Touch and Write Phonics offers hands-on writing practice for beginning readers to build skills with vowels, blends and digraphs. Each skill includes a teaching sequence, then practice followed by an interactive reward screen. The app displays the target word with optional tracing guidelines, and players use their finger to trace each letter, leaving a trail of some unusual writing media (like shaving cream or jello). After each letter is traced, the app clearly gives the sound of the letter, blend or digraph, and repeats the word at the end of the activity. Parents and teachers can see records of the child’s efforts, assign practice on troublesome letter sounds, and create individualized or thematic word lists from built-in words.
- Unique papers and textures with sound effects for writing
- Target phonics sounds, blends and digraphs presented in initial, medial and final positions
- Special attention to silent e
- Adjustable reward time in the Prize Room
- Individualized reports in the app or emailed
- Option to organize new word lists from built-in word selections
- Multiple user accounts
- Records of student performance available within the app and can be exported via email
Touch and Write Phonics is easy to use and offers a great way to reinforce sound-symbol correspondence. The voicing on the app for the letter, blend and digraph sounds is superb and is well-timed. Children will find the options for background “paper” and “writing tools” very entertaining, especially with the matching sound effects. The app includes clear directions in the parents’ section as well as settings control for several important usage aspects.
This app offers a great way to build sound-symbol correspondence and phonics skills for emergent readers. The tracing aspect will help many kinesthetic learners! It covers long and short vowel sounds, consonant blends, and consonant digraphs. Each consonant phonic element can be practiced in initial or final position, and the vowels are in medial positions. Optional color coding supports learning, as well: long vowels are colored dark blue and short vowels are colored a lighter blue. Silent vowels are in a still lighter shade of blue making it easy to distinguish each type of sound. Consonant blends and digraphs are also color-coded. This feature can be turned on or off in the settings section. Letters have a trail of cupcakes indicating which way to trace each one, but this is also optional and can easily be turned on or off. Even the reward screen offers one more chance to review the target word by putting the letters into balloons for the user to pop and when the balloons are popped, they repeat the sound of the letter.
One concern I had surfaced when working with longer words, like “seventh”. This word was too long to display across the screen in the font used, but instead of compensating by shrinking the font, the word was split onto two lines. Some words, somewhat shorter (about six letters) are not shown on the screen in their entirety, but as the letters are traced, the word slides to the left allowing the ending letters to become visible. This means that the student does not get to see the word all at once during the tracing time, which could interfere with some students’ learning.
A second minor concern is with the balloons that spell the word in the Prize Room reward screen. One activity is for the student to pop these balloons by touching them and so hear the sounds of each letter one more time. It is possible to pop these balloons (and hear the sounds) in any order. It would be of greater value to force users to pop only from left to right so that the sounds could be mentally blended back together to form the target word.
Suggestions for improvement include a system for users entering their own words in addition to or instead of choosing from the pre-entered list. The built-in list is extensive (several hundred words at least), but the ability to add words would open doors to using this app as a spelling practice tool, which I’m sure many parents and homeschoolers would welcome.
Touch and Write Phonics is highly engaging to use. Teachers and parents will love the ability to focus in on very specific skills for phonics practice, but students will really love the creative and unique “papers” and “writing tools.” There are over 35 background papers to choose from. The writing tools have various colors and textures that are not normally permissible for most assignments, such as shaving cream, maple syrup and chocolate frosting. It would take a long time to try out all of the combinations! Furthermore, the writing tools are also accompanied by appropriate sound effects. When you write with shaving cream, for example, you hear the shooshing sound of shaving cream squirting out of its can.
When a word is completely traced, users are taken to the Prize Room, where a bouncing monster can eat cupcakes around the screen. The monster can be controlled by touching and dragging him or by tilting the device to slide him around. The word that was just traced is represented on balloons at the top of the screen, and when the user pops them one by one, the sounds of each letter are presented one more time. It’s entertaining and fun to collect monsters from each word, since each one stays in its final position throughout the session.
This app is priced at $2.99 and will provide a lot of solid practice for phonics skills as well as letter formation. With the capability to accommodate multiple players, this is a perfect app for classes working with beginning readers. It would be easy to assign each child a different phonics skill based on his or her current needs, and the ability to see records of each user’s performance is invaluable, especially in special education settings.
This app is very child friendly. It includes no outside advertising, no direct links to the internet and no links to social media. There are links to the App Store to view other products from this developer, and email addresses for support and the company are listed but not linked.
It would be worth considering protecting the parent/teacher information area a bit more vigorously. At present, users need only tap the “Info” button in the lower left corner of the screen to access student records and settings controls. This could allow inquisitive or mischievous users to look at other users’ records or even delete them. Some other developers have created a gate-keeping system that requires an adult to enter the answer to a complex math problem or other information that most adults would know but not the young users.
Touch and Write Phonics is an excellent example of a high quality and effective phonics app. It nicely combines visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning to meet the needs of many young learners.