Starfall.com is an educational website launched in September 2002 as a free public service to help educators and parents teach children to read with phonics. All games, lessons, songs and other activities all use the systematic phonics approach aimed at preschool, kindergarten, first and second grade, homeschool, special education and even English language development. Contents of Starfall.com is produced by Brandi Chase and a team of volunteer artists, educators, musicians, animators and engineers.
A Starfall.com History: It’s a Family Thing!
The site is a project a family who values education. Dr. Stephen Schutz and poet Susan Polis Schutz founded the Blue Mountain Arts publishing company in 1970. Susan Polis Schutz had years of teaching experience in New Jersey and New York City in the 60s. Stephen Schutz is a successful publisher and artist with a PhD in physics. He had reading problems as a child, so envisioned this program to provide free resources to children around the world learning to read and speak English.
Together with Stephen and Susan’s son Jared Schutz, the family expanded their business to the now-popular electronic greeting card company BlueMountain.com. Jared Schutz Polis also shares a passion for education, even serving on the Colorado State Board of Education.
Star Fall Reading Lessons – The focus of the website are lessons aimed at teaching young kids how to read English properly through phonics. It includes four sections:
- ABCs – The most basic way to learn how to read is by mastering the ABCs. This section lists all vowels, each leading to a song that helps you pronounce the vowel. This section also lists all A-Z letters that can each be clicked. When a letter is chosen, a capital and small letter versions is seen, both clickable to hear how the letters sound. Several examples with images come next, such as A for Apples and Alligator. The great thing about this section is that it teaches a child to differentiate singular and plural nouns through images.
- Learn to Read – When a child can now differentiate the letters of the alphabet, he/she can now start learning how to read using simple three- or four-letter words. With images giving clues to words, kids are asked to complete the word with the missing letter. Other lessons in this category are introductions for short vowel, Long-A, Long-O, long vowels, two vowels, and R-controlled, among others. Each lesson has an accompanying book and video or practice activities.
- It’s Fun to Read – This next level is aimed for grade 1 and 2 students who can comprehend simple sentences like “I am a girl/boy” on “All About Me” section, and appreciate art through works of Vincent van Gogh, Marc Chagall, Georges Seurat and other renowned artists as they read information about paintings on the “Art Gallery” section. Other activities in this section include Magic, Music, Poetry, Tongue Twisters, and Bird Riddles.
- I’m Reading – The last level of Starfall.com is for students who can now read on their own. Aside from the “Three Plays,” this section includes five categories, including fiction/nonfiction, comics, folk tales, Greek Myths and Chinese fables. All categories have three of more books to choose from, all with a page with pictures and another page with the clickable words you can hear.
Starfall Children Education: The Kindergarten Reading and Language Arts program
In May 2004, the Starfall team began to lead a group of volunteers to develop a curriculum for classroom or homeschool use. By 2008, Starfall’s team has expanded to more than 150 teachers in over 50 schools. The Kindergarten Reading and Language Arts Curriculum was designed to help kids learn how to read by providing them with a fun atmosphere. The entire program for a classroom of 20 students costs less than $800, while the Starfall homeschool kit costs less than $325.
More*Starfall – Launched in June 2009, More*Starfall (http://more.starfall.com) is the sister website of Starfall.com that complements the Kindergarten Curriculum. It includes more activities in helping kids read, such as nursery rhyme videos, ABC rhymes, folk songs and motion songs. The new Starfall website also has a math section that teaches numbers, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The website also includes a Teacher’s Lounge that features customizable practice page generators, and other useful resources for classroom teaching or homeschooling.
Unlike Starfall.com, More*Starfall only has a few resources available free and require membership fees of $35/year for 3 home users, $150/year for 35 students in a classroom or $270/year for schools or a maximum of 70 simultaneous users.
Both the original Starfall website and More*Starfall provides a store for parents, educators and students. Several products are available, including 16 phonics books, Starfall Speedway game, Phonics Jigsaw puzzle set, 15 “Learn to Read” books, and the Startfall.com CD-ROM, which makes it possible to access Starfall offline.