Common Sense Review
Updated September 2015

Phonics Tic-Tac-Toe Interactive Game

Twist on traditional game would get a boost from audio support
Common Sense Rating 3
  • The game requires two players or two teams.
  • Kids will see a variety of question types.
  • As in the traditional game, kids compete to be the first to get three in a row.
  • The player or team with three in a row wins.
Pros
Different question types test children's phonics knowledge in multiple ways.
Cons
The lack of narration makes it difficult for early readers to play the game, and there's no solo gameplay option.
Bottom Line
Kids can build their phonics knowledge -- if they can read the questions.
Mieke VanderBorght
Common Sense Reviewer
Researcher
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

Bright colors and traditional tic-tac-toe game are engaging, but a lack of audio instructions makes it difficult for beginning or struggling readers. No single-player option is available.

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

Kids see multiple question types and must use their knowledge of letters and letter combinations in different ways, such as filling in the missing sound in a word or choosing a word that has a particular vowel sound.

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

A text-based help section does little to guide confused kids, and the overall lack of audio support is disappointing. While multiple question types exist, parents and teachers cannot determine which question types kids see.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

In a whole-class setting, a teacher vs. students game could work: Display the game for the whole class to see, and children can answer questions together or take turns. Teachers may also divide the class into two groups and have them play against each another, with group members using their combined knowledge to answer the questions. In a class of beginning or struggling readers, students will need support from an adult or an advanced reader to read the questions. In fact, teachers could intentionally pair stronger readers with weaker readers and have them work together as a team. After introducing the game, teachers may also want to incorporate it as part of a stations activity, where students play a game or two of tic-tac-toe as they rotate through a series of phonics-based stations.

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What's It Like?

The concept of Phonics Tic-Tac-Toe is simple: It's just like regular tic-tac-toe, but to earn an X or O, students need to correctly answer a phonics question. The first player or team chooses whether to be X or O, and then selects a question from the grid. Multiple-choice questions cover different topics, such as identifying the last two letters in a word, filling in the missing sound, choosing words that contain a specific sound, and counting the number of syllables in a word. Unless teachers are moderating the game, students must read the instructions and answers themselves, because there's no narration for the questions or the answer choices. The first player or team to get three Xs or Os in a row by correctly answering questions wins the game.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Students practicing the basic phonics skills covered in Phonics Tic-Tac-Toe will likely have beginning reading skills. The app offers multiple ways for kids to learn common letter sounds and letter combinations and presents the material through simple and accessible gameplay. However, to play, kids must read those letter sounds, combinations, and even the instructions, on their own. As a result, a lot of the learning potential is lost, especially if early readers want to play on their own. By simply adding a narrator to read the questions or pronounce the letter sounds, a significantly higher number of students -- at different reading levels -- could access and build their phonics skills by playing the game.

Some students will enjoy the element of competition and find it to be motivating. However, other students may prefer to play the game by themselves first in order to build confidence in their skills and improve their familiarity with the game. Adding in a single-player mode or the option to play against the computer could improve the way students experience the game.

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