Secret Writer’s Society

Secret Writer’s Society

McLester, Susan

Publisher: Panasonic Interactive Media, 4701 Patrick Henry Dr., Ste. 1101, Santa Clara, CA 95054; 888/Panakid

Emphasis: Writing

Grades: 1-6

Formats: Macintosh CD-ROM, Windows CD-ROM

Price: $29.95, including printed teacher’s guide.

What seems at first to be a straightforward practice program in language basics becomes increasingly impressive as users go deeper into the various well-designed activities that integrate keyboarding basics, continually reinforce and review, and use multimedia imaginatively to supply kids with sophisticated specific feedback.

Students begin in an animated underground hideout, where seven screen buttons let them enter practice areas focusing on capitalization, end punctuation, spelling, and other basic skills. (Unfortunately, most areas are not clearly labeled.) Each section begins with an animated singing review that goes over basic rules and includes clear examples-all in a light, playful tone. The activities, though mostly standard fare, become amazingly personalized and effective with the addition of text to speech technology. In a sentence building game, kids unscramble words and use the keyboard to retype the sentence. Each time they move a word, the sentence is read aloud. When they type in the sentence, the computer highlights mistakes as they go and offers prompts such as, “You need to capitalize the first word in a sentence,” or “A space goes here.” In an end punctuation exercise, a narrator’s voice lets users actually hear a mistake, by pronouncing the different ways a sentence sounds when ended with a period, question mark, or exclamation point.

Once they’ve completed enough exercises-and there are plenty of layers in each-kids collect letters for a password to the underground vault, where they are taken through the steps of the writing process after choosing a storytelling, poetry-writing, or other “mission.” A good range of fun topics (A Strange Noise from the Bathroom, Secret Sandwich Making Contest) and helpful ones (book reports, birthday cards) is offered with lively animated story starters to get kids thinking about what to write. The program also does a great job of holding kids’ hands, asking them questions as they build their stories through the planning, drafting, revising, editing, and presenting stages. Users with Internet access can even post and share their work, and everything can be printed out.

Copyright Peter Li, Inc. Aug/Sep 1998

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.