FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

If the topics below don’t answer all your questions, please contact us!

What's the difference between the Wordchain apps and Wordchain For Web?

The key differences:

The Wordchain apps run only on iOS and Android devices, as a one-off purchase, and save user progress to the device they’re used on. User progress isn’t shared to other devices.

Wordchain For Web will run in a web browser on most devices (including desktops and laptops), under a subscription model, and user progress will be available across any device they log in under. A student could, for instance, log in on an iPad at school, later work in the library on a Chromebook, and then continue at home on a Windows desktop or a Macbook.

As of October 2021, Wordchain For Web is in final testing stages. When it goes live, it will be offered as a subscription model rather than the purchasing model of the Wordchain apps.

Is Wordchain only for simple words like 'cat' and 'sit'? Is it just for little kids?

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.

Kathy Boyland, Head of the Learning Support department at Rangiora High School, notes:

Wordchain 1 is very good for students working at the most basic level who have persistent decoding issues and need frequent repetitions to give the connection between sound and letter combinations. It provides a structured approach to learning that means they get a sense of progress and tackle one decoding task at a time. The children I have worked with have found Wordchain engaging and motivating as they move through the levels; this includes older students.

As of November 2021, audio recording is done for Wordchain 5 and graphics are being created. Wordchain 5 will focus on even more complicated letter and audio combinations. Wordchain 5 is aimed at those reading at a college or secondary school level to help them become even more capable and confident. It provides practice in mastering the more complex and tricky phonemes and structures found in words like deceitful, musician, syllabus, typhoid, intermediary, miraculous, unrelieved… and hundreds of other advanced words!

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 Wordchain videos explain more about each app.

November 2021 update: Wordchain 5 has had all audio recorded and graphics are being produced! Wordchain 5 is aimed at older readers and provides practice in mastering the more complex and tricky phonemes and structures found in words like deceitful, musician, syllabus, typhoid, intermediary, miraculous, unrelieved… and hundreds of other advanced words!

Can I get it for PC or Mac?

As of October 2021, Wordchain For Web is entering into final testing stages, and when it goes live it will support most PC and Mac desktops and laptops as well as other devices that have an internet-connected browser. It will be offered as a subscription model rather than the purchasing model for the Wordchain apps.

The Wordchain apps are available for iOS and Android devices, and are best on tablets rather than smaller mobile screens due to the amount of screen content.

There are quite a few Android tablets available in New Zealand at around the $200 mark, and often lower. While we fully understand that is yet another expense, Wordchain will then provide hours of fun, practice, feedback and encouragement for users, all with a specific Kiwi accent focus.

It’s also incredibly effective, as we’ve found from years of development testing first in South Island schools and now across Aotearoa and into Australia.

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

Wordchain is more expensive than a lot of apps on the Apple App or Google 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!

Note: As of October 2021, Wordchain for Web is entering final testing stages. When it goes live, it will offer an affordable subscription-based payment model. Contact us to find out more.

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!”

I'm not great with technology. Is this thing hard to use?
No. 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 support@wordchain.co.nz and we’ll jump in to help!

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 it’s rampaging robots.

All the characters are animated and it’s generally 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 for the Wordchain apps 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 teachers@wordchain.co.nz 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!

When Wordchain For Web is launched, ‘teacher mode’ functionality will be handled by a browser-based admin platform.

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.