Have you ever found yourself in a one-to-one class with a young child who doesn’t want to work anymore and starts jumping around and singing out loud? I have. And it’s frustrating.
Isaac is four and he’s learning to read. We’re using Jolly Phonics and he loves singing the songs and making the funny gestures. But he’s four, so when he decides the class is over, it is over. I needed a solution.
As Isaac loves using my iPad, I wanted to find an app that was not only fun, but also educational, so the class—and his parents’ money—wouldn’t be wasted. Rocket Speller Plus by Little Big Thinkers saved me. And not only with Isaac!
No matter the age, all my young students love this app! They have fun and work on their reading without even realising it.
How it works
Rocket Speller Plus is intuitive and easy to use. Kids simply have to spell out the 12 words that Zip the Alien calls out. Every word has a picture to help visual memory and understanding of new vocabulary.
- You can choose between four different categories of words (basics, creatures, food, and around-the-house objects) or let the app shuffle them for you.
- You can decide if you want your kid to hear the name of the letter or its sound (phonics).
- You can choose between lowercase and uppercase letters.
- You can choose between five levels of difficulty, which are clearly explained.
It sounds like any other spelling app, but it’s not.
Why kids love it
The “real mission” of the game is to help Zip the Alien build a rocket and drive it through space to collect stars.
Every three correctly spelled words, kids get to pick one piece to build their custom rocket ship.
After Zip has assembled his rocket and happily jumped into it with a “weeee!” sound, kids get to steer the rocket through outer space to collect all the stars (the number of which varies based on the level).
Why it's better than others
Isaac and I tried many educational game apps, but most of them were boring, too easy or didn’t use phonics. So far, Rocket Speller Plus has proven to be the best app to practice phonic sounds while having fun. Having a mission make kids feel like they want to spell the 12 words and get to the stars, so they rarely leave it unfinished.
Also, as there are so many rocket combinations, kids never get bored of it. Isaac loves taking a picture of every rocket he builds (on the last screen, just before hitting the button to start collecting stars).
It’s a perfect treat after a good class or a great diversion to keep the class on track and stop all the fuss.
What I don't like so much about it
Unfortunately, it doesn’t use all the Jolly Phonics sounds. For example, it doesn’t spell “ie” as one sound, but it separates it into “i” and magic “e”.
Also, Zip speaks and spells the words with an American accent. I don’t mind, as my students are usually English and already have their own accent, but it’s something ESL families might want to consider before purchasing the app.
What I'd like it to offer
- More accents: I’d love to have the possibility to choose between American, English and—why not?—Australian accent.
- More categories: I’d definitely buy additional word categories via in-app purchase, if they added this feature.
- Jolly Phonics mode: It would be great if they added a Jolly Phonics mode for Jolly Phonics students.
Rocket Speller (without the Plus) is the free version of this app. It has less words (135 against 450 of the paid version) and doesn’t have the phonic option.
For $2.99, it’s definitely worth buying the Plus version.