It almost pains me to write that title. I make apps to help students, I have about 12 of them on both Google and Apple and they are pretty good. None of them are the one I am talking about here though. Here is is all about Teach Your Monster to Read made, and made really well, by Usborne in the U.K. The links are all at the bottom for the app and website.
The premise is easy and it follows a simplified Legend of Zelda type game play with a quest and mini games. (very simplified as this is made and designed for kindergarten to primary students) You take the role of a monster whose spaceship has crashed because of a cosmic storm (why not) and landed on a planet where the inhabitants, mainly the Kings of the planet, have lost their letters. You complete their games to collect their letters and fix your spaceship. Along the way you meet other characters, duel with pirates and come face to face with a teddy bear kidnapping octopus (again why not) all in the quest to get through the 44 sounds of English phonics. All of this requires the use of just one finger. Incredibly this whole game is a single tap game that lasts for about 8 hours of gameplay if played constructively.
The game follows the S A T P N I progression of phonic sounds all the way through long vowels including diphthongs, to digraphs and eventually in level 3 ( Champion Reader) to R controlled vowels. although starting simply it does add complexity as students progress through the sounds, and will include sight words, called tricky’s, and activities to recognize words in sentences.
For game-play value, and to show progression in game the student collects stars that can be exchanged to dress or kit out their monster in a variety of outfits and accessories, from a vampire costume to a pair of underpants! It also keeps a record of the sounds they have tried and their success rate.
These features alone would make it the best phonics game there is, but they didn’t stop there. It is made for students to learn phonics thats for sure, but it is also made for teachers and parents to support them on this journey, and this is where it is truly groundbreaking.
It is available on Apple and Android, but also, and totally free, is hosted on their website. It is also free once or twice a year on the App Stores as well, usually end of September and early March so keep and eye out for that.
The website has resources all over the place, posters for walls, flashcards, board games, instructions, word of the week and banners for classroom use. Even, and this is great, all the mini games in one place where the teacher or parent can choose which sound they wish to practice and game they wish to practice it playing. They have even set it so it can be played segmenting words or as a stand alone sound recognition game. It is a level of work i have never seen elsewhere.
So that’s what makes it the best phonics and classroom English app out there.
Yes of course, but they didn’t stop there. if you have read any other posts on my site you will have heard me babble on that i have been teaching for 12 years in ESL primary schools in Hong Kong, and worked in Education for about the same amount of time in the U.K. My role means i see a lot of students over the course of a week, tracking their progress, trying to give them level, interest and age appropriate content and tasks is ALOT of work. Teach your monster to Read, at least within its remit, handles this, not for a monthly fee, not for a flat one time payment. It does it for free.
Teachers, or i guess parents with a large number of children!, can sign up for an account and create groups within it. These groups can then be assigned a username, a password and a magic number (only needed if they play on the app version). Once the student signs in with this monster, and they create how it looks then all the website magic starts to happen. (I have put screen shots in the gallery below to give you an idea of the amount of stats, and rewards you can offer your students by doing this)
The Teacher managed pages enable teachers to do the following both individually and as whole classes (essential for me)
Firstly you can make your own group. Even assign different levels to each student although i have never done that as the game is great and the students will enjoy playing it from the start, it can be used as a consolidation exercise for higher level readers
When you add them it will generate a password and user name, and if they use a tablet a star code so the tablet knows which account to send the stats to. I would print these out for the students and stick them in their handbook or pencil case. I would also have a hard copy in the classroom as these things do tend to disappear.
Then after they have worked out how to log in, and yes you will have to teach them. I actually devote a lesson at the beginning of term to introduce all of this to my classes, you will see why I think this pays off later. This can be the time consuming part, so once one student has figured it out i task them with helping me to show others. It speeds things up alot.
Once they are in and playing you can actually how they do in real time on the stats pages of the website. You can see the sounds they struggled with both individually and as a group, you can see how far they have progressed in the game and even what their monster looks like!
After about 4 sounds the game will generate a letter, and will continue to do so 3 times during the whole game. This letter is personalised to the students and is an encouragement to continue. It also prepares a poster of their monster, and when they successfully finish a level it will produce a certificate telling them well done. I use these about 3 times a year to call students to the front of class to give these out. The students of course run home to show their parents, and the cycle of accessing the app starts again.
On average, for my classes, students who complete the game will take about 7 to 8 hours. This is for a face to face time from me of one hour at the beginning.
From that i have, well Teach Your Monster has, managed to create 8 times as much self directed learning from just 1 hour of teacher time. This is astonishing. Students take ownership of their monster, they will come and discuss it with you at recess, if you have computers, or tablets they will ask if they can play it in their free time, you will have parents coming up and talking about it. Your students younger, and for that matter older, siblings will be asking you for a log in and password (they don’t need one to start but they like the idea someone is monitoring and checking they are doing well), they choose to be taught, it is not imposed on them like most other educational experiences they have.
If you need to change your lessons, or the sounds you cover you have a reference point to start by, at a glance, seeing the sounds students are struggling with and adapting your teaching as is needed. It is Self directed and formative and whole host of other educational buzz words that management get excited by.
All for one hour of teacher time…
It is free forever online on your PC, but it costs 4.99 on Apple and Android, they do have one or two weeks a year where it is free. I will try to post when that happens but I missed it this year, so keep looking out for that as well. They also have an education discount on Apple and you can get it half price if you buy 20 copies, I did this here in my school. On Android i cant remember how many you are supposed to have but if you have one account there is usually some leeway.
I said at the beginning it pains me to say this is the best phonics app there is. Totally tongue in cheek though, its just because i didn’t make it.
Teach Your Monster to Read website is here
Teach Your Monster to Read on Android is here
Teach Your Monster on Apple is here
If you have used this or have any questions feel free to ask me, or comment below. Always welcoming new ideas. My views on this app are mine and mine alone, well i imagine a lot of you would like it as well, but I’m not being paid to write this, its just that good. If you want to see my apps you will find them here for Apple and here for Google.