'Appy Hour is going to include reviews of educational, special needs, and just for fun apps. Many of these apps I find by subscribing to a variety of app developers such as Grasshopper Apps that does a Free The App option, by checking Bridging Apps a great website that has a search engine based on skills, and Apps Gone Free, an app that provides daily "free" apps for short periods of time.
Today's review was discovered on Apps Gone Free a few weeks ago: Writing Wizard by L'Escapadou. Normally $2.99, I found it for free via AGF. And it is now on my go-to list of apps for handwriting support.
First, this app is quite customizable. Not only do you have the option in handwriting formats including D'Nealian, Zaner-Bloser and Handwriting without Tears, but you have access to capitals, letters, numbers and words. You also have the option to create reports of tracing history to examine accuracy of motor planning over time.
Under section "For Parents", after you answer a quick math question to unlock parental control~ a cute feature~ it describes how to add words to the "My Words" list. This can be incredibly helpful for spelling practice, reading practice, or name writing. It also provides instructions how to use their "5 Star" Mode during which the practice becomes more challenging; and when the child meet the criteria they get a start.
Visuals and Audio. This app is really appealing. First the child is given a demonstration as well as the name of the letter and its letter sound. As the child traces within the given parameter, cool pictures like tiger heads, flowers, and cupcakes act as the line. After the letter is completed, a cool and kinda trippy thing will happen, reinforcing the letter building. This app does not have over powering backgrounds or background sounds, which I find incredibly useful in the therapeutic and educational setting.
Lastly, overall usability. I have used this app with children pre-K to 5th grade with a variety of special needs including Downs Syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Developmental Delay, and ADHD. This is a kid and adult friendly app. My students with and without disabilities, and my own children, enjoy exploring the letters. They find it highly motivating and engaging. And when paired with paper/pencil tasks, I have noticed improvement with behavior, completion, attention and visual motor skills.
I have to say, it was also very refreshing for the app developers to state to use a stylus. This is a pet peeve of mine. Using a stylus is incredibly important to build the dexterity for writing and coloring with tools. We don't write with our finger tips on paper, so please get a stylus to promote good habits.
When compared to other writing apps out there, this is by far one of my favorites. I would recommend it to teachers, therapists and parents as another way in addition to paper/pencil task, to engage their early learners in another writing skill development. Kudos, L'Escapadou!
Click here for the YouTube video by L'Escapadou.