My youngest son had a difficult time with phonics early in kindergarten. I recognized that this would be a problem for him prior to kindergarten and tried to work with him at home in order to prepare him for school, but he was very disinterested and we both felt helpless and frustrated. We later discovered that he needed eyeglasses, which may have also contributed to his difficulty. (I highly recommend vision screening early. We had no idea he was having vision problems until a routine school screening spotted the problem very late in the school year.) Fortunately, he received some wonderful support from his school and is currently reading well for his grade level. But the whole experience was very stressful. It is very difficult for a mom to send her child to school knowing that he is unprepared and worried about whether he will develop the skills and confidence he needs in order to be successful.
Recently, I happened upon a video demonstrating an app called iSpy Phonics, which was created by the parents who founded Mia’s Apps, and developed by Bappz. How I would have loved to have had this app two years ago! My children love games, and the iSpy concept is an excellent way to interest children in a learning game. I purchased the app because I plan to use it with my youngest daughter. I believe it will be a great way to give her the head start that I wish I could have given her older brother.
The app is designed to be very simple and easy to use. Letters of the alphabet are arranged four to a page, which makes them easy to read on a small device like the iPhone®. More letters are revealed by easily swiping with your finger to the next page. When a letter is selected, the sound of the letter is played. A button at the top of the screen can be selected to reveal a photo of something that starts with that letter, along with a narration that says, “I spy things that begin with the letter …”. You can then select the photo to hear the name of the object. I really appreciate the easy to use, intuitive design.
The most exciting feature about iSpy Phonics, is the ability to add your own iSpy for each letter. Only one item for each letter is included with the app, so it is up to the parent and child to play iSpy in order to complete the collection. We can make a game out of finding objects for particular letters around our home, yard and neighborhood. And because the app is now on my iPhone, we can take a moment anywhere we are to add items to our collection. What a fun and fabulous way to share a teachable moment with your child.
The only potential problem with using the app in the United States is that it uses a British dialect. I believe parents and teachers can use this as an opportunity to teach children about differences in dialect even among people who speak the same language. The ability for children to record their own voices essentially solves this problem, as well. Although, it would be great to see the app eventually become localized for other countries, too.
I can’t help but imagine the possibilities for iSpy Phonics in a classroom setting. Like scavenger hunts throughout the classroom, school and playground in conjunction with learning about a particular letter or sound. What a great opportunity for collaborative learning, team building and students taking ownership of their work. Touch screens and intuitive design make iOS devices an ideal learning tool. I truly believe the day is coming when iPads®, iPod touches®, or similar devices will be made available to all children in every classroom. The educational possibilities are infinite. iSpy Phonics is a fun way to introduce and reinforce phonics with children that makes excellent use of the wonderful technology available to us.
Update: In the time it took me to write this blog my 7 year old son ran off with my iPhone® and had a great time taking photos and adding objects for half of the alphabet I’m still wishing I had this app 2 years ago…