App review by Sandy Wisneski, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2020
Poio By Kahoot! Learn To Read
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Poio by Kahoot! Learn to Read

Kid-centered early reading game leans into discovery and delight

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Grades
Pre-K–2
Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, Critical Thinking

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Pros: It's got great polish, including cute characters and tons of interaction.

Cons: Everyone starts at the same level, and kids may struggle with pacing.

Bottom Line: This is a smart spin on phonics with a deep commitment to a kid-driven, fun-first experience.

Poio by Kahoot! Learn to Read is designed to be an independent experience for kids, so it'd work best as a self-paced option in the classroom. While it'll be good for any student, it could be a particularly useful tool for motivating students who have a difficult relationship with reading. Teachers could also recommend it to parents as a way to continue kids' phonics growth at home. Adults can check in on kids after play sessions, and ask them to read their in-progress storybook (which is slowly completed through gameplay). Adults can discuss the book with kids, and invite them to imagine where the story will go. 

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Poio by Kahoot! Learn to Read is an early reading and phonics app for iOS and Android. It's a game-based approach to learning that's intentionally kid-driven, lacking overbearing instruction so common in other titles. The game takes place on an island ruled over by a troll, and kids journey through the island level by level. The levels are dark and spooky but have colorful touches and cheeky humor. Kids play as four characters, or "readlings": Anna, Ebbe, Poio, and Otto. Their mission is to help the troll (whose name is Poio) learn how to read the storybook he has stolen. Each character eats specific letters (e.g., Otto eats "o"), and kids must use the correct character to eat the correct letters. Along the way they do other things like break apart crystals, earn coins (to buy furniture for the characters' homes), free other characters and letters from cages, form words, and, most importantly, unlock more of the storybook that accompanies the game. Seemingly every action helps kids explore and experiment with letters, sounds, and words. 

Parents and teachers receive daily emailed reports about kids' progress. These reports explain what percentage of the book is completed, which vowels and consonants have been mastered, and the six last words that were learned. Parents and teachers can also choose to purchase a hard copy of the storybook that kids work to complete. 

Poio by Kahoot! Learn to Read does two admirable and often rare things in the world of early learning games: It lets kids control the pace and allows learning to be a byproduct of play. A lot of other early learning games can get bogged down in instructional detail, but Poio puts the focus squarely on fun and joy. Learning is layered-in, however, and there's a lot of repetition and reinforcement of this learning in each level. Kids bump up against words and sounds constantly, allowing them to learn the building blocks of reading in different ways. The storybook is also a nice hook that get kids invested in continuing play while building words and sentences.

This would be a particularly good app to use with students who have struggled with learning letters, since Poio will disarm them and not feel too much like an "educational" game. There's great positive feedback through a mixture of sounds and rewards like coins that can be used to buy furniture for the characters' homes. It also helps that kids can see how their play opens up more portions of the map and contributes to the storybook. The fact a narrator reads finished storybook pages aloud is a nice bonus.

It's not a perfect game, though. The experience is lengthy -- which is good -- but unfortunately play doesn't evolve enough to keep it sufficiently interesting throughout. It feels like activities and mechanics build over the first hour or two, and then it plateaus. Kids might fall off at this point. The storybook is clearly there to encourage kids to continue, but some deeper connection between the levels and the storybook would help out.

Overall Rating

Engagement

Kids learn letters, letter sounds, and words playfully and organically. The characters and storybook motif are inventive, but the game does drag after a while.

Pedagogy

This is a higher-quality game than most competitors, and it's intentionally kid-centered. Along the way kids get good exposure to letters, sounds, and words.

Support

Arrows, sounds, and animations guide kids through the game, but they can be too subtle.  The approach is exploratory, so there's intentionally not much instructional support. 


Common Sense reviewer
Sandy Wisneski Classroom teacher

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