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Key Skills for Reading: Vocabulary Development

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

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

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

Audience: Grades 1-3.

Format: Mac/Win hybrid CD-ROM.

Minimum System Requirements:

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

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

Description: Key Skills for Reading: Vocabulary Development is a multimedia program designed to reinforce reading skills and help develop reading vocabulary. The activities include selecting sight words, creating compound words, adding prefixes and suffixes, learning about homophones, and sorting words into categories by definition or use.

Reviewer Comments:

Installation: The program is easily loaded onto the computer by inserting the CD and selecting Install. I had a Key Skills program already loaded on my machine and the new Key Skills program automatically combined with the previously-installed activities to create an even more complex variety of games and exercises. Installation Rating: A

Content/Features: Key Skills for Reading: Vocabulary Development brings a little fun into the exercise of learning and building a larger vocabulary.

Students log in with their name; all participation is scored and recorded for teacher evaluation.

Teachers can access a password-protected management tool by opening a separate area in the Key Skills folder. Here, educators can enter the names of students, assign activities to specific students or the entire class, and generate reports for a class or a student.

Skills are organized in a tree structure so that specific standards can be addressed. This allows teachers to challenge some students and keep the exercises easier for others. Each of these features makes monitoring student work painless.

The program offers five activities for vocabulary skills, most with more than one level of difficulty. Each includes choices of How to Play, Sound On/Off, Print, and Back. User directions are written out for students.

The Building Site activity asks students to select the correct word to complete a sentence. This category includes three work levels. As correct choices are made, a picture is created. If an incorrect answer is selected, the screen goes a little dark and students are asked to pick a different word. The completed sentence is read to the student.

In the Compound Creations area, students use the arrows in the center of the screen to move and match up words. When five compound words are created, the locks on a box open and show what is inside. This activity builds vocabulary and reinforces the identification of compound words.

Fletcher the Prefix and Suffix lets students interact with an animated dog to find the correct prefix or suffix for a word. On the Sound Alike Slope, homophones are shown to complete a sentence and the student is asked to pick the correct one.

The Sorting Dance asks students to read each word and drag it to one of three categories.

Many reading skills are practiced and reinforced while using this program. The graphics are creative and the sound is easy to hear and understand.

The package includes two teacher manuals. One manual focuses on using the software, especially the management tools. A second teachers' guide offers classroom activities and blackline masters to extend the skills from the program. The guide provides a list of sight words used in the sentences listed by reading level and also features ideas to tie the lessons to the national standards required in all classrooms. This tool can be used to design many class activities. Content/Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: Key Skills for Reading: Vocabulary Development is intuitive for young students. Once they log in with their name, they select the skills they are to work on and go to work. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support: Sunburst Technology always provides good teacher tools to support the educational use of its products. The two manuals included in this package are very helpful. Technical support also is available via a toll-free telephone number and by e-mail. Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation:  I enthusiastically recommend Key Skills for Reading: Vocabulary Development to enhance language skills in any classroom or home. 

The program is easy and fun to use. The computer activities provide students with an additional approach to language development. The interactive and creative components help sustain student interest.

Teachers are always looking for programs that can help readers become more independent. This is certainly one. Highly Recommended.

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

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