Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Website Review:

Daisy has come upon a difficult spelling list, so I went looking for an online site to help her practice her spelling word. The first one I tried was It was easy to enter her list. I just typed each word, followed by a comma, in the box, then hit enter. I was able to name her list and the list is given a unique url so I can access it any time. The list remains there forever. You just need to remember to bookmark the url. I copied it and pasted it into a Word document.

I was mostly disappointed with the games, however. In a nutshell, they didn't give a child an opportunity to practice the word in a variety of ways, and many of the arcade-style games were frustrating to play. Some of the others moved SO slowly, it really was a waste of time to sit and wait. Completing one game with an entire list of 20 or so words might take 40 minutes!

Here is a review of each game.

: letters from your spelling word drop down and you must click on them in order before they reach the bottom and the dino eats them.

When I clicked the letters nothing happened. Could be a function of my Mac, but all the other games on the site worked for me.

Spellify 500: drive your racecar over the letters in the road in order and spell your word

The letters appear very infrequently. The first time I played I was 1/4 out of time before my first letter appeared. If you hit the wall, the car stops and you have to get up to speed again. If you drive over a wrong letter (most frustrating of all) all the letters you have collected disappear and you have to start over. A high speed seems essential to success in this game, but not being used to video games, I couldn't keep up with the keys. A frustrating game.

Cast a Spell: tap the letters in a spelling word in order with the wizard's wand

The letters fly all over at a very high speed and are difficult to catch with the tiny wand. The spelling list is displayed to the right, but nothing indicates which word you are spelling. You are basically trying to unscramble the moving letters. Nothing indicates that you have completed a word from the list. I think the list is just for reference, but is not extremely helpful.

Letter Drop: click on the falling letters in order and spell a word from your list before the screen fills up to the top with unused letter blocks (think tetris without the shapes)

The first two letters to fall were y and f, and none of my spelling words began with those. The third letter was s, so I clicked that. Now my choices of words from my list to spell were narrowed to spy, solidify or satisfy. Spy was at the top of my list so I waited for a p to drop. Never saw one. After a few seconds of watching letters drop, I realized I could have been spelling solidify, but now no more o's were dropping. I chose an a to try for satisfy, but never got a t. This is way too hard for even my 5th grader to try to guess which of 20 spelling words to shoot for.

Missing Letter Match: 6 spelling words are listed on buttons at the top, each missing one letter. 6 or more letters are zipping around at the bottom. Click a letter and drag it to the correct word from which it is missing.

This was one of the more promising games. It was easy to play and be successful. At success, an annoying star made an annoyingly nasal "Yay!" The print is very tiny (as in all of these games). Ok, but I didn't feel it was going to make a big impact in practicing the words.

Scramblers: Your spelling word is listed at the top. A little gremlin is building a zigzaggy tunnel to the surface, one letter at a time. Click on the letters he outputs, in order, and spell your word before he reaches the surface.

This game best practices spelling the word correctly. It is very slow. He outputs a lot of random letters before you get the ones you need, but it is easy to click the letters, you can take them from anywhere in the tunnel (even way back at the beginning) and it helps children actually spell their word. The correct spelling is at the top of the page, so they aren't spelling from memory, but it is reinforcing.

Spelloons: Balloons, each with a word, float gently down the screen. Click on the balloons containing correctly spelled words to keep them afloat. Let the incorrectly spelled words float to the bottom to pop on the spikes.

Fine, except that in my second game I was up to 7 balloons, all incorrectly spelled. They drop very slowly and that is a long time for a child to stare at an incorrectly-spelled spelling word! I want my kids to look at the word spelled CORRECTLY!

The Spellariums: Spaceships with a spelling word, one letter missing, are attacking. Use the arrow keys to choose a missle (they shoot straight up), then type the correct letter using your keyboard and press the space bar to fire.

I thought I wouldn't like this, but once I figured out how to play, it was, not fun, but at least not frustrating. Kids have to figure out which letter is missing, then type it, choose the correct missle that will hit the target and fire. I was successful almost every time. The targets are nice and wide (I'm thinking 8 & 10 yo GIRLS here with no gaming experience!) Again, this only practices filling in one missing letter.

Maybe for fun, I'd let her use one game, one time to practice a list, but in general, this site is not worth our time.

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