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Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2015

The Big Reading Show Classroom Edition – Preschool Games & Songs by Hooked on Phonics

Super-fun early literacy music videos, lackluster interactive elements

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts

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Pros: Superbly produced music videos and silly, likeable characters.

Cons: Uninspired and disjointed interactive elements; excessive positive feedback for completing tasks.

Bottom Line: The presentation is quite impressive, but those looking for highly interactive teaching tools may be disappointed -- especially considering the price tag.

The songs and videos are a really nice introduction to letters and basic foundational literacy skills. Show them to the whole class to introduce new letters and concepts or reinforce material that's already been covered. Coverage is pretty superficial, so expand on the concepts by exploring the reading concepts in the classroom: Look for things that begin with the target letter, play hands-on letter identification and rhyming games, and more. Create up to 30 accounts, but keep in mind that there's no reporting data, so teachers will need to check in with kids for feedback on their progress.

Teachers should be aware that there are no restrictions on any of the in-app links, meaning that kids can easily tap out of the app and land on an ad for other products, send an email to the developer, or purchase the season pass to unlock additional episodes. Teachers may want to switch their device to airplane mode to help avoid any surprises. Teachers should also know that the app will ask permission to access the device's camera roll so that kids can save certificates. 

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Editor's Note: The Big Reading Show is no longer available. 

Join Ella the parrot and Lou the hippo for a musical literacy adventure. Videos and interactive games are grouped together in 13 themed episodes. Each episode guides kids on a path that introduces two letters and focuses on a few early literacy skills such as rhyming and understanding basic features of print. Kids collect stars and word coins for completing interactive games and watching videos. Collect enough stars and get a certificate to color; collect word coins to play with the Story Maker, the Poem Roller, or the Spin and Speak. Teachers can create up to 30 accounts on a single device, giving a class full of kids the chance to follow their own paths and collect their own rewards.

There's top-notch production value in The Big Reading Show Classroom Edition – Preschool Games & Songs by Hooked on Phonics. Graphics and animations are great, story lines are just the right level of silly, and the tunes are clever. However, that wonderful content is presentation-focused, meaning kids passively watch and listen. High-quality, inspired interactive elements are disappointingly few and far between. Each episode follows the same pattern of six videos interwoven with three games. With a few exceptions, the games feel like an afterthought -- even more so since they aren't related to the episode's letter stars. That is, an episode that introduces the letters L and Q may have a game in which kids uncover T and X from a block of cheese. Why not tie it all together under a common learning theme, such as having kids meet the letters and then interacting with those same letters in exceptional ways that take advantage of the opportunities interactive devices offer?

As it is now, coverage of learning content ends up being superficial, and the journey through a single episode feels disjointed. The limited free version is worth a look, but even with the funtastic videos and songs, teachers might want to save their money for something more interactive.

Overall Rating

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

Clever lyrics and high-quality music production make for a rollicking good time. Limited interactive features may leave kids wanting more.

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

Stories, songs, and games focus on foundational early literacy skills like letter names and sounds, rhyming, first letter sounds, and print concepts. Unfortunately, there are no suggestions for digging deeper into learning themes.

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 collect stars and word coins, and they can see their progress as they complete tasks along each episode's journey.

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