Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Talking Shapes iPad App {A Review}

Talking Fingers, Inc. sent us Talking Shapes iPad App ($5.99) to review. Talking Fingers is designed for preschool to kindergarten children. 

It starts with an interactive story about how two sisters invented the alphabet "long, long ago." They needed to find a way to remember the great stories that they told. So they came up with pictures that represent the sounds. These pictures can then be formed into letters. There is a set of seven stories that introduce all 40 phonemes and the letters that stand for those sounds. Each story adds six new phonemes to the list. 

What's Included
We reviewed the first 3 books. Each of the stories are read to the child and include a vowel song. Each book has:
  • Three games designed to help children sound-out and build three-letter words, drawing the letters as they play. Turtles, birds, and dinoes lay eggs for those correct. When four eggs have been earned, it goes to a page with the animal and the eggs. The eggs crack and babies come out. The child is to click on the picture of a book.
    • Game 1: Find the Shapes-The child moves the picture with the letter on it to the box in the proper order.
    • Game 2: Find the Letters-The child moves the letter bubble to the box in the order of the word picture given.
    • Game 3: Draw the Letters-The child chooses the picture that represents the sounds in a given word. Then he/she moves his/her finger over the picture and the letter part shows up.

  • A reward picture comes up after each game.
  • Then the child listens to a four-sentence story and the words appear as the words are playing. When they appear again with blanks, the missing word is to be selected from six flying objects to fill in the blanks in the sentences. The child can click on lips to repeat the line.
    • Book 1 Balloons 
    • Book 2 Flying chickens
    • Book 3 Flying pigs 

How we Used it & Required Time Involved 
Li worked on each of the books and games on his own with me hovering about to assist when he needed me. He loves the i-pad and is very independent and adept at using it. He also already knows most of the letters and the sounds that they make, so he didn't need assistance from me. He would spend about 15 minutes working on the various activities of his choosing off and on throughout the weeks. 

For more videos see Talking Fingers youtube channel

There are a few easily maneuverable navigation buttons. On the home page there is a next, back, and home button. On each page, there was a ? with hints for interaction on the page.

We would love to see the letters and boxes in the games make their sounds when Li touched them. Sometimes he would not know what would come next. If he could touch the box and the proper sound be made, he would have an easier time making it match. This would lead to a more solid phonics and phonemic awareness development. 

During the course of the stories, we would love to see more letter/sound interactives. Most of the things that were interactive were making eyes move or something pop out of a window, etc. There were some letter/sound interactives that did occur, but happened after voice recognition.

Some quirky things happened, which may be unique to our i-pad, but would improve the program overall if not.

~For the games that go along with the second book, the reward picture at the end didn't have a book. An arrow would show up and point at nothing. 
~If Li made a mistake, it would kick him out and back to the main i-pad screen. This was really frustrating for him. When he went back to the program, it started him all over again at the home page of the program.
~We could not get the voice recognition to work for the stories. You must turn it on under the i-pad's settings in the Talking Fingers box, but it still wouldn't recognize anyone's voice. This made it so we were unable to do any other part of the animation.

A couple of things that stood out to me as a Literacy Coordinator were:

1) The letters were not in an even line when placed in the boxes. When children are faced with reading text, print runs in a straight line. The letters being in different spots in the boxes can lead to confusion in how the letters look embedded into words. 
2) One of the words that the child has to spell is man. When the "a" makes its sound, after being drug to the box, it is a different a sound than is in the word man. 
3) All capital letters are taught. Using both the upper and lower case letters would be advantageous for early learners. This would help them with both letter/sound correspondence and with upper/lower case matching.
4) The child does not have to trace the letters in proper formation. Just rubbing your finger over any part reveals the letter-like a scratch off ticket. Proper letter tracing would reap benefits for handwriting as well as letter recognition. 

What Li Liked

Li loves the interactions. He would push the hen to make the man fall down over and over again, laughing all of the while.

He also enjoyed the vowel song that plays at the end of the stories. I would hear him singing it at various times throughout the day. 


There is a bit of crude humor. There are belching mountains and a camel that belches as well.
Click here to read more reviews from Schoolhouse Review Crew.

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