App review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2016
Starfall ABCs
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Starfall ABCs

ABCs and phonics integrate with fun images, animations, and activities

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Learning rating
Editorial review by Common Sense Education
Community rating
Based on 26 reviews
Privacy rating
Not yet rated Expert evaluation by Common Sense
Pre-K–K 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.
Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, Communication & Collaboration, Critical Thinking

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Pros: It's all about the ABCs and giving students a solid understanding of the letters and their sounds.

Cons: There's no way for teachers to review which letters students have mastered.

Bottom Line: Great -- and free -- way to give students clear, engaging examples of the ABCs in action.

Starfall ABCs could be a great way to introduce your whole class to a letter of the day or week. Students can view the pictures and animations with you demonstrating the activities or calling on volunteers to complete them. Students also can work individually on teacher-assigned or self-chosen letters. They may enjoy copying the premise of Starfall ABCs to create their own pictures and songs to teach a letter to their peers, which would further reinforce learning.

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Starfall ABCs is an app that introduces preschoolers to letter sounds and early spelling skills. Students select a letter from Starfall ABCs' main page and watch it make a grand entrance (V's are vacuumed in, and T's come in on a train). The starring letter is sounded out, and several screens follow with images of objects or animations featuring things that start with the letter (pink pigs, zigzags). Many letters are supported by games of matching letters or selecting the letter that doesn't belong (F, f, or x?). Students also can place letters in the right order to form a word and have it sounded out slowly. A silly tone keeps interest high -- for example, turtles play tunes at the end of a train.

Starfall ABCs is a solid early learning app with a thorough approach to presenting the alphabet to preschoolers. Students hear the sounds of each letter repeated often and can both hear and see how each letter is used in words. Each word has some cute animations they can trigger, followed by interactive games such as puzzles and mazes, as well as chances to see words used in sentences. It's an attractive, colorful, and in-depth introduction to the alphabet. One potential downside is that the app only presents short vowel sounds, leaving out the variation in the full range of what vowels do in words. That's a difficult part of learning to read and write in English, and, like many simple early reading apps, Starfall ABCs does explicitly label the vowel sounds as being "short" but has no content to address any other vowel sounds.

Starfall's free website is well-respected for its learn-to-read activities, and the Starfall ABCs app is a streamlined way to access some of the site's content on mobile devices.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

Offers enough task variety to keep preschoolers engaged. Interactive sequences are especially stimulating.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

Students see spelled-out words and hear them sounded out. Games teach matching as well as lowercase and uppercase letters. Mazes empower students to make choices and spell words with puzzle pieces.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

Presents each letter in a variety of ways: visually, audibly, and within words and sentences.

Common Sense reviewer
Mieke VanderBorght Researcher

Community Rating

(See all 26 reviews) (26 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Rachael B. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Cox Landing Elementary School
Lesage, United States
Phonics Review
I thought that this would be a great and mobile extension of the Starfall website; however, I was mistaken. Despite paying for the app, the content that is available on the website is much more engaging to students. With the website, I can also see what they are working on and specifiy different phonics and skills that are unavailable on the mobile app. I would much rather utilize the starfall website instead of purchasing the mobile app.
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