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Key Skills for Reading: Spelling & Phonics

By Susan W. Hixson - Posted May 1, 2005
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Overall Rating:5 Stars
Ease of Use:A
Product Support:A

Company: Sunburst Technology, Inc., 1550 Executive Drive, Elgin, IL 60123; Phone: 888/492-8817; Internet:

Price: $60—single copy; $160—lab pack of 10; $700—network or unlimited site license.

Audience: Grades 1-3.

Format: Mac/Win hybrid CD-ROM.

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows: Pentium 166 MHz proces­sor, 32-MB RAM, Windows 98/2000/XP, 4x CD-ROM drive, sound card, 800x600 color monitor capable of 256 colors.

Macintosh: 266 MHz PowerPC proces­sor, 10-MB RAM, Macintosh OS 9.2/10.2/10.3, 4x CD-ROM drive, 800x600 color monitor capable of 256 colors.

Description: Key Skills for Reading: Spelling & Phonics, part of the Key Skills series, is a multimedia program that offers creative ways to learn and practice phonics and spelling skills. The program's multi-leveled activities are designed to meet national standards for language arts.

Reviewer Comments:

Installation: The program is easy to install. It loads on the hard drive to a folder that holds both the activities and the management tool; these programs launch separately.  The Easy Install option will install all of the activities and tools from the CD-ROM. Installation Rating: A

Content/Features: Key Skills for Reading: Spelling & Phonics focuses on the skills that enhance and strengthen language arts learning. The program provides 15 leveled activities that complement a core curriculum to build an understanding of common rules and patterns of spelling.

The activities allow students to work on initial and ending consonant sounds, short and long vowel sounds and patterns, sound patterns and clusters, suffixes and their meanings, and commonly misspelled words. Words are read aloud to students throughout the program.

At the opening screen, the student selects his or her name and chooses activities for practice. Students choose between spelling and phonics and then are taken to a screen offering a selection of activities.

In the Phonics area, students find eight leveled activities. These selections focus on beginning sounds, final sounds, clusters, digraphs, long vowels, and short vowels.

A variety of activities introduce skills in identifying letters and their sounds. In one activity, students match sounds with letters to help a postman deliver postcards to the correct door.  In another, students help an elephant artist paint a masterpiece as they complete sentences by choosing the correct missing word.

In the Spelling section, seven leveled activities help students practice and enhance their spelling skills. In one series of activities, an animal band plays music when students spell words correctly. If the letters are selected out of their correct order, the wrong letters will return to the top of the page for another try.

In Spelling Alley, students select a correctly spelled word to complete a sentence, causing an animated character to bowl a strike. In Vowels on the Bus, students match vowels or vowel combinations to help students get on the correct school bus.

In the Stickers section, students can see how many awards they have earned. Each time an activity is completed with mainly correct answers, students are awarded a sticker. A graph develops to show their successes. Students can print out their sticker page.

This program contains a new Teacher Management Tool that will automatically update previously installed Key Skills programs. Located in the Key Skills folder on the hard drive, the management tool also finds and collects data from any other installed Key Skills programs, grouping performance data across titles.

The teacher management feature also allows teachers to assign work in selected levels and types of activities to specific students, or to assign access to all activities to an entire class. This tool also provides teacher access to student performance information that can be arranged in a variety of personalized reports, including displays with numerical or percentage values. The process is very user-friendly; the results can be printed.

Teachers have good support available in the Teacher's Guide that describes each activity and gives suggestions of other classroom ex­ten­sions. Content/Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: Key Skills for Reading: Spelling & Phonics is easy for both students and teachers to use. Students will find it easy to navigate the program to get to the activities they enjoy. Teachers will find the management tool straightforward and easy to set up, particularly in terms of the skills they want their students to practice. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support: Onscreen help is available for students who need assistance; read-aloud options help younger students follow text and instructions. The program includes two manuals—a User's Guide for the teacher management features and a Teacher's Guide with classroom activities and blackline masters. The guides provide detailed user information and suggested extension activities to strengthen reading skills.

Product support is available via the company's toll-free telephone number or by e-mail. Online technical support and a patch library for Sunburst products can be found at Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation:  I recommend Key Skills for Reading: Spelling & Phonics as a great supplement to your reading program. The activities make phonics practice lively and add a little excitement to selecting the correct spelling of a word. This program will take the place of many worksheets and will hold the attention of active students. Highly Recommended.

Reviewer: Susan W. Hixson, Educational Consultant, Integrating the Internet; 480/837-7803;

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