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.