I’m a big fan of Rocket Speller Plus by Little Big Thinkers.
When I heard they had a new game on the App Store, I bought it straight away.
And wow, it rocks! The game is fun, functional, nicely designed and well thought out. All my students love it and it’s exactly what I needed in order to add a little variety to our spelling practices.
I use it to study and review Jolly Phonics Tricky Words, to prepare kids for spelling tests, to teach them new words or even just to end the class with a fun, yet educational game.
Below you can read why I love it, why kids love it and what I don’t like about it. Hope you enjoy!
Why I love it
- I can create my own spelling lists.
This is by far the best feature. Rocket Speller Plus is a great game to practice reading, but every time my students play, I wish I could add my own words. Little Big Thinkers solved this problem with Car Factory.
In the settings, I can create as many lists as I want, add up to 20 words per list and assign each list to as many students as I want. I can review Jolly Phonics Tricky Words by simply creating a list like the one shown below and playing away.
- Each student has his/her own profile.
In Rocket Speller Plus, there were no profiles. Every time I used the game with a different student, I had to remember their level and what word category we had already played with.
In Car Factory, each student has a profile with their own word lists. As you can see below, Isaac is studying both Jolly Phonics Tricky Words and Dolch Sight Words, so I’ve assigned him all the lists I created with these words.
Why kids love it
- They build their own car.
I mean, they build their very own car! Is there anything else to say? Even girls love it!
- They get lots of rewards.
Every time they complete a game with a positive progress, they get a reward. Sometimes it’s a new sticker, sometimes new wheels or paints, sometimes even a brand new car! (There’s even one that looks like the Batmobile!)
When they master all the words in a list, the app shows a little trophy next to that list. At this point, they can still play with it and review those words, but they won’t receive any more rewards for it (so I recommend to change list as not getting a reward can really kill their enthusiasm).
- They get to race the car they built.
After they’ve chosen paints, wheels, stickers, sound system (yeah!) and built their very own car, it’s race time! They have to collect as many coins as they can and, of course, win the race (funny thing is, their car always wins the race by default, but none of my students has figured it out yet).
What I don't like
When you create a new list in the settings, you can choose to record each word with your own voice, so when the student is playing and the word comes up on the screen, they don’t just read the word, they also hear it.
This is great in theory, but so far it hasn’t worked very well for me. The recording is a bit buggy and when a word appears on the screen, the app reads that word and then goes on reading all the other ones I’ve recorded (even though I recorded all of them separately, it treats them like one long recording).
I hope they’ll fix it soon, but in the meantime I invented a great story to make up for it. I tell my students the game is going to try to confuse them, so they have to really pay attention to the first word they hear and see. They loved this rule as if it were a whole new game in the game!
[Have a look at the comments where Geoff from Little Big Thinkers kindly explained how to really solve this problem without having to invent a new game 😉 ]
- The coins they collect don’t count for anything
I’d love for the coins to actually mean something. Right now, it seems like they simply add up from race to race with no particular reason. Some of my students have noticed it and they’re not bothered with collecting coins anymore.
I’d find it much more useful if there were a number of coins they have to collect in each race and kids had to strive to get as many as possible (which is a little bit like collecting stars in Rocket Speller Plus: if they know they can get 20 stars, they’ll want to get all of them).
Thanks to Geoff from Little Big Thinkers for taking the time to explain the full reward system (in the comments below).
All in all
I love, love, love Car Factory! It’s a great game to get students involved and to love spelling.
I compared it to Rocket Speller Plus, but it’s definitely NOT either or. My students still love and ask to play “Rocket” and combining both games is perfect for teaching how to read and write.
Can’t wait to see what Little Big Thinkers will come out with next!