We all know that active learning and intense practice are what makes the difference to our children’s learning but often we do not have the luxury of time to give them our full attention to ensure maximum engagement. We try to get them motivated by supplementing their formal lessons with gamified learning apps but we can’t be on hand to check their work and to give positive reinforcement. So, is there an app that can come close to being a personal tutor?
Bam Boomerang by Open Reading is an innovative phonics-based reading program (FREE now) that records students reading aloud and gives them feedback as they progress through the lessons and exercises in the app. It acts like a personal reading tutor who teaches, checks your child’s reading and guides him/her to read better.
It does this by mobilising a team of volunteer adult listeners (real people who also have the program like myself) to listen and rate the children’s recordings. The app’s parrot host will then share the feedback with the children and prompt them to repeat the correct sound or word if a recorded response was less than perfect.
There is, however, a lag between the recording and the feedback as this depends on how soon the recording can get evaluated. As a user, you will be automatically recruited into the community of volunteer listeners and get asked to evaluate a few recordings each time you log in. Listening and rating each student recording is fast and easy plus you can check the reference sounds when necessary.
There is actually no direct interaction between the adult and the students whose recordings they rated, and no identities or personal information are shared either. What can be shared is a student’s profile between the parents and teachers so that the student can build on his/her progress on different devices in the classroom and at home.
In Bam Boomerang, students play physics-based games while practicing reading skills and as they play, they earn honey money to buy virtual items for the game character’s home. The games get more challenging but players have unlimited tries to complete each game. Observing the positions of the obstacles, visualizing how the peas will bounce and planning the best moves encourage students to develop better problem solving skills.
The app has a systematic approach to introducing the whole alphabet and builds from easy, two-letter Vowel-Consonant (VC) words to three-letter, CVC words and then four letter words. Students begin by learning a few easy-to-pronounce letter sounds and these are immediately followed by simple words that contain these sounds. This makes the learning of phonic sounds more meaningful to the students. Once the basic phonic skills are established, sight words that don’t follow the phonic rules will also be introduced. New vocabulary words are always taught with matching pictures to facilitate learning of the words’ meaning.
To use Bam Boomerang’s comprehensive approach to reading instruction and unique features, you need to register for an account and give your verbal consent for your children/students to use the app. Do also note that Bam Boomerang is like a virtual classroom which requires users to be online during play.
There is a lot of content included for a free app and I like that there is frequent recall of sounds/words taught as students have to record saying them aloud in order for the games to advance. You get fun problem-solving games, motivating rewards, active listening, frequent reading practice, friendly and constructive feedback all packed in one app for free! If you are not a user yet, get this downloaded already and try it right away!
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NOTE: A fee was received to expedite this review to the top of our waiting list but this payment has not influenced the objectivity of the review and all opinions have been offered honestly.
Grace was working in the fields of early childhood education and staff training before quitting to attend to her 4 children full time. She and her family live in Singapore, which is well known for her highly competitive education system.