If English is your minority language (ml) and you are currently teaching your child to read in that language, there is an app that is ever so helpful.
About a year ago, when the “Teach your Monster to Read” app was launched, I downloaded it as it was then free as part of a launch offer (at the time of publishing this post, it costs about €1 and does not require any extra in-app purchases; it is also available for free on its website). I left it there and forgot all about it, as we are not very keen on having the girls playing on a tablet.
A couple of weeks ago, my eldest dug it out whilst manipulating the tablet to put Spotify on. She played with it and got her little sister to play too.
What the game is about
The player has a little monster s/he can customize and which will travel in space through different worlds, solving spelling puzzles, identifying tricky words (also known as sight or high-frequency words), carrying actions through reading short sentences.
Our experience of the game
My youngest’s phonics knowledge only consists of the pure sounds; i.e: alphabet letters’ sounds. This learning came about naturally, through playing and singing. She has also learned an awful lot just copying her elder sister.
The game is extremely comprehensive from pure sounds to digraphs and trigraphs (2 or 3 letters uniting to make 1 sound; e.g: th orair), tricky words, as well as short sentences, which my daughter cannot handle yet. In the first few weeks of having the app, the game evolved too fast and she could no longer play without me or her elder sister standing by to help her. As tedious as it may sound, it in fact enabled me to explain things to her, which will hopefully help her in picking up things faster than frustrating herself on the app. It also afforded me a good view of the app… and it really is great! Since then, thanks to the tip off by a fellow bilingual mum, I have discovered I can set the game to only use certain sounds or phonics groups. 😉
Nowadays, whenever she requests “Monster”, I allow her 15 minutes of playing in the morning, and 15 minutes in the afternoon if she asks for more. To avoid the hysterics at putting down the tablet, like I experienced with her elder sister as a small child (which is why so far we were not keen on tablet games), I use the tablet’s timer to beep and signal the end of the playing. It really is very effective to make her hand over the tablet without a fuss.
This app made me realise how much she already knows and how much she works out for herself. As I type this post, she has requested the app and is playing under her elder sister’s guidance. This morning, I did not manage to catch her attention for some ml activities, and this app is a nice way to make up for it. 😉 She just “read” a very short sentence (“Go up”) that came up again, which I read to her yesterday. She probably took a guess based on the sound of the first letter of the words, and recognised from what I read to her yesterday. This app is a positive experience that helps consolidate her learning and think for herself too. It might also give her the inclination to want to learn to read. And there is no better driver than that when teaching reading to a child.
What I like about it
- Beautiful and colourful graphics
- It is extremely recreational… my daughter clearly does not feel like he/she is actually learning.
- Simple to use for a young child.
- Gets the child thinking by problem-solving.
- Even though it might feel tiresome, if I need to stay by my youngest to assist her with what she does not know yet, it enables us to spend time together. So it is not the kid vs. the screen.
- Possibility to set game according to phonics of my choice.
What my youngest likes about it
- The cute little monster.
- The possibility to change the monster’s appearance using accessories. As she collects more stars along the way, she can use them to purchase more accessories.
- The trickies – name given to cute brightly-coloured creatures that represent a high frequency word, which she pockets along the adventure.
A couple of downsides
- The level rises too fast – This was pointed out to me by a fellow bilingual mum who also uses this app, and I noticed it too for myself. However, you can programme the game to certain sounds or group of sounds, reset the profile to the beginning; or follow this mum’s great tip and create new profiles to reset the level to the child’s need.
- When the game evolves too fast for the child’s skills, some bits require reading short sentences made up of small words and make the monster follow that sentence’s instruction. My youngest is not ready yet, which means she needs a reader’s help. However, it is not all bad as I noticed it developed her resourcefulness. Some sentences require the child to touch one of the words, and occasionally, before I say anything, my youngest works out the word from the sound of its first letter.
Tips to bear in mind:
- Set a reasonable time for your child to play with the tablet each day.
- Consider spreading that time over the whole day through 2 different slots; e.g : 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon instead of 30 minutes in one go and risk your child pestering you the rest of the day for the tablet.
- Use the tablet’s timer to beep at the end of the allocated time slot.
- If the level rises too fast for your child’s reading abilities, reset the profile, create a new character to start afresh, set the game according to your phonics criteria.
Do you use this app? What is your experience of it and what useful tips can you share with us?