Review by Dana Villamagna, Common Sense Education | Updated July 2012
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Freefall Spelling

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Cute, colorful app offers solid early spelling practice, custom lists

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Teachers say (1 Review)
$avg_user_learning_rating
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Grades
Pre-K-1 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Teachers can add their own spelling lists for kids to practice.

Cons: Kids who don't like to spell under pressure may not like the Freefall Mode, but you can slow fall speed or use Type and Scramble Modes only.

Bottom Line: Bright images, three modes of play, and custom options combine for a good first digital spelling practice experience.

Freefall Spelling is a great practice app to create custom lists for your students to practice their weekly spelling lists, or to introduce some new groups of words, such as sports or numbers. As you create your own lists, you can pick and choose modes and settings that best fit your students' learning styles and current level of letter recognition and spelling readiness. The ability to provide kids with hints via grayscale letters that kids place colorful letters over makes it a nice solo practice app for very young spellers; all they need to do is recognize and match the letter to gain spelling confidence.

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Freefall Spelling is a letter recognition and early spelling app. It uses hand-drawn images and three fun modes of play to encourage kids to jump into spelling. While Freefall Spelling provides solid practice in letter recognition and spelling skills, it does not cover letter sounds.

Five word lists totaling more than 150 words come preloaded on Freefall Spelling; the lists cover groups of sports, numbers, food, and animals, as well as Freefall words, which is a list of commonly used words. All three modes of play on Freefall Spelling -- Freefall, Scramble, and Type -- include a friendly voice speaking the words; kids also see a drawing of the item. Kids match or insert letters to form words in a series of rounds. After kids complete a round, the app rewards them with fish and other items to put into an animated fish tank. In Freefall Mode, students swipe a finger on the screen to move dropping letters into the right spots that spell the word. Kids must work quickly because as letters fall across the screen, they have to grab them and place them into the word. In Scramble Mode, the letters scatter around the screen and kids need to unscramble them to spell the word. If the hints setting is on, kids can fill in the colorful letters in order on top of the grayscale letters at the bottom of the page to spell the word. If hints are off, kids won’t see the grayscale letters. Type mode includes a type pad that kids use to select letters.

Standouts: The inviting and friendly drawings are the standout feature of Freefall Spelling.

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The words included on the lists progress in difficulty as the rounds are played, adapting as kids develop more spelling skill. Some of the words in the category lists -- such as pineapple, on the food list -- seem a bit of a stretch for the target age, but since all of the letters for each word are presented in order to be matched, kids may enjoy the opportunity to spell some "big" words. You can create your own lists, too, which boosts engagement. On the downside, the letters are not spoken phonetically; it would be nice for Freefall Spelling to include some practice in letter sounds in future versions. Also, some kids may be disappointed that the fish tank is a communal reward system. All kids who play on the device collect fish and other items for the same tank; there are no individual user accounts. Still, overall, this is a good choice for new spellers.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

Three modes of play, beautiful drawing-style graphics, and in-app fish tank rewards make Freefall Spelling fun and engaging.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

Matching practice combines with letter recognition to support early spelling skills. As kids spell or view and match the letters to fill in the (already formed) word, they are spelling words; it does not cover letter sounds.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
2

Many custom settings, including hints, lowercase letters, selecting pre-loaded or creating spelling lists, and choosing from three play modes. No scoring, and the fish tank reward is app-wide (not by individual user).


Common Sense Reviewer
Dana Villamagna Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

3
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Featured review by
Jordan M. , Special education instructor
Special education instructor
South Graham Elementary School
Graham, NC
3
Good for practice, but no data tracking capabilities

Freefall Spelling is a good app for practicing spelling lists. You can add custom lists, which I always look for. You can also record speech for the word (up to 5 seconds, so I can usually fit in the word and a sample sentence) and add a picture. I like the variety of game options and settings. This is much more of a simple practice app than anything more sophisticated, as you cannot track data or set individual users.

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