In each lesson the child hears the word and sees it on the screen. As they type the letters appear over the top of the word on the screen, in a different color, so they can see if they make mistakes. They then hear the word again and type it a second time, this time one or more letters may be missing and replaced by a *. Sometimes C.A.T.C.H. will say a word but no letters will appear on the screen, so the child has to type the whole word without seeing it first, if they have problems doing this they will get help. The words will make a sentence and include proper capitalization and punctuation. Each lesson includes typing multiple related sentences. After they complete a lesson they read it aloud and record it, and can then listen to it being played back. For each lesson they can earn up to 5 stars depending on how accurately they type the lesson. Typing is done on a QWERTY keyboard.
These are the levels:
Mercury: 110 lessons. Spelling age 5-6 years. Sample words bag, tin.
Venus: 76 Lessons. Spelling age 6-7 years. Sample words grab, sprint
Moon: 70 Lessons. Spelling age 7-8 years. Sample words: smash, painful
Mars: 100 Lessons. Spelling age 8-9 years. Sample words: season, strides
Jupiter: 73 Lessons. Spelling age 9-11 years. Sample words: aliens, cereal
Saturn: 98 Lessons. Spelling age 11+years. Sample words: powdery, oysters
Uranus: 107 Lessons. Spelling age 11+ years. Sample words: pursuit, deceive
Neptune: 93 Lessons. Spelling age 12+ years. Sample words: patient, anxious
Space Station #2: 59 Lessons. Spelling age 12+ years. Sample words: musicians, eerie
This is a very unusual spelling app because of it’s multi-sensory approach. It uses the principles of motor learning – including sight, touch, hearing, and speaking. This improves retention of the skills as does the repetition built in to the app. Each word is typed at least twice in a row, and core words are repeated in different sentences in different lessons. It teaches proper punctuation and capitalisation, is good practice for typing, listening, spelling and reading. The space theme works well – it has cute illustrations, music, sound effects, space trivia and a chance to fly the rocket which all help to engage the student in the app. I would like to see multiple player profiles as this is an app suitable for a wide range of ages, so many families will have more than one child using it. I would also like the option to re-record the audio without repeating the lesson, in case the child has problems reading or speaking clearly on the first attempt. For older students learning to type on a QWERTY keyboard is definitely the preferred option, but it would be nice to have the option to use an ABC keyboard when using the app with younger students. Although the app is written in US English occasional Britishisms do slip through e.g. using full stop instead of period and mum instead of mom.
I am not a fan of in-app purchases (IAPs), but in this case I can see why the developer has chosen to do it this way. It allows you to see part of each of the levels, and to give you the option to buy just the ones that are at your child’s level, or to buy the whole app. I would like to see another full version of the app without IAPs, so that schools and individuals who wish to avoid IAP’s have an alternative. I would also like to see the IAP’s locked away in a parent only screen rather than being easily accessible. This app has an incredible amount of material in it, and is well worth the free download to check it out (I would leave IAPs switched off in your iPad settings until you decide whether or not to purchase them). I think the full unlock is a very good value at $9.99, and once you have done this there are no external links in the app. It contains no social media links or adverts. Update Dec 2012: The developer has responded and changed the app to a paid app containing all 720 lesons – it no longer contains IAP’s
Overall, I think this app has an incredible amount of potential, there are a few changes I’d like to see before I can give it 5 stars but it definitely has 5 star potential . This app is unusual for it’s multi-sensory approach, and it is based IDL – a system CENTRA has successfully used for the past 25 years. I think it is a very useful app both for individuals with Dyslexia, and for anyone who needs help with their spelling and reading. The full app has a huge amount of material and is good value at $9.99. I definitely recommend downloading it and checking it out.
NOTE: A fee was received to expedite this review to the top of our waiting list but this payment has not influenced the objectivity of the review and all opinions have been offered honestly.
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