Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Roy the zebra****

Roy the zebra is the creation of Tim Bowerbank, trading as Roy productions. Tim is a web developer based in UK, or so I assume from the terms of use which stipulate the use of English laws :) The site is dedicated to teaching how to read, complete with games, a story in nine parts, worksheets and more software. Other than the software which you may buy, the rest is totally free.

It is very well designed, avoiding the cluttered look even while holding a lot of information on the home page. The colours are easy on the eye and the graphics cute. By and large it loads quickly but songs and the stories can take longer if you don't have broadband.

The story of Roy, the singing zebra, is meant for emerging readers. The language is easy and the story so interesting that you want to go to the next part immediately. I wish its sequel had also been written and posted, but alas, that is not so. There are no turn-the-page graphics, which makes the page quicker to download, and it is still interesting. My only grouse would be of size - I would love to see this full page...

The flash games are listed by levels - word or sentence, and then further according to the object of the game, eg. alphabetical order (as above), use of long phonemes, or singular/plural. The games are appealing to children, and are designed to fit into school curricula well. Each theme has the same graphics, which is fine, but when this gets repeated for different themes, it becomes a tad boring. Be warned that some of the games have this text splashed all over the screen - 'Available for download only'. It can still be played but is not so interesting, nor easy to read for children. However, lesson plans are given for each theme so even these games are useful as a guide.

And finally, there are free printable literacy sheets in pdf format like the one above. Simple, but a good resource to have.

The reading software for purchase includes lesson plans, flash cards, worksheets and other printables, and games of course. So far there are four - two each on long phonemes and tricky words, but hopefully there will be more soon.

The url - http://www.roythezebra.com/index.html

PS - The final opinion? A wonderful site which you must explore by yourself, for describing it seems rather lame but using it is a different matter altogether! The content and the site both are great. Our last use of the site was more for fun - before my kid was reading, so I am looking forward to using it again now.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Wake up the box** and Wake the royalty**

My attitude to various game sites on the net so far has been of - well, distance, if not revulsion and suspicion and of moral superiority (though that is hard to explain even to myself). Game sites, not the sites where little children can play games. But lately we have somehow found ourselves playing a few games which are hosted on such sites, and about whose safety I can not really vouch - are there viruses there, is someone hiding behind the game to hijack my computer? As I explore this world slowly, I hesitantly post a couple of the games we enjoy, as an aside, for your indulgence.

The one problem with all such game sites is that they are not kid safe. There is no way I can let my child alone on that site, clicking on useless ads at best, dangerous at worst, or going on to games totally unsuitable for age - or simply unsuitable. As you can see, the page design in nothing worth speaking of: no aesthetics, no apparent ergonomics. Just games, for your addiction, like a drinking hole.

For all that, these two games - Wake up the box and Wake the royalty are cute, and encourage problem solving and reflect the real world physics. Wake up the box is created by Eugene Karataev and Alexey Egoshin (art). Wake up royalty doesn't have any credits mentioned, and is on a different site, but I think it is the same team. The premise of both the games is the same: a 'box' is sleeping - wake it by moving contraptions so that its resting place either tilts or moves violently. Wooden parts are provided which you have to attach to the given structure to make it unstable.

Both the games are well designed, with simple but pretty graphics. The first two levels teach you how to play the game, and then you are on your own. The physics is simple, based on levers and principles of movement, but it is a challenge nevertheless. And if you are restless, or have a child in tow, it is sometimes simpler to go to the walkthrough for learning the solution!

The urls -

Wake up the box - http://home.scarlet.be/~bbonte/portal/wakeupthebox.html

Wake the royalty - http://armorgames.com/play/5316/wake-the-royalty

PS - The games themselves are nice, but it is the company they keep that makes me despair. The ads around, even when they are loading... Just keep an eye on the screen and teach your child all about internet safety! And don't let them go at it alone until old enough :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Crawford the cat****

Crawford is a little green cat created by Perennial Pictures Film Corporation. Why green, I have no idea unless it be to distinguish him from the average cats we meet lazing around in the sun. For this cat is clever, and he is Good, as in the good we want our tiny tots to be. He tidies his toys, brushes his teeth and washes his hands. And so on. But he is also quite likeable and not overtly preachy, so kids do enjoy watching him.

The site is simply designed, with easy tabs at the top. The two adverts that do show are basically about Crawford only so it is quite safe to let kids loose here.

There are four games, with promise of more to come. The word search game is for slightly older children, who can read well, but the color word match game is quite suitable for beginning readers, or even younger kids, because the word is coloured accordingly - see below for example.

There are thirteen videos at present and they are currently the main attraction of this site for my young 'un. Each lasts for five minutes, and focuses on one educational theme like hygiene, exercise or politeness. As I said, the tone is not preachy and Crawford is fun to watch.

As of now, there are six books - turn-the-page e-books with the option of being read to you or reading yourself. The text is simple, and follows the same principles as the videos.

There are also some free printable colouring pages, related to each video.

Other information: If you wish to own the videos, you can purchase the cd containing all the episodes from the site. This year may also see the advent of Crawford's health related curriculum for schools - if you are interested in helping them check it out, you can use the contact form at the bottom to tell them so :)

The url - http://www.crawfordthecat.com/

PS - Here is the final opinion - Great site for toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarteners. Content is excellent, and concise. Website layout is friendly and doesn't take very long to load even on dial up connections.

PPS - Postscripts are a habit that is unlikely to change from the old blog :)


Back. After ever so long. Apologies and other explanations in the 'About this blog' page. And now, to get started.