Thursday, May 19, 2011

iPad Apps- Alphabet and Writing

I've been going through our iPad apps and writing up what each one is about and whether we like it or not along with what its best uses are.  Here's the first (of several) post with the alphabet and writing apps that we've tried out and have at least made it to the "second cut".  Many of them are GREAT apps which I highly recommend!  Several of them made it to the second round on the iPad and are about to be uninstalled.  So... happy reading, and please share any Alphabet and Writing iPad apps that you like (or don't like!) with us as well!  Please also note if they are FREE or if they cost something ($-$$$)

Here goes...

 iPad Applications  (05/2011)
Pre-K Alphabet and Writing-
  • Starfall ABCs ($)  This is one of my favorite app’s for the alphabet!  Brianna spends literally hours exploring this app.  Originally designed for iPhone (but being used on our iPad), it brings up the uppercase alphabet as ‘stacking blocks’ which move side to side sliding along their rows as the iPad is tipped sideways.  When a letter is selected, the letter shows up in uppercase and lowercase form and says the letter name twice along with an object that starts with that letter (not spoken) such as a horn (with sound) for H.  There is a blinking arrow in the corner to press to go on to the next screen, and the letter sound (hhh) is made as it transitions pages.  Another pointer shows to press the lowercase letter on the side of the page, with a picture in the background (h, helicopter).  Press the letter and it makes the sound, says the name of the picture, animates and puts sound to the picture, and brings the letter down to the bottom of the screen where the word for the picture is written (hhh, helicopter), then another arrow appears to advance to the next screen, along with a vocalization of the letter sound with the screen transition.  There are two more “identical” screens, with different words represented and animated, etc. **The program does not allow the child to advance to the next screen until the animation and sounds, etc are complete!**  After 3 words, the letter H goes to a game saying “make a match” which is a basic concentration or memory game with uppercase and lowercase letters being matched together (6 pairs).  Letters are spoken as they’re chosen, and the letter sound made when the match is made.  Encouragement “You did it!” and music plays at the completion of the game.  The next screen shows a sentence with an animated picture “See the happy hippo”.  The words are spoken and the picture animated, and it’s hard to see, but that picture was under the concentration game while playing.  This is one of the few apps I’ve paid for but I’m very happy with the amount of thought put into its development. has been a long time teaching tool we’ve used with our children which has additional (free!) features too!
  • 5 Pumpkins ABC and Me!  (FREE) I love this 6 in 1 app!  These are basic flashcards, but with some customizing available.  The six areas are letters, numbers, shapes, colors, vehicles, and foods.  Each area allows you to ‘star’ certain cards and in the settings you can choose to see only starred selections.  When working on 5 alphabet letters or three basic colors, you can choose to have only those shown.  This is great!  With letters it shows a capital letter with an object (A, apple) and the object name (Apple) written below.  A ‘flick’ advances the pages, right to left.  The letter is spoken, the sound spoken, and the name of the object as well.  For the other sets of flashcards only the name of the number, shape, color, etc is spoken.  The colors have a child’s voice.  It’s a very basic app but with the ability to customize which flashcards are shown it is worthwhile, and, FREE!
  • ABC Al… Touch  “PhotoTouch” ABC.  (FREE) This app is just a little more advanced than basic alphabet flashcards or ‘teaching’.  It shows three uppercase letters on the screen then says “Touch the L”.  Choosing the correct letter ‘circles’ the letter and a verbal encouragement “Super!” (rotating encouragements!) is given.  If incorrect, a sound (not discouraging) is played.  The same positive encouragement is given regardless of the number of wrong answers previously given.   After several correct answers, it becomes a choice from four letters, then five, six, etc up to 10 letters shown.  Their layout on the screen (scattered) changes as well.   In the corner is a “replay” button to repeat the requested letter (spoken). 
  • iWW Lite, I Write Words (FREE)  This is the lite version and isn’t a full program, but, it’s FREE which is nice!  This is a cute concept that teaches how to make the letters (writing).  It uses spoken words and small animations to encourage and make it fun, clapping sounds, etc.  A little face shows up with colored numbers on dots along the outline of a letter.  Drag the ‘monster along from number to number like connect-the-dots to form the letter.  If it’s dragged outside a small perimeter box, then it resets at the beginning.  If you stay within the box and within generally close proximity to the letters, it accepts your approximations.  Uppercase A, B, C are included in the lite version as well as lowercase a, b, c, numbers 1-9, a few basic words (cat, cup).  This is one we will consider purchasing in the future if our kids take off with the concept, but the lite version allows us to know if they’ll really use it before purchasing!
  • ABC Alphabet (coloring)  (FREE)  This is a very basic app, but if your kids like to color with their iPad then it is a good one.  It’s got a basic technique of coloring in a whole area at a time and shows the entire available color palate on the side of the screen.  Can zoom in and out on the photo and save, though we don’t really use those features.  Each ‘coloring page’ shows a letter, object, and word “B b (picture of ball) Ball”
  • Pocket Phonics ABC LITE  (FREE).  There are two games here, letter sounds and writing and word game.  This one is also based on writing letters correctly and suggests “Say iii then write”.  It is more precise than the other writing app and says “try again” if it’s incorrect.  Some of the directions are written (when I say a sound, touch it) .  It forms words by asking for sounds and you touch the corresponding letter ie: “iii”   “ttt”  “it” “it”.  It also shows pictures.  It’s not a very exciting game and the voice isn’t super encouraging, but it is a good app if you’re sitting with your child and able to encourage them to continue and give brief promptings to get started on activities.  Full version includes the entire alphabet and you can add users. 
  • ABC Free (FREE).  This app shows an opening screen with the alphavet, a mixture of uppercase and lowercase (lowercase I and J) with pictures next to each letter representing their sounds.   When you select a letter, the screen changes to show a scrolling version of the homescreen in one long row across the top, then speaks the letter name “O” and shows the image for that letter larger in the center of the screen.  Tap the picture and it says a sentence “O is for orange” and has it written in all CAPS across the bottom of the screen.  I didn’t think it was that entertaining, but… Brianna enjoys it.  So, we kept it and she is learning when using it, and that is the goal!  The images are fun and in a ‘drawn’ style.
  • ABC Coloring Book (FREE).  This app opens with a painter’s palate with the alphabet on it.  Select a letter and it speaks “M, monkey” and shows a small image of a monkey near the alphabet letters.  You can change the backdrop from a painter’s palate to a winter scene, but some letters are locked in the winter scene.  Click the image of the monkey and it becomes a coloring page with a digital ‘pen stroke’ to color with (as opposed to clicking an area with auto-fill).  The next letter is at the edge of the screen to choose to advance that way instead of by going back to the home screen.  A cute coloring tool.  “Monkey” is written at the edge of the screen and clicking on it vocalizes “M, monkey”.
  • Alpha ABC Free (FREE).  This is one that I don’t think will stick around long on our iPad.  The voice, quite frankly, is annoying!!  It’s a child-like voice but not a comforting or playful one.  You can choose which type of African animal is above the alphabet flashcards and advance the cards with the right to left flick. “Aa” with a picture of ants and “Ants” written below them show on the card.   Ads on the top of the page.  Again, not one that’s sticking around on our device, but another generic flashcard program if you’re looking for diversity.
  •  Phonics Land Free (FREE).  I am impressed with this one and will likely purchase the full version soon.  The opening screen shows 6 letters and plays music.  Choose a letter and it shows three ‘cards’ with an ‘A’ word on each (Ant, Alligator, Apple).  Use your finger to ‘erase’ the white card and show an image below of the word.  The word is then shown at the bottom and the word spoken.  Not difficult to ‘clear’ the entire image, as much grace is given.  When all three cards are uncovered,  an animation begins. A , A, aaa aaa aaa, then “Ant” “apple” “alligator show with animations and speaking.  Then the three words are put together into sentences using those three words, all animated, all read, and the first time through the words are shown at the bottom.  The story repeats two more times with rhythm to it.  Very cute!  Only six letters are included in the free version.  This is an app we will look at purchasing the full version of!
  • Alphabet World Free (FREE).  I believe this is by the same developers as Phonics Land.  Four letters (and two songs) show on the opening page.  This says the letter name, then shows how to write it both uppercase and lowercase.  It shows a word “apple” then goes into a fun song using the word and an animation “Apple, apple, crunch crunch crunch”.  Then goes on to other words with a.  “Ant, ant, crawl crawl, crawl”.  Very cute, though I can see the little catchy tunes getting on my nerves after a while J  After the animation there’s a coloring part.  This doesn’t give any boundaries in coloring and you cannot see the letters when you color as soon as you color over their boundary lines.  There’s also an alphabet game that asks to find the picture that matches the word “Apple” and there are 5-6 bubbles floating around, you click the corresponding picture.  These go with the words introduced with the letters.  At the top of the screen is a menu that pulls down that allows you to choose ‘home’, ‘chant,’ ‘letter,’ ‘color,’ and ‘game.’  After every 2 letters there’s a song choice, which puts the chants into a cute little song.   It shows the words at the bottom of the screen, highlighted as they are spoken.  A cute one, another that we may purchase in the future.
  • Z is for Zebra (FREE).  This opens with an ad… which is annoying!  The free version has the first 8 letters of the alphabet.  Choose a letter from the home screen and it shows the letter with a picture representing it “Ff (pic of fish)”  There’s a “volume” looking button in the corner that makes the letter sound.  VERY basic, one that won’t stick around for long because it’s not very exciting and because it doesn’t engage.  It’s one the kids quickly click the button on because they can’t figure out what to DO with this app.  But for some simple instruction on letter sounds, it’s one more avenue to use. 
  • Toddler Alphabet- Toddler ABC Lite (FREE).  This one looks cute and plays music and speaks in a fun voice when opening it, but that’s about how long it lasts with Brianna.  It works like a wooden puzzle, putting 3 puzzle pieces in to a puzzle, all starting with the ‘a’ sound.  Then… what do you do??  At the very top of the screen you have to move a small picture along a maze to go to the next activity.  It’s not a very exciting game.  No suggestion as to WHY the baseball, boat, and bear are chosen… no visuals of their words or the letter sound isolated.  Another that we click on and expected fun learning but were disappointed.  HOWEVER, there is an alphabet song with the ABCs all dancing which the kids like to listen to as well as an area to write each letter.  Except… that it doesn’t make you do the letter correctly or say “oops” or anything, it just makes sure a few key areas of the letter are covered with pen, but the ENTIRE page could be colored in and it says “good job” and continues on… The “learn the alphabet” area has a whole page of letters but no directions of what to do with them.  You eventually figure out that you press the “b”s if that’s what is shown at the top of the page.  Not very good directions.  It circles each correct letter and makes a sound at wrong ones, then uncovers a picture when all the letters were selected.  Again, not really a winner, but has potential to be a decent app maybe with some upgrades to the directions. 
  • Phonics Free- Learn Phonics (FREE).  This one has three parts.  Letters part has all the uppercase letters and as you touch them they say their letter sound.  Very simple, but cute and easy to use and understand.  Word Construction you choose a letter and it shows a word starting with that letter.  Click the word’s letters and they make their sounds.  Also shows a picture.  Changes one letter at a time to make new words when possible.  “Bad”, “bed”.   Several words for each letter.  Does not allow you to advance the word before the previous word is written and sounded out.  A cute app, decent build to it and one that we’d consider purchasing if the kids enjoy using the free version.
  • Trace Right! (FREE).  This is a PARENT app, one that shouldn’t be handed to a child and let them go with it.  Instead, it’s a great one to sit with the child and do together.  It shows ‘b’ and shows how to draw it then has another one drawn to trace over.  It does correct you but only if you ASK it to.  It is also pretty precise, since I did it ‘close’ and it kept telling me to try again… you can advance without it being ‘right’ if you decide to.  Also, if you tap three times, it starts the same word three times and stutters.  This is one of the 'tests' I do with apps since my kids tend to press multiple times for a single request.   I like the concept, but it does need a little work.  
Your turn!  Any Alphabet and Writing apps that you love??

1 comment:

  1. Oh my goodness is this a helpful list!! We've recently won an iPad and I've never even seen one in real life! I've been struggling because I have to let them know which apps we want (they are including $500 worth) them to install before they ship it. I would be so incredibly interested in hear about more apps geared toward younger and lower-cognitively funcitoning children.