Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms

Advanced Phonics logo Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms

by Pyxwise Software Inc

(Release date 7th December 2012 – Special intro. price of $0.99 – before rising to $4.99USD)

Receiving a copy of Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms was very exciting for me. As an educator, I recognise that it is important for an app to have the right content and features so that it can be incorporated into my planning and teaching to optimise student learning. Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms exceeded my expectations.  As soon as I opened the app, I was immediately in awe of the design and educational thought that has gone into this product.

Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms is a complete package and has the following features:

  • A full years worth of lessons to compliment your curriculum.
  • 52 lists containing over 750 high frequency words. These are organised by spelling patterns and difficulty levels.
  • Each list has a lesson to guide the user and help cement spelling knowledge, including syllables, sounds, spelling rules, and some of the more advanced English phonograms.
  • An introductory lesson and help menu with clear instructions, audio narration and feedback.
  • The ability to have multiple users.
  • Settings which can be customised to suit American, Canadian, or English spelling.
  • The ability to customise the keyboard layout, select upper or lower case letters, and more.

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The ability to read and write is fundamental to successful learning at school. Literacy skills influence a person’s chances of finding and retaining employment, achieving financial independence, and having a positive self-esteem. When learning to read and write, children benefit from provision of systematic structure, and direct guidance or scaffolding. Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms does this very nicely. The program can be customised for each of your users. This includes the ability to change the number of correct attempts at a word before the score reporting recognises that the student has mastered the lesson and all of the words within it.

Click the images below to enlarge and view them in slideshow mode. They show the introductory lesson.

I really like how the app scaffolds students for successful learning. At any stage during the lesson, your students can get help by pressing the buttons on the screen. This includes:

  • an explanation – for the sound that the student is currently working on;
  • a play button – to hear the word separately and in a sentence;
  • a syllable button – to  hear and see the word broken into its syllables; and
  • a hints button – to get extra help for spelling the word.

Depending on the lesson, other buttons might be displayed. Explanations of all of the buttons can be found by tapping the top-left arrow and then tapping the “?”. The images below show how a student can work through the spelling of a word. I like how the student is provided with positive reinforcement at the completion of each word, regardless of the number of hints that they required or errors that they made when completing the task.

Pyxwise Software recommend that Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms should be used for students that are at least nine years of age. I agree with this statement; however, if you have younger students that are at a higher level, you should definitely use it with them. Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms is designed to extend the knowledge that your students have already acquired by working through the complete lessons on other apps in the Pyxwise series. They are Simplex Spelling Phonics 1 – English; and Simplex Spelling Phonics 2 Syllables – Spell To Read.

What do I like about Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms?

I can write all day about Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms. I love it that much!

  • It is a great app that is crafted beautifully.
  • It could be used in the classroom by a teacher as part of a literacy block with all students or as a specialised instruction tool to help specific students gain mastery in spelling, contractions, syllables (including multisyllables) and more.
  • It could also be used by a speech language pathologist in a therapy session or at home under parental guidance.
  • Every word is broken down into its syllables both visually and auditorily to help students build phonological awareness skills.
  • Pyxwise Software promote deep understanding by using a “reverse phonics” hint feature to break each word down further into individual phonemes to improve phonemic awareness, a critical skill for literacy development.
  • The ability to have multiple users is highly valued by educators (and therapists), and essential for classroom use.

What would I like to see in future updates?

I don’t have very much to add here. The only thing I would like to see relates to reporting of student results and progress. At the moment, I would have to go into the app and view each user profile and then check the statistics for each lesson to see how my students have performed. It would be fantastic if there was an option to upload (for individuals and in batch format) to a CSV or Dropbox format or have the ability to import the information when syncing the device to iTunes. Note: I understand that Pyxwise are working on this feature to include in future updates (fantastic!).

Final Thoughts…

Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms is one of my favourite spelling and phonics apps. It is great to see an app that focuses on spelling for students in the upper primary years that still need this type of instruction and scaffolding. The concepts are taught and reinforced to enable students to gain mastery levels. As I investigated the app, I thought to myself “Finally, an app that can actually be used in the classroom!“. I recommend Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms to educators, speech language pathologists, and parents.

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Middle School Confidential 1: Be Confident in Who You Are

Middle school confidential 1Middle School Confidential 1: Be Confident in Who You Are

By Electric Eggplant (valued at $2.99)

Middle School Confidential 1: Be Confident in Who You Are is a graphic novel, written by Annie Fox, which takes a serious look at issues involving children aged between 8-14 years. Book 1, ‘Be Confident in Who You Are’, brings to light our appearance, others’ opinions of us, losing our temper, standing up for ourselves, making assumptions about people, being stressed, and liking ourselves. The scenarios in the book are the kinds of issues I see in school environments every day.

I was recently given the opportunity to use ‘Be Confident in Who You Are’ with some students with special needs aged between 9 and 13. These students had issues that come up almost every day about speaking unkindly to other people, being stressed and losing their temper (this happened on multiple occasions every day), putting themselves down and letting other people walk all over them. This is not uncommon with all children in this age group.

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I placed the app up on the interactive whiteboard and it immediately aroused curiosity. This wasn’t the type of novel that they normally read. There weren’t a lot of words and one student said that he liked it but didn’t think he could learn anything with a comic book. How wrong he was! The book is designed so that there is only a limited amount of text, which is brilliant. This provides a framework for students to be able to read the visuals and make inferences.

Each chapter in the book provides a scenario about a particular issue. At the end of each chapter there is a quiz, comment, or solution that provokes deep thinking and challenges the reader to be more proactive and positive in their personal lives. I did not read the book as a whole; I decided to work around each chapter. For example, chapter 1 focuses on appearance and how others might make remarks about it. The characters discussed how they felt and I could see nods of agreement from my students. We discussed how important it was for our health and wellbeing to stay positive and try and be more active and healthy in our everyday lives. We also discussed how we feel when these things happen to us. As a class, we brainstormed for ideas about how to be healthier and happy.

‘Middle School Confidential 1: Be Confident in Who You Are’ was a huge success in our classroom. I used it every day in order to address real issues that were happening with my students. Often they found it hard to express themselves out loud. In this context, students were given opportunities to express themselves and their opinions and explain why they felt the way they did. It helped to further develop speaking and listening skills, and empathy.

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As part of our assessment for the English curriculum, the students were required to use visuals in order to create their own presentation. ‘Be Confident in Who You Are’ provides a rich source of visual imagery, and without these, the user would have difficulty understanding the text. As a group, students critically analyzed the layout and organization, stance and expression of the characters in the novel. This helped the students to develop their presentations using appropriate visual supports.

While I really like the format of ‘Be Confident in Who You Are’, I would like to see an option for non-readers to hear audio of the text (with different voices for the characters). Some of the students that I worked with, although in the correct age range for the book, had reading levels at grade one and would find it difficult to actually read the words.

‘Middle School Confidential 1: Be Confident in Who You Are’ could be used in a Reader’s Theatre activity. Students become excited and enthusiastic about reading when they are presented with the opportunity to participate in Readers Theatre. Students could develop scripts, perform in groups, and practice using their voice to depict characters from the text. Through this activity, students would have the opportunity to develop fluency and further enhance comprehension of what they are reading.

Overall, ‘Middle School Confidential 1: Be Confident in Who You Are’ was a great discussion starter and led to further engagement with values, and social and emotional health and wellbeing topics. I believe that this app helps educators and associated professionals to connect with their students in a meaningful and authentic way.

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