Smarty Ants covers basic decoding skills
This brightly colored world is attractive to young students. Students are free to choose from different activities, while still being guided along in developing decoding skills. Skills start with letter recognition and go up through consonant digraphs and beyond. Students begin by taking a placement test that starts them at the right level. Teachers have access to a variety of student reports and resources for guided lessons. Students do activities to gather words that they can then put in a decodable book.
How I Use It
I used this with a Kindergarten class, plus a few students from a Special Day Class for the Severely Disabled. The students were highly engaged at first, but some got bored by the repetitive nature of the games. The fact that each of these games had a different graphic scenario did not fool the students that they were doing anything other than moving the mouse left or right to catch the asked for sound. Also, students are asked to play a game while they wait for their new area to load. So if they switched scenarios because they were bored with the one they were doing, they have to play the same kind of game while waiting for the same type of game to load. This product works sequentially through increasingly complex sound-spelling correspondences. But words are taught without an authentic or engaging context. Students are working towards a "book," but the books are not constructed narratives, or rich literature. They are decodables, that support early reading.As such, Smarty Ants is adequate for phonics skills practice, but does not help students develop comprehension skills. It promotes excitement for decoding, but doesn't promote a love of reading. If anything, all the other activities (dancing, snowboarding, rock wall climbing) send a contradictory message about the importance and qualitative value of reading. I recommend this program only as a small part of a robust literacy instruction.