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I was contacted by the team at Night Zookeeper about the possibility of becoming an affiliate for their program. One of my friends whose children attend public school had raved to be about the program before so I was intrigued!
I came into this experience with her brief overview. My friend described it as like a game where you collected Pokémon (the zoo animals), and that the child had to write about them to earn points and things. The program is designed for children ages 6-12, and is an online program that can be used on any desktop, laptop, or tablet device.
I wasn’t sure how it would go, since my 8 year old is a very reluctant writer. If you have seen my posts about his writing work on instagram, you might know that he struggles with stamina, spelling, and gasp–handwriting!
Here is what my 8 year old son, who will be in third grade next year, had to say about his experience with Night Zookeeper:
“It was fun, and interesting.
It was kind of like coding, because it tells you what to write.
You can write paragraphs, and you have to use adjectives, and verbs, and other things. And you can play games, do projects and activities.”
I am not making this up! My 8 year old actually used those words: paragraphs, adjectives, and verbs! I swear each of these “and…” phrases are a direct result of Night Zookeeper. I looked over his shoulder while he was getting set up, and I saw some of the prompts for the first activity that he was looking for. It includes the use of complete sentences (!!!!), prompts for capitalization, and follows up each prompt with another to complete a coherent story.
His favorite game was the word hop game, where your animal has to jump to the word option that is spelled properly. He came back to this game over and over again, and even adjusted the difficulty level upwards!
About Night Zookeeper
One thing I did not realize about Night Zookeeper is that in addition to focusing on writing skills, it also develops reading skills as well! I mean, it makes sense, right? In order to write coherently, one needs to have a strong hold on basic reading skills.
What I didn’t expect was that even though my son is a strong reader, the aspect of the game that he enjoyed most was a spelling game!
Here are his results after about 30 minutes of time spent in the program (See, I told you he really liked this game!):
In the game, the child has to quickly select which one of two options are spelled correctly, and then jump their animal to that word before their character gets bounced out.
The teacher dashboard allows you to see exactly what your student has accomplished, what their score was, and the actual stories that they have written.
When you log in, you will have an overview of the different activities your child has completed, as well as more specific information about the particular category. Here is my son’s summary after about an hour of using the program for the first time.
Night Zookeeper teaches skills across all aspects of Language Arts, including:
- Grammar and punctuation
- Vocabulary building
- Reading comprehension; and
- Writing skills
Another great aspect of the program, is the ability to customize which particular features that you want your child to have access to. This would be especially helpful if you want them to focus on lessons, rather than games, for example.
Feedback from Actual Live People
In addition to the tools above, one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Night Zookeeper is that the child receives feedback on their writing from actual real live tutors!
You can see an example of my son’s writing, followed by the feedback he received below.
They provide gentle and encouraging feedback, prompting children to edit and improve their writing. What’s also great about this feature is that it is reassuring to know that your child isn’t just playing games or doing activities in a vacuum. They are getting support and instruction on how to improve their writing!
Overall, I think Night Zookeeper strikes the right balance between gamification and educational value. To tell the complete truth, I couldn’t tear my son away from the computer after I got him all logged in! He spent a good chunk of the day exploring, playing, and WRITING! Hooray! We will definitely keep Night Zookeeper in the rotation for our educational websites for the upcoming school year.
If you are interested in giving it a try, Night Zookeeper has generously offered 50% off of their annual subscription price to share with my readers! You can access that by following this link. You will start off with a free day 7 trial, in order to decide whether the program is right for your child.