Review by Common Sense Editor, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2012
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Clever interactive games introduce letter sounds, action words

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts

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Pros: Gameplay and design are engaging and educationally sound.

Cons: Connection between letter and target action word can be confusing.

Bottom Line: A great way to introduce letters to beginning readers, but plan on providing outside help to emphasize connections between letters and target words.

Use AlphaTots as a fun way to practice recognizing and naming letters. Games can also help kids with alphabetical order and introduce them to the sounds letters make. Let kids play individually, as the real fun is in the interaction with the letters and the letter-based activities. Teachers should make clear the connection between the letters and their associated action words: Ask kids which word starts with the target letter, or tell them "A is for add." Play is completely free-form, so there's no way to target particular letters, track progress, or assess learning. Teachers will need to check in with kids outside of the app to discover what they're learning from their play. 

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AlphaTots introduces kids to the letters of the alphabet and to an action word that begins with each letter. Kids choose a letter, hear the sound(s) it makes, and then are invited to play a game in which they carry out an action that starts with that letter. For example, for the letter H, kids hear "Can you hammer the nails?" and they tap four nails to hammer them into a birdhouse. Kids can go forward or backward, one letter at a time, or tap and hold any letter for four seconds to jump around. Bonus features include hearing the alphabet song and hearing each letter name one by one in alphabetical order. 

AlphaTots excels with great graphics, a clever game design that expertly utilizes touchscreen technology, and lots of fun. During play, kids hear the letter name and the sound it makes; for vowels, they hear both the long and short version. That makes for a nice, clear introduction and creates opportunities for simple letter exploration. Stepping out of the mold of pairing letters with cliché nouns (A is for apple, C is for cat) by using verbs and action-based activities is also interesting. Unfortunately, the connection between the target letter and its matching word doesn't stand out, so kids risk confusing which word starts with each letter. In the "Add candles to the cake" activity, for example, kids are likely to think the A is for cake or candles rather than the word add. This could easily be remedied with repetition (repeating directions several times, including after the action is completed) and a more purposeful connection between the target letter and the action word (e.g., "A is for add"). Overall, this is a strong introduction to letters that needs just a few tweaks to demonstrate the correct connection to the letter's place in the words. 

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Wonderfully engaging games and crisp, sophisticated graphics make playing a pleasure. Kids will enjoy learning letter sounds as they build robots, water plants, X-ray presents, more.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Letters and letter sounds are pronounced clearly, and kids can interact with them in alphabetical order or at random. Some kids will need more help connecting letters to target action words.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Gameplay is simple, straightforward, and easily accessible. Kids may have trouble with the tap-and-hold action needed to jump from letter to letter. Lacks opportunities for customization or tracking.

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Sheila S. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Novi High School
Novi, United States
Interactive, engaging, and fun way to reinforce the alphabet for preschool age children.
I liked this app as its support the children in their learning of the alphabet, but I would not rely on the app to solely "teach" the alphabet. One thing I found interesting but also sometimes confusing were the words the app used for each letter. For example, the letter b used the word "build" to support /b/ sound. Then it tells the children to "build" a robot, which could become confusing because the children get focused on the robot which starts with the /r/ sound. Each letter uses an action word ...
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