A-N-I-M-A-L-S Level Descriptions
1. Beginner level
Toddlers play as soon as they can bang on the keyboard! They see pairs of labeled photographs appear as they hit letter keys.
Hit a letter key to display that letter on the screen as its sound or its name (selectable) is heard. Then two names that begin with that letter are automatically selected, displayed and heard (the game includes over 600 with both Picture Packs, and you can add your own as well). Each name is illustrated by a photograph (and some by different photographs at different times).
-- You like this game, don't you?
-- (child, in baby talk): Yes, I can make animals appear on the screen!
-- Very good! And you also hear their name!
The side-by-side display invites comparison to make it easier for children to notice that both words start with the same letter. The timing of the sounds played makes this easier to hear as well. And the first letter of each word also appears slightly before the rest to hint to the fact that words are read in a certain direction.
Just because young children do not yet have the fine vocal tract control required to speak doesn't mean that they can't understand what's happening on the screen! Just as they need to move, grasp, etc., to get better at it, they need appropriate challenges to develop their mind. But beware of trying to go too fast: that would only hinder progress. Instead, allow them the freedom to learn at their own pace.
Typing the letter under one of the thumbnails enlarges that picture, while the name of that animal, plant or object is displayed and heard.
At any time four different initials are displayed, in order for children to be able to hit one quickly even by trying at random. It's soon obvious to them that to see the picture they've chosen, they need to find the right key.
-- Look, an alligator! I want this one!
-- That's right, it looks like an alligator!
-- (child looks at keyboard): Which key is it?
-- Do you know which letter it is?
-- (finds the A key, hits it): It's Alligator! ... It's A!
Hitting any key plays the sound for that letter, while the letter itself appears on the screen. After playing a few sessions, children will have learned to recognize the shape of some letters and they'll know which sounds those make. Some more playing and they'll be ready for the next level, where they'll have access to all the words & pictures in the game!
Children reach each picture in the game by 'building' the matching word letter by letter. The game provides them with helpful visual feedback, and also reads aloud whatever they type. This lets children find the right letters all by themselves.
Type a B (you'll hear 'B') and some of the words starting with B will be displayed. As you type more letters, the screen changes to show only words that begin with these letters. Eventually this singles out one animal or plant or object, and after you type the last letter of its name you get to see its full-size picture and hear its name spoken.
-- (child): ...N, and ...T! That's Elephant!
-- Wow, you typed all the letters by yourself, I'm proud of you!
Since only letters that make sense at each step may be added to a word (others won't "stick"), children can even succeed in spelling a word simply by trying letters at random long enough. But the better they get at recognizing letters and typing them, the sooner they'll be able to see the full-size picture promised by each thumbnail!
Children learn both upper and lowercase letters. The letters they may type next are displayed in uppercase to make them easier to find on the keyboard. All other letters are displayed in lowercase, because this is how books are printed and you have to know them to be able to read one. Since each letter alternates between upper and lower case as words are typed, children eventually figure out that both shapes are one and the same letter.
The game may be played with letter names or letter sounds, because children need to know both. Words are spelled aloud with letter names, but they're pronouced using a knowledge of letter sounds, and hearing the sound of each letter as it is typed helps children acquire this knowledge. Also, each letter has only one name, but some letters have different sounds in different words and it's important to know when to use each. Therefore the game plays the correct sound for each letter whenever possible (when a sound is not matched to one but to a group of letters, such as the sound "ch", the name of each letter is heard as that letter is typed).
After they have succeeded in typing all the letters of the word, children hear a friendly voice saying the word as it is commonly pronounced, and the matching picture appears.
Marc Moini 2002