Spooky Letters offers young learners a chance to practice tracing capital, lower case and cursive letters. The app also features games and activities that will help children review basic phonics sounds, all with a Halloween theme.
Practice for manuscript capital, manuscript lower case, and lower case cursive letters
Review of letter sounds and key words
Gentle correction for inaccurate tracing
Access puzzles and words for completed letters any time
Spooky Letters is a good app to build fine motor skills, practice letter recognition and formation, and develop phonemic awareness. The app is intuitive to use, and includes parent directions as well as an option to reset the app so students can play again and again. Young learners will be encouraged to be accurate in their tracing and avoid rushing because missing even one of the guiding dots will cause the letter to reset and force the student to begin again. There are at least two misspellings in the system, as well. Quetzalcoatl is misspelled as “quezacoatal” and Jabberwocky is misspelled as “jabbawocky.” I did not see any reference to British variations in the spellings of these words, but they are so unusual that young children are not likely to notice.
This app is designed with young learners and those with dyslexia in mind. Students choose the format of letters to practice. The app shows the letter’s formation, then prompts the learner to connect the guiding dots to trace the letter accurately. After tracing each letter, there is a short reward activity that varies based on the form of the letter being traced. Tracing lower case manuscript or cursive letters successfully will cause an animated picture of a Halloween key word (such as R for Robot or B for Bat) to appear. The player can then trace a dot-to-dot version. Tracing capital manuscript letters triggers a spelling game. Players unscramble a two- or three-letter word while listening to the sounds of each letter. When all of the letters in the group are completed, there is another reward sequence that can be activated.
Parents should be aware that this app is designed for a British audience, so the words and instructions are voiced with a British accent. There are also a few drawbacks that may be detrimental to some learners, as well. The female voice that names the key words is frequently unclear, making it somewhat difficult to unscramble the words. For example, the word “ant” completely omits the final /t/ sound, and the word “tap” sounds very much like “pat.” The /s/ sound is particularly problematic in this regard, as well as many ending consonants. Another concern is that some of the key words chosen are not phonetically regular. The word “owl” for example, is sounded out as long o, consonant /w/, /l/ which is very different than the /ow/ and /l/ sounds really needed. The narrator also says each sound twice as the words are being spelling, which could further confuse and disrupt learners who are having difficulty with the process. Parents should also be aware that the fonts used, especially for the cursive letters, differ somewhat from those typical taught in American schools. Cursive R and S, for example, are formed nearly like their manuscript counterparts, except they have added connecting lines. Finally, some children may be discouraged when they go to spell words with double letters, such as “zoo.” The system distinguishes between the two o’s, so there is a correct and an incorrect place for each one, which may confuse some learners since there is no visual difference between the two.
Spooky Letters does an outstanding job of highlighting a Halloween theme, which many young students will find motivating. Each key word is related to the theme, and the drawings are cute and often animated. Most of the key words are typical choices for the season, such as C for cat, and H for haunted house. Developers shake things up a bit by using words like “quezacoatal” and “jabbawocky.” The dot-to-dot picture activity is enjoyable, and the system gives a great deal of latitude in connecting the dots to create the complex pictures. Users can make errors, but as soon as the last dot has been connected, the original picture appears, which will please young children and give them a sense of accomplishment.
This app will be a fun addition to your collection if you want to encourage young players to practice tracing letters with a thematic flair. It does a good job of providing practice in forming the letters, and has the added benefit of reinforcing phonics and sound segmentation and blending skills. With three different types of letters to trace, students can practice for several years’ worth of holidays!
However, parents should be aware of the app’s drawbacks before they purchase. Use caution if your student truly is dyslexic or experiencing other learning problems, because the different letter forms, the sometimes difficult and even inaccurate letter sounds, and the two misspelled words could cause more confusion for these students than necessary. It should be fine for students who are developing skills at the usual pace, and those who need practice with forming the letters carefully.
This app is very child-friendly. There are no in-app purchases, no outside advertisements, and no links to social media. The parents’ section is accessible to all users, but contains no outside links. There is a pop-up ad on the lower portion of the home screen that invites users to explore other apps by this developer, but access to the App Store is controlled by a parent gate requiring users to perform complex mental addition.