So many new ways to learn!!


Attention all SmartyAnts users:

As Fall arrives in SmartyAnts World, the colors have changed, and so has SmartyAnts. Today, we are excited to announce the wonderful new upgrade of our game!

The SmartyAnts world is where fun learning adventures take place - your child builds new words, discovers sounds, and is rewarded for effort. With new developments daily, the SmartyAnts team works hard to build an enriching game environment to improve your child's educational experience.

Features of the upgrade include:

  • Brand new learning game: Snowboarding!!
  • This awesome snowboarding adventure is in a full 3d environment
  • Available in all skill building modes (learning letters, letter sounds, word building, rhyming and word matching)
  • Your child will love performing super jumps on ramps when they earn a letter, sound or word!!
  • A new challenge has been added to the 'Hard' difficulty level: Beat The Clock!!
  • Quests have now been added to the SmartyAnts World
  • If your child can't decide what they want to do -OR- would like the opportunity to earn a bonus coin, they can click on Coach, who can be found in the Reward Room, to receive a "quest."
  • Once they finish the task given to them, they will return to the Reward Room to turn it in and receive their prize.
  • Daily specials in the Shop!!
  • Each week there will be a new theme of featured items in the SmartyAnts shop
  • Each day one item will be "on sale" for only ONE coin!
  • All items will be available all week long for purchase.
  • Improved scaffolding provides immediate learning assistance when needed
  • Enhanced story characters with improved artwork


Notice:


Due to the extensive amount of content included in this patch, you should expect a longer-than-usual download time and please know we understand the inconvenience this may cause you and accept our apologies.

Depending on your internet connection, we suggest launching the game:

* For Cable: approximately 15 minutes prior to when your child wishes to start playing.

* For DSL: approximately 45 minutes prior to when your child wishes to start playing.


We hope your child enjoys discovering all the new features of the SmartyAnts game!

Thank you for playing SmartyAnts and have an ANTastic day!

Back to School Time!


Summer is coming to a close and school bells are ringing, but in Smarty Ants World, we are still enjoying the nice weather and fun times. Come join us for some fun in the Stadium or a run in the Dog Park! We have added some new warm weather outfits to our shop that we think you will love to try on! We have also added more helpful reminders to our games to assist in learning and support all types of learners. Can't wait to see you all soon in the Smarty Ants World!!

Back to School Time!


Summer is coming to a close and school bells are ringing, but in Smarty Ants World, we are still enjoying the nice weather and fun times. Come join us for some fun in the Stadium or a run in the Dog Park! We have added some new warm weather outfits to our shop that we think you will love to try on! We have also added more helpful reminders to our games to assist in learning and support all types of learners. Can't wait to see you all soon in the Smarty Ants World!!

Summer is Almost Over


For most children, the long freewheeling days of summer are about to morph into the back-to-school structure of earlier bedtimes and wakeup calls, reunions with old friends and introductions to new ones, and all the excitement that comes along with a new school year. While many children look forward to the transition with enthusiasm and anticipation, most, if not all, find the August or early September walk into an unfamiliar classroom filled with at least some level apprehension or even anxiety. Along with wondering if they will like their teacher or if they will find friends to eat lunch with and play with at recess, children often worry about handling the next level of academics in school. For those who struggle in school, particularly with reading, this concern is likely to be very real and foremost in their minds as summer winds down. Below are some small suggestions that can make a big difference in the confidence, motivation, and reading skills of all children:

  • Emergent Readers
    • Play “Count the Syllables”: Help your child learn that spoken words can be broken up into smaller parts by taking turns tapping out the syllables in words. A play drum is fun to use, but clapping hands or tapping on a table works just as well.
    • Play a version of “I spy” in the car or at home with letter sounds: “I spy something that starts with the sound /b/!” Or, “I spy something that ends with the sound /m/!”
    • Hang on to summer a little longer…head for the library and read a book about the sea. Some suggestions…
      • Star of the Sea: A Day in the Life of a Starfish by Janet Halfmann has beautiful illustrations and rich language that will provide print awareness, develop vocabulary, and enhance knowledge.
      • Sunny Bunnies by Margie Blumbert is a gentle story with rhyming text to help children learn more about the sounds in language.
  • Early Readers
    • Share the book, First Grade Jitters by Robert Quackenbush, with your child to help him talk about his own fears, and understand that he is not the only one who may be apprehensive about entering a new grade.
    • Give your child authentic opportunities to use her budding reading and writing skills:
      • Create grocery lists
      • Write a play (complete with a program) and act it out with family and/or friends
      • Write and mail a letter to an out-of-town relative or friend
    • Make a summer journal. Provide sheets of paper to staple or tie together with string, then encourage your child to illustrate some of her favorite summer memories and write a sentence or two about them. Hold a special book reading when the book is complete to honor your budding author!
  • More advanced readers
    • Share together the 2011 Newbery Award book, Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool. The Newbery Award is given annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to children’s literature.
    • Other great reads to share with your child that will encourage a love of language:
      • If I Never Forever Endeavor, by Holly Meade, uses lyrical language to describe a young bird’s scary decision to try his wings.
      • Labracadabra, by Jessica Nelson and Karen Leigh Hopkins, is a funny story about a mixed breed dog with an extraordinarily long tail that can do spectacular (magical?) things!
      • The King Who Reigned, by Fred Gwynne, is funny to kids and adults alike, showing how similar sounding words (rain, reign) can be misconstrued if we aren’t careful.
      • Model the joy of reading and writing for your child by providing time for such activities each and every day. Not only is it relaxing, it will also go a long way in motivating your child toward more reading and writing.

Why Learning to Read Can Be Difficult


Why Learning to Read Can Be Difficult

Why is it that learning to read is so easy for some yet so difficult for others? While some children seem to make sense of print almost effortlessly, others struggle mightily with reading and writing throughout school, and often throughout life. I’ve seen this play out right in my own home, and quite dramatically, I might add. My son learned to read easily, taking bits and pieces of information from all over his environment to crack the code before he went to kindergarten, yet my daughter spent years in remedial and specialized programs trying to master reading and writing. Both grew up with lots of books and surrounded by rich oral language. Both were bright and curious about their world, and loved learning for its own sake. Simply put, both were primed for reading in the same way, and yet one skated through the process and the other met constantly with frustration and defeat.

As parents and teachers, we make assumptions about children who struggle with reading. We wonder if they are simply uninterested, unmotivated, maybe even lazy, or incapable of learning to read. But to be honest, in my 30+ years of teaching reading, I have never had a child arrive at school or my clinic with the attitude, “I don’t care about reading…no matter what you do I am determined NOT to learn how to read!” It’s quite the opposite. Children want desperately to learn to read. They see the exciting information that is out there in the world of print, and they want in on it!

So why don’t all children learn to read and write easily? A major factor is related to our biology. Written language is a relatively recent invention in human history, probably not more than 5000 years old—barely a blip on the evolutionary time scale, especially when compared to how long humans have used oral language. Consequently, while listening and speaking over time have become innate processes, the brain has not had time to evolve specialized reading circuitry. Instead, we must “hijack” brain circuitry evolved for other processes—mainly visual and linguistic processes—and “recycle” that circuitry in ways that allow us to perform the astonishing feat of reading. Because our brains are all organized in slightly different ways, doing this is easier for some than for others.

Let’s throw out our stale assumptions that children who struggle with reading lack motivation or intelligence. Children who struggle with reading need more explicit and systematic help from us in order to recycle their brain circuitry for the purpose of reading. Recent brain-imaging studies have shown us that effective reading instruction has a biological impact on the very brain systems responsible for skilled reading. Let’s make sure that ALL children have the chance they deserve to become good readers!

All Kids Should Have the Opportunity to Become Great Readers


All kids should have the opportunity to become great readers. Kids who become great readers, feel smart and confident, are more likely to enjoy school and can follow their imagination and curiosity wherever it takes them.

I am sure that learning to be a great reader can be a great, fun and rewarding adventure. That’s why I founded Smarty Ants.

The first thing we did at Smarty Ants was to work with two of the leading experts in early childhood literacy in the United States. Dr. David Pearson is the Dean Emeritus at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education and Dr. Robert Calfee is the Associate Dean Emeritus at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education. They created the Smarty Ants reading program. The curriculum is based on the best teaching practices they have developed over the last 40 years and are using in the early literacy programs at UC Berkeley and Stanford. This is the core of Smarty Ants.

Then we assembled an all-star team of educational game designers, interactive game programmers, phonics reading and storybook authors, graphic artists and animators, composers and musicians. This team worked for 3 ˝ years to put the Professors’ great reading curriculum into a 3-D game environment where every game and adventure kids play leads them forward on their track to becoming great readers.

I think of Smarty Ants as a place where kids can learn to read with Dr. Pearson and Dr. Calfee as their personal tutors. In the Smarty Ants world, our professors appear as an Ant Coach avatar, who personally trains (and teaches) each kid. When kids first enter the Smarty Ants world, they meet their Coach, the Flea (and other adorable characters), they adopt their Dog (who learns to read with them), they go to their Ants home, and the end up in the Ant Gym where they go to the Diving Pool to play the assessment game.

While kids play the assessment game, their Coach determines which level they should enter the game. There are 11 levels, which start with Level 1, teaching kids the names and the sounds capital letters make, and go all the way through Level 11, teaching kids prefixes, suffixes, multisyllable words and how to use apostrophes to make word contractions and possessives. It is critical that kids start playing in Smarty Ants at the correct level, so they will be in their “zone of proximate learning”, fully engaged, and neither bored or overwhelmed.

Once kids start their adventure they learn the sounds letters make, how those sounds are used to build words and how those words are used to make stories. These skills are introduced through over 250 interactive teaching videos, and the skills are mastered as kids choose from more than 14 learning module games. By the end of the Smarty Ants adventure kids master all of the basic rules of phonics (through first grade standards), they will have built over 1,400 words and 67 stories and musical DVDs based on those stories. They will be exposed to great children’s literature to develop listening, comprehension and fluency skills. They will receive over 2,500 learning awards and participate in 11 graduation ceremonies and receive 11 graduation diplomas.

Each child will progress at their personalized pace. Kids are assessed as they play each game. We have developed scaffolding and support which is presented whenever we determine that support is needed. This variable support system allows kids to accelerate through those concepts they master quickly, and to slow down as they are given all the support they need to master concepts that are challenging to them.

We have tried to accommodate differences in kids’ learning styles and risk tolerance. We give kids a wide range of paths they can take to master each concept. We allow kids to choose whether they want to view teaching videos as each concept is introduced. We allow kids to pick from up to 14 learning game modules to master each concept. In each game kids can elect to warm up and play a practice round before the game begins. When they start the game, they can choose to play in easy, medium or difficult levels. As they play the game, they can always click on the teaching video cloud for a refresher on the concept they are learning in the game. If they miss a concept three times in a row, the learning video is triggered, although, again kids can skip it. Finally, if they miss the concept three more times, the learning video is triggered and viewing and interacting is mandatory.

In short, we have a fantastic curriculum from Pre-K through the end of the first grade. We do an initial assessment and on-going assessments to be sure kids enter the game at the correct level and stay at the pace that optimizes their learning. Our learning videos and game modules allow kids to learn where they want and at the degree of difficulty they choose and with the level of support which allow them to succeed. By the time kids graduate from the 11th level they have built the foundation to allow them to become great readers.

Egg-cellent News!!


It is getting warmer in SmartyAnts World and Easter is almost here. The Easter Bunny has been hiding eggs everywhere! If you see one roll across the screen, click on it to put it in your backpack. When you open your backpack and click on the eggs, they will open up and give you extra points toward more coins to spend in the shop. Remember to stop by the shop to try on the awesome new costumes. We also have a new and egg-citing game to play. Four Square is now available to play throughout the lessons. Jump around with Flea and your dog to learn new letter sounds and build new words!!

Holiday Time!!


It's holiday time in SmartyAnts World!! Check out the new game launcher and loading screens. There is a tree in your ant home, lights in the windows and new outfits for you, your dog and your ant friends. Dress like Santa's elves or get a new holiday backpack. There is even a red nose and antler set for your dog!

Parental Level Controls


Do you feel your child was assessed to the wrong level? Well, now you can change that by going to the "Child Overview" or "Reading Progress" page and place your child right where you think they should be. Be aware that when you change the account, you will lose all progress your child has made in the lesson they are currently on. We urge you to only use this new feature if you are absolutely sure your child was assessed incorrectly and placed in a lesson that was too difficult or easy for them to handle.

Download Songs and Stories to Your Reading Pup!


You are now able to download any song or story to your Phonics Reading Pup whenever you want to! All you need to do is launch the game, go to the Parent's Login page and connect the dog to the computer. A button will appear on the page that will open up the song and story download interface. Create "Favorites" lists or reset the dog to the songs it had when it first arrived in your home. All songs and stories are available, regardless of what lesson your child is currently on. We hope you enjoy this new feature from SmartyAnts!!