Saturday, April 25, 2009


I learned about Starfall from two online friends (JC and JRC). They were discussing whether or not Starfall is useful, etc. I got curious and checked it out... and loved it!

It is a very simple, straightforward site that helps children learn to read, using phonics. There are different "early reading" programs out there. I haven't had a chance to research them all, but the main categories that I know of are the ones that use flash cards and the ones that use phonics. Both approaches have their own "fans." My own path to reading started with phonics in kindergarten and it's something that I know works. I remember my own eureka moment with the word carpenter, that if I just sounded out the different letters and mini-words that I could read long words, too. After that, reading was a cinch. And a JOY.

Because of my own experience with phonics and because Josh views clicking on the computer as a fun activity, I decided to try and see how he would take to Starfall. It didn't take him long to familiarize himself and find his own way around the site.

There are four "steps":
  1. Starfall ABCs - Teaches letter-sound relationships
  2. Learn to Read - Uses systematic, sequential phonics. Has rows that feature a different vowel sound. Each row has a PLAY component, a BOOK part, and a SKILLS section. Under PLAY, the children can listen to and manipulate different letters to form different words. The BOOK part reinforces the vowel sound and uses the same words that the children had "played" with. The SKILLS section either has fun mini-movies, mini-games or videos that further reinforce the lessons. It also teaches digraphs (sh, wh, th, ch), the 'silent E,' Y as a vowel, etc.
  3. It's Fun to Read - Fun stuff with tongue twisters, games, an art gallery featuring famous painters (Van Gogh, Chagall, Gaugin, et al.), music by famous composers (Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, et al.), simple poetry, riddles, etc.)
  4. I'm Reading - Features short, simple stories that the children can read, including fiction/non-fiction, Chinese fables, Greek myths, folk tales, and little plays.
While it is recommended that the child progress sequentially, it is okay for them to go explore and click out of sequence. I pretty much let Josh go where he wants. If he comes across a word that he doesn't know, he can always click on it and it will be sounded out for him.

There is such a wealth of interesting and fun learning activities in Starfall and children learn about a whole host of topics beyond just learning to read. You can even download printable activity sheets to work on.

Oh, another thing I like is that at the end of each activity, the child gets asked his opinion. "Did you like this ___?" He gets to pick from "Yes," "Kind of," or "Not really." Josh mouses over all three options, but I've only ever known Josh to pick "Yes."

While it doesn't exactly say on the site when you can start your child on Starfall, I sometimes let Zoë sit with Josh while he plays around with Starfall. Sometimes I sit her on my lap and we play the "Who Am I" game on the site; that's her favorite. We always have a good laugh over her choices. What's more, it always makes for good give-and-take conversations with Zoë.

There is so much more that I can tell you, but I'm going to stop here, because it would be better for you to go to the site and check it out yourself. Seriously. I urge you. Go do it.

Click here to go to the Starfall website and have fun with your child!