Word Wagon is a wonderful application from the developers at Duck Duck Moose that teaches letters, phonics and two levels of spelling in this very well done educational app. Recently an iPad version of this app has been released, which includes seven letter words as well.
I enjoy this application very much, as does my son, now three. We are not new to the world of letters and phonics apps, and I believe they have helped my son know all his letters by two. My son has also learned all of his phonics sounds from various applications.
It is not uncommon for these letters apps to work in a similar way to Word Wagon, as one must match the letters of a specific word, dragging corresponding letters to the letter boxes that make up the word in question. This is an effective way to teach letters, phonic sounds, and object names and is surely more engaging than learning a rote spelling lesson, but they often lack the fun factor of many other apps.
Word Wagon stands out among this style of apps as it possesses a quirkiness and charm that these apps, excluding some notable exceptions, don’t typically have. Here, you get to meet Mozerella the mouse and his little bird friend Coco. The introduction of this app is simply darling, and I love that this app takes place near the Eiffel Tower.
The word puzzles are as described above, in the letters and phonics section, one matches the letters of a word, dragging these letters into the letter boxes that make up the word in question. Later, in the spelling modes, these letter boxes are empty and need to be filled; copying the letters is not an option. When the word is finished, the phonic sounds which make up this word are also spoken and each letter or letter combination is highlighted.
I also like that in the letter section, the letter names are the focus without the phonic sounds, being a nice primer for those who are new to basic letters, as this app grows nicely with the child’s ability. I like that both upper as well as lower case letters can be chosen, a nice touch and a thoughtful inclusion missed in many letters games. In the future, it may be interesting to add a mode where letters in harder sections need to be put into their boxes from left to right the way words are spelled in English.
It is very charming how Moz the mouse jumps over these objects as they move past him on a conveyer belt, giving the player a choice of what word to tap and learn about, an element my son really enjoys. The object can be tapped to hear the name being narrated and the letters can be tapped for their names as well. There are six sections such as colors and numbers, animals, or transportation. My favorite mode is “Moz and Coco,” which is a more personal section regarding these two characters. This section can have more of a puzzle element as sometimes arrows will point to Moz’s ears or tail to explain “ears” or “tail” as key words, with other varied words included such as “love.”
No matter what section or level one chooses to play, the best aspect of this app may be being able to tap Moz or Coco to hear their delightful banter full of whimsy, keeping this game light and fun. Moz may dress up like a ghost, they may play a simple game of “hide and seek,” or it may even rain pickles. This lets the player take a break when desired, keeping this app light and fun, encouraging continued game play.
It is nice that one can re-visit the words already mastered, and that one earns stars along the way for finished word puzzles, as these stars can create constellations in the night sky in the shape of animals as a reward for a job well done, this area of the app is both very lovely to look at and fun to play with.
What impresses me the most about this app is that these developers have included words past the simple “Cat” and “Dog” words found in most phonics games in later sections of this app. Words are included with group letters and sounds together, such as “st,” “ch” and also mixing vowel sounds as well, such as “ea” in “ears” as well as silent letters, such as “e” at the end of a word, like “love,” and it is great that this silent letter is highlighted like the rest of the letters but left silent when the phonic narration begins, really explaining how the "e" in this word is special. I have never seen these more advanced phonic sounds tackled in an app before and it is impressive.
My son has known for quite some time all the sounds the letters make and has been able to sound out the simplest of words by himself, but until now I was at a loss as to how to teach him these more advanced phonics that will make the difference between truly reading and merely being able to pick a few easy words from a page.
This app allows a child the chance to learn how to decode words for himself, and I think this will go a very long way to actual understanding of language. Although my boy is not ready to play the new spelling level recently added to the HD version of Word Wagon on his own, I like to play this section with him, as I think it is great just for him to see what different letter combinations look like and sound like together with words such as "cheese." involving "ch" sound, the double vowel combination and silent letter at the end.
English is a difficult language to learn and I am very happy to have this app, which I think will make things a little easier for my son. Best of all, this app will not feel like work, something very important as some do not want to turn a child off from reading by taxing him with activities that are boring or simply not a lot of fun. I think this would also be an excellent app for English-as-a-second-language students, young and old alike, as well as special needs students who may not only benefit from the language aspect of this app, but from Moz and Coco’s social interaction as well as well as the exposure to the nuances of the English language.
Although this app will entertain and teach kids on their own, I do think children will get the most out of this app if played with an adult who can further explain what they are learning, especially regarding the more advanced phonic sounds.