The easiest way to teach a child about letters and their sounds is to do it in a way that is fun to them. Most kids these days are pretty familiar with devices like iPads. So why not make a fun and interactive game to teach children their letters and sounds? That is exactly what the company Talking Fingers, Inc. has done. They created the Talking Shapes iPad app, which is an app devoted to teaching letters from a story involving two sisters inventing the alphabet. This app can be purchased for $5.99 from the iTunes store.
There are three different areas to explore on this app, and each area has three different books to choose from. The first section titled “Read to Me” introduces each new letter and sound to your child through a story. Every letter has a picture to go with it. In the screenshot below you can see the inchworm is “I”, the pear is “P”, and the noodle is “N”. The child repeats the name of the picture (in this case it is “inchworm”) and then practices writing it. I really like that the app isolates each sound. It is a great way to introduce the concepts of phonograms and spelling.
The second option is “Draw Letters”. This includes an abbreviated reading of the story introduced in the “Read to Me” section so that your child can practice more with writing the letters. The same letters and pictures are used in all of the sections. So if you are using Book 1 for the “Read to Me” section, you will also want to use Book 1 for the “Draw Letters” section.
The last option is “Play Game”. Just as with the other two sections, this part is divided into the three different book. Again, it is ideal to choose the book your child is already working on. There are a few different games to play depending on how well your child knows the letters. The easiest game is Find the Shapes where the child locates the shapes associated with the letter. Your child will be able to see the letter inside the shape to help them with this game. The Find the Letters game is a bit more challenging. In this game your child is only shown the letters without the shape.
Finally, the last game is called Draw the Letters. During this game your child sees the shape only, and they have to remember the letter associated with it. As they drag the shape to the box, they must then trace the hidden letter within the shape. If at any time during the game you aren’t sure what the child is supposed to be doing you can click on the question mark at the top right side of the screen. You will have to help with this because the directions in the help section are not read aloud. You can return to the home page by clicking on the picture of the house at the top right.
For each word your child spells correctly an egg will appear with the bird at the bottom right side of the screen. After your child has successfully spelled all of their new words, they can move on to another game. During this game your child will choose the correct word as it scrolls by on the top of the screen. There is also a puzzle that is completed as they finish certain activities.
With an app like this, there is a fairly small window as to who it will work for. Unfortunately it seemed to fall at the wrong level for my boys. Moose can already read simple words so he is a little bit beyond what this teaches. And Little Bear is a little too young to really understand letter recognition yet. They still had some fun playing around with this app, but it would really be best for a child who is ready to learn letters and is just at the very beginning of learning how to read.
There are a few things I would have liked to be different about this app. I have always thought that teaching lower case letters first was a better idea. I know many programs and games start with upper case letters, but when it comes to reading I think lower case is better since letters in a book are in mostly lower case. This probably would have been a little bit trickier to make the letter stories, but I think it would have been a good idea. I also wish the tracing of letters was a bit more challenging. Moose learned very quickly that all he had to do was swipe his finger across the screen a few times and fill in the letter. So there really wasn’t much finger tracing going on when the boys played this app. Another problem is the microphone. Unless you have your kids ready to say the word and say it loud, the microphone doesn’t pick up what they are saying. It moves on after a couple of tries anyway, but this can be frustrating to little kids that don’t understand why it isn’t working for them.
For our family, this app unfortunately wasn’t a huge hit. The boys played it if I was right there playing along with them, but it isn’t one they ever chose to do on their own. I think if there were better directions on what to do and when to do it that would be very helpful for the young children this is geared toward. It also would have helped if they were at the right level for this app, as I talked about earlier. I do love the concept of teaching letters and sounds through fun stories, but this one just didn’t go over that well here.
But don’t take my word for it. Every family is different. Click the link below to see what other families thought of their experience with the Talking Shapes app.
You can connect with Talking Fingers through the following social media links.
You Tube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/talkingfingersvideo