Spelling Fair logo

Spelling Fair * £29.99 * Europress

Europress' acclaimed range of educational programs has recently been extended to include a fairground full of lexicographers. Neil Jackson puts his spelling checker to the test. Now was that 'i' for 'e'?

ACCORDING TO THE Daily Mail, one in five pupils can't spell the word 'weather' and illiteracy is rife, even at university. It's a sorry state of affairs, and it's one that we can't expect the over-stressed education system to put right overnight. But if you're a parent, there is a way to boost your child's spelling ability without having to spend hours and hours acting as a personal tutor. Now we're not suggesting you opt out or cut corners with your offspring's education, but you can pass some of the donkey-work over to your Amiga.

Spelling Fair is made by the same team that created the Fun School range, and it's an easy way to help your children learn to spell. It consists of six main learning sections plus a dictionary and a spelling 'hot-word' list. Each section uses graphic displays and mouse-clicks to represent and alter the word being tested.

The first is Coconut Shy, where a row of coconuts is marked with letters. The pupils knock out the letter which aren't part of the word the clue is referring to. If they do it four times in a row they get an animated 'prize'. The coconut shy tests up to 12-letter words and each word usually has a couple of extra letters tacked on to the start or end.

Next up is Test Your Strength which tests for correct plurals. Here the pupil must direct a man with a hammer to hit the pad marked with the correct word from four possible choices.

Each time one is answered correctly, people pop their heads round the fence to watch. Get four right to win a round of applause.

Then it's the Mechanical Grab, a version of those annoying money-wasters which never quite manage to pick anything up. But in Spelling Fair it's where your child will pick up the correct use of word-endings. The stem of a word is displayed at the top of the screen and the pupil's job is to select the correct ending (like ion, tion, sion etc.) that fits the stem.

This is done by directing the grabber's hand to the correct ending and selecting 'GRAB'. The arm moves across the screen and drops down to pick up the word. A prize drops into the slot below if the pupil gets the word right. Get four right and a PacMan gobbles up all the prizes.

Haunted House is a test for commonly mis-chosen words like wear/where, it's/its, too/to/two and so on. A sentence is displayed, with the vital word missing. Clicking on the gap brings up the choices - the child has to type in the answer. Each time one is answered correctly, you can advance a place in the queue for the haunted-house ride. Get four right and a few ghosties and ghoulies appear.

In Circus Word a small, partially completed crossword appears. Moving the mouse over the squares displays a clue for the missing word. The child must click on the square, then type ina guess. Complete all the words in the crossword and you see the human cannonball fired from the cannon.

Finally, in Word Juggle, two clowns stand in the circus ring holding balls marked with letters. A clue appears below and the child has to swap the letters round to make up the word. Get the words right four times and a unicycling clown rides along carrying a banner marked 'well done'.

The remaining parts to Spelling Fair are intended for use by the parent or teacher, though the average kid won't take long to realise how to use these bits too. The dictionary section enables the parent to edit the word clues or add new words and clues to the 3,000 words already stored. More useful is the Spelling List section where parents can add lists of words they know their child is having difficulty with. These 'hot-words' then appear in the games in random order, forcing the child to learn by repeated encounters.

If your son or daughter is having trouble with words, is aged between seven and 13, and can be trusted to use your Amiga (without loading a shoot-em-up the minute your back is turned), then they could really benefit from Spelling Fair. Its approach, though a bit juvenile for a 13-year-old, does make sense right from the word go.

Europress have included a host of awkward and often-confused words which even had a few of the journalists here pausing for a moment 's thought. Spelling Fair can help with dyslexia, it can teach children to think about suffixes and break words down into easy segments, and it can give you peace of mind, all at the same time. For 30 quid, it's a steal, if only schoolbooks and dinner-money cam that cheaply too.

English for On catchers

Spelling Fair logo

Laut unserer Umfrage sind die Erfolgsaussichten für dieses Programm gering: Ganze 15 Prozent der Joker-Leser sind jünger als 13 Jahre, für Lernspielchen begeistern sich nur 2,2 %. Und nach dem Test sind die Chancen eher noch gesunken...

Bei diesem "Buchstabierjahrmarkt" dreht sich alles um die richtige Schreibweise englischer Wörter. Diese erlernt man mit Hilfe von sechs kleinen, einzeln anwählbaren Spielchen, die von Aufmachung und Schwierigkeitsgrad her auf Kinder zwischen sieben und dreizehn Jahren zugeschnitten sind.

So gibt es beispielsweise eine Wurfbode, bei der die gesuchten Begriffe jeweils zusammen mit ein paar überflüssigen Buchstaben angezeigt werden, die man nun per Mausklick vom Screen befördern soll. Wenn man es richtig gemacht hat, ertönen kleine Jingles oder ein kurzer Applaus, dazu bringen recht bescheidene Animationen die gute Tat auch optisch rüber.

Die pädagogische Absicht ist allerorten spürbar, und nützliche Features wie eine Hilfe-Funktion, etliche editierbare Wörterlisten, Drück-Option und eine recht detaillierte Erfolgsstatistik fehlen ebenfalls nicht.

Aber was hilft es bzw. wem hilft dieses Programm etwas? Eigentlich nur kleinen Engländerinnen und Engländer oder auch ihren amerikanischen Altersgenossen, die naheliegenderweise die nötigen Grundkenntnisse in dieser schönen Sprache besitzen. Denen wird wahrscheinlich auch die absolut (klein-) kindgerechte Präsentation mit ihren bonbonbunten Farben, aber sehr sparsamen Animationen und wenig abwechslungsreichen FX gefallen.

Doch für ihre deutschsprachigen Schulkollegen ist das Ding etwas so sinnvoll wie ein elektrischer Turbo-Waschlappen - und hat somit auch ziemlich die gleichen Chancen am Markt. (pb)

Spelling Fair logo

Europress Software £25.99

This month we take a look at five new packages aimed at the very young user (Noddy's Playtime, Paint and Create, Spelling Fair, Merlin's Maths, Playdays and ADI French). Tony Dillon looks back to the days of short trousers and runny noses - it's nice to see that he hasn't changed.

It is well known that spelling is a major problem with school children, and particularly the spelling of certain words like 'weird' and 'ceiling'. This selection of useful games aims to help that particular problem, using a fairground setting for the tests.

Starting with the Coconut Shy, you are shown a selection of letters on the front of coconuts, within is a word. At the bottom of the screen you are shown the meaning of the word, and you have to knock off the extra letters leaving only the required ones. After that there is the Word Juggle, where two jugglers rearrange letters to form words; the Mechanical Grab, where you can practise prefixes and suffixes; and even learn about homophones (words that sound the same, like 'Where' and 'Wear') in the Haunted House.

Each game is played across three levels of difficulty, and offers small bonuses for success as part of an incentive package. For example, in the 'Test Your Strength' game, after four bells have been wrung people step out from behind the posts and burst into applause. Similarly, in the coconut shy, the coconuts dance when you get words right. Get things wrong, and you get to see an amusing animation, but this is done in a way that isn't disheartening.

All in all, it is a well put together package for the slightly older group (7 to 13), and it tackles the problem well, Once again, it comes from the Fun School so it cannot be bad!