Bottom line: Let your little jellyfish learn about short I sounds in this underwater phonics adventure app. A real bargain at 99 cents!
This app contains no ads or in-app purchases, but does contain external links to the app store, internet, and developer website under a parent-protected section that I admittedly had some difficulty using (complete user error — it's not that tough.)
When I first read the title for this app I thought to myself "Really? An entire app dedicated to short I?" But then I was pleasantly proven wrong. Spellyfish Phonics from developer Pyxwise goes beyond teaching short I vowel families and usage and addresses phonemic awareness skills, word decoding, letter sounds, blending — you name it.
While I traditionally am not crazy about apps where you have to create a profile and what-not, I was very glad this feature showed up here. The customizations you can make inside this app are some I've never thought of before. From changing the way the keyboard inside the app is set up to the way letter and sound names are pronounced, each little profile keeps its own settings and levels.
Overall there are eight levels inside Spellyfish: an introduction, three levels that focus on end rhymes (all containing short I, of course) two that focus on beginning sounds (d and r), and two cumulative reviews. Detailed data is kept for each profile and can be accessed at any time from the pull-down menu at the top of the screen. This data can also be shared via e-mail with parents or other teachers/interventionists who might work with the child. Each level contains approximately five words, while the final reviews have six words.
Your little learner is presented with a word and picture, and her job is to spell out the word using the provided keyboard. As she types, Spellyfish pronounces each sound, which is then magically transferred to one of three fish at the top of the screen. The fish are used for segmenting purposes. The word is then segmented again by Spellyfish, and the whole word is read the very last time. This not only allows children to hear the word, but also to hear the parts of the word with the added visual of the three fish.
If your kiddo needs a little extra help along the way, orange and yellow starfish help him locate sounds and letters for added visual and auditory support. Working in special education I'm all about apps that add in differentiated instruction for me.
The graphics in this app are top-notch and not too distracting from the boat-loads of learning that take place inside this app. The sound adds to and doesn't distract from the serious work the app has to do as well.
I would love to see some short mini-games added for reinforcement or a little more eye-catching praise. Verbal praise works well, but I really feel like some of my lower-end spelling speech therapy students need a little more motivation for harder tasks. I'd also like to see more words added — five words is a good starting point, but once students have mastered those five, that's pretty much it.
Spellyfish is one of those rare apps that is useful and educational enough to be used in the classroom by teachers, assistants, and interventionists alike, but not so intimidating that a parent or other caregiver couldn't download it and make use of it for home practice. At only 99 cents, the content is more than what you pay for, instead of the other way around. For emergent readers and those nuggets who need a little more phonics help, this app gets two fins up in my book.