I’ve been looking for an App to help with handwriting for some time, but unfortunately most of the handwriting apps in the iTunes App store are from the USA so naturally feature their ball-and-stick style. Finally an Australian iPhone App, rED Writing – Learn to Write, has arrived. It features all Australian handwriting styles and enables the user to select the style particular to their state or territory.
There are 6 learning modes in the App. The exercises in each are similar – trace over a letter, pattern or number three times. The activities include:
- Lower Case letters – each letter is supported by name and sound being played as the student traces.
- Upper Case letters – as with Lower Case.
- Numbers – as with Lower and Upper case.
- Patterns – scribble patterns that reinforce the common letter patterns. You will find these kinds of patterns in most good handwriting exercise books.
- Shake for a letter – Shake your device for a random letter to practice.
- Letter of the day – Each day a different letter is selected and presented first in upper and then in lower case. Instead of tracing around the letter with a colour, children get to make a path of biscuits. (I refuse to say cookies. Sorry. But they are chocolate chip!)
- Multiple Users – You can add several users. Each user chooses a cute monster to represent them and then can select their name and monster as they log in. Users can also indicate their age by putting candles on a cake, can indicate if they are a boy or girl, and enter an email address. The email address is used to send certificates to children (see below) and occasional updates. I have a particular email address I use for competitions and newsletters, and I find it really handy to use for situations like this.
Australian Handwriting Styles – When you first log in, you select your state from an Australian map. Handwriting styles for all Australian states and territories are included. This is possibly the most exciting thing about this App because it is the ONLY handwriting App on the iTunes store that does this. The others all seem to feature the old ball-and-stick styles that are prevalent in the USA (naturally.)
- Progress is saved. Each time the child logs into the App and chooses an activity, they will see completed letters, numbers and patterns lightly shaded.
- Motivating – Children collect monster stickers in a virtual sticker book after completing exercises. There are possibly as many monster stickers as there are letters and numbers, as I haven’t had to choose the same one twice (yet.) You only earn one sticker per letter, number or pattern, and repeating will not earn you another stickers. After all exercises in an activity group have been completed, a certificate is emailed to the child.
- Instructions are clear and easy to follow. My children loved the Australian voice.
- Supportive Feedback – If a child makes an error, their little monster pops up to show them where to start on the letter, number or pattern, and then traces the letter as an example. Children get to retry after each mistake and do not receive penalties. If unsure of where to start, they can tap on their monster who then guides them through the process.
- Positive Feedback – verbal prompts reinforce the names of numbers and letters, and the child gets some positive feedback after completing three tracings, such as “Excellent,” “Well Done,” and even “Stone the Crows! You are AWESOME!”
- Simple Controls – my 6 y.o. found the picture-based controls very easy to use. The activity screens are not very busy so it is easy to focus on the activity.
Children can change the colour of the pen.
- Lined paper option – this is very handy for reinforcing the “head, body, tail” parts of a letter. I have a child who occasionally mixes up exactly where their letters should be sitting “on the lines” so this is a big help.
- Music can be turned on or off. It is a kind of cool, boppy music that my children like and that I don’t find annoying, but in public places it is a nice option to be able to turn it off.
- Backgrounds can be altered. Several are naturally space-themed. The writing area will always be plain white, with the optional lines.
As I type, they are wasting their Angry Birds time as they gleefully earn monster stickers. Enough said?
- Finger painting (add some sand or glitter for texture)
- Writing the letters in sand trays, sand pits or on the beach with sticks, fingers and feet.
- Draw them with chalk on the ground.
- Draw them really large on the ground and march around them, starting where you would start writing each letter.
- Use water and a paintbrush to “paint” them on to concrete. They dry off and you can repaint again and again.
- QCursive – (http://www.learningplace.com.au/deliver/content.asp?pid=49758) – Queensland Handwriting resources including a computer font (available for both Mac and Windows) and some PDF booklets.
- Out & About (onsarahsipad.wordpress.com)
- Writing Without Handwriting: Tips for Kids with Sensory Issues Who Resist Writing (kidscommunicate.wordpress.com)