Talking FingersWordy Qwerty

Company: Talking Fingers;
System Requirements: PC: Windows 98 or later; Mac: OS 9 with CarbonLib or Mac OS X
Price/Grade: $55 for School Edition (with two sets of CDs)/ 2-4
Pros: Multimedia-rich, game-like activities; assessment module; bonus audio CD
Cons: Too much talking, not enough visual modeling; lacks helpful examples

It takes lots of practice for children to become fluent readers. Targeting vocabulary word-building and spelling skills, Wordy Qwerty is a colorful, multimedia-rich application that builds on phonics basics and phonemic awareness to help children become better readers and writers.

Students work through 20 sequenced, research-based lessons introducing word patterns and families while developing their spelling accuracy. Each lesson consists of six engaging activities incorporating sounds, animated graphics, and game-like challenges. Children sort words according to spelling rules, practice word recognition by tossing non-words into an animated recycler, and pop balloons containing target words. Students also take dictation of rhymed stories and choose the best word to complete a sentence based on contextual reading. An assessment module with a pre-test, a post-test, and multiple-lesson tests helps teachers chart student progress.

In addition, the included JingleSpells audio CD targets 20 spelling rules (for example, the silent e). Children read the song lyrics and sing along to upbeat music to strengthen their reading fluency. Despite its strengths, the program sometimes relies too heavily on talking and could benefit from visual examples. That said, it's a well-designed skill-builder that gives children the extra practice and encouragement they need for reading success.

Carol S. Holzberg is a technology coordinator in Greenfield, Mass.