Tuesday, June 19, 2012

LetterSchool - iWrite Words

I think that one of the easiest places to start using iPads is during handwriting times.  You can hand a kid an iPad with a handwriting app and they can practice fairly independently.  It may not be the area that showcases any of the best reasons to use iPads (fostering creativity, allowing for problem solving, encouraging persistence) but it is an easy, safe place to start.  (perfect for tentative teachers who are not sure how they'll get iPads into their program or those who are new to this technology and need to wade in - not dive in)

Here's what we do:

We start with iWrite Words by gdiplus.  It is easy to use, has pleasing and simple graphics, and gives both the letter in stroke order, but also offers the option of spelling words.

We add on LetterSchool by Boreaal.  We love this app!  Just like iWrite Words, LetterSchool is easy to use and has really sharp graphics.  LetterSchool adds a little extra.  It offers three steps to learning each letter.  First, the student follows the starting point for each stroke.  Next, the student needs to drag their finger along the letter outline in stroke order.  Finally, the letter disappears and the student must write the letter unaided.

What we like:

*both apps are guided and self correcting - in other words, the app won't let the student write anywhere outside of the letter shape - you can't use the wrong stroke order or scribble

*neither app is over congratulatory and both have a nice little "payoff" after correctly writing a letter - a little interactive piece that doesn't drag on too long

*since we use Handwriting Without Tears, we like that iWrite Words is similar to that font and we love that LetterSchool lets us chose from HWT, D'nealian, and Zaner-Bloser fonts

*both apps allow for lower case, upper case, and numbers

What we'd like to change:

*I'd love to get a choice of fonts on iWrite Words

*I wish that there was an easy way (right on the home screen or on one of the corners of the app) to reset progress - this helps in a classroom setting where we often have students sharing iPads

*I wish that iWrite Words would add a phonics component - perhaps a word that features each letter and its sound

Why we really love these handwriting apps:

It's so difficult to find an app that can do something better than the teacher can.  These apps do just that.  I can't stand over 24 students and simultaneously know that they are using proper pencil grip and stroke order.  I only can know that about the 1 or 2 students that I can see at any given time.  If students are working on an app that won't let them practice their letters incorrectly - then I can be assured that good habits are being reinforced and not just for the one student that I happen to be watching.

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