Title: Bailey's Book House
Publisher: Edmark IONA Software Ltd.
Age Range: 2-8yrs.
Curriculum area: Literacy Skills Development
Price: £19.99 (October 1999) Single User License.
Year of Publication: 1993...Updated and expanded 1995
Not intending to replace the child's experience of hearing stories read aloud, Bailey's Book House
aims to provide additional opportunities for the child to experiment with written language. The
language philosophy underpinning this software is not stated in the accompanying documentation
but the development team claim to provide a "rich multisensory learning environment designed to
develop emergent literacy skills". Based on a "skills" rather than a whole language approach to the
development of literacy, the package provides the user with seven basic activities within some of which,
operational choices such as "explore and discover" or "question and answer" modes are offered.
The authors suggest that this choice facilitates divergent and convergent thinking skills. Children are
attracted to the software and receive instant visual and auditory feedback when successful. If this
title were sitting gathering dust on your shelf I would encourage you to look at it again in order to
support your planning for independent work in junior classes.
Overview of Teaching with this Title:
The only computer skill needed to access this software is the ability to use a mouse. Literacy areas
covered include letter recognition, relationship between upper and lower case letters, phonological
awareness, rhyming, left to right orientation, developing the realisation that print carries meaning,
relating images to text, story, authorship, vocabulary enrichment, and the development of sight vocabulary.
Activities range in difficulty from simple experimentation on the letter machine to the more complex cloze
exercise in the "Lets make a Friend" activity. The vocabulary presented is relevant to the junior curriculum
with activities based on colour in "Lets make a friend" and positional relationships in "Edmo & Houdini".
Both of these areas are also significant in the development of mathematical language. Two activities address
the area of autorship and publishing. While the choices offered in "Make-A-Story" and "Kids Cards"
are limited, the concepts of story creation and writing for an audience are treated successfully. Phonemic
awareness is central to the "Three Letter Carnival", a very popular activity among the children. The
"Letter Machine" may be used with very young children to reinforce letter sound relationships in individual
or paired settings. Lowercase letters may be selected for Junior Infants while Uppercase letters, may be
used with Senior Infants to reinforce the connection between upper and lower case forms of the same letter.
Entertaining and relevant reinforcement adds to the children's enjoyment of this activity. "Read-A-Rhyme"
successfully encourages the child to play with language while developing the ability to distinguish differences
in meaning among rhyming words. The activities while not exhaustive, are relevant to the work in the infant
classroom. The activities are suitable for group, paired and individual work but given a suitably sized screen
the rhyming activity could be explored in a class lesson. This software can be incorporated into literacy/play
activities in the junior classroom but a low setting on the sound or sets of headphones are advisable. The
thyme music may be disabled without affecting the speech. All the activities presented can be duplicated
within a non-technological learning environment. However, once the children become familiar with the
operational elements of the software they are enabled to work independently, freeing the teacher to work
with others. Frustration among the young users is kept to a minimum as repeated wrong decisions cause a
reduction in the number of choices offered to the child eventually leaving them with only the correct choice.
Repeated practice should improve performance but there is no way for the teacher to check on progress
except through active assessment of the child's performance from time to time. With many of the activities
listening in on the question and answer mode will enable the teacher to assess the child's progress.
The material provided in the software is appropriate to both the current and revised curriculum. The
"Letter Macnine" and "Read-A-Rhyme" activities support the receptiveness to the language strand of the
infant curriculum. The "Three Letter Carnival" supports the "Competence and confidence in using language"
strand with the "developing cognitive abilities through language" addressed by a number of the activities.
The cartoon presentation style is very appropriate for younger children, i.e. Junior/Senior Infants. While the
activities may be useful for older children, particularly those with special needs, the presentation format may
not be as successful in maintaining their attention. Pairs working on an activity get optimum exposure to the
skill with the added benefit of purposeful discourse with a partner. Groups of up to 5 children seated at a
circular table have also managed to "remain on task" for up to 10 minutes. As with all group activities, care
must be taken when choosing pairings as dominant children not only take their own turn but may also provide
their partner with the answer in order to regain possession of the mouse.
Design and Navigation:
Navigating this program is not a problem with clearly marked icons to guide both child and teacher. The
interface is easy enough to use with little or no reading of the documentation. The main menu offers easy
access to all activities and while engaged in an activity an icon to return the user to the main menu remains
on the screen at all times.
Installation and Use:
This product quickly auto-loads, a distinct advantage in the infant or resource room setting. The child receives
an immediate response to their input.
The documentation supporting the software is clearly laid out in an easy to read booklet free from jargon
and I would recommend that teachers read it in order that they gain maximum value from each activity.
Clearly written, the documentation provides information on installation and running the software as well as
an overview of each activity offering detailed but simple explanation of the activity itself and the learning
opportunities provided. "Together Time", aimed primarily at parents provides some useful suggestions for
extending the activities within the classroom setting.
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