Friday, February 10, 2012

Word Wizard

We have been using Word Wizard in our classroom for a little while as I continue on my personal quest to find the best word building app. As may be obvious from my review of Spell Blocks, I have a weakness for magnetic letters and letter tiles. I like the tactile nature of such materials and we have even recently purchased some Unifix cubes with letters on them-very fun.

Interestingly, when one uses the (real) magnetic letters and tiles, our emergent learners still have the tendency to swipe away all the letters when they move from one letter to the next, say, from cat to mat. Instead of moving just the first letter (even when you tell them!), the most emergent word study learners will then proceed to move around all the letters! I am interested to see if the digital format changes anything. One might assume that the with an app is that there is a greater opportunity to demonstrate a sense of word “permanence”.

Back to Word Wizard-
In the Word Wizard app, you are presented with two options straight off: Movable Alphabet and Spelling Quizzes. With the Movable Alphabet, you have a blank grid and you can drag color coded (red for vowels, blue for consonants-love that) lower case letters to build letters of your choosing. You are not prompted to build any particular word. I suppose if you wanted a more guided activity, you could provide your students with a word list. In Spelling Quizzes, there are are built-in Word Lists. Examples: CVC words, Dolch words, 1000 Most Frequently Used Words, Numbers, Colors, Animals, etc.

We chose the CVC words.
The children are verbally prompted to spell a given word: “Spell: Cat”. When you spell “cat” correctly, the “Voice” will affirm your efforts by reading the word.
In Settings, you can even choose the Voice: You can choose between US and UK inflections: Heather(US), Tracy(US) and Rachel (UK)
This program will allow you to place the letters in the wrong order: atc,or allow you to spell another word then it will read it to you that way, so you can self-correct.  Another note, some of the words are difficult to understand. For example, it was difficult to hear the difference between “can” and “cab.”  Yet it should be noted, that it is worth noting which children (or adults!) have trouble discriminating between letter sounds.
Using their preset word lists, the “flow” from one letter to the next is not ideal: cat-bad-can-bag. I would prefer that the letters “flow” in a more logical manner, say, cat-can-ran, etc. When more than one letter changes, it is more challenging and does not allow children to see the word pattern.

In sum, Word Wizard is a suitable app-probably best used by giving your students your own word lists and watching how they move from one word to the next.

To that end, I wish someone would create an app using the lessons from Making Words (Dorothy Hall and Patricia Cunningham) and especially the excellent Words Their Way (Donald R. Bear, Marcia Invernizzi, Shane Templeton, and Francine Johnston). Fingers crossed!

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