Common Sense Review
Updated September 2012

Starfall Learn to Read

Delight emergent readers with lively phonics lessons
Common Sense Rating 4
  • Main menu shows 15 activity topics each with two or three lessons or activities.
  • The first topic covers the short 'a' sound with a song, interactive blending sentence strips, and a story about Zac the Rat in full sentences, plus a video about how the alphabet got its order.
  • Most lessons have "make a word to match the picture" activities (matching initial letters to word endings to make rhyming words), like this one in the r-controlled vowel lesson.
  • Consonant digraph mini-lessons are sprinkled throughout like 'ch' found in the silent 'e' lesson called "Sky Ride."
  • The full-text story in the silent 'e' lesson demonstrates the app's colorful graphics, 'say it' button, and flexible navigation.
Covers phonics basics and caters to variety of learning styles, including auditory, visual, and tactile.
Android version freezes up, and inconsistent activity names may confuse kids.
Bottom Line
Easy-to-use, plentiful phonics activities keep emergent readers engaged.
Leslie Crenna
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 5

Videos, instructional songs, cute characters and graphics combine for a fun experience.

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

Clearly informed by classroom teachers, this app puts basic phonics concepts and multiple learning styles to work.

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

Panel menu provides easy access, but there's no in-app link or reference to extensive web-based resources.

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

Tablet based versions of the app could be projected for whole class or small group viewing of videos and to demonstrate reading and matching activities. You could also model using the "say it" buttons (an ear with sound lines) and the sentence strip word blends, so students are sure to practice their reading and speaking skills when they work with the app individually either at school or at home. An added record feature would give teachers and students a powerful before and after assessment tool.

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What's It Like?

Starfall Learn to Read is a complete beginning phonics instruction and practice resource. Its colorful main menu features 15 panels; click on any one of them for an activity to engage emergent readers. You'll find instructional songs and videos, complete-the-word activities, concentration matching games, and more. Standards content includes blending, isolating, short and long vowels, vowel pairs, and consonant digraphs. Arrows on every page allow kids to explore freely, but if they work in order, completed levels earn kids verbal praise, stars, and a review of what they've learned.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Starfall Learn to Read offers an impressive array of dynamic and interactive phonics lessons in auditory, visual, and tactile learning styles. Instructional songs illustrate lessons with lyrics like "When two vowels go a walkin', the first one does the talkin'," and videos feature original characters like Queen Emphasis (shaped like an exclamation point, of course) who shapes the story of the alphabet. Goofy sounds and characters like Zac the Rat and Spot the Dog featured in full read-aloud sentences make learning challenging and fun for students as high as grade 2.

Data reporting is mostly age appropriate but could be more thorough, for instance, they could highlight progress with a star system displayed on the main menu. Another nit-picky improvement?  It would be nice to have the  main menu and submenu activities named more clearly and consistently. A final gripe: the Android version does freeze up occasionally.

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Lesson Plans

  • Phonics Lesson
    English Language Arts
    Grade 1
    Leah K.
    McKinley Elementary School
    Burlingame, CA
    4 steps
    February 2, 2016