My oldest Danica is 7 now and she is in first grade and learning how to read. She loves school and does great. Her 5 year old brother Kurtis is quickly following in her footsteps. He asks me every day what letter words start with and is constantly practicing writing letters and spelling a couple of words already even though he is only in preschool. It is great to watch them learn and excel in what they do. While right now everything seems great, I know we will undoubtedly have our struggles as they continue to learn. I can already tell that Danica has a math mind and math will come easily to her, but I would guess she will always struggle with spelling as it doesn’t seem to come as easily.
I realize that for some children skills like listening and recalling alone are skills that need to be mastered and can be a struggle. I was recently offered a copy of The HearBuilder Collection Home CD from Super Duper Publications to review. You may recall I previously reviewed some of their great board games, so I was very excited to try out this CD. This educational software focuses on 4 skill areas that children need in order to learn and read:
- Following Directions with Basic Concepts
- Phonological Awareness – Sound Awareness for Reading
- Auditory Memory – Strategic Memory Training for Listening
- Sequencing – 2-6 Step Sequences
Danica really wasn’t very interested in trying out the software, but Kurt was definitely very interested as he is just eager to learn these days. The program is great as it allows the user to type in their name and pick their starting skill level for each skill area. I started Kurtis on Beginner for all of them, but I think in most of them he actually performed at a much higher level.
Each of the activites offers a game, mission, or job which they needed to perform the skills in order to complete the mission/job etc. Some of them were definitely more fun and interesting than others, for example in the Sequencing you earn tokens which allow you to play a game which is fun. In the Auditory Memory you click doors and see how many you can open before Dr. Forgetsit appears. Kurt didn’t like this “game” as much.
Kurtis started out with the Auditory Memory: Strategic Memory Training for Listening section first.
- Practice memory strategies as they recall numbers, words, specific details, and multiple sentences.
- Embark on special missions with Recall Agents Kim and Joey to save Memory Town from Dr. Forgetsit.
- Learn memory strategies for answering WH questions.
He really enjoyed this section and so did I. You have to remember number codes which get progressively more difficult as the codes get longer, they make you enter them without having the numbers in front of you, they make you wait longer to enter them, etc. What I really liked about this section too is that if you answer the first 6 correct they don’t make you keep going and enter all 10. I found this great as some of the other sections made you keep going and complete all 10 or 12 of something even if you obviously had the skill mastered.
Next we did the Following Directions portion:
- Develop essential listening skills as they learn 40 basic concepts.
- Become Master Toy Makers while building Toy Central factories.
- Learn to follow five different types of directions: Basic, Sequential, Quantitative/Spatial, Temporal, and Conditional.
Danica did play this one with Kurtis for awhile. They loved being Toy Makers and completing activities such as packing boxes and loading trucks with the correct toys. It actually surprised me how well Kurtis was able to follow all of the directions. I probably should have started him out at a higher level.
Next we looked at the Sequencing section:
- Practice skills such as reading left to right, understanding details, predicting, and identifying important parts of stories.
- Go to the Sequencing Fun House, earn tokens to use in the Arcade, and become Sequencing Superstars.
- Put 120 illustrated scenes in order, starting with basic 2-step sequences and progressing to 6-steps.
I actually looked at this section with my sister here and we both agreed that some of the 2 sequence directions could be confusing because there were so many steps left out of the sequence that they didn’t seem to fit. Kurtis had no problem with these, but I think if a child had trouble with sequencing, it might actually be easier with more steps that were a little more broken down. This really reminded me of many worksheets that I know Danica has brought home from school working on sequencing and I think it would be extremely effective if a child were struggling in this area.
The last section I looked at was the Phonological Awareness:
- Practice nine activities to help them hear the sounds in words, syllables, and sentences.
- Earn instruments and band members to form the rock band The Phonemix.
- Move from basic activities (Sentence Segmentation, Syllable Blending, Syllable Segmentation) to more difficult ones (Rhyming, Phoneme Blending, Phoneme Segmentation/Identification) to the hardest tasks (Phoneme Deletion, Phoneme Addition, and Phoneme Manipulation).
I will admit, I was not impressed with this particular section. I am sure I might feel differently if my child struggled in this area, but here was my biggest problem: They break the words into syllables and want you to pick what word they are breaking down. Fine. Danica does this in school, they call it stretching the words out. ex: Pho to syn the sis. It is obviously an effective tool or they wouldn’t do it. Here is my problem: the program changes vowel sounds when they are sounding out words. For example: if they were to stretch out the word “original” the would say “o rig a nal”. Whats wrong with that? They say “a nal” with a short a or short u sound instead of a short i sound. But when they put the word together, they usually pronounce them correctly. They program did this for many words and it made me crazy. I am not an English major, professional writer etc, but I think if you are teaching a child to listen for the different sounds in a word in order to be able to eventually spell them, you need to pronounce them correctly.
The other thing I didn’t love about the Phonological Awareness portion is that the “game” you are playing is to complete each of the sections to earn instruments to play in the band, but it doesn’t let you skip around at all, so there may be skill areas that a student needs more than others, but you have to complete the ones before it in order to get to the section (instrument) you do need. It is very monotonous to sit and work on a skill you have mastered in order to get to one you may not have.
One of the wonderful features about all of the sections is that it allows the user or the parent to track the progress of the child so you can easily identify areas that need work. You can then print out this progress too. I can see this as a great tool for educators. I did have a problem with it not keeping Kurtis’ progress, but maybe he didn’t get far enough to save it.
If you have a child ages 4 and up who is struggling with learning, I strongly encourage you to look into the HearBuilder Educational Software and see if it might be right for you. Visit their website www.hearbuilder.com where you can see free demos and try them out for yourself. Or Like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, subscribe on Youtube and check out their Pinterest board.
The HearBuilder Collection Home-CD, full deluxe version has a MSRP of $199.99 value, but if a family has a particular need, each of the four subject areas can also be purchased separately on CD for $69.95 for the home edition. They also offer a very reasonable online subscription price of $59 a year for families who do not need a physical CD. All are available online from the Super Duper Publications Store.
Disclosure: I received a sample for purpose of this review however all thoughts remain my own.