Starfall is a very useful and engaging direct instruction phonics program.
Community Review for Starfall
Starfall is best used when coached or supervised. It is a direct instruction phonics program that can be very helpful to students that are breaking the code. It is also useful and fun for students in grades pre-k through first grade who are experimenting with what they are successfully learning.
Older students who are in need of phonics re-teaching should not be encouraged to "play" Starfall. It should be used with a teacher or parent who will insist that the phonics activity be done - i.e. say the sound, or read the word. One example is that the purpose of the concentration type games is not to memorize the spacial relationships of the correct answers but rather to read the words.
How I Use It
I use Starfall in two distinct ways. With pre-K classes in the second part of the year I use the alphabet pages to teach/reinforce letter formation and letter/sound relations. I have an ENO board that is height adjustable. I Introduce each letter and we practice drawing the letter and saying the sound with large body movements - reinforcing that most strokes go from top to bottom or left to right and naming the motion. Students take turns tracing the letter on the ENO board as the Starfall site makes the sound. Then we take turns clicking the forward arrow and finally do the activity at the end. This process is repeated systematically - one letter per day two days a week.
The other way I use Starfall is with struggling readers. I integrate activities from the learning to read section with the phonics skills I am teaching. Since the activities are purposely chosen to be in the student's zone of proximal development, these activities are supervised and taught in the tutorial.