Saturday, May 11, 2013

{Mosaic Reviews} Ooka Island

In our home, our kids don't spend a lot of time on the computer yet.  Our oldest boys spend a little time learning keyboarding skills, typing writing assignments, playing educational games, and looking up Lego sets.  There is always a bit of fussing when the older boys get to "play" on the computer and the younger ones don't have a chance. 
Well, the tables definitely turned when we were reviewing Ooka Island, a learn to read game adventure.  Isaac (age 7) and Sadie (age 3) had a chance to try out this exciting program.  In fact, as you can see, everyone was quite interested!  Even our cat, Hwin...he, he!
So, what is Ooka Island?

Ooka Island is a guided learn to read adventure geared for children ages 3-7 based on years of literacy research by Dr. Kay MacPhee both from a professional and personal level. 
Ooka Island incorporates science based reading methods using the Eye/Ear Reading Method where children use both visual and auditory skills to improve their literacy.  The Eye/Ear Method helps children obtain mastery skills in five important areas: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.
Ooka Island is an adaptive learn to read program.  Using the READirect algorithm, the program adapts to each child's strengths and weaknesses allowing them to make steady progress forward or repeat skills where they struggle.  When a child is playing Ooka Island, if they master a skill, READirect will move them forward in the game.  If they need more practice in a certain area, READirect will adjust for their needs and give more opportunities to practice those skills moving toward mastery. 

When we first set up our accounts, Sadie and Isaac were able to create their own character that looked like themselves.  The characters in Ooka Island are colorful, cute, and sometimes funny and surprising!  The character's voices were clear to understand and easy on the ears.
Sadie began Ooka Island at the very beginning level of play because she is three and that fit her skill level perfectly.  Because Isaac has growing reading skills, we were able to complete the Ooka Compass Reading Assessment that provided a variety of activities to assess his reading level and place him at a more accurate level of the game.  This is a wonderful aspect of Ooka Island!  Isaac didn't spend any time wading through unnecessary steps to get him to a place where he was actually learning and building new literacy skills.  From the very first time Isaac played the game, he was being challenged!
Ooka Island moves players through the Learning Flow Cycle which contains three parts. 

In Part 1: Guided Play, children work through skill building activities focused on phonemic awareness and phonics.  Sadie and Isaac loved playing these games.  I think this was their favorite part of the whole Ooka Island adventure.  I'm not sure I would have been able to convince Isaac, my first grader, that he was actually "doing school" while playing the games!  Ooka Island was a great way to reinforce our homeschool phonics lessons in a brand new way!

When children enter Part 2: e-Reader of the Learning Flow Cycle, they are transported to the Popcorn Library where they are presented with a leveled reader, again based on their individual skills.  This part focuses on concept of word, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension.  While absolutely necessary, Isaac struggled with keeping a good attitude in this step.  This felt more like "school" to him and he just wanted to play the games.  But I encouraged him along reminding him that once he was finished with this part, he would unlock the next step - free play!  Sadie, on the other hand, really enjoyed this section and I don't think she saw it as anything other than another game to play.

Part 3: Free Play gives players a chance to play just for fun, read books from the Popcorn Library, or play activities that continue with their skill building and mastery.  Both Sadie and Isaac loved visiting the Mist Mart where they could select new costumes and clothing for their game characters.  I definitely heard the most giggling at this stage!

I think it is important to note, too, that no matter where you stop playing your game, Ooka Island remembers that spot and brings you right back to where you ended.  I think this eliminates the frustration of feeling like you're not making progress.

I was able to track each child's progress through Ooka Island's online progress reports via The Ooka Lighthouse which included The Report Card (a snapshot of progress), Reading Comprehension Report, Accuracy Analysis, Book Progress, and Red Line/Blue Line Trends (to show a reading break through).
On a fun note, I appreciated being able to send each of my children encouraging messages from the CHEEReader each time they logged in to play.  Both Sadie and Isaac would get so excited and say, "Mama, you sent me a message!" 
Sadie and Isaac really enjoyed playing Ooka Island!  At times, I'm not sure who was logged in as the player and they worked together at the games.  I know Isaac felt a sense of pride that he could help "teach" Sadie her letters and sounds  building his confidence.  In the seven hours Sadie was logged in to play, I have seen improvement in her ability to recognize and correctly name the alphabet and a few sounds that she didn't already know.  Isaac is making leaps and bounds in his reading skills and I'm confident that Ooka Island has helped him move closer toward becoming a fluent reader. 
Ooka Island is OOKARIFIC!!!

If you're interested in Ooka Island for your family, be sure to check their website for pricing and a variety of other resources available for you (sing along songs, activity pages, motivational tools, and so on).

And here's a bonus just for you from the good people at Ooka Island...a 30% discount on your purchase!!!  Just follow the link!!!

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