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Pros: The adaptive learning experience meets kids right at their level, adjusting based on kids' skills, pace, and behavior throughout the experience.
Cons: Though each activity presents a different setting, many follow a fundamentally similar setup -- choose the correct answer from multiple-choice options -- so the play experience may seem slow and repetitive to some.
Bottom Line: Overall, it's a great program for building early literacy skills with useful teacher tools and adaptive activities.
Smarty Ants has become part of Achieve3000.
This data-driven platform lets you track and monitor learning while also giving the freedom to adjust kids' programs as you see fit. Supplementary materials like story printouts, interactive videos, and fun songs help extend learning offline. Teachers will certainly want to supplement with related in-class activities to help give kids context, as well as inspiration for the magic of reading. For instance, you could have kids create their own stories in class using the new skills they've picked up while exploring in Reading World. Or, have your kids review skills, or teach each other new ones, in jigsaw-type learning groups. And since kids can sign in at home, help make the home-school connection by getting parents involved. Back at school, make space to acknowledge kids' accomplishments –- have them print out "The Daily Woof" and share their success with their peers.
It's possible to sign up for a 30-day free trial before committing to a paid subscription. Options are available for home, homeschool, or classroom settings. From the teacher dashboard, you can set up accounts for each student, monitor progress, and adjust students' learning levels if needed. Be sure to take advantage of the variety of tips and supplemental teaching materials that are available on the site.
Smarty Ants Reading World is a comprehensive online reading program that uses (Flash) game-based learning to help kids build their literacy muscles to become strong early readers. There are three levels to the program: PreK focuses on word sounds, blending, fluency, prosody, active listening, and comprehension; K-1 adds scaffolded story-building activities; and 2nd Grade includes decoding practice and chapter book reading in fiction and science. As they play, kids choose from among 10 or so games from the Activity Board, then travel to different parts of the Reading World, like the Ant Gym, to exercise their skills. Games are interspersed with mini-lessons, story-building activities, and other support or enrichment lessons.
An initial assessment places kids at the appropriate level to begin their program -- though teachers can override this. Then, data on kids' responses and behaviors in games, as well as throughout the site, are processed through an advanced adaptive system that constantly adjusts the learning material that comes next, as well as how much scaffolding the program provides.
- "Climbing Wall" -- Get a literacy workout as you reach for letters, letter sounds, words, and more. Be careful! Don't fall!
- "Snowboard" -- Navigate a downhill course on a snowboard, jumping ramps to build words.
Smarty Ants' adaptability makes it a great choice for mixed-level classes or a schoolwide program (a version of Smarty Ants for English-language learners, where instruction is given in the student's primary language, is also available). Designed to address the needs of diverse learners-- particularly RTI Tiers 1 and 2 -- it has kids follow a sequence of lessons and activities that adapt as they go. New readers may start off with letter sounds, while more advanced readers might practice word families. Kids get lots of support from the ant "coach" and his friends. Kids can choose their own ant avatar (and a pet dog/sidekick) and read "The Daily Woof" newspaper, all of which provide bite-sized doses of motivation.
While fun overall, the games involve quite a bit of repetition and sometimes introduce explicit skills at a slow pace; for kids who want to move faster, interest may wane. Because of this, the program may be best suited to help beginning or struggling readers. In addition, wait time for loading activities, sometimes-sluggish game controls, and some off-track audio could make some kids impatient. Nevertheless, Smarty Ants offers teachers and students a rich literacy program based on sound educational research.