German Software Reviewed

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Software Title:         Word Stuff Age 4 - 9
Publisher :   Focus Essential
Age Group : 10 - 12 yrs
Curriculum Area : GermanLanguage Development
Year of Publication : not printed
Mac, PC or other :    PC
Summary

Word Stuff is a colourful action-packed product where the user is invited to join a playmate to visit four scenes: Fun in the Snow, Spring on the Farm, Weekend at Camp and Games at the Fair.  At each scene, the user can choose one of three modes "I see", "I play" and "I sing".  In the first of these, vocabulary is introduced.  The picture is shown and the corresponding sentence is spoken and written onscreen.  In "I play" animations are used to teach certain vocabulary such as words to do with actions, sound of the characters/animals, adjectives to describe their actions.  In the final " I sing " mode, words are turned into songs.  Traditional German tunes are used.  Word Stuff aims to promote language to pupils who can't yet read.  This product does not contain an extensive amount of language however it is attractive to a younger pupil and can be used to introduce German and create a sense of fun and involvement in the language.

Overview of Teaching with this Title

Reading, listening and speaking are all incorporated into this product.  Vocabulary can be read on screen while being heard and demonstrated.   A recording facility allows the user to practise pronunciation, sing and playback songs.  In the four scenes, nouns, verbs and adjectives are included in the vocabulary content however the number of words used is limited to approximately twenty per scene.
The colour, drama, accompanying music and sounds as well as the surprise animations create a non-threatening and entertaining atmosphere with which pupils of all levels of ability would feel comfortable.  However the product does not appear to support any modifications for pupils with special needs.
The vocabulary used can be taught without this package although it does create a sense of fun and adventure.
Pupils played freely with the software in groups of three or four, for approximately twenty minutes,
Using a large screen, this product could best be used to stimulate oral work with the whole class or in groups.  Description of the colourful scenes, amusing animations and characters' behaviour would involve considerable use of German language.  Individual or pair use of the product would derive great enjoyment also.
This product would facilitate the incidental introduction of German to a very young age group in a fun and enjoyable way.  Consequently, its weakness for older pupils in the primary school is that it is somewhat babyish.  The childish voice and constant noises were found to be somewhat juvenile by the senior classes of primary school.  It was felt that the frequent on screen movement and sounds distracted from the language involved.

Content

Although extremely limited, the content is accurate, reliable and up-to- date.The product is culturally, gender and racially non-biased.  The characters in the program are all children.  There are boys and girls of different skin colour and a child in a wheelchair is also included.  The main character's voice is a girl's.
The language and product style is appropriate for the age group recommended on the product however not for the 10- 1 2 year olds in consideration for this SIP 2 1 A project.
The program does not have multiple levels of difficulty and challenge.  It is intended to be a fun introduction to language only.
The user has no control over the rate of delivery and level of difficulty.
The information is structured around four main themes.   Vocabulary is based on these topics of the farm, fair, camping and snow.  Animations are used to demonstrate their meaning.  The user instigates the learning, by clicking on desired objects.  No form of testing is involved. Most of the learning addresses oral and aural interaction such as speaking and singing.  Short surprise animations amuse the user.  Incidental reading is also promoted.

Design and Navigation

On screen help is not necessary in this product.  Four colour-coded icons signify the choices available to the user i.e. change mode, print, record and playback.The interface is extremely simple, child-friendly and instantly navigable.  However no specific modifications can be made to suit a pupil with special needs.
The introductory sequence cannot be bypassed however it can be interrupted to click straight into one of the four scenes.
There is no facility to bookmark where the user has been.
The users are not tested in this product.  They are rewarded with amusing animations.
There is no record keeping or management system in this product.   Scenes can be printed out with a pupil's name on the page, however they carry little function as they contain no German text.

Installation and Use

The product must be installed.The product launches quickly enough for classroom use although it is slower than other products and takes a few seconds to switch from one mode to another.It responds adequately to input from a child. To my knowledge there is no network version of the program.

Supporting Documentation

There is no supporting documentation that deals with classroom practise.  The only written information accompanying the product is the CD cover containing a brief description of the product, the minimum system requirements, the license agreement, the registration card, and the instructions for installation.The loading and operating instructions are short and clear.But there are no teacher notes or pupil activities provided as ancillary material.

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