The Wordchain Apps help build confident, capable readers and spellers!

Wordchain is part of Betsy Sewell’s “Agility With Sound” programme.

Wordchain 1, 2, 3 and 4 for Android are on Google Play.

Wordchain 1, 2, 3 and 4 for iOS are on Apple’s App Store.

Wordchain is part of Agility With Sound

The Wordchain Apps are the software part of Betsy Sewell’s Agility With Sound, a comprehensive programme for building confident capable readers.

Betsy’s programme is a product of her many experiences: as a teacher, as a research anthropologist and as a mother of dyslexic children. From those careers she developed a disciplined, systematic, scientific way of breaking down barriers to reading competency.

She has worked with hundreds of children who struggled with reading: teaching them, listening to their stories and to the anguish of their parents and care-givers, the bewilderment and powerlessness of their teachers. Her passion has seen her create Agility With Sound as a fundamental tool in helping so many children achieve reading success!



Wordchain has been through an extensive testing process in schools and home.

Here’s some delightful feedback from educators and users!

When children begin using this app you might hear comments like:

“Now I get it!”
“So that’s what gun looks like,” and
“Can we play the penguin game?”

Wordchain, while appearing simple, makes how to crack the code easier for the kids who use it. It instructs in a structured and systematic way, providing immediate constructive feedback and repetition to reinforce, just like the experts recommend.

Sue McMillan
Resource Teacher of Literacy

I work daily with children who are ‘Well Below’ in literacy. The biggest problem I have with Wordchain is getting them off it! They love it.

Having a kiwi accent really helps and I found it perfect for my kids because I could target their weak areas e.g. a/u confusion. I have used it with children from 6-10 and they love it.

This would be great to use at home to help build sound letter knowledge, knowledge of word families and build spelling skills.

Bronwyn Fennessy
Resource Teacher of Literacy

I have found Wordchain particularly useful to use with students who have poor phonological awareness and have not yet developed an understanding of the alphabetic principle.

Some students benefit from being able to ‘check’ the sound of the letter/digraph by touching it before deciding which letters are needed for the word they are making and this helps them to develop the letter-sound knowledge.

The children I have worked with have found Wordchain engaging and motivating as they move through the levels; this includes older students (year 5 & 6).

Jo Anderson
Resource Teacher of Literacy
Central Canterbury

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

If the topics below don’t answer all your questions, fire a query to!

Is Wordchain only for simple words like 'cat' and 'sit'?

Absolutely not!

The four apps are designed to take readers from those basic foundations (if needed), then systematically advance to words like ‘exhausted’ or ‘drearily’. Importantly, it also tackles certain letter and sound combinations that can cause confusion, like words with ‘tch’ or ‘dge’, or the subtle distinction and usage of ‘ore, are, air and ear’ words.

I'm not great with technology. Is this thing hard to use?


Honestly, if you get it installed and get a child to start it up as you sit beside them, you’ll see how easy it is.

They get asked for their name and given a big keyboard to enter it. Then there’s an animated intro to set the scene before they choose which animated friend they want to rescue. And then they drag tiles around to change one word into another- for instance, “get” into “net”.

There’s a little ? help button that explains what everything on the game screen does, and ongoing positive reinforcement.

And if you do hit problems, shoot us an email at and we’ll jump in to help!

Why are there four apps?

Reading research clearly tells us that children who struggle with reading need to be taught how words work in a systematic, structured way, beginning with the most simple, the most regular and the most common word forms, and then advancing to the more complex, less common and less regular.

This is what this series of apps does. There is no overlap in learning – each builds on the skills developed in the previous one according to these well-established principles.

The four videos below explain more about each app.

Why should I buy Wordchain?

Wordchain was made to support Betsy Sewell’s Agility with Sound reading programme, which includes books and many physical activities. In fact, Wordchain is based on an existing real-world tile manipulation activity that provides the practice needed to build confidence in word construction and to reduce audio confusion.

The digital form allows for systematic progress, and operates as a tutor sitting right there with the user. The child can hear the words they need to make (spoken at normal and extended pace) and compare it to the word they’ve made. The gaming aspect provides motivation and ongoing positive reinforcement, as well as a motivating goal for completing each level.

In short, Wordchain combines a meticulously-researched learning framework and a fun, engaging interface, and that has kids begging for “a few more minutes playing that penguin game!”

Why isn't Wordchain $1.99 or even $5.99?

Wordchain is more expensive than a lot of apps on the App or Play store. Creating a series with a specific NZ focus, and a few thousand individual words with a Kiwi accent, does mean it can’t sit in the $1.99 space.

However, it’s still in the same ballpark as a single hour of private tuition, and less than many PC or console games.

And while it has a game interface to keep things engaging (in our testing, kids would be asking teachers “Please can I play the penguin game again!”), it’s also based on the systematic, exhaustively-researched framework of Betsy’s ‘Agility with Sound’ programme. It really is designed not just to be fun, but to create capable, confident readers!

Why does the Apple Store say '9+ -mild horror/profanity'?

Wordchain 1 and 2 ask kids to help free a series of animated friends from an evil sorcerer. In Wordchain 3 you’re capturing escaped monsters, and in Wordchain 4 its rampaging robots.

All the characters are animated and it’s very mild. The sorcerer does growl in the animated intro, and it’s possible that very young kids could be scared, so we ticked the right boxes in the Apple Store. We’ll leave it to you to judge if the 9+ recommendation is relevant to your particular child!

Oh, and in Wordchain 1 and 2, there is one mention that “an evil bumhead sorcerer captured my friends”. We did this because kids aren’t expecting it, and it makes them laugh, and when kids laugh, they stop worrying about doing an activity where they MUST LEARN SOMETHING. And so they are more likely to learn!

If the word ‘bumhead’ really is an issue, there’s a preference to remove it from the intro.

What is 'Teacher Mode'?

It’s a hidden mode that allows you to set certain preferences, and add or delete users… functionality that most users won’t need.

If you’re a parent, carer or educator who’d like to activate teacher mode, send an email to and we’ll let you know how to unlock hidden mode. Be warned, we might check that you’re not some clever kid trying to learn the secret!

I really like deep discussions about literacy. Where can I find out more?

Betsy’s Agility with Sound website has lots of info about reading, comprehension difficulties and much more!

Or you can read a whole analysis of ‘Agility with Sound’ (which the Wordchain apps are part of) in Melanie Nelson’s paper at Massey University!

In Wordchain, 'el', 'il' and 'ol' are coloured like vowels. Why??

Wordchain uses colouring to reinforce vowel and consonant differences. In most phonics books, ‘el’, ‘il’ and ‘ol’ are not treated like vowel sounds.

However, this is one of the very distinctive parts of the New Zealand accent. When a New Zealander with a classic kiwi accent says ‘milk’, the ‘l’ sound is not fully formed!

Notice when you say ‘milk’ that your tongue does not flick up to the ‘l’ position. We make an ‘i’ sound that slides towards the ‘l’, making a distinctive kiwi vowel. These are called “l-controlled vowels”. We weren’t kidding when we said Wordchain was built with a Kiwi focus!

If we get to future releases focused on other accents, we may need to change the colouring depending on specific accent characteristics.

Which Wordchain Do I Choose?

These tabs should help outline which Wordchain will best suit your needs:

Can the student read these words accurately and easily?

peg lag rod bun fib chum shod mutter hopped rigging winner mossy baggy rubbed chuck fled span smug grab brim tacked rocky

Can the student spell these words?

chin gosh pith bitter saggy batting pegged snob prop flan trap drag picked check

Wordchain 1 App 256x256The student should be able to read all the words with relative ease. If s/he makes more than 3 errors in the spelling, or if getting them right takes considerable concentration, then Wordchain 1 is where you should start.

Count mis-spelling ‘ck’ as one error, and using a single consonant where it should be a double as another. These patterns will be further practiced in Wordchain 2. It is better to get a solid foundation in the basics than to leap ahead too quickly.

Can the student read these words accurately and easily?

clump fend brunt lisp split blend trigger frothy mantle spanner shingly trinket flinger flicker swilled plumper thicken speckled snigger crumple stricken

Can the student spell these words?

stump blond crisp scram skilled grumbling simple bluster swindle crumpet frilly slacken tackle bungled frankly bluster splinter flickered

Wordchain2 ICON 256The student should be able to read all the words with relative ease. If they make more than 3 errors in the spelling, or if getting them right takes considerable concentration, then Wordchain 2 is where you should start.

These patterns are not adequately covered in Wordchain 3. It is better to get a solid foundation in the basics with Wordchain 2 than to leap ahead too quickly.

Can the student read these words accurately and easily?

welt wilt smelter slate swede prone snide splice tinge bony bonny biter smitten stripped striped brail reed gorge spoof loam mundane

Can the student spell these words?

swelter filtered drape stoke stale cheap (or cheep) freed riper ripper croak scorched frighten trail force

Wordchain3 ICON 256The student should be able to read all the words with relative ease. If s/he makes more than 2 errors in the spelling, or if getting them right takes considerable concentration, then Wordchain 3 is where you should start.

These patterns are not adequately covered in Wordchain 4. It is better to get a solid foundation in the basics with Wordchain 3 than to leap ahead too quickly.

Can the student read these words accurately and easily?

shroud dredged tribute spurn blotched yearn statute furtive mirth laird wearily macaw shrew foible taut furze

Can the student spell these words?

smudge earnest slouched immune urge clutched squirm repair bearded flawless screw embroider launch protrude exclude burden

Wordchain4 ICON 256The student should be able to read all the words relatively easily, and spell most of them. If not, then Wordchain 4 is for you!

Wordchain Videos

See Wordchain in action.

In this first video, developer Minty Hunter from Nectarine gives a quickstart guide to Wordchain.
For a more in-depth guide, see these four videos by reading expert and ‘Agility with Sound’ programme creator Betsy Sewell.

Wordchain Quickstart Guide

Extra features

If you’re a teacher, parent or guardian, email for further information, and definitely contact us to learn how to unlock the extra admin features of Wordchain (for instance, the ability to add and remove student names and change programme preferences).

Introduction to Teacher Mode

In these four videos, reading expert and ‘Agility with Sound’ programme creator Betsy Sewell explains how Wordchain works to build capable readers, and what the differences in the Wordchain apps are.

Wordchain 1

Wordchain 2

Wordchain 3

Wordchain 4

Get Wordchain

Wordchain is currently only available with New Zealand pronunciation. Other accents will follow soon.

Wordchain features four apps, each focusing on particular areas that can cause reading difficulties.

Wordchain runs on Android and iOS – see the buttons below.

Note: while it is possible to run Wordchain on a phone, a tablet or similar larger-screen device is the optimal platform.

Chromebook users: Google has a list of which Chromebooks will run Android apps – look for ‘Stable Channel’ on that list!

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