Leapster Story Explorers

from Technology & Learning

Interactive story narratives make this a fun handheld.

The Leapster Story Explorer is a great little gadget that can be very valuable to the primary classroom. It is a handheld personal learning tool that offers instruction and skill practice in vocabulary, phonemic awareness, language structures, and comprehension at English language proficiency Levels 1–2. It is specifically designed for Spanish-speaking English learners.

Company:LeapFrog SchoolHouse

Price/Grade: $1,050 for five English language-learning centers (up to 21 students). K–3.

Pros: Compact, complete language system that allows students to work individually and at their own pace. May be used at school or at home. Leapster cartridges last several weeks.

Cons: Limited to English language learners who speak Spanish. Reading reinforcement could be stronger.

The student listens to three separate stories with accompanying activities that test comprehension, vocabulary (Dolch words), phonemic awareness, and syntax. The screen-based and headset technology allow students to enjoy and quietly immerse themselves in the interactive story narratives and activities.

One program weakness is the lack of a captioning feature for kids to follow along as stories are being read to them. Seeing the vocabulary being used in the correct context would reinforce skills and give the students an advantage as they review the words.

Teachers will appreciate the practice pages, though, which can be used for extended instruction. Students also have the option to leave the program and then return exactly where they left off. Additional features include the ability to customize activities for individual students and to view student-progress tracking reports, which even track home use.

Accompanying support materials include Spanish audio, which provides scaffolding to the English language content, and a practice workbook that reinforces past learning activities. A teacher's guide contains tools to help with assessment.

Jamelle Jacques is a 7th-grade math and science teacher at Washington Manor Middle School in San Lorenzo, California.

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