Copy Cats and Spell Cats form a pair of programs that can be used to improve a child's ability to recognise and spell common words. The programs make use of the Look - Cover - Write - Check approach advocated by reading specialists, and the words chosen (over 200, used singly and in two and three-word phrases) are taken from McNally and Murray's Key Words, and Edwards and Summers's The Hundred Most Frequent Words.
Copy Cats displays a word or phrase which the child looks at for as long as is desired. When the player feels able to spell the word, pressing SPACE causes the word to disappear. The correct spelling must then be typed in. There are six levels of difficulty, ranging from simple three-letter words to phrases consisting of three words. Level One, for instance, contains words such as "bad - cat - has - pig - yes", while Level Six asks the child to cope with phrases like "about the house - in the picture - find that woman".
The aim at each level is for the child to achieve twenty correct spellings, but the game ends if three mistakes are made in a row. After twenty correct answers the final score is displayed, and if a printer is attached the score can be printed out.
Spell Cats is a similar game, but this time the word or phrase is displayed for a length of time related to the speed chosen. If a wrong answer is given the speed slows slightly, while correct responses have the opposite effect. Quite a high level of competence is required at the fastest level, forcing the child to absorb the whole pattern of the word or phrase rather than splitting it up letter by letter.
Copy Cats and Spell Cats are both attractive little programs, and because speed and start level can be varied, they can be used with children at various levels of competence. Sound can be switched on and off, though it has to be said that the level is so quiet (and the sound itself not particularly interesting), that it contributes little to the appeal of the program. All in all though, these two programs are based on sound educational practice and the accompanying manual clearly lays out the aims and objectives of the package.
: all letter keysKeyboard play
: limited but attractiveUse of colour
: effectiveGeneral Rating:
These programs have been written by a teacher with a great deal of experience, and provide excellent value for money.