Speaking Starspell CD-ROM - Fisher Marriott

Reviewed by Kathy Weston
HND Student (Early Childhood Studies) Hereford

The software was used with children from Year 3, Year 4 and Year 5, of varying ability and working in pairs. All children were able to find their way into the program with ease and chose various categories which they felt to be suitable for them. There is an excellent variety of words which meant that all of the children could be challenged. The categories are divided into:

Many of the categories are further divided into various letter patterns, some of which are:

These look a little confusing on the menu to begin with but the children soon realised what they meant. Some of the children had had previous experience of Starspell without voice. The voice was felt to make the activity more interesting and enjoyable. Where the children had difficulty in finding the letter on the keyboard and maybe losing concentration, they simply pressed the 'ear' picture and the voice sounded the word again, as many times as necessary. This is very useful, as is the small picture showing the object being spelt. The use of different colours for letters which are placed incorrectly and a further different colour for letters which did not appear in the first spelling attempt, is also helpful. The computer being used was sited in a busy hallway which meant that the 'voice' was difficult to hear. The sound control was at a maximum but maybe a higher sound output would be beneficial. Headphones were used which helped this situation. The children were able to print-out their 'results' after each category showing words which needed attention. When all were correct the screen shows the words: All words OK.

The children themselves felt that this should be something more complimentary like: "All words correct - Well done " The print-out provides the scope for children to carry out spelling tests independently, giving themselves and the teacher a record of achievements.

The Speaking Starspell program combines the successful way of teaching spelling (look, cover, remember, write, check), with IT and keyboard skills. The way in which it categorises the words into letter patterns will hopefully enable the children to recognise such patterns and apply these rules in other contexts. (National Curriculum Key Stage 2). It is felt that the factors mentioned, together with the 'voice', results in a very worthwhile and enjoyable learning experience for the children, thus making 'Speaking Starspell' a valuable addition to the school's collection of software.

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