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Sky Fish Phonics

Engaging game combines problem-solving with early reading skills

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Expert evaluation by Common Sense



Subjects & Skills

Critical Thinking, English Language Arts

Price: Free
Platforms: iPad

Pros: Personalized learning paths and sound progression of phonics topics make this an effective practice tool.

Cons: Obstacle course may be distracting for some kids.

Bottom Line: Multiple-choice, early-reading practice is fun with good scaffolding, but video-game aspects may be distracting.

The data-collection system works best when one kid plays. Fortunately, teachers can create multiple user accounts, so kids can progress at their own pace. The game has very little actual instruction, so it’s best used with kids who already have some foundation but need extra help. Stronger readers may appreciate testing their skills and figuring out the puzzles (e.g., How can I launch the fish to collect the most stars?). Teachers can see progress reports that detail which concepts each student has mastered -- letter-sound correspondence, reading short-vowel words, and substituting sounds in short-vowel words -- then use those reports to see how kids are doing and to target in-class teaching moments. Kids who focus on the puzzle aspect might enjoy sharing techniques and strategies with others.

Editor's Note: Sky Fish Phonics is no longer available.

Sky Fish Phonics combines logical problem-solving puzzles (think Where's My Water? or Cut the Rope) with multiple-choice, basic reading-skills questions. Kids choose a costume and tap a succession of machines to launch a fish through an increasingly complex obstacle course, answering phonics questions and collecting stars along the way. Kids might be asked, for example, to choose which picture represents a word that starts with the letter A, or to choose the picture that matches a target word. The game collects data on how kids respond to deliver just the right material for each kid. Phonics questions address letter recognition, letter-sound correspondence, consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words, and changing letters in CVC words to make different words. The more kids play, the more costume choices become available to them.

Sky Fish definitely has a high fun factor and a sound approach to learning. The progression of phonics topics is well thought out, and the adaptability ensures that kids progress at their own pace. Kids can always tap pictures, words, or letters to hear them pronounced and use that help to figure out the right answer. Yet, they might benefit from more direct instruction as well. When kids make the wrong choice, they hear the correct answer and are sent back to the beginning of the level. The next time, the question is completely different. Kids who don't get it will likely fumble their way through, not really understanding how to choose the right answer. The obstacle-course aspect is fun and exercises a unique set of logical reasoning skills, but is entirely unrelated to the learning-to-read theme. For some kids, this game element could be a distraction.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating

Video-game setup makes this a very engaging app. Kids will enjoy playing each level again and again to collect all the stars.


Kids use logic, problem-solving, and impulse control to choose the right path for the fish. At various points, kids respond to multiple-choice phonics questions. Kids might benefit from more instructive help.


Offers good game scaffolding and guidance, but little actual phonics instruction. Teachers can view progress reports for individual players. Offline learning extensions would be a nice addition. 

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