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On top of the word

Chris Drage explores three new software titles to complement BBC TV's Words amp; Pictures

An engaging resource, My Spelling Friend is designed to help children to practise spelling in groups or individually. The program includes the National Literacy Strategy word lists and phonic spelling families, and will help to consolidate key stage 1 pupils' spelling abilities. There are three areas: Pupil's Section, Teacher's Area and Program Tour.

In the Pupil's Section, pupils can access games pre-selected by the teacher. Word lists are also pre-selected and can be edited for individuals or groups. The games reinforce spelling strategies such as "read, say, cover, write, check", visual memory and re-ordering letters (anagrams).

The spelling games allow pupils to practise digraphs (two letters depicting a single sound, such as "ph"), consonant clusters and double consonants as well as long vowel sounds, vowel digraphs, trigraphs and key words such as days of the week and months of the year. In the Teacher's Area there are 1,600 words from which lists can be edited, and the record system highlights where pupils are having difficulty. This is an ideal tool for the literacy hour and uses ICT to reinforce word-level objectives without needing extra effort from the teacher.

Magic Pencil is a multimedia tool that allows children to practise the correct strokes for forming letters and numerals. It includes two commonly taught styles and supports many of the handwriting strategies described in the literacy strategy's guidance on handwriting.

Magic Pencil mixes movement, sound, speech and excellent graphics to develop pupils' skills. The package can be used by individuals, groups or the whole class and is well suited to demonstrations with an interactive whiteboard, and to pupils' use of dry-wipe boards or similar to practise letter formation themselves. This package will complement the teaching of handwriting during the early stages, but its main advantage is that it adds another dimension to what can become a laborious process.

Phonic Clip Art is designed to help teachers create stimulating phonics worksheets, flashcards, games and multimedia presentations. It comprises thousands of high-quality graphics and sounds to support the teaching of phonics. It provides example words and images for the short vowel sounds, long vowel sounds, vowel digraphs and trigraphs, consonant phonemes, and consonant clusters. Resources can be accessed quickly, edited and put into documents and presentations, allowing teachers to produce high-quality educational materials in minutes.

This is a very useful resource for busy Reception and KS1 teachers. There are many pictures to choose from, and their use will help teachers to use ICT effectively and to promote use of an interactive style in phonics teaching. This is a worthy addition to the ICT armoury in KS1.

Sherston Software, Angel House, Sherston, Malmesbury, Wiltshire

Tel: 01666 843200

Fax: 01666 843216


Price (each title): pound;40 + VATeLC (single user), pound;60.50 + VATeLC (three user pack), pound;80 + VATeLC (five user pack) and pound;120 + VATeLC (10 user pack), pound;160 + VATeLC (site licence) Chris Drage is an ICT support teacher and adviser for Brent education action zone

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