Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2012
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Early literacy games -- though fun -- lack depth and learning support

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts

  • Critical Thinking
Grades 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.
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Pros: The fun, easy-to-play games focus on important early-literacy skills.

Cons: The games could use more helpful hints, feedback, and in-depth learning content.

Bottom Line: Not PBS Kids' best offering; the games are fun, but the learning design lacks inspiration.

The classroom use case for SUPER WHY! might be somewhat limited. There isn't a way to create separate accounts, and teachers can't track kids progress in the assessments (besides watching their sticker collection grow). Also, endless game cycles can make it difficult to delineate when kids should stop and move on to something else, so you may want to help kids set time limits on play.

With that said, use of the game might be practical for one-on-one or small-group intervention. Two games are about recognizing letters by the sounds they make. The other two require kids to be able to read whole words on their own. As word choices aren't read aloud, kids will have to read the options to find the right answer -- teachers can help scaffold and guide those who need extra help. In a whole-class setting, teachers might find it best to use SUPER WHY! as a good way to simply offer a fun diversion with some light educational value.

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SUPER WHY! offers four pre-literacy games, each associated with a different character from the popular TV series. Kids can listen to a missing letter and tap on the right one to form words with Alpha Pig. Princess Presto offers a similar game, but has kids trace the letters with their finger. Kids can also listen to Wonder Red say a word before they tap on a different one that rhymes. In the fourth game, kids complete sentences about familiar Super Why characters by choosing a missing word. Kids can choose to play each individual game, or they might choose to cycle through all four. Games continue indefinitely until kids tap out of them. After completing a game, kids get a virtual sticker that they can use to decorate a colorful scene.

SUPER WHY!'s games are generally easy to play and accessible for young kids. Those familiar with the TV series will appreciate playing along with the characters -- they can get some early-literacy practice as well. It's a cute touch that kids see the picture change when they make an incorrect choice. In fact, some kids might be likely to choose incorrectly just to see what happens. For example, they might find it funny to see the wolf sitting in grandma's salad, instead of in her bed.

However, some simple things like the off-kilter synchronization of characters' mouth movements and the audio make the design seem a bit sloppy. Most notably, kids won't get much help or feedback. Something as simple as repeated instructions when kids take a while to respond would help. Natural end points to the games would save kids from endless cycling. Grownups might also appreciate an option to turn off the background music, which can be distracting for kids, even if they're not consciously bothered by it. Overall, when compared to the wonderfully designed and well-thought-out offerings from PBS Kids, SUPER WHY! comes across as somewhat of a disappointment.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Kids will enjoy the energetic characters and vibrant illustrations, but the gameplay isn't as imaginative. Background music can get annoying (though perhaps more for grownups than for kids).

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

Four interactive and multiple-choice games explore reading and pre-reading skills for kids with a range of abilities. The games feel familiar and easy -- the engaging TV show characters may help inspire confidence.

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

Kids should be able to handle the game controls with ease. However, for those having trouble there's little feedback, and the game doesn't offer any help.

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Heather C. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
Northwest High School
Indianapolis, United States
Basic Early Literacy Practice Activities
The Rhyming piece of this app was the only part that I would use. I do not feel the skills and activities are sequential and do not see it being a great tool in the classroom. It is missing some of the feedback desired by young learners. As far as using it at home, I did use it on-on-one with my daughter and with direct instruction and teaching we were able to work through things.
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