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Pros: Simple activities offer a solid understanding of the letters and their sounds.
Cons: There's no way for teachers to review which letters students have mastered, and the experience is relatively static.
Bottom Line: Great -- and free -- way to give students clear, engaging examples of the ABCs in action.
Starfall ABCs could be a great way to introduce your whole class to a letter of the day or week. Students can view the pictures and animations with you demonstrating the activities or calling on volunteers to complete them. Students also can work individually on teacher-assigned or self-chosen letters. They may enjoy copying the premise of Starfall ABCs to create their own pictures and songs to teach a letter to their peers, which would further reinforce learning.
Starfall ABCs is an app that introduces preschoolers to letter sounds and early spelling skills. Students select a letter from Starfall ABCs' main page and watch it make a grand entrance (V's are vacuumed in, and T's come in on a train). The starring letter is sounded out, and several screens follow with images of objects or animations featuring things that start with the letter (pink pigs, zigzags). Many letters are supported by games of matching letters or selecting the letter that doesn't belong (e.g., F, f, or x?). Students also can place letters in the right order to form a word and have it sounded out slowly. A silly tone keeps interest high -- for example, turtles play tunes at the end of a train. A separate grouping of vowels introduces some of the variety in vowel sounds. The menu on the side of the home screen lets kids also explore colors, numbers, shapes, songs, and seasonal activities.
Starfall ABCs is a solid early learning app with a thorough approach to presenting the alphabet to preschoolers. Students hear the sounds of each letter repeated often and can both hear and see how each letter is used in words. Each word has some cute animations they can trigger, followed by interactive games such as puzzles and mazes, as well as chances to see words used in sentences. It's a colorful, effective introduction to the alphabet. One potential downside is that the app presents only short vowel sounds, leaving out the variation in the full range of what vowels do in words. That's a difficult part of learning to read and write in English, and, like many simple early reading apps, Starfall ABCs does explicitly label the vowel sounds as being "short" but has no content to address any other vowel sounds. Also, the look and feel is a bit old-school and the activities are fairly static, but they get the job done.
Starfall's free website is well-respected for its learn-to-read activities, and the Starfall ABCs app is a streamlined way to access some of the site's content on mobile devices for free.