Website review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2020

Phonics Hero

Solid teacher resource from letters to words; lacks fun factor for kids

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Grades
Pre-K–1
Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts

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Pros: The well-organized structure makes it easy to find the exact phonics-related topic you're looking for.

Cons: The play experience isn't super exciting for kids, and there's no meaningful feedback.

Bottom Line: Teachers looking for help with phonics-based reading instruction may find this clear, systematic approach helpful.

Teachers can use Phonics Hero for help with phonics-based instruction. Start with the free resources: Browse through the free materials and choose the games that focus on the phonics concept of your choice. Use the printable worksheets and assessment sheets for offline learning. If teachers help students navigate to the right place, students can play under the teacher's account. But playing like that means that progress isn't saved, and teachers have to be proactive in directing which games kids play and set it all up again for each new student.

For a more hands-off, student-led approach to individualized learning, teachers will need to buy child accounts, which allow students to take a placement test and then move through the levels at their own pace. Teachers can review what level each student has reached to monitor learning. If teachers are interested in more help, the paid service, Superhero School, gives step-by-step guides for introducing phonics. Teachers can use the Superhero School materials on a smartboard to lead group lessons.

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Phonics Hero is a methodical and detailed journey through phonics-based reading instruction. Games and printable worksheets focus on letter-to-sound correspondence, blends and digraphs, whole words, and finally sentences. There are exercises to practice reading sight words and spelling sprinkled throughout as well. With a free teacher's account, teachers can access the learning library, which includes all the games, worksheets, and printable assessment sheets organized by phonics concept.

Two paid services offer additional features and content. One allows teachers to create individual student accounts in which students play games and track progress in their own unique journey. For these accounts, students can start with a placement test that puts them at the level that matches their current reading ability, and teachers get basic information about what each student has accomplished. The other paid service, Superhero School, is a step-by-step guide for using phonics-based reading instruction and a set of additional teaching materials. Both offer a 30-day free trial.

Phonics Hero offers teachers a well-organized library of free, clear, straightforward phonics-based instruction tools. The games, exercises, and printable worksheets are a systematic journey through the sounds of the English language. There's a nice mix of phonics, sight words (called camera words in Phonics Hero), and full sentences, though some high-frequency digraphs or blends aren't included as major activity categories. There are also some nice offline supports, including printable assessment sheets and an option to pre-download activities in case internet access is slow or unreliable.

From the teacher's side, Phonics Hero can provide helpful structure and guidance, and teachers get even more help if they pay for the Superhero School service. The main downside to Phonics Hero is that the games aren't very exciting or innovative, and they can feel repetitive. While repetition is important, varying the approach in subtle ways could relieve potential tedium. The graphics and user experience also don't feel sophisticated, which may not bother most students at the target age, but tech-savvy little ones probably won't be all that impressed. The basic teacher resources are free, and teachers could conceivably set their students up to play in their free teacher account. But doing that can get cumbersome. To really give students the option of playing on their own personalized path -- and tracking unique student progress -- teachers need to buy child accounts. If you're looking for some targeted phonics practice in online games or worksheets, Phonics Hero is a solid, free place to start your search.

Overall Rating

Engagement

In personalized accounts, customization and leveling help meet students where they are. Games can feel tedious at times. Though the design is kid-friendly, it feels a bit outdated.

Pedagogy

An organized, methodical journey through phonics starts with individual letter sounds and gradually builds on that. Students don't get much feedback when they play, and games aren't particularly innovative.

Support

Activities are easy to find and play. There are lots of help videos for how-to questions. Kids see the level they've reached but not much else. Printable resources help bridge to learning offline.


Common Sense reviewer
Mieke VanderBorght Researcher

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