjects.

There are plenty of activities to explore. In Contractions, students are presented with word groups like "I had" and "you are", and are asked to type the related contraction, complete with the appropriate use of the apostrophe. In another activity, children complete sentences by selecting the correct spelling of the missing homophones (example: not, knot). Word search puzzles involve looking for plurals (mostly irregular ones) of the given words in one of two different modes of difficulty. Kids work with prefixes, suffixes, abbreviations, and compounds by determining "mystery words" in a quiz show-style activity, playing against the computer for points in either easy or expert mode.

Children are given sentences that are revealed one word at a time, and must determine the end punctuation (period, question mark, or exclamation mark). In another interesting activity, kids need to follow written directions in order to reveal a mystery "reward" word, working with vocabulary words drawn from geometry, technology, and science. In a swimming race setting, children guess and spell mystery words based on pictorial and audio clues, as well as clues that include such language fundamentals as antonyms, word tenses, vowel sounds, and more. Another activity requires students to read short stories, and then demonstrate their comprehension by manipulating objects in the accompanying pictures. In a rollercoaster activity, children attempt to load cars with the syllables of each given word. Finally, kids select words to complete sentences by paying attention to subject-verb agreement.

The exercises are randomized in order to keep the activities fresh. As well, incorrect answers are logged so that they will reappear more frequently. Some games have settings like a basketball game and outer space, and points are accumulated. In some cases, if an answer is not quite correct, students are given hints and the opportunity to correct their work. No penalties for incorrect answers in a few activities means students feel free to explore. Others are timed and often the activities are reset when a certain number of errors are made. Hints are frequently given and clicking the "help" button will reveal special rules or lessons that need to be applied in the featured game.

A 9 year-old tester who is in the midst of fourth grade and rather strong in language arts was appropriately challenged by the program and came away from it feeling he learned a great deal.

The graphics and sound effects are unremarkable, and even crude. However, the educational content is far from run-of-the mill. In fact, the activities are quite intelligent and surprisingly fun, even for a tester accustomed to many of the latest edutainment titles on the market.

Note that there is a companion CD-ROM available as well -- Write Way (our review coming soon).

Though Word Way was developed to run directly from the CD-ROM, the program can be copied to the hard drive for easy accessibility, requiring a mere 20 MB of hard drive space.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98/NT 4.0 or later, Pentium or compatible, 12 MB RAM, CD-ROM drive. Mac users require a Power PC with 12 MB of available RAM, System 7.5.3 or later, and a CD-ROM drive.

Skills Covered
comprehension, reasoning, following written instructions, form and style, subject-verb agreement, irregular plurals, punctuation, contractions, spelling, prefixes, suffixes, abbreviations, compound words, syllables, spelling rules, phonics, homophones, vocabulary

Educational Value
The exercises provide excellent and age-appropriate practice with language arts skills. Activities are just the right length to be thoroughly digestible.

Entertainment Value
Though this title is not flashy or sophisticated on a technological level, the activities are really quite engaging. Different themes for activities were not felt to be especially exciting by testers, but accumulating points for correct answers was considered to be fun.

Design
Straightforward navigation and a non-linear design allow students to work independently at their own pace.

Replayability
Randomized content, digestible exercises, and a good variety and number of activities provide some longevity to the program. The words students work with are drawn from a large pool and are randomly-generated, creating a new experience each time a child uses the program.

Dollar Value
The school version is $49.95.

Released: 2000
Reviewed: December 2000