Talking Shapes by Talking Fingers Inc. is a clever app that is creating a concrete link between letters, letter sounds, and words that begin with that sound. The app has lots of different activities to explore, all having to do with these early reading skills. All of the games and practice revolve around three stories about the Two Sisters Who Invented the Alphabet. Book 1, The Fat Cat introduces the sisters and tells about a few letter shapes they create. Book 2, The Silly Hen adds more letter sounds as the girls continue their story. Book 3, The Dancing Pig adds even more letters to the mix and scaffolds on the previous stories. By the end of Book 3, children should be able to use 17 letters and 18 phonemes (sounds) to create 30 different words.
Each story is narrated and has a movement or two on the earlier pages. Later pages, as the girls begin to come up with letter shapes, are more interactive. Users practice tracing the shape as it is laid down on the picture, trace the letter with no picture, and trace the picture with no letter outline. These are small tracings and don’t have to be followed exactly (so unfortunately you can scribble to fill in the letter and it is counted as complete). On some pages you also trace whole words. All of the words traced in this app are 3 letter words.
There is also a Draw Letters section. After choosing which book you want to draw letters from, the book returns to the pages where letter formation is practiced. Children rewatch and practice the letter formation as described above. In the Play Game section, after choosing your book, children can choose from three games. Find the Shapes, Find the Letters, or Draw the Letters. In Find the Shapes, children drag the letter and corresponding shape to make simple words. In Find the Letters, the pictures are missing and children must drag just the letter to make words. In Draw the Letters, children trace various words.
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This app has a lot to offer the young reader. I really liked the concrete connection between letter sounds and pictures to represent the sound. For instance N is a Noodle and H is a Hat. I think this is a super clever way to associate letters, sounds, and words. The stories are good, though a little bit slow. The rhyming narration is good for young learners though. I also liked that the games were played through the books. New readers could start with book 1 while more advanced kids could use more letters in book 3 activities. My only complaint is that children can scribble to fill in the traceable letters. I wish the app were more sensitive to the letter formation.
Overall, Talking Shapes is a neat way to associate letters, sounds, and words. I think that the way the developer connected these concrete ideas to the abstract thought of letter formation will really cement the learning in our children’s minds.
Talking Shapes is availabe for download via the iTunes App Store - iPad/iPad Mini/iPad Air
RRP - $5.99/£3.99/€5.49
At the time of this review, this app had no in-app purchases. Two additional apps are planned to finish introducing the letters and sounds. There are no ads or external links within the app.
Talking Shapes has been developed, in part, with a research grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). “Jeannine is one of the few scientists who can translate complex research findings into effective instructional solutions for kids,” says G. Reid Lyon, Ph.D., former Chief of the Child Development Branch within the NICHD. Independent research has shown significant improvement in preschoolers’ skills after using Talking Shapes.
This app was reviewed by Sarah Emerling, a mom, teacher, and technology coach. She is a self-proclaimed tech nerd and is passionate about technology in education. You can follow her ed. tech. blog at The iLesson Lady.
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Disclosure: This review was move up the waiting list priority-services. All opinions expressed are purely that of the author.