Simplex Spelling Phonics 1
Mom’s Rating: 5/5
Kids’ Rating: 5/5
Skills Developed: Spelling, Phonics
Available On/Price: Universal (iPhone/iPod/iPad) – $4.99
Reviewed on: iPod
After awarding the original Simplex Spelling HD a Golden App award, our family was so excited to see the newest release from Pyxwise. Simplex Spelling Phonics 1 uses the same reverse phonics approach as the original app, but within a more traditional intensive phonics arrangement, teaching phonetic concepts one by one to build excellent spelling skills.
The introductory lesson teaches you and your child how to use the app, and encourages exploration of the built-in phonics hints that help your child to learn in detail how English words are constructed phonetically.
Containing the same features of the original app with some improvements, the app supports multiple users, provides detailed statistics for each list and word, lets your child practice only missed words, restart entire lists, and start on any list. The voice and sound effect volume are adjustable in-app. US, Canadian, and UK spelling are supported, lower-case/upper-case options are available, success messages can be turned on or off, keyboard can be abc or qwerty (typical keyboard layout), and scores can be shown or hidden.
The most notable difference here is that the phonics lessons are taught directly to a specific phonogram or target phonetic pattern. The direct instruction can be re-played at any time and a phonogram appears at the beginning of the lesson that can be tapped to hear its sound.
Focusing on those tricky vowels, the app focuses on short vowels, long vowels, long teams, r-controlled vowels, etc. It does teach floss words (ff, ll, ss), digraphs (sh, th, ck etc.) soft c and g, but assumes the knowledge of all short consonant sounds (these aren’t directly taught in the app).
There are 42 word lists containing 450 high frequency words arranged phonetically. You can see the word lists here. Starting with cvc words like ‘bag’ the app moves all the way up to multi-syllable words like ‘policy’. Said to contain a full year’s worth of spelling lessons, I think that depends on the age you are starting at. A kindergarten child isn’t likely to make their way to ‘democracy’ in a single year, but if used remedially for a third grader this would make a great one-year program.
These screenshots are for the iPhone/iPod.
What We Liked:
I am a dedicated teacher of phonics as the primary method of instruction for both reading and spelling in our homeschool but I have had a hard time finding apps that do phonics well. Simplex Spelling Phonics 1 is certainly one of the best, most intensive spelling apps that I’ve found.
My daughter (8) loves that she can use this app independently to learn phonetic patterns of spelling that we haven’t yet covered together in our one-on-one learning times, but because it includes excellent direct instruction, this app can be used as a primary source of phonetic spelling instruction.
My favorite part of the app are the detailed explanations of phonetic concepts and rules, particularly the additional explanations that are available by clicking the white starburst in the phonics hints for each letter, and the arrow bars connecting silent e’s with the vowels they influence.
Most children learn well by recognizing patterns and the introduction of one phonics sound or pattern for each lesson helps children by grouping words together by sound and spelling pattern, making long-term retention more likely.
What We Didn’t Like:
I don’t think there is anything to really dislike here! My one caveat would be that the word lists span at least three grades, there isn’t a lot of depth given for any of the phonetic concepts, so if you have a kindergarten child, he’ll move through all the cvc offerings fairly quickly an the rest of the app will have to wait until grade one (unless your child is a precocious speller!) We are using it with my third-grader who isn’t a strong speller so that isn’t an issue for us, we’ve jumped in on phonograms she hasn’t used in her spelling yet because you can choose any of the 42 lists.
Parents might also want to note that there isn’t any direct teaching of syllabification/open syllables in this app, though many other phonics patterns are explicitly taught with the hints option.
Simplex Spelling Phonics 1 is one of the most powerful spelling apps for phonics I’ve ever used. The arrangement of 450 high frequency words according to phonetic sounds and principles, the self-correcting, direct-instruction, statistics, multiple users – it meets ALL of my criteria.
Have you downloaded this app? Let us know what you and your children thought – leave a comment!