Web App Helps Kids Master the Basics of Building Words
For many young learners, memorizing the alphabet and building simple words doesn’t come as easy as ABC. But technology can help.
ReadWriteThink and the International Reading Association offer Construct-a-Word, a free web-based educational game aimed at kids in kindergarten through second grade. It focuses on helping kids learn the alphabet and basic word construction in fun and entertaining ways, and at their own pace.
It’s a good free resource teachers can use to supplement classroom lessons or offer to students in independent study programs.
How it works
In this online activity, kids select a two-letter word ending. Next, they build a collection of words by choosing letters from the alphabet and blending them together to complete the word. Multiple words can be built from a single word ending.
During the game kids will practice and learn literacy basics, including:
- Alphabet review
- Common word beginnings
- Common word endings
- Word letter blends
- Word rhymes
Playing the game can help boost spelling and reading skills in kids, while the mental gymnastics needed to build words exercises their memory and promotes cognitive development.
When kids visit the webpage, they’re prompted to enter their first name into a text box on a gaming board, and then to click the “Begin” button to launch the game. A new gaming board appears and displays two blank squares in the center of the screen. Above the squares are nine tiles with pairs of letters on them like “an,” “ed” or “un” that are often found at the end of common words.
Kids are prompted to choose a word ending by clicking and dragging one of the tiles to the second square. Next, a collection of 26 alphabet letter tiles and six “letter blend” tiles appear onscreen. The “letter blend” tiles include pairs of letters like “bl,” “ch” or “dr” that start common words. Finally, kids are asked to create the beginning of a word by dragging one of the tiles into the first square to build a word.
Each exercise includes between eight and 10 words. There is no penalty for guessing and kids can take as long as they like to build a word, which is automatically deposited into an onscreen “Word Bank.” When finished, kids should click on the “Word Bank” icon and review a list of the words they just built. If their computer is connected to a printer, they can print a customized list of the words by clicking the printer icon.
The “Construct-a-Word” game board is anchored by a colorful cartoon mascot and includes several interactive features to keep students engaged and the games moving. The most helpful are:
- A colorful interface
- Automatic word storage
- Click-and-drag technology
- Confirmation sounds
- Intuitive visual navigation
To play the game, computers must have Adobe Flash Player software installed. It’s available for most operating systems and can be downloaded free by visiting the Adobe website.
The Construct-a-Word webpage has everything needed to build dozens of common words using letter combinations and word endings. The game is web-based and an internet connection is needed to play. There are no online advertisements or fees to play and no registration is required.
Tips for the struggling student
If you have a child who is struggling with this app, you may want to consider grouping them with another student. When students work in pairs, there is a new opportunity to coach each other on the sounds, using both verbal and visual cues. This can make a big difference to an emerging reader and speller.
Rob Klindt’s “App Reviews” combine his passion for writing with an ever-growing interest in educational technology. His simple, straightforward approach to reviewing educational apps helps educators and parents leverage new tools for students in and out of the classroom.