The following applications focus primarily on developing phonics skills. They aim to teach children the key foundational literacy skills of how to combine sounds and letters to create words, and how to separate sounds from words.

Most Highly Recommended

Montessori Crosswords: This app shows a picture and says a word. There are blanks for the letters in the word. Children drag letters from an alphabet below to create the word. Simpler words have just one word. With trickier words, you can also have puzzles with two words crossing each other, like in a crossword. You can also choose a particular type of word to focus on. After getting a word correct, the child gets to play with various fun animation games. The length of this play time is customizable. I like this app quite a bit. It provides very good practice with phonics skills. There are varying degrees of support built into the app. There is a question box that children can click on to reveal the word if they can’t figure it out, which can be turned off as your child gets more competent. When children touch an empty blank spot in a word, it provides the letter sound. This feature can be changed so it provides the letter name instead of the letter sound, or it can be turned off to make it more challenging.

Word Wizard: There are two types of activities in this app. (1) Letters are dragged from an alphabet up to the top of the screen to create words. It pronounces the words and/or sentences that students create. (2) The app says words and children use the moveable alphabet to spell those words. I recommend this app highly. It is a fun way to explore phonics and letter sounds. It does a pretty impressive job of correctly pronouncing words—both real words and made-up words.

Build A Word & Find Vowel, & Word Family (Howie the Hungry Monster): Children hear a word. They have to drag the correct letter or letters to the top to create the word. Some letters are in two or three-letter groups (e.g., ‘cl’ or ‘ick’). If children make a word successfully, then a burger, hot dog, or pizza is fed to the monster. There are five different levels for each of these apps, organized as: “Short Vowels,” “Long Vowels,” “Bossy ‘R’s,” “Other Vowel Teams,” and “Challenge Level.” (1) The “Build A Word” game has children choose the correct starting sound and a two or three-letter ending. (2) The “Find Vowel” game has children select the missing vowel or letter group in the middle of a word. (3) The “Word Family” game provides the word ending. Children have to figure out what letter goes at the beginning. Then, they are asked to change that word into a couple of new words with the same ending. These are great apps. They might be a bit challenging for students who are just beginning to develop phonics skills. But these games can challenge students at a variety of skill levels., and they are fun. The design discourages random guessing. Students can attempt each word twice. If they don’t solve it in those two attempts, then the answer is provided. I have only one major criticism. There is a jump in skill level from the “Short Vowels” levels to the other levels. I wish that there was a more intermediate level, perhaps with four and five-letter words, but without complicated letter groups.

Gappy Learns Reading: Children drag letters to form three-letter words. In the easiest level, the app tells children what letter is missing. In the second level, children have to find a single missing letter. In the third level, two letters are missing. And in the last level, all three letters have to be put in place. There are four letter choices for each word. More than 200 words are included, and they have been split into three groups. Each group of words can be turned on or off in the settings. This is a very well-designed app. Children love the little Gappy character and its silly noises. The word choices are excellent for supporting early phonics skills. And after a word is formed, the app says the individual sounds in a clearly discernible way, which helps children develop sound blending skills. (I have also included this app in the “Basic Reading” section of this website, because the earlier levels can be used with younger children.)

Monkey Word School Adventure: This app shuffles children through six different types of activities, each of which can be turned on or off in the settings. (1) The “Spelling Stone” game has children spell words by dragging letters into place. (2) The “Letter Writing” game has them trace letters. (3) The “Word Wall” game is a very simple word search. (4) The “Sight Birds” game has children find letters or words as birds carry different tiles on and off the screen. (5) The “Phonics Bridge” game shows a word that is missing a letter. Children slide the correct missing letter from below to form a bridge. (6) The “Rhyming Maze” game has children connect words that rhyme to form a path. In the settings, you can allow the app adjust its difficulty level automatically, depending on student successes and failures. Or you can set the difficulty level for each type of game. This is a very good app for practicing various phonics skills and also sight word skills. I particularly appreciate the way it can be customized. Sometimes, it is nice to allow the game to adjust the difficulty level on its own. Other times, it is preferable to set a specific level of difficulty. Most apps allow for one or the other. This app is somewhat unique in that it has both modes.

Spelling Magic 1 & Spelling Magic 2, & Spelling Magic 3: Children make words for the pictures by dragging letters into the blank spots. One option is to have all the necessary letters scattered (“Word Jumble”). Another option is to have the whole alphabet (“Movable Alphabet”) available. “Letter Hints” can be turned on or off, meaning that when children touch the empty blank spots, it can say the letter sounds that are missing. “Spelling Magic 1” has the simplest words, while “Spelling Magic 2” and “Spelling Magic 3” have increasingly longer words. I recommend these apps. They are good for supporting phonics skills, and they can be adjusted to be more or less challenging. I have a couple of criticisms (1) At first, I had problems with the sound being too loud or too quiet, especially with headphones. I have resolved that problem, but it took a bit of effort. (2) The letter choices in the “Moveable Alphabet” sometimes randomly get stuck behind other letters. It can be resolved easily by returning to the home screen, but it is a distraction nonetheless.

Pocket Phonics: Children go through a series of activities with letters and sounds. First, they trace some letters with an entertaining tracing function. Then they are prompted to create words by listening for letter sounds and touching those letters. There are only the necessary letters available at first, but later in each section, there are a few extra letters. The first groups of activities have single letters for children to work on. Later, the following letter teams are included: ck, ff, ll, ss, zz, qu, ch, sh, th, ng, ai, igh, oo, ee, oa, ar, or, ur, ow, oi, ear, air, ure, er, ou, ue, ay, oy, wu, ir, ph, ie, ew, ea, aw, oe, au. This is a very well designed app. I recommend it, especially for children who are still learning the letter sounds and still gaining basic phonics skills. For children who are further along, this app won’t present much of a challenge. However, the later groups of activities provide an introduction to letter groups that children will have to master at a higher level of reading skill.

Kids Crosswords: Children make simple one, two, or three-word crossword puzzles by dragging letters into the spaces. Pictures for each are before each word on the puzzle screen, and when you touch the pictures, it says the words. For the simpler levels, children drag and match the letters that are already provided in the crosswords. At more difficult levels, they have to figure out what letters are missing in each word. This is a well-designed app. It is structured to provide activities for children who are new to phonics and still learning the letters and sounds. But there are also more challenging activities (though fewer of them) for children who have developed a strong foundation in phonics. In other words, this app will grow with your child to some extent. I have one constructive criticism. In the more challenging levels with more than one word, children have to finish the word they’ve begun before they can add letters to another. I wish this was not the case. Or, I at least wish the app would indicate which letter children have to figure out next. Often times, I’ll see a child try to put all of the beginning letters in place first, which I think is a good strategy, but the app won’t allow them to do that.

Build A Word Express & Build A Word- Easy Spelling (700+ Words), & Build A Word- Phonics: Children hear a word spoken and then drag letters up to create that word. In the “Learn” section, the letters are provided and children have to drag and match. In the “Practice” and “Test” sections, they have to figure out which letters go where. There is also a “Mini Game Reward” option that lets the kids pop some bubbles after they figure out a word. These are well designed apps. They provide good practice with phonics, and the customizable options allow them to grow with a child as he or she becomes more skilled. I changed the “Number of additional letters” option to the maximum of 5 (in the settings), so that it’s a bit more challenging. I have a few constructive criticisms. First, there is usually only one vowel option (the vowels are in red). I wish there would be more vowels offered, so that children get more practice differentiating between vowel sounds. Second, the ‘a’ sound is a little weird. It sounds a little bit like a short ‘e’ sound. Third, the letters in words have to be put in place in order. I wish it was an option to allow children to place letters in any order. Fourth, there are few differences between the three apps. I feel a little bit swindled having purchased more than one of them.

Train Phonics CVC: Children drag letters to form simple three-letter words that they hear aloud. There are ten letters to choose from for each word. When letters are touched, they say their sounds. After a word is correctly formed, children hear the individual letter sounds  and then the full word again. This is a very simple app with no bells and whistles, and it is not customizable in any way. But it provides very good practice with phonics skills.

Reading Raven: This app has a variety of different games that focus on letter recognition, sound recognition, and phonics skills. Children go through five lessons, each of which focuses on different letters or letter groups. They also get more difficult in the higher levels, and you can customize which types of activities to include. The following types of activities are included. (1) Drag and match letters. (2) Trace letters. (3) Find letters in groups. (4) Match words that are the same. (5) Find words with starting sounds. (6) Build words by putting letters in order. (7) Find a word in a group of words. (8) Read aloud as the app records your voice. (9) Trace whole words. (10) Put words into groups based on their beginnings or endings (i.e., whether they rhyme). This is a very good app for children who are still learning letters and letter sounds. But it also provides good practice with more challenging literacy skills. The options menu has suggestions for which activities to include at different age levels. I particularly appreciate the activity that records your voice as you sound out a word. Children can often blend sounds after they hear themselves saying separated letter sounds.

Hooked on Phonics – Learn to Read (there is also a Classroom Edition): At the beginning of each lesson, children watch a video with music and animations, which help teach letter sounds and sound blending. Then they complete a variety of activities that build words. After each group of lessons is completed, children have a chance to read beginner books. This app is built upon the decades-old “Hooked on Phonics” program. It is very well though out, and the app is well designed. It’s a very good entry point for children who know a few letter sounds and are ready to try reading.

Little Stars- Word Wizard: Children are asked questions about simple three-letter words. Some questions ask children to find a word (from four choices). Some questions ask children to find the letter at the beginning or end of a word. Sometimes the word is presented with letter a letter missing, sometimes children only hear the word and see a picture. The type of questions included can be customized. A two-player mode uses a split screen to allow two children to play across from each other simultaneously, in a competition. This is a nice app for practicing phonics skills. Its customizability allows teachers and parents to tailor activities to a child’s abilities to some extent. However, children are somewhat inclined to guess randomly. When they choose an incorrect answer, there is a short delay before another answer can be selected, but they can guess as many times as they wish. The two-player mode is a nice option, but it is a bit glitchy. You can supposedly choose between competing for speed and competing for accuracy, but the game does not change accordingly when you select accuracy.


Somewhat Recommended

Spelling With Cimo: Children hear a word. The letters needed to spell that word (and no other letters) are provided below on ice chunks. If children can put the letters together in the right order, then it will make a bridge that a penguin walks across to get a fish. There are four different levels, organized as: “Short Vowels,” “Long Vowels,” “Bossy ‘R’s,” “Other Vowel Teams.” This is a solid app for children who are still getting the hang of how to combine sounds to make words. I am a little less inclined to recommend this app for children who are further along. In the more difficult levels, the words are much trickier, but the task doesn’t get much harder. That is, there are still only a few letters to choose from to form the words. The app is well designed in that it discourages random guessing. Students can attempt each word twice. If they don’t solve it in those two attempts, then the answer is provided. This encourages students try and figure out the correct answer, instead of guessing.

Starfall Learn to Read: Children drag letters into blank spots to form words that match pictures. There are 15 different categories to choose from. The categories include: simple three letter words, words with digraphs, silent ‘e’ words, words with r-controlled vowels, and more. In addition, many of the categories contain additional games, such as pictures hunts and matching games, or animated videos that teach phonics lessons. This is a pretty solid phonics app. It helps teach a variety of different types of phonics skills, and the interface is very child-friendly. I often find this app useful when I introduce a new phonics idea, such as the silent ‘e’ or a particular vowel digraph. However, it has children form only four different words in each category. So although it would appear at first glance to have a lot of content, there aren’t actually very many activities.

Hideout: Early Reading: Children choose one of seven word families (en, ap, it, ub, ag, op, et). For each word family, they are led through a series of activities based around four or five words in that word family. For example, in the ‘en’ section, they are introduced to the following words: hen, men, pen, ten. Then a game has children put the ten hens in a pen and feed them. After that, they touch and hear words in a sentence one at a time (e.g., “The ten men fed the hens”). This app is fun and it’s pretty well made. The words are well selected, and they are shown frequently (e.g., every time you touch a hen or move it to the pen, those words appear on the screen). But there’s not much content in this app. Children get through everything in little time.

Phonics Rocks!: There are two types of games in this app. (1) The “Letters” section has children touch letters and it says their sounds. (2) In the “Words” section, children hear a simple three-letter word, sometimes accompanied by a picture, and have to tap on the letters (in order) to form that word. If they tap on the blanks at the top, it will say the letter sounds that are needed. After the word is spelled, a song plays and the letters (which have arms, legs, and faces) do a little dance. This is a good, simple app for practicing phonics skills.  But I have a couple of criticisms. Some words are poorly pronounced, to the extent that even I have trouble figuring the words out. The app also has some glitches. It sometimes freezes, so I have to close and restart it.

Rocket Speller: Children hear a word and see its picture. Then they must drag the letters, in order, from below to form the word. There are no extra letters—just the letters necessary for the word. Simpler levels have children match letters. In more difficult levels, children are given hints after mistakes. This app is well designed, but I wish the levels were subdivided further. Three-letter words and four-letter words are combined into one level, although they represent two distinct ability levels. Similar leaps in ability level occur when moving to higher levels.

Montessori Letter Sounds: This app has four different types of activities. (1) In the “I Spy” section, children find a picture that starts with a letter sounds. (2) In the “Letter Sounds” section, children choose the letter or letter group that makes a sound. (3) In the “Mix & match” section, children drag letters to pictures that begin with those letters. (4) In the “Sound It Out” section, children drag letters from an entire alphabet to form the words they see and hear. This app provides some good practice with phonics. But there are some poor design decisions. First, the vowel sounds the app says are a little bit off; the ‘e’ sound sounds a little bit like a long ‘a’ sound. Second, the pictures used for the different letters are not intuitive. For example, what appears to be ‘goat’ is supposed to be ‘kid’. Third, the words included in the harder levels of the “Sound It Out” section are very tricky and include many secondary letter sounds that are very confusing for children who are still learning to put letters together to form words (e.g., ‘okapi’ and ‘kiwi’ and ‘wapati’—words that are not high priority words for young children and that feature vowels that make sounds different from their typical sounds).

Little Reader 3 Letter Words: Children are given words on one side and pictures on the other. They drag the pictures to the matching words. You can customize whether it says the words when touched, and you can customize the number of words in each group, up to six. This is a very good, simple app to help practice sounding out simple words. However, children are particularly inclined to guess with this game, instead of figuring out the words, so it may be best to do this one with them. Also, I turn off the “Other 3-Letter Words” in the settings when I use this app with beginning readers, so that all of the letters in the words make their most typical sounds.

Little Speller 3 Letter Words: Children see a picture and hear a word. They drag the mixed up letter tiles from above to the boxes below to form the word. Only the letters in each word are provided, no extra letters. At first, children see the letters in the words and simply have to match drag the letters from above and match them. To make it more challenging, the “Letter Hints” can be turned off, so that children don’t have any clues. This is a mediocre app. It is well designed, and it provides some good practice with letter recognition (and perhaps word recognition). But I do not think it does a lot to strengthen early reading skills. One way it could be improved would be to have it say the letter sounds instead of the letter names, so that children hear the separate sounds in words.

Reading Magic 1 & Reading Magic 2, & Reading Magic 3: There are three different “Skills” sections in these apps: Blending, Segmenting, and Reading. However, they’re all pretty similar. A picture is shown above and a simple word below. When students touch the letters, it says the letter sounds.  With the “Segmenting” skill section, the letters don’t appear, just the picture and blanks where the letters are, which make letter sounds when touched. With the “Reading” skill section, the picture does not appear until after the student touches the blank box. The “Reading Magic 1” app has the simplest words, while “Reading Magic 2” and “Reading Magic 3” have contain increasingly longer words. I only use the “Reading” skill sections. These apps work best with an adult’s help. Ideally, students would touch the letters, hear the sounds, and then blend the sounds to figure out the word. But if you leave young children alone with this app, they usually touch the letter sounds and then impatiently touch the picture, or touch the picture first, or touch the letters in the wrong order.

Partners in Rhyme: Children choose one of four rhyming activities: (1) draw lines to match rhyming pictures; (2) play a memory-type game with pictures that rhyme; (3) choose which pair of pictures rhymes; (4) decide whether two pictures rhyme. This is a simple app that offers some good practice with rhyming words. However, it’s not very engaging, and it doesn’t have much content. Children don’t benefit from it for long.

Word Wonderland: Children move a frog from start to finish on lilypads. To help the frog, they must drag words from the bottom of the screen to places that are missing lilypads. There are letters in those places, and the words children drag must contain those letters. Some levels have vowel families (e.g., ag, ot, am), some have short vowels, some have long vowels, some have r-controlled vowels (e.g., ar, or, ir), and some have blends (e.g., cl, sk, sm). On easier levels, the words have corresponding pictures above them. This app provides some support for early literacy skills. But it’s not the most engaging app. And I think the way it is structured is a little bit awkward. As a result, children tend not to get much practice with the phonics skills that it aims to address. For example, in the word family levels, instead of listening for the sounds in a word, children usually just find words that contain the the letters they see above. However, the words and materials have been well selected and well organized. children who enjoy this app and spend a good amount of time with it will likely benefit from being exposed to so many words.

Rhyming Words: Children touch pictures and hear the words. Then they match pictures that rhyme. The number of pairs on each page can be adjusted as high as eight. This is a good simple app for practicing rhyming. However, children tend to guess a lot when they’re using it. I would suggest doing this app with adult guidance. I turn off the “Tile Magnet.” When it’s on, children sometimes make the wrong selection, but it’s close enough to the correct answer that it’s pulled there. This makes it easier to guess, instead of figuring out the answer.

Bob Books #1: Various scenes taken from the famous “Bob Books” are presented for students. When children touch some of the words, a screen comes up that allows them to recreate that word by dragging letters into a box.  After they’ve done all the word in a scene, there is a brief animation. In Level 1, there are hints for where each letter goes. In Level 2, students have to start with the letter on the left. In Level 3, they must unscramble the letters without hints. And in Level 4, there are extra letters (i.e., more than just the letters in the word being spelled). This is a good app for students who are beginning to get a feel for phonics, and for students who have more intermediate phonics skills. However, there are just 12 scenes to work through. It doesn’t take a whole lot of time for children to get through those scenes. So this app does not provide a wealth of material. There is at least one more Bob Books app with more scenes, but that app has to be purchased separately.

Alpha Writer: Children are given a word with a picture and asked to spell that word by dragging letters into place. The letters are on a scrolling alphabet at the top of the screen. If they guess wrong a few times, then the correct letter starts to flash. The first group of words contains simple three-letter words. There is also a section titled “Phonograms,” which contains words with letter groups (e.g. ch, sh). The letter groups are at the end of the scrolling alphabet at the top of the screen. Also included is an “Alpha Spy” game, wherein children are given three pictures and asked to choose the one that starts with a particular sound. A “Storyboard” section allows children to drag down letters and pictures to create sentences. This is a pretty good app. It is very attractive, and children get good practice breaking apart the sounds in words to figure out how to make words. But I have a few criticisms. First, it is a little hard to find letters by scrolling through them. As adults, we can find letters by thinking about the order of the alphabet. Most children cannot do that naturally. Second, the notification menu for the iPad is sometimes accidentally pulled down, because the letters are at the very top of the screen. Third, this app does not come with a lot of content. I wish there were more words in each section. Children get through all of them pretty quickly.

Phonics: Fun on Farm: This app is filled with activities. Many of them have children select letters, letter sounds, or words. Some activities have children form words by dragging them into place. One activity has children match upper and lower-case letters. Another activity records children as they sound out a word and then plays their voices back to them. There is an abundance of content in this app, and some of it provides some good practice. However, most of its activities have minor flaws that, taken together, have caused me to withhold my highest recommendation. The major overarching flaw is that random guessing is encouraged in each activity; children are rewarded the same regardless of the number of incorrect responses. Generally, everything this app does is done better by other apps.

Intro To Reading by Oz Phonics: There are six different sections in this app. (1) The “Warm Up” game is a sound matching game, like the game “Memory.” Children hear animal sounds when they touch cards and they try to remember where those sounds are. (2) The “Sound Match” game is the same, only with letter sounds. The letters themselves are not shown, but children hear the sounds. (3) A “Letters To Sound” section simply gives a children a grid with 15 letters on it. Children hear the letter sounds when they touch the letters. (4) In the “Sound To Letter” section, children hear a letter sound and are asked to find the letter. (5) The “Making Words” section has children form simple three-letter words. It says the necessary sounds one at a time. (6) The “Word Test” section shows a screen full of two and three-letter words. Children hear a word and have to find that word. This app is attractive and easy to use. It offers some good practice. But it is not the most engaging app, and there is nothing very unique about its approach. It is a collection of various activities that I believe other more specialized apps have more successfully carried out. I have a few specific criticisms. First, in the “Sound Match” game, children do not see the letters when they hear the sounds. I think that is a big missed opportunity. Second, in the “Letters To Sound” game, only 15 letters are shown. Why not show all 26? Third, the “Word Test” activity represents a significant jump in difficulty level. I would suggest that a different activity, of a more intermediate level, would be more appropriate for an app with “Intro to Reading” in its name. Fourth, I wish it would not repeat sounds and words so frequently as children search for them. It feels like nagging, and children often need more than a few seconds to find what they are looking for. And finally, the structure of this app encourages random guessing. Children can randomly tap the letters and words very quickly, which is much easier than finding the right letter or word.

Sound It Out: Children drag letters to fill in the missing letters in three-letter words. In the “Trace” section, they match the letters already provided. In the “Beginning,” “Middle,” and “Ending” sections, they figure out the missing letters in those parts of the word. In the “Spell” section, they have to correctly place all three letters in the word. There are two different levels for each section. “Level 1” has three letter choices for each word. “Level 2” has five. This app is well designed for children who are new to phonics and children who are just beginning to separate sounds from words. It is set up to grow with children to some extent. As they get comfortable with beginning sounds, they can move on to ending sounds, and then on to middle sounds. Children who are further along likely will not be challenged, because there are so few options to chose from for each word. One criticism I have is that the font used in this app is a little weird, and the way the letters are scattered and slightly crooked may make them a little more difficult for children to identify.


Not Recommended

Phonics Fun: Long and Short Vowel Sounds: This app describes itself as a workbook, which is accurate. It tells whether answers are correct, but otherwise has no interactive features. There are sections for each short and long vowel sound. The most common activity has children find pictures that contain different vowel sounds. Children also trace the letters and fill in missing letters in words. Some of the items are poorly chosen—few young children can recognize a picture of a plum (the app doesn’t say the name of the pictures). But my biggest criticism is that children receive a rewarding “You did it!” even if they rapidly guess at random.

Phonics Silly Sentences 1: Children choose a vowel and see a brief animation that tells the letter name and letter sound. Then they are given a series of activities that have them match words and sentences that contain that vowel to pictures, or match vowels to pictures of words that contain them. This app tries to do far too much, and it doesn’t do any of it well. To recognize vowel sounds, read simple words, and read complete sentences represents a broad range of skill, which this app moves between rapidly. Moreover, the app says each word when touched, so children don’t actually practice decoding or word recognition.

Word Wheel: Short Vowels: Children slide rows of letters up and down to change the beginnings and endings of words, forming new words. For every word that is formed, a corresponding picture is shown. In the quiz mode, children  see a picture and must choose the correct starting sound or sounds for that word. This app might provide some good practice with phonics, but is has a couple of characteristics that leave me unimpressed. First, in the quiz mode, it is not always clear what word the picture represents. Children are often confused. They can get help by touching the ‘hint’ button, but the ‘hint’ button breaks the word apart into sounds, which might be more support than a child needs. Second, many of the consonant sounds have an unnecessary vowel sound attached to them. For example, ‘t’ sounds like ‘tuh’ and ‘f’ sounds like ‘fuh’. When students hear those extra ‘uh’ sounds, they often inject them into the words they are trying to read, thereby causing unnecessary confusion.

Learn Phonics There are three different sections in this app. (1) In the “Letters” section, children tap on letters and they hear the letter sounds. (2) In the “Word Construction” section, when children tap on a letter, it provides a short simple word with that letter in it, and it sounds out the word for them. They can push an arrow to see and hear another word with that letter, or they can choose a different letter. (3) In the “Test” section, children hear a word and see a picture for that word. They must drag letters from below to create the word. There are five choices for each word. There are 50 words in this section. This is not a great app. It’s provides some good practice with phonics, but in a way that is not terribly entertaining for children. Also, some words are a little hard to understand when spoken. And it is a little glitchy. It occasionally freezes and has to be shut down.

Rosetta Stone Kids Lingo Word Builder: There are two types of games on this app. The Spanish Speak & Learn section focuses on Spanish language learning, which I have not taken the time to evaluate. The Reading Word Builder section has children create words by dragging letters down in front of two-letter word-endings, thereby creating words that are in rhyming word families. There are three levels of difficulty. In Level 1, children choose any letter and then are told what word they have created. In Level 2, they have to select letters that form real words and ignore letters that do not. And in Level 3, a picture is shown and child has to select the correct letter to form that word. This app is fun and engaging for children. The phonics section  provides some good practice with letters and word forming, but I have a few criticisms. First, although I appreciate the attractively designed animations, they take up too much time. Children spend much more time passively watching animations than actively participating in the activities. Second, children do not hear letter names or letter sounds at any point. When a word is formed, the word is heard aloud, but the connection between the letter and the sound in the word is not highlighted. Third, in Level 2, having to figure out what makes real words adds an extra thought process that can be quite challenging for young children. They often become impatient and guess. However, Rosetta Stone is famous for their language lessons, so the Spanish lesson section of this app might be of greater value.

Phonics and Reading With McGuffey I: Children do a number of phonics activities, including: finding letters that make particular sounds; combining letters to create three-letter words; finding words; and reading simple sentences. I do not recommend this app. I have many criticisms. The way the letters look is unnecessarily complicated—many have extra symbols with them (e.g., ‘a’ has a short ‘a’ symbol above it, ‘s’ is on a little stand, and ‘th’ has a slash through it). The group of items included also reflects some poor choices. The ‘th’ grapheme is introduced before introducing most of the individual letters (perhaps because the word ‘the’ has a ‘th’ in it). But most importantly, this app is neither engaging nor intuitive for young children.

Phonics Word Families & Phonics Vowels: In the “Phonics Word Families” app, pictures appear on the screen along with the two or three-letter endings for the words. Children have to figure out what letter goes at the beginning and drag that letter down. Each group has four words and there are four letters to choose from for each question. After completing all four words, children see those words on the screen and drag them to the correct picture. When they touch a word in this part of the game, it says the word. The “Phonics Vowels” app has the same setup. The only difference: some words have more than one consonant is missing. I do not highly recommend these apps. They do provide some practice separating consonant sounds from from words, but they are not well designed. I do not know why the “Phonics Vowels” app is named as it is. It focuses on consonants, not vowels.

Space Phonics Adventure: There are two types of games in this app, both of which focus on starting sounds. The first shows a screen with one letter and a number of pictures. When the pictures are touched, a voice says what they are. Children have to touch all of the pictures that begin with the letter. In the second type of game, children see three letters and a group of pictures. Each pictures must be dragged to the letter that it begins with. This app could provide some good practice with phonics, but I have a number of criticisms. First, the voice is a child’s voice. Some words are hard to hear, and others are pronounced poorly. For example, the word ‘ink’ is pronounce like ‘eenk’ which strongly suggests that the word begins with ‘e’. Second, children are very inclined to guess with this app. It is much faster and easier to try every picture than it is to figure out what the pictures start with, and because there is no reward for guessing correctly, that is what most children do. Third, in the first game (where children select the pictures that start with a letter), there is no way to hear the word for a picture without selecting that picture. For example, if you see a paper heart and you have the letter ‘v’, then you might think the word for that picture is ‘valentine’. But when you touch that picture, it gives you an ‘X’ for an incorrect answer and says the word ‘heart’ instead.

Abitalk Phonics Short Vowels: Children make words in picture by taking letters that are out of order and putting them in the correct order. The letters say either their sounds or their names (depending on the settings) when you touch them. All the words have short vowel sounds and are categorized according to their vowel sounds. This app offers some good practice with letter sounds, but do not recommend it highly. The way it is set up tends to encourage children to guess a bit, rather than sounding out the words. Also, children can change the settings accidentally just by touching a button on the side of the screen. And there are only about 30 words for each vowel.

Word Families: Children unscramble letters and move them into place to create the words that are heard aloud. Different types of hints can be turned on or off. I do not recommend this app. Though it provides some good practice with phonics, the design is not great. The level of difficulty varies uncontrollably. Sometimes simple three-letter words are provided, and sometimes it is challenging four-letter words.

Phonics Genius: Students hear a word out loud and have to choose that word. You can change the number of words offered for each question, up to 6. There are many different groups of words, organized by the type of phonics sounds in those words. This could be a very good, simple app. But it has major problems. Often times, there is a glitch and the words change when you touch them. You might see a list of words that doesn’t include the word said aloud. If the glitches are fixed, then I recommend using it with children who are able to blend words to form words. Start with the categories that have “cvc” (consonant/vowel/consonant). Those are good, simple group of words to start with. However, another criticism I have of this app is that there is no intermediate level. The “cvc” groups have great beginner words in them. But the rest of the groups contain very challenging words (eight and ten-letter words). There are no groups that exclusively contain four and five-letter words.

Word Magic: Children see a picture and its word. The word is missing a letter and children have to choose the correct missing letter from four choices below. The app settings can be adjusted to include missing letters at the beginning of words, the middle, the end, or a mix. I do not strongly recommend this application. It provides some good practice separating sounds from words, but its design is not great. I have a number of criticisms. First, the selection of words included is poor. Some words are very easy. Others are very difficult. Second, the words spoken are spoken by children, and many are pronounced poorly, such as the word ‘bowl’, which sounds more like ‘bull’. Third, there is a screen that occasionally pops up and asks, “Are you a mom or a dad?” Of course, few children can read that. If they click, ‘yes,’ then it takes them to an advertisement for other apps. Finally, I had an issue with the sound being uncontrollable at first, although I did manage to resolve that issue with some effort.

Phonics Awareness: This app provides various activities to help students improve phonics skills. The “Segment” section has children beak apart words. The “Blend” section gives children three letter sounds and has them find the word based on those sounds. The “Vowels” section has children find and touch the short vowels or long vowels in some words. This is not a well designed app. The activities bounce between very simple and very challenging. It sometime asks children to do something, like separate the sounds in a word, but does not offer enough time to do it. Some words are hard to hear. And the same questions appear each time a section is opened.

Spelling Bus: Children see a picture and hear a word. They type the correct letter on the keyboard below to make those words. This is not a great app. It has adds very prominently featured. It is also difficult for children to push the push the keys on the keyboard, because they are very small.