Professional, Originally Released On Cassette Only
Game Type : Educational; Graphical Infant School Teaching Aid
Standalone Release(s) : 1983: HAPPY LETTERS, BES/Acornsoft, £6.95
Compilation Release(s) : None
Stated compatibility : Electron
Actual compatibility : Electron
Supplier : ACORNSOFT, 4A Market Hill, CAMBRIDGE CB2 3NJ.
Tel: (0223) 316039
Disc compatibility : Unknown
The HAPPY Series
The HAPPY Series is a range of programs from BES aimed at children in the age range of 3-5 years. The range covers among othres number, letters and writing skills. Further releases in the range will be announced in the press, or contact your local dealer for information.
BES programs are designed to be largely self explanatory, and follow similar styles (e.g. through the use of the <ESCAPE> key to return at any time to the main menu) so that children rapidly familiarise themselves with new programs, and can use them if required with the minumum of valuable supervision time.
BES programs always include explanatory booklets of this type to satisfy several objectives. Firstly to identify the objectives of the program, and to give guidance as to some possible uses of the program based on experiences during the extensive in-classroom and in-house testing period. Secondly they are designed to give an understanding of the sequences encounted in the programs, since in many situations the time of access to the micro is at a premium.
Thirdly, the booklet will assist in using the substantial content of BES programs to the full, through reference to it before, during and after use of them on the micro.
In the event of any problem with the use of this program, or ideas as to improvements which could be incorporated please do not hesitate to contact BES.
This program has been designed to assist children in the task of recognising letters. It is aimed at a very young audience and consequently is exceptionally easy to use. In the early options the child need use only two keys - <RETURN> and the <SPACE> bar. The motivational aspects of the game are animated fishes and crocodiles, both of which have proved very popular during the extended trials which BES carries out in selected schools.
The program covers both lower case letters and the recognition of the corresponding upper case letters. In order to familiarise children with the keyboard there is also the option to find keys corresponding to letters on the screen. This has been extended to match lower case letters on the screen with the keys. This is designed to help overcome the problem of the keyboard being limited to upper case letters on the keys.
It is recommended for use with children between three and five years old, and in situations where children experience particular difficulties in this area.
Having completed loading the program displays the title and copyright screen for a few seconds. This allows time for the recorder to be switched off. No entries are necessary and the program will automatically move on to the main menu screen.
The Main Program
The program is menu-driven and offers the following options:
The opening screen lists the options available viz:
1. Matching lower case letters
2. Matching lower case letters/words
3. Matching upper/lower cases
4. Finding upper case keys
5. Finding upper case keys given lower case letters
Option 1. Matching lower case letters
This option helps develop letter shape recognition and the matching abilities of children at the simplest level, i.e. matching lower case letter to lower case letter. To start, a choice is given of which sequence of letters it to be used through choosing the initial letter of a sequence of six. Thus choice of A leads to practice of A through to F, B to B through to G, U to U through to Z etc.
Having chosen the sequence the program requests the child's name; this can often be entered by the child at an early age. After entry (followed by <RETURN> of course!) the screen appears with the six lower case letters to the right of the centre, and the lower case letter to be matched appears against the top letter for a period of time (as set under the initial menu option 4 as described later). The letter to be
matched is randomly chosen from the set of six letters, and the child has to press <RETURN> when opposite the correctly matching letter. The correct entry is rewarded by a 'happy face' and by a tune. The fish then swims out to eat the letter, smiles, turns a different colour to indicate success and swims back. The correctly interpreted letter appears in a box at the left hand side of the screen.
When "SPACE" appears then it is necessary to press <SPACE> bar to start the next cycle.
An incorrectly timed entry is shown by a 'bozz' and the face grimacing. The opportunity is given to try again in the next cycle.
A further incorrect entry is again indicated by a buzz and the face grimacing. However, the correct match is indicated briefly by a box flashing round the correct letter, followed by <SPACE>. A further incorrect entry leads to the letter being moved to a right hand box, but coloured blue. The fish on the right hand side remains green.
The sequence continues until all the letters are transferred to left hand boxes.
Having completed all six letters the child is rewarded by a crocodile appearing, and failing to catch the fishes corresponding to the correctly matched letters. The fishes corresponding to the incorrectly matched letters get eaten!
It should be noted that the time allowed for entry is greater for the top letter, as recognition of a new letter appearing on the screen takes more time than following the movement of an already existing letter. The time period opposite each letter is adjustable, as described in the initial menu section 4.
On completion of the cycle, the option is given to have another go. If this is chosen, the main sequence is repeated, otherwise the user is returned to the main menu.
Option 2. Matching lower case letters/words
This option takes the child on from the first option and develops at the recognition of a lower case letter at the start of a word by looking for a match with the moving letter. This is visually more complex. The initial choice is of the sequential letters in the same manner as option 1. In choosing a letter A through to U the screen appears with a series of short words starting with the series of six letters chosen.
On pressing <RETURN> when the given letter is lined up with the same letter at the beginning of the word the child is rewarded by the fish eating both the letter and the word. The word is then moved to a box on the left hand side of the screen. Similar responses are obtained as with Option 1, and the crocodile appears in the same way as in the previous option.
Option 3. Matching Upper and Lower Case Letters
This option is similar to option 1 except that the moving letter is upper case. This therefore teaches the child to relate upper and lower case letters.
Option 4. Finding Upper Case Keys
This part of the program takes the child on from using the <SPACE> and RETURN keys to matching the given upper case letter on the screen to the upper case letter on the keyboard. The allowable time is set under option 4 of the menu, and in order to achieve the responses of a tune, happy face and the fish eating the letter, the child has to press the matching key within the set time. Failure to do so within the time leads to a grimace and a 'buzz'. The child is given a second try in the next cycle. If an incorrect key is depressed similar respomses are obtained. If the child fails the second time to make the correct entry, the letter is transferred in a different colour to the boxes on the left hand side of the screen.
Note that <RETURN> does not have to be pressed after each entry.
On completion of the sequence the crocodile emerges, eating any of the fish representing the incorrectly entered letters.
Option 5. Finding Upper Case Keys Given Lower Case Letters
Having developed the skills of matching upper and lower case letters on the screen, this option helps children relate lower case letters on the screen with the upper case letters on the keyboard. This skill is particularly necessary to help children move on to more complex educational programs, when entries in lower case letters are accomplished using the keyboard.
The format of this part of the program is similar to the previous option, with similar responses.
2. INSPECT MONITOR RECORDS
All BES programs contain a performance recording system or MONITOR. Using this, teachers, parents or the child can see how well the child is performing a task. Progress can be quantified as a result. Only then can a child's ability and educational needs be identified.
Each time a new name is entered after starting the program fron the main menu, a new monitor record is created. The facility will hold the record of the last five children (after number five, number six will be recorded over number one, seven over two, etc.)
Data available under this option includes:
a) Individual child's name,
b) Time taken for the stage - in minutes,
c) The category used - the menu number and, for example, the upper case letters with upper case keys,
d) The moving letters and the child's individual entries. Note that a % sign indicates that the child has failed to make an entry within the allowed time. Correctly matched letters appear in green, and incorrect ones in red.
Careful analysis of the information stored in these records can provide a valuable guide to specific letter recognition problems or more general difficulties or successes.
3. SET SOUND LEVEL
Sound can be very distracting in certain situations and as a consequence HAPPY LETTERS has a control allowing the sound to be turned off.
4. SET TIME LIMIT
To cater for different levels of skill and to add interest and stimulus the delay time for the movement of letters on the screen in options 1-3 and the time to find a key in options 4-5 can be adjusted. This is entered as a number between 3 and 20. This is interpreted as tenths of a second in 1-3 (variable between 0.3 and 2 seconds) and whole seconds in 4-5.
It should be noted that it is important to set the time according to the child's ability. Setting too short a time can make the task quite difficult and may completely discourage a young child.
Instructions' Source : HAPPY LETTERS (Acornsoft/BES) Booklet
Review (Electron User)
One of the points made by many infant teachers about the use of micros is that the keyboard is composed of capital letters, while infant children are more familiar with lower case. This program has gone a long way towards solving this problem by showing the relationship between the two systems. It contains a suite of five options which cover matching and identifying letters, with a delightful screen presentation which appealed greatly to the children I tried it on.
Five letters are displayed on one side of the screen, each with a fish lying behind it. Another letter moves slowly down the other side of the screen, pausing next to each of the five. When the two match, and if the child correctly signifies this by pressing the <RETURN> key, the little fish swims across and collects the pair of letters. Then it smiles and swims back to its place. When the sequence of attempts is over, a beautifully drawn crocodile appears at the bottom of the screen.
Those fish whose answers were correct can swim away, but wrong answers are gobbled up to shrieks of delight. The child making a wrong answer is given another chance, so hopefully most of the fish escape.
The first three options cover matching either lower case letters, lower case words or matching upper/lower cases. The remaining two options provide necessary practice in finding the letters on the keyboard - a major stumbling block even with 10 or 11 year olds.
The time delay allowed by the program can be varied, so that the child can be tested against his previous results.
Monitoring the children's scores is done very well indeed. The adult can not only see the scores of each child, but also the incorrect responses made so that the problems can be readily identified.
The program is a fine example of a tape which uses the micro as a valuable tool rather than merely as a gimmick. Everything about the program seems to have been well thought out, from variable difficulty levels to an excellent 16 page booklet for parents.
Phil Tayler, ELECTRON USER 1.10