Thursday, December 15, 2011

Review: Letters Make Words App

I was recently given the opportunity to review the Letter Make Words app using the Barchowsky Fluent Handwriting method.

From the Letters Make Words Company:

The user can select any letter. Each one comprises a complete unit of instruction for that letter, a warmup pattern, the letter and a word to trace and to sound out. When a letter has a different sound depending on its usage in words, choose from either of two words. The next screen has three words to sound out with a silly sentence for the child to write on paper.
A friendly voice coaches the child to finger trace with the index finger, thereby encouraging good pencil/pen hold when actually writing. It’s the index finger that should push a pen to make marks with the greatest ease of movement.
Lowercase letters are featured. An app for capitals and numerals will follow soon. Lowercase are the ones we most need when we write, and are the easiest to form.
Letter-related warmup patterns start each unit to help the child with formations.
Starting points and directions for strokes are clearly defined, graphically and by the audio that guides a child through all finger tracing and pronunciation.
Letters are designed for ease of writing and legibility. Reversals (b for d, etc.) are never an issue with the formations used in this app.
Our Experience
We are huge fans of our iPad and were so excited to be able to review an app for it.  Especially since it was an app for our preschooler, who generally commandeers the iPad for her own personal use.  I wasn't sure how well a handwriting app would go over with her though, she doesn't like to be told what to write. LOL  Much to my surprise, she really likes this app.  I, however, found it a little frustrating. 
It starts off with a warm up for the letter.  As the child traces the form is supposed to change color.  Which it does, sort of.    It gradually darkens the moment your finger is put on the starting spot.  However it doesn't follow where the child actually writes.  From a teaching perspective, I found that a little frustrating because she'd be writing anywhere and the form would still change color.  Other times I would trace it, on the lines, and it wouldn't change at all.   So there is no direction as to whether the child is doing it correctly or not.

After the warm up pattern is traced it asks if the letter can fit on the pattern?  It always answers "not exactly but it moves in the same way."  I found that confusing and I already know how to write.  You are then given an opportunity to trace the actual letter and a word using the letter.  When the child traces the word, they point out the sound that the letter makes.  However, they may or may not have learned to write the other letters in the word.  That can be stressful for the child.  

Lastly they are given words to use in a sentence that they are to write with pencil and paper.  I found this to be a very odd request.  I would never ask a child who is just learning to form letters to write an entire sentence.

Final Thoughts

After using this app with my child, I see more as a supplement for a student needing extra help in handwriting rather than for a child learning to form letters.  I don't think it offers enough correction for a student new to handwriting.  Clearly, I had some frustrations with the method but I think those would be alleviated if the app were directed towards children who already able to write letters.

That being said, my daughter does like it.  She enjoys attempting to trace the patterns, the teaching voice was pleasant, and she loves repeating the directions along with the voice.  I also liked how the pattern tracing helped teach her to leave her pencil on the paper when forming letters.  I can definitely see it coming in very handy in the future.


Letters Make Words is available on iTunes.

Pricing: Special $2.99 introductory offer.

Suggested Ages: 4+

Click the Crew banner for more reviews of this neat app.

Disclaimer: As part of the TOS Review Crew I was given this app in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.


Sacha said...

We had the same impression of this app...frustrating and strange at times, but would be good for practice for older students. Great review!

Anonymous said...

Awwww... That's to bad :( I know how it feels to be Super excited about something your child may learn from and be totally disappointed.
Thanks for sharing :)

Keri- A Homeschooling mom of 2 who is happy to cook, clean, and even do windows...just don't ask me to be my kids' creative writing tutor.


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