Common Sense Review
Updated September 2012

Phonics Genius

Quality flashcard-style phonics app missing some basics
Common Sense Rating 4
  • The home screen organizes letter sounds into flashcard sets with beginning, end, and CVC sounds indicated below each set.
  • The letter/letter combination sound is highlighted in red. Select "Customize Flashcards" under settings to add or remove the record/play buttons.
  • Flashcards can be customized in many ways for various learning abilities.
  • Edit flashcard sets by adding, deleting, and adding custom audio to individual cards.
  • Add new, custom flashcards by typing in the word and phonemic sound(s), and tap record to add a personal audio playback for the word.
Easily customizable, it helps kids recognize phonics to decode words and build reading skills.
Doesn't include some common letter combinations essential for beginning readers.
Bottom Line
Phonics Genius is a great resource for building phonemic awareness and a library of sight words.
Kim Alessi
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 5

Kids are empowered when they listen to differences among letter sounds, piece these together to sound out words, and build their own library of sight words. The pre-recorded audio playback gives kids independence to explore words.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

This powerful tool allows kids to learn consonants and long and short vowel sounds as well as letter combination sounds and word parts. The app lacks some basics for beginning readers, but it presents phonemic awareness in an engaging way.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

The interface is clean with clear controls. It's very customizable and allows adults to create individual flashcards or sets of flashcards, with personal audio playback.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

There are lots of customizable features to work with here. You can set capitalization, font type, size and color, and order type (random, alphabetical), as well edit or delete flashcard sets. New flashcards and sets can be created by visitng Settings and choosing Customize Flashcards. New cards can also be shared through emails (as a .fwa file) or through a Dropbox account (you'll have get the Dropbox app for this to work).

Oddly, some very common beginner letter combinations such as -at, -an, -et, and -it words are not included in the app's available sets. You can create these categories yourself, but it's time-consuming, as each word must be added, categorized, and recorded individually. Custom-created categories appear on the home screen as Custom List; you can even add an image from your camera roll to appear as the list's icon.

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What's It Like?

Phonics Genius is a customizable flashcard-style app designed to help kids identify letter sounds and their relationship to words. It has over 6,000 words grouped into 225 categories, including single letter and letter combination sounds. Flashcards are grouped into sets of words (categories) with similar letter and letter combination sounds, including short and long vowels, consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC), and beginning and ending letter combinations. Each flashcard contains a word in a black font with the specific phoneme highlighted in red. Pre-recorded audio speaks the word and allows kids to see and hear the phoneme in context of the word. Kids, parents, and teachers can record their own voices, or turn audio off entirely, in the app's settings.

Kids begin by selecting a letter or letter combination from the home screen, then choose whether they want the sound at the beginning, middle, or end of each word within the set. They tap or swipe the screen to move between cards, or touch the home button to return to the list of flashcards. Phonics Genius has two play modes: Learn and Game. In Learn mode, kids become familiar with letter sounds and words. They scroll through card sets and view/hear words containing a specific letter sound, then manually or automatically advance from card to card within a category (auto-advance timing can be set from 0.7 to 10.0 seconds per card). In Game mode, kids are drilled to reinforce letter sound and word recognition. They're shown a list of words within a category but hear only one spoken word. Kids must then select the proper word from the list. (Learn mode lists can be set to contain two to six words from the same category).

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Is It Good For Learning?

For kids who have already started to read, Phonics Genius is an excellent resource. Organizing words by letter or letter combination sounds, it lets kids practice phonemic awareness and build sight words. It's also a confidence booster and challenges kids to try reading new, more complex words.

Phonics Genius falls short, however, on two key fronts. First, it doesn't have common letter combinations that are essential for beginning readers, such as -at, -et, and -it words. It also lacks an easy way to customize flashcard sets by word length. Beginning readers can handle three- and four- letter words (ship, for example) but may get overwhelmed with larger words that, by default, are in the same set (e.g., sheepskin). As is, Phonics Genius is best for kids who are emergent readers with previous reading experience.

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