Review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2014
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Hearbuilder Phonological Awareness

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Research-based activities build listening and auditory phonics skills

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts

  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Wide selection of activities, each of which includes three challenge levels.

Cons: Activities focus only on auditory phonological awareness.

Bottom Line: Impressive resource -- with or without the subscription -- builds important early literacy skills.

Reading intervention specialists will find the most value in HearBuilder Phonological Awareness, especially the paid subscription access. The activities align perfectly with Grade 1 CCSS as well, and Grade 1 teachers could use the introductory (free) activities with most students to develop phonological awareness and build listening skills. Without the subscription, students would benefit most from one-on-one time working through the activities with a teacher who can access student understanding without the reports. In classrooms with full access, students could work independently at their own pace and level.

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HearBuilder Phonological Awareness helps students work on nine phonological awareness skills: Sentence Segmentation, Syllable Blending, Syllable Segmentation, Rhyming, Phoneme Blending, Phoneme Segmentation & Identification, Phoneme Deletion, Phoneme Addition, and Phoneme Manipulation. The story is based on a rock-band theme, with each activity relating to the band -- album titles, making music, getting new band members. The free introduction lets students play each activity, choosing low, medium, or high challenge levels. The full version rewards students with new band members as they advance through each activity, completing each with at least 80 percent accuracy. Teachers can view individual students' progress and customize their activities. In the activities, students hear words and manipulate them, changing vowel sounds or beginning sounds to create new words -- all of which must be identified by sound. They can hit the redo arrow to hear the instructions and words again, but no visual hints are offered. (The rhyming game does include pictures). 

HearBuilder Phonological Awareness offers a research-backed program that helps kids develop phonological awareness, which improves reading. Conversely, reading improves phonological awareness, so emerging readers may struggle with some of these auditory exercises that test attention and listening skills as much as phonological awareness. In a one-on-one setting, the free activities are excellent for helping teachers gauge where students are. Most classrooms probably won't need the full version, although speech/language pathologists or reading specialists may find the full subscription very helpful for individualizing interventions with students and tracking their progress. In the full version, students progress through the activities at their own pace. Teachers can customize their paths as well as add specific levels of background noise.

Overall Rating

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

The rock-band theme works wonderfully for developing phonological awareness, and each activity is brief enough to challenge students and keep their attention. Listening activities require concentration and focus.

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

Broad range of activities develop phonological awareness as they challenge students at three levels, and help them develop phonemic skills and improve listening skills.

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

Free introduction includes several activities but doesn't track student progress. Subscription plans range from individual student options to full district plans, offering specific reports for each student.

Common Sense Reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

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