Learning to recognize a wide range of words at an early age doesn’t have to be a chore for young learners. Thanks to technology, apps can use games to teach and reinforce word recognition, which can help build strong reading skills.
A fun game-based learning app to consider is “Park the Ark” by Truth Gaming. The free app is aimed at youngsters in lower elementary grades and will work with most newer smartphones and digital tablets. The game makes a great supplement to classroom English language arts lesson plans.
The game is inspired by the biblical story of Noah’s Ark, a haven for animals escaping the Great Flood. Religious references are minimal; the app emphasizes learning alphabet letters and reinforcing word recognition.
“Park the Ark” uses key learning words from the Dolch sight-word list, which was compiled in the 1930s by author E.W. Dolch of the University of Illinois. Dolch surveyed popular books for beginning readers to find the most commonly used words and nouns that 3- to 7-year-olds would quickly recognize. The list is still widely used in schools today.
Repetition and practice help students recognize and retain alphabet letters, words and phrases used in the app. Topics covered include:
- Alphabet letters
- Correct word spellings
- Simple sentences
- Word placement
A benefit from using this app is that young readers can get a jump on common sight words found in many states’ standards for English language arts.
How it works
The app’s start page launches with a colorful animated view of the Ark perched atop a stone pillar in the sky. Five intuitive navigation buttons at the bottom of the screen guide players through starting the game, setting music, sound and volume preferences, upgrading to optional higher challenge levels and exiting the game.
Tapping the “Begin Game” button launches the first of 10 challenge-level pages. All of them are locked except level 1, which players tap to begin. The game starts with a view of the ark floating down a river sandwiched between steep mountainsides. The object is to steer the ark downriver to find a safe parking space while picking up floating alphabet letters and words along the way without crashing.
It’s more challenging than it looks.
To steer the ark, players hold their device horizontally and tilt it in various directions to keep the ark on course around curves, over waterfalls and past debris like fallen logs or protruding rocks. The difficulty increases as the ark flows farther downriver. If the ark crashes into a mountainside or another obstacle, the player starts over.
Audio prompts tell players how many alphabet letters and words they need to collect. Gathering them all unlocks the next challenge level.
Colorful and fun dynamic features keep players engaged and the games flowing. The most helpful include:
- 3-D graphics
- Colorful animated scenes
- Lively music and sound effects
- Tilt-movement technology
- Voice prompts
Scores are automatically compiled and saved. There’s no registration or log-in, so players can start the game right away and repeat games anytime.
Content in the “Park the Ark” app is all-inclusive. Once the app has been downloaded into a device, all functions and features, including tilt movements, animation, voice prompts, music and sound effects, will work without an internet connection.
Optional add-on purchases for higher levels of play are available; an internet connection is needed to buy them.
The “Park the Ark” app is free. It can be downloaded through Google Play, the Amazon app store or iTunes. It’s compatible with smartphones and tablets running the Android operating system 2.3 or later. Apple users can play the app on iPhone or iPad tablets running iOS version 6.0 or later.