Monday, April 4, 2011

TOS Review: Go Go Kabongo

I have to admit, even though I have two kids who are not yet completely fluent in reading, my first reaction to Go Go Kabongo was "Another reading game?"  (Don't worry, I kept that one to myself!).  The girls were both super-excited to get yet another online game they "have" to play, as computer time is usually very limited in our house.  I can't tell you how often I heard "Can I play my Go Go Kabongo?", but it was many times, daily.  The other thing I heard, from my older boys, was "I don't think they're doing what they're supposed to do on there; every time I see them using Go Go Kabongo, they're playing a game."

Well, surprise, boys!  That's the way Go Go Kabongo works.  It looks like a game, but it's actually teaching essential reading skills.


From the website: What does GO GO KABONGO! teach? Kabongo games do not teach with “right” and “wrong” answers. Instead, they guide children toward better thinking by using an exciting, engaging game design. Children use a wide variety of critical-thinking and problem-solving strategies to play and progress, including these skills that are essential for reading:

  • Attention and focus: Children must be able to focus on important clues and rule out other distracting factors in order to become efficient readers.
  • Working Memory: Children must be able to keep information in their short-term memories long enough to make sense of a word, sentence, or paragraph. For example, repeating ideas back to themselves can help kids remember and make sense of key messages.
  • Processing: Children use different “processing” techniques to derive meaning from what they see and hear.

  • Successive processing: In order to decode words effectively, children have to remember the letter sounds in order and assemble them into a whole. The same is true with words and sentences.

  • Simultaneous processing: As readers advance, they move more quickly through words and passages, “reducing” and organizing the information to make sense of it faster. For example, they begin to recognize certain words, taking each one in as a whole instead of letter by letter. Or, they repeat back the essence of a paragraph, culling out the less important ideas and focusing on the most important concepts.

  • Visualization: When children are presented with more information than they can easily remember, creating a mental picture often helps them process what is being described.
  • Planning: Fluent readers take many factors into account each time they read. They use what they know about individual letters and words, their context in the passage, and their relationship to outside experiences. As children learn to read, they evaluate and apply various strategies, developing planning skills for future learning.
  • Comprehension: All of the skills and strategies above support a child’s ability to derive meaning from what he or she reads. Good comprehension is essential to all kinds of learning, from language arts to science, social studies and more.

  • This chart explains best how each game focuses on specific skills:

    Go Go Kabongo is separated into 3 different "habitats": Twister Top, Galaxy Garden and Laughter Lake.  You can see that each habitat has three different activities and each activity focuses on different skills.  I can tell you from experience with a 5 year old and a 7 year old, that neither of them ever thought they were learning anything, but I knew.  Not just from the way that their honed skills came across in other learning that we're doing, but also from the progress reports Go Go Kabongo was sending me.  I even knew when they weren't using the program, because I'd get a "we haven't seen Kaitlyn in a while" e-mail.  

    I really appreciated the updates.  I also appreciated that it was more than just a quick "this is what Kaitlyn is doing."  Each e-mail explained what each child had done, and what skills that activity was helping them with.  It also suggested activities that I could do, outside of the computer games, to help enhance and reinforce those skills.  I could also go online and view a more detailed progress report, using my parent account.

    Go Go Kabongo is FREE for the first habitat (Laughter Lake), and right now when you sign up you can also get the second habitat (Galaxy Garden) FREE.  The final habitat (Twister Top) is a one-time fee of $4.95.  A fantastic deal for lots of skills practice.  Go Go Kabongo is geared toward kids ages 4-7.  

    I liked this addition to our homeschool.  It could be used for a short span each day, but give the girls a little skills boost to help with their reading.  The games seemed to be well-rounded (if a little childish, but hey, they're geared toward kids!) and simple enough for my youngest to understand.  They don't place arbitrary time limits on the kids, so even a child who is still getting used to the computer can play the games.  And the price is unbeatable!

    Want to see what other TOS Crew members thought about Go Go Kabongo?  Check out their reviews here.

    Disclaimer: As a member of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received two complimentary memberships to all 3 habitats of Go Go Kabongo in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased review. No other compensation was received.

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