Welcome to School Zone's Alphabet Express Software!
 
In this Read Me document, you will find the following:
      
 Age LevelAges 3-6
 
Educational Goal:
The Alphabet Express has several objectives:
  • To teach your child the letters of the alphabet-both uppercase and lowercase
  • To help your child match those letters to sounds
  • To help your child recognize the initial sounds of words
  • To strengthen hand-to-eye coordination and small-muscle motor skills through the interaction of the mouse with the screen features
  • To help your child enjoy the learning process
 
How To Play:
  The Alphabet Express is designed to be simple in use and delightful in interaction. Filled with animation, surprises and exciting activities, the Alphabet Express is founded on a proven educational theory: Kids learn better when learning is fun.

Finding your way around Alphabet Express is easy. If you are lost, just click on the Main Menu icon. That will take you to the place where you can choose any of the Letter Scenes, the Alphabet Song, the Movie Theater or any of the games on the disk. Other related activities can be accessed through each individual alphabet letter.  There's a help button always available, too, so that your child is never at a loss for how to play each game.  Each exercise is explained in the Parent Guide on a "How to Play" card.
 
Activities:
  Interactive disks such as the Alphabet Express can help your child focus longer on learning activities and remember more. Studies show that overall learning time is shortened through interactive learning by as much as 50%, and retention can be increased by as much as 25%.  You can also help your child learn even faster and better if you take an active part in his/her learning process. That's why we've included related activities for each one of the games in the Alphabet Express.
 
Alphabet Song:
  How To Play
The Alphabet Song is accessed through the Main Menu. When the song screen comes up, the letters of the alphabet sing a song composed of all their names. This begins automatically when the area is entered.  After the song concludes, the child can click on any letter and it will say its name again. If you child wishes to hear the Alphabet Song again, he/she must select the musical note located on the right side of the screen.

Objectives
The Alphabet Song offers a high level of amusement with a teaching goal:  Children are introduced to the names of the letters.  As interactivity is encouraged through play, children become more and more familiar with the names of the alphabet letters.

Activities
Name Spelling. You can play interactively in this area with your child and use it to teach him/her how to spell the names of various members of your family. To have the Alphabet Chorus spell each name, use the mouse to click on each individual letter. Then let your child take over and do the same. The names of siblings, friends, other family members and pets can also be used in this game.

Other Alphabet Songs. Everyone knows the original alphabet song that is taught in schools. There are recordings which your child can listen to, or you can teach it to him/her yourself. A fun variation of this is for you and your child to invent an alphabet song. Ask your child to sing a favorite song, Christmas carol, chant, and then put the letters of the alphabet to it.

Experiment! Use a musical instrument-a piano, a xylophone-if you have one available.
  
Coloring Book:
  How To Play
  The Coloring Book is accessed directly from each Letter Scene. When it is entered, the child may choose to color the Letter Scene he/she just completed or choose from two other related scenes. The chosen scene can be selected by clicking on it. Coloring Book pages can be "painted" onscreen or printed and colored with crayons, markers or paints.

If the child wishes to paint onscreen, he/she can select one of the three pictures from the coloring book menu. The screen is then filled with the scene to be colored. The cursor changes to the shape of a paint brush, and a color palette appears. The child selects a color by clicking on one of the colors in the palette then uses the cursor to "paint" the area desired.  Other colors are accessed the same way.

The yellow return arrow allows the child to leave a finished picture and select a new scene to color. The print option allows the child to print out an uncolored page and color it by hand. 

There is also a screen that has the featured letter in trace form, which can be printed out and used to practice writing that letter.
 
  Objectives
  The Coloring Book achieves several learning objectives:
 
  • It allows the child to revisit an alphabet scene just experienced and mentally review the various sounds and words just learned.
  • It offers practice in the use of a mouse and increases computer-skill dexterity.
  • Offscreen, it strengthens manual dexterity through the use of colored pencils, crayons or paints.
  Activities
  Colors Real and Imagined. Learning to identify colors is an important preschool skill. After your child has learned his/her color skills you can help by playing visualization games. For example, without looking at an apple you might ask your child what color an apple is. By asking this, you are strengthening your child's ability to recall without visual clues.

When a child is coloring either onscreen or off, the imagination should also be allowed to come into play. You can help strengthen your child's creativity by asking other questions: "Yes, an apple is red, but if you could make an apple any color you wanted, what color would it be?" Respond to your child's answer by asking why. Offer imaginative answers of your own: "It would be fun if the sky was green, because that's my favorite color"; "Do you think if bananas were orange instead of yellow, they would taste the same?"
 
Dot-To-Dot:
  How To Play
  The Dot-to-Dot games are accessed through the Main Menu. There are 10 pictures which come up randomly. In each, there is a partial picture. In order to complete the picture, the child must connect a series of dots by connecting letters of the alphabet in sequence. By clicking on each letter in sequence, lines are "drawn." When the dot-to-dot puzzle is successfully completed, the picture "magically" fills in with color and then animates with a humorous scene. If the child does the same puzzle a second time, the sequence of letters will change randomly; the starting letter, for example, might be L instead of A.
 
  Objectives
  The Dot-to-Dot puzzles achieve several learning objectives:
 
  • They strengthen sequencing skills. They require that the child knows the order in which the alphabet letters are arranged and is able to sequence them even in the middle of that order. An example of this is when the child recognizes the order of L-U in the same way he/she recognizes A-J.
  • The dot-to-dot puzzles present both uppercase and lowercase letters at all levels, so familiarity with these two versions of letters is strengthened.
  • The animation "rewards" provide incentive for the child to finish each puzzle. Every time the puzzle is played, a random sequence of letters is presented.
  Activities
  Alphabet Sequencing. How can you help to strengthen your child's ability to learn the sequence of the alphabet? It's as simple as a few questions. While driving, waiting at the grocery store checkout line or in another place where you have a few minutes, find something around you (a sign, a can, a magazine) and ask, "What letter does this start with?" then ask your child, "What letter comes before (s,c,m, whatever the answer is)?" Or ask what letter comes after the chosen letter. Be sure to praise every right answer. If at first this seems difficult, help your child sing the alphabet song until he/she comes to the correct answer.

Alphabet Car Game. The classic alphabet game has children who are riding in a car find something in the passing scenery that begins with the letter A or a sign with a word beginning with A. Each child moves through the alphabet to find something for each letter. Children can play this game by taking turns or working competitively to see who can complete the alphabet first.

There are workbooks and other playtime exercises which will help with sequencing skills as well. One puzzle workbook of alphabet dot-to-dot puzzles is Alphabet Fun from School Zone Publishing.
 
Firehouse Game:
  How To Play
  The Firehouse Game is accessed directly through each Letter Scene. The child may select the Conductor Help button to learn how to play.  When the game begins, the uppercase or lowercase letter from the Letter Scene appears at the center of the Firehouse, and then other objects pop up around it. One of the surrounding objects will start with the same letter or an uppercase or lowercase version of the letter. When the child makes the correct number of matches, the fire dog climbs the ladder and prompts the elephant to put out the fire in one of a variety of ways.

At Level One, there will be three objects, one of which matches with the center letter. Three correct answers from various rounds will trigger the animation surprise.

At Level Two, there will be only one out of six objects that matches with the center letter, and four correct answers from various rounds will trigger the animation surprise.

At Level Three, there will be one object out of eight that matches with the center letter, and four correct answers from various rounds will trigger the animation surprise. In addition, some of the matching items will feature
 
  Objectives
  The Firehouse Game gives the following additional practice for each letter:
 
    • Matching the featured letter to either objects or the same letter.
    • Learning to recognize the initial sounds of words and match them to the letter (each object is identified by a spoken word when clicked on.)
    • Matching uppercase letters to their lowercase versions.
    • Reinforcing what was just learned in each Letter Scene, strengthening long-term retention of the letter's sound.
  Activities
  Uppercase and Lowercase Letters. Your child will learn this concept more easily with additional practice. One enjoyable way is to play Go Fish with School Zone's game cards. This Go Fish game makes matches with uppercase to lowercase alphabet letters. The game is simple, easy to learn and appropriate for children ages four and up.

Storybook Matching. To help your child identify letters and relate them to the words and objects which start with that letter, take some time during the reading of a book to search both the illustration and the text. Ask your child to look at the picture on a page and find something starting with a particular letter. Then ask your child to find that letter at the beginning of a word on the page. Be sure to read the word out loud as your child finds it, and help search the illustration for other objects beginning with your chosen letter as well.
 
Hidden Letters:
  How To Play
  The Hidden Letters Game is accessed through the Main Menu. One of 10 different pictures will appear randomly on the screen when this game is entered. There are three to five letters hidden in each picture, depending on the level at which the game is being played. The child searches the picture for the hidden letters and clicks on each one, after which it remains highlighted. When the child has located all the hidden letters in the scene, the scene fades to black and an animation sequence plays as an entertaining "reward" for completing the game.
 
  Objectives
  The Hidden Letters Game achieves several learning objectives:
 
  • It gives the child practice in recognizing the shapes of the letters.
  • In strengthening the visual recognition of the letter shapes, it prepares the child for writing letters.
  • It allows the child practice in general visual acuity.
  Activities
  Shapes and Letters. Help your child recognize shapes that form our alphabet letters. Try this play activity with a set of geometric shapes made of felt, vinyl, paper or whatever you have on hand. Make sure that the set has circles, half circles, triangles and a variety of rectangles and squares. Select a basic shape, such as a circle, and ask your child if it looks like a letter. After he/she responds, give your child a turn in finding a shape that resembles a letter. After the most basic shapes-such as O and I-have been used, help your child create letters by assembling several shapes together.

Letters in Buildings. Another game to play on a drive or a walk is to have your child search for "hidden letters" in the buildings you see along your way. An A-frame house, the H shape of many commercial windows, the O made by a clock in a tower are all shapes which can be found with a little imagination in the everyday landscape.
 
Letter Scenes:
  How To Play
  There are 24 Letter Scenes in The Alphabet Express - X, Y and Z share one scene together. For each letter there is a short animated introduction. Then the interactive "Letter Scene" comes up on the screen. Letter Scenes are accessed through the Main Menu.

Letter Scenes are essentially basic matching activities. The child clicks on objects in the scene which begin with the featured letter. When objects that do NOT begin with the featured letter are clicked on, nothing happens. When the correct matches are made, there is a "reward" of either a voice saying the name of the object or an amusing, cartoon-like animation sequence.

The alligator train conductor is hidden in every Letter Scene. An additional "reward" is that when he is found and clicked on, he moves and speaks.
 
  Objectives
  Within some of the Letter Scenes are a few words which present some of the more complex aspects of our language. For example, the words "chicken" and "cheese" contain digraphs, while the word "xylophone" begins with an x which takes on the sound of the letter z. Point these words out to your child and use them to introduce the concept that in addition to the sounds he or she is learning, there are other sounds that letters can make in words.
 
  • Each Letter Scene gives a good, basic introduction to the featured letter.
  • Both uppercase and lowercase letters are shown.
  • When objects are selected that start with the featured letter, the name of the object is heard. This helps the child associate words with letter sounds.
  • Searching the scene reinforces the idea that each letter can be matched with everyday words that begin with the letter.
  • The animation surprises and the search for the train conductor keep the child motivated to explore each scene thoroughly.
  Activities
  Bedtime Matching. At bedtime or another quiet time during the day, sit with your child and look at the room around you. Begin the matching game by selecting an object. You might, for example, hold up a book and say "the word 'book' begins with B. What other things can you see that start with B?" Explore different rooms of the house during the day and look for different letters.

This same game can also keep a child quietly occupied during a waiting period in a doctor's office or a restaurant, for example.
 
Mazes:
  How To Play
  Mazes are accessed through the Main Menu. When the area is first entered, the child must make a selection from a menu of the maze characters shown on the screen.

The object of the game is to get the character through the maze. A number of barriers block the path. In order to remove the barrier, the child must first click on the barrier and then click on the letter which matches the first letter in the barrier's name. The letters are located above and below the maze. When the letter is correctly identified (L for log, for example), the object disappears. When the maze is completed, the screen fades to black, and a short animated surprise appears.

The child has the option of backtracking to remove ALL the barriers in each maze before going to the "finish line," just for the fun of watching them disappear off the maze screen.
 
  Objectives
  The Maze Game achieves several learning objectives:
 
    • It reinforces the matching of letter sounds to the initial sounds of various objects.
    • It teaches the child to recognize both uppercase and lowercase letters.
    • Since the letter name is spoken each time a letter is selected, the child learns letters names.
    • The animation surprise at the end of each maze provides motivation and fun during play.
  Activities
  Alphabet Games. There are other ways that you can help your child learn to identify the first letters of words. One enjoyable way is the School Zone Alphabet Games set. This set has boards and cards, with rules for five games. A matching game helps your child gain confidence in selecting the correct first letters of words.
 
Movie Theater:
  How To Play
  The Movie Theater is accessed through the Main Menu. The first scene on the screen shows the outside of the movie theater. By clicking on the characters standing in line, the child can hear their comments. Clicking on the theater door allows the child to "enter" the movie theater.

Once inside the theater, the child can select various members of the audience who will either animate or say something. The child chooses and clicks on a character on the movie screen to begin one or two short animated "movies." Both movies have alphabet topics.
 
  Objectives
  There are several learning objectives associated with the Movie Theater:
 
  • Children learn better if they are provided with breaks. The Movie Theater provides a sequence where no answers are required by the child.
  • Each movie "teaches" through humor and video characters, language/alphabet skills
  • The Movie Theater area also provides humor and fun through the interaction of other "audience" members.
  • The click-and-animate nature of the Movie Theater allows the child to learn how to explore the screens in a relaxed setting.
  Activities
  A wonderful resource for breaks from home-learning activities is PBS's SESAME STREET, which focuses heavily on alphabet skills. The show also teaches beginning thinking skills. The humor, familiar characters and educational value of SESAME STREET is a winning combination for early learning and mirrors the philosophy used to develop the ALPHABET EXPRESS.
 
 
Technical Support:
  If you experience problems using this software, you can e-mail us at support@schoolzone.com or call us at 1-616-846-9601.

Support Hours:
Monday through Thursday 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. EST
Friday 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. EST

Additional support is always available online at: www.schoolzone.com/support

Please have the following information available for technical support:
 
  • Operating system
  • CPU type and speed
  • Amount of RAM
  • Available hard drive space
  • CD-ROM speed
 
Minimum System Requirements:
  Windows® 7, Vista, XP SP3
    Pentium® III 1GHz (or equivalent)
    1GB of RAM
    800×600 32-bit color video
    16-bit sound card
    700MB of available disk space
    CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive
 
  Mac® OSX 10.9, 10.8, 10.7.5, 10.6.8
    Intel Processor
    1GB of RAM
    800×600 32-bit color video
    700MB of available disk space
    CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive
 
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