While your little one may be performing well in school, when learning to read there are those tricky hurdles that manage to trip up countless a child. It is those troublesome times that are covered in Phonics Fun with Biff, Chip & Kipper : Volume 2. Featuring the characters from the Oxford Reading Tree curriculum books your child will be reading in school, it focuses on the blended sounds that will trip up your child while reading, along with those whose sounds change from word to word — the content covers years 1 to 3.
Unlike the first volume, this title only has two levels, level 3 and level 4. While level 3 continues to build upon your child's blended letter knowledge, getting into some more of the trickier sounds, level 4 focuses on revision of everything they have learnt so far while moving onto letters whose pronunciation is different to how you would read them.
The slow easing in of tasks still remains, breaking objectives into bite sized chunks but also moving at a comfortable pace for those new to the series. Those who have played the first volume, however, will feel snugly at home with the familiar format and relax into the harder tasks comfortably. The title does take into account your child's experience in these activities, focusing less on teaching them about sounds and more about their practical application. Instead of introducing a sound, giving an example or two and repeating to let it all sink in, your child's wide knowledge of vocabulary is used to help exercises. Examples are given where the word structure is different and the words don't sound the same, areas that they may be tripped up on – for example for 'ai' there is paid, wait and train, all using the same sounds inside but all sounding very different. This is invaluable, as while your child may have no trouble pronouncing the sound in some word combinations, other ones may continue to be their kryptonite.
The title truly shines in stage 4, where not only is there a full revision section on everything your child has previously learnt, but we start to move onto letters that don't sound the same as they are read, highlighted by special brackets around them. The activity starts by introducing the sound in its natural habitat, such as the sound /oi/ is the same for the oi in oil as it is for the oy in toys. Being one of the trickier parts of starting to read, these activities will more than likely be the most used and most beneficial.
When your child does finally get around to trying to pronounce the words themselves, the wide variety of vocabulary means they will be forced to read rather than simply remember the vocal prompts and repeat. My little one's hesitant pauses of re-reading a word to be sure before pronouncing, and even messing up, proved that the lazy copying trick can be thwarted. By re-listening to themselves, they can also clearly tell where they have gone wrong, as they will know themselves when a word doesn't sound real.
Writing is practised using the handy touch screen. After being shown how many lines should be used and what direction to move in with the aid of arrows on the top screen, they copy over a guide on the bottom screen to pass the test. The touch screen won't just recognize the shape that your child has made, but also the direction they made it; so if they form the letter incorrectly, it won't let them complete the task. Rather than asking your child to write the capital and lower case letter like it did in the first volume, they will be asked merely to write the blended sound, helping them get much needed practice on how to space their letters next to each other.
To help them remember their new sound, they must find objects in a picture that share the same sound – for example trainer and tail. While a microphone symbol over the places that can be selected makes this task easier during the activities where they are just hearing example of the sound's usage and when they are trying to find it themselves, it is a small break from the more difficult tasks they need to partake in.
Reading is covered in two sections — fiction and non-fiction — both featuring Oxford Reading Tree stories. Both book selections are more engaging than in the first volume thanks to your child's already established vocabulary. The books themselves still focus on the new sounds your child is learning but mix in simpler words they already know, offering a more normal reading experience. While the amount of books available remains the same for each stage, a shame as there is one less, the stories themselves are longer and more entertaining.
Reading itself will still require the most parental input, being the test of all your child's knowledge. In the fiction section there is a story-time option that allows the story to be read to them, a bonus perk for parents that need to spend a lot of time in work. In the reading section, however, the line they are meant to read is read out prior, like in earlier sections where they then speak and record their voice. Even though the writing is on the screen, being prompted beforehand could encourage them to simply copy rather than speak for themselves. The non-fiction section is the true test of reading and is simply the story book in its most basic format, allowing them to read independently and at their own pace.
While parents are encouraged to participate with their child, regardless of your console experience you will feel comfortable offering support. In the corner of every screen is a little parent icon, which after pressing will not only tell you what to press to advance, but also explain each activity to you. For those wanting to keep track of progress, there is also a handy parent section on the main page that will let you check every aspect of your child's usage. It records the last time they played, their average session length as well as all the tasks they have done and how well they did on them. It's perfect for those whose child wants to be more secretive and to get an insight on what areas they may be struggling with.
While with Phonics Fun with Biff, Chip and Kipper: Volume 2 offers less lifespan that it's first volume, but helps your child through the most difficult stages of their reading. While the read-at-home book series can be bought for a similar price, the vocal advice is invaluable at this stage when they are learning to read sounds that are different from how you would perhaps read them naturally, something that can't be taught by a text book alone. This higher level of education is also rare as most apps deal only with the first sounds and basic blends without moving onto the more complex aspects of the English language. Overall, then, this is an excellent package for this age group and stage of learning.