Update: I’ve added a new post to this series about math apps. Click here to see it.
It’s been about a month now since we received our ipads. In that time I’ve downloaded close to 100 apps. Probably 90% of those are directly related to teaching young children. I’ve been particularly looking for an app to help cement our students’ writing skills. Many of them are still working on letter formation. I’ve honestly been shocked by how hard it is to come by good teaching apps! Some of the apps I downloaded were truly awful. More than a couple were actually saying letter sounds incorrectly. Not just a little off so that a teacher trained in phonics would notice, but really off. One or two were bad enough that my eight year old complained that the app wasn’t making the sound right! Then there were the apps that had students writing letters incorrectly. And finally the there were the ones that turned out to be in another language! (I actually like the Japanese app I downloaded quite a bit. You could switch it to English in the settings, but then I ran into the trouble of letter pronunciation…) So now that I’ve waded through quite a number of letter writing apps, I’m ready to offer up my top five choices. So in no particular order, here are the five apps for practice with writing letters that I like the best so far:
There’s a free version with some of the letters so that you can try it out and then a paid version to download if you like it. Educationally speaking, I like that the app teaches the formation of the letter with the sound of the letter. I always like instruction to be as multisensory as possible. After the student has traced enough letters, the app guides students into the process of blending and segmenting words. The interface is clean and simple, offering gentle redirection if the student makes mistakes. Finally, I like the fact that there is a locked parent control panel that lets you adjust the settings. My daughter likes the fact that you shake the ipad to clear the screen.
This app has lots of sound and lots of visual stimulation. Great for some students, not so great for others. Each letter is presented with one of the sounds that it makes. This app takes it a step further by creating an icon to trace which corresponds with the sound of the letter that you are tracing. For example when you trace ‘a’ the icon is an ant and you trace the ants with the finger in the shape of an a. (See the picture below.) For ‘b’ the icon is a bear, etc. These visual cues paired up with both the letter and the sound can be really helpful for some students. Again, there is a free version to try it out and then a paid version. The only thing I don’t like is the line on the left hand side of “other games” available for purchase, even in the paid version. I’ve already had students end up in the app store instead of playing the game.
This app links up letter writing practice with three and four letter words. It teaches sounds in combination with writing. One unique thing about this app is that it requires the student to trace the letter with the thumb and index finger pinched together. Apparently this helps in building skills that will be needed for proper pencil grip. I’m not sure I buy that, but the app is a useful teaching tool regardless. I actually found myself using two fingers rather than a finger thumb combination. There are rewards offered after a certain number of words have been written. The game is not as intuitive as some, but that’s also because it’s a bit more complex, and more entertaining as a result.
Letter school teaches handwriting in conjunction with letter sounds. It presents the letter three times and on the third time, the model disappears and the child has to actually write the letter without tracing, but from memory. Also, I like the fact that this app puts dots on the distinguishing characteristics of the letter. I think that creates strong visual cues that will actually help the children recall the shape of the letter and be able to draw it on their own. There is both a light and free version.
Letter quiz is a tracing app that puts each letter on a blackboard just as you’ve written it. After you write all of the letters, you get to put on a little digital fireworks show. The kids thought that was fun. This app also teaches letter identification matching upper and lower case letters. It’s not fancy, but reasonably intuitive and fun. Again there is a light version and a free version.
So that’s pretty much the best of what I’ve found so far. I know there have got to be some more great writing apps out there for young children. Tell me about the ones you’ve discovered in the comments.
Update: I’ve written a companion post about the five best math apps that I’ve found so far. Click the picture below to check it out.
Today I’m linking up with Technology Tailgate for Technology Tuesday. Click on the picture below to head over there to check out some other posts about technology.