Bottom Line: Kids will love, parents will like and teachers will probably stick with something more traditional to teach sight word recognition and spelling. Fully customizable.
The big-eyed characters Stitch Bunny, Draco and Pinku give Sight Words & Spelling with Pixopop an immediate splash of color and appeal unlike any of the other nine sight words apps I have. Pixopop is, in the words of designer and artist Ali Sabet, the manifestation of true love through characters. The app is created by Marcel Widarto and is the second release from his company SoGaBee.
The app also differs from your run-of-the-mill sight words app because it offers three distinct modes of play for kids to learn the fundamental amiswaswerecandohavecomeseeandit building blocks of the English language. These words are also commonly referred to as Dolch Words or core vocabulary in AAC apps. It is necessary to recognize them on sight in order to be a fluent reader.
From the main screen users can navigate to Flash Cards, Word Challenge or Spelling. Pressing Flash Cards brings up a menu of 24 different clouds, each of which represents a list of 10 words. The word lists begin with pre-primer words and continue through second grade sight words. The words included in each default list can be viewed from the settings menu.
Flash cards can be reviewed with the quiz mode on or off. In quiz mode users name each word themselves and tapping the word lets them hear it to confirm if they were right or wrong. With quiz mode off, the words are named one by one as they appear onscreen.
Once users are familiar with the words on a list, they can move to Word Challenge mode. These lists are locked and must be accessed in order. In this exercise, a word is called out and the correct word must be chosen from a list of four. The settings allow a choice of easy or hard decoy words. Hard words means all the choices will start with the same letter and be similar in length to the target word. This feature in the settings is excellent and makes play a true test of proficiency. I did uncover several bugs of sorts in this mode of play, however. Once, the spoken word was “to” and my word choices included to and two, too. Another time, a decoy word was Indian spelled with a little i. These issues, while minor, need to be addressed in a future update.
Word Challenge also includes scoring. Each correct response is worth four points with a total possible score of 40. If the word is correctly selected the first time, the user gets four points. If it takes two tries, three points are awarded. If three words are missed the quiz stops and must be retaken from the beginning. Each correct response means a piece of the Pixopop character added to its outline.
Data from each quiz is collected and viewable from an icon on the home page. The data is detailed and gives a date, whether the quiz was passed, failed or incomplete and a score. My only quibble with the data is that scoring on a 40 point scale is awkward and does not translate well for A-F grading or data collection for ABA trials or IEPs.
Spelling mode gives the user a chance to spell each of the now familiar sight words. This mode has the same 24 locked lists, 40 point scoring scale and three-strikes-you’re-out setup. Letters are entered from a very small keyboard and arranged alphabetically. Input in this manner is slow and rather difficult. By the time kids are expected to spell their sight words, they need to be familiarizing themselves with a qwerty keyboard. (My child had keyboarding in second grade.) One standout feature in this mode is the tricky word list. Misspelled words are automatically added to this list for extra practice.
Another high point of Sight Words & Spelling with Pixopop is the ability to add custom word lists. This feature is available in all three modes of play and creating a custom list is easy. The word is typed in and the user is prompted to record the word and a sentence using the word. Each custom list is given a name so multiple children can use the app to practice weekly spelling lists. Another option is to record the word’s definition which is especially useful for science and social studies vocabulary practice. This feature insures Pixopop has a permanent place on my iPad.
I doubt teachers will be as fond of the app as their students. It is not set up to collect data for multiple students. Also, lists are not identified by primer, kindergarten or first grade as is customary. The locking also means students can’t skip to the list they currently need to learn.
Additionally, there are no visual instructions or feedback when a wrong answer is given in Word Challenge and Spelling modes. If a child is asked to press the word "have" in Word Challenge, for example, and they press the word "house" the app just makes a buzzer sound rather than indicating what word was pressed or what the correct word is.
A mute switch for the music that plays on the home screen would also be nice. It doesn’t really evoke the manifestation of love Pixopop’s artist is aiming for and is much louder than the rest of the sound. Stitch Bunny and the other characters are available in plush form or as limited edition art prints for those who need more love in their life.
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The reviewer experienced a manifestation of love for Taylor Lauter whose movie Abduction she watched while writing this review. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.