Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2016
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Montessori Letter Sounds - Phonics in English, Spanish, French & Italian

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Thoughtfully designed, self-paced games bring letters, sounds to life

Subjects & skills
Skills
N/A

Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • World Languages
  • English Language Learning
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Pre-K-1
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Pros: Simple activities, great language options, and beautiful design provide a welcoming space for kids to explore letter shapes and sounds.

Cons: Kids who expect flashy sounds and visuals might be disappointed.

Bottom Line: A warm, wonderful tool for teaching prereaders and young language learners solid literacy skills.

Using the app, teachers can set up a "nametag" for each student and let kids roam independently through the four game sections. Help kids access the Toolkit linked at the bottom of the home page, where they're free to explore all letter sounds, hear the names of all objects used in the games, and trace letters in a digital sand tray. 

Teachers also might consider using the language settings to help kids solidify letter sounds for second-language learners or to help bilingual students develop skills in both languages.

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Montessori Letter Sounds helps young children develop early literacy skills for reading, spelling, and speaking letter sounds. Kids can play four games that test their ability to identify sounds in words (I Spy), memorize letter sounds and shapes (Letter Sounds), identify letter sounds within words (Mix & Match), and write words as they hear them (Sound It Out). Correct answers earn kids marbles that unlock additional levels and the last two games. The app's Toolbox lets kids explore letters, sounds, and words on their own, through a sandbox and notebook (kids trace letter shapes in the sand or with colored markers), the image box (kids browse images and learn their names), and the phonetic alphabet (kids explore shapes and sounds of letters and phonemes in print and cursive script).

Kids can explore the alphabet, letter sounds, and words in each of five languages (American English, British English, Spanish, French, and Italian), and a bilingual option lets kids hear instructions in one language while they learn letter sounds in another. Adults can set any of these languages as the primary and secondary language of instruction. Within the games, kids can toggle back and forth between two languages to hear different words for the same object (for example, "apple" and "manzana"). All activities are available in all five language options.

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Kids who thrive on Montessori-style learning will love this app: It's a charming, gentle way to delve deep and explore letter sounds through simple, self-directed activities. The Note to Parents section emphasizes this connection. There's thoughtful design behind each game, and kids must master the first two activities, focusing on letter shapes and sounds, before progressing to more complex tasks in later games. The kids' voices that give instructions for each game speak slowly and clearly in all five language options. These exemplars make for great models for kids' own spoken responses, and the speakers' encouraging words help kids gauge their progress and persist through each task. The Toolbox feature is especially good. Although kids don't earn marbles for exploring those sections, they offer opportunities for practice and exploration.

Kids who are expecting more bells and whistles could be disappointed -- these simple games have a deliberate pace. Nevertheless, it's a great fit for anyone looking for a thoughtfully designed, comprehensive way to help kids to explore letter shapes and sounds.

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Overall Rating

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

Kids can explore the whimsical, brightly colored illustrations and straightforward activities at their own pace. Games are consistently rewarding and encouraging. 

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

From tracing letters in the sand to picking letters that match spoken sounds, there are lots of meaningful ways to learn and explore.

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

It's easy for kids to get help when they need it, and the great variety of tasks caters to a range of language backgrounds and abilities. 


Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

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