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Starfall Learn to Read
Pros: Covers key phonics basics and melds auditory, visual, and tactile learning activities.
Cons: No tools for assessment or tracking student progress. Some content lacks captions.
Bottom Line: This app's plentiful phonics activities should keep emergent readers engaged, but teachers will need to figure out assessment.
While Starfall Learn to Read is likely to be used for solo learning, teachers could also project the app from their tablet for whole-class or small-group viewing of videos and to demonstrate reading and matching activities. During this direct instruction, teachers should model using the "say it" buttons (an ear with sound lines) and the sentence strip word blends. This'll help students practice their reading and speaking skills when they work with the app on their own. Unfortunately, assessment is difficult since there's no dashboard. Combining that with a recording feature for before and after assessment would be useful. For this reason, teachers will want to do regular check-ins to gauge student progress.
Starfall Learn to Read is an app for beginner phonics practice. The content focuses primarily on vowel sounds, but the menu's three categories include Short Vowels, Long Vowels, and Phonics & Chunking. Click on any one of them to find a small collection of instructional songs and videos, complete-the-word activities, concentration matching games, and more. The majority of activities are part of the learn-to-read curriculum, though each vowel category also features a few bonus activities such as math-themed or seasonal games, or an "all about me" section. The activities in the app version of Starfall Learn to Read are a small subset of what's available on the Starfall website. There students and teachers will find a more comprehensive phonics-based reading program plus more of the bonus activities.
Starfall Learn to Read offers a handy set of phonics lessons that mix visuals, sounds, and interactivity. Songs illustrate lessons with lyrics like "When two vowels go a walkin', the first one does the talkin'," and videos star original characters like Zac the Rat, Spot the Dog, and Queen Emphasis (shaped like an exclamation point, of course), who shapes the story of the alphabet. Arrows on every page let kids explore freely, and clearly placed say-it-aloud buttons makes it easy for students of all reading abilities to follow along at their own pace. While some content has both audio and text-based reinforcement, some videos are just voiced.
There's no progress tracking or data reporting -- which makes this more of a free-play exploration exercise than a full-fledged classroom tool with assessment capabilities. There's also no pre-assessment o make sure students are getting the content they need. Students could also use more substantive feedback on their work and progress. However, if teachers use Starfall Learn to Read as part of the bigger Starfall site -- and perhaps even purchase a subscription -- there are more teacher tools available.