This last month, I had a chance to review the Talking Shapes iPad App from Talking Fingers, Inc. We use the iPad a lot in our homeschool, and I am always looking for educational apps that will keep the little kids busy, while still teaching them something. Almost every day, each child gets some time on the iPad as I teach one of their siblings. Talking Shapes is an educational app that covers a lot of ground by teaching letter recognition, letter sounds, early reading skills and early spelling skills.
Talking Shapes teaches the alphabet in a really unique way. The story goes that long ago, two sisters invented the alphabet. Back then, they didn’t have a way to write letters, so they made up a game to help them come up with a drawing to represent each letter. They decided a cat would represent the letter “c” and a fox would represent the letter “f” and so on. The app goes through each letter, one by one, giving each a picture symbol.
When you open the app, there are three ways to play. First, you can choose to have the app read stories. The content of the app is broken down into three “books” and each book teaches different letters. The app tells the story of each letter, asks the child to pronounce the word “cat” for “c,” “acrobat” for “a,” “elephant” for “e” and so on, and then gives the child a chance to write the letters. The letters are not introduced in alphabetical order.
The second way to play is to “draw letters”. Again, the content is broken down into three “books”. This section is very similar to the read stories section, but instead of the background story, you are only given the individual letter stories. It also begins teaching kids to combine the letters to form basic, three letter words.
The third choice is to “play game”. Each of the three books has three game options. You can “Find the Shapes” which is spelling words with the picture cues. The second game is “find the letters” where you spell words without picture cues. The third game is “Draw the Letters” which gives you a picture cue without the letter filled in, and then you draw the letter on the picture.The games progress to choosing a word to fill in a sentence, and at this point, the skill and speed required increases.
Mr. Man really struggled with the Talking Shapes App, because when he was asked to say a word, he couldn’t get the microphone to pick up his voice or understand him. We don’t have a cover on the iPad, and I could not get it to register my words either most of the time, so I don’t think this is a problem of us muffling the microphone. Luckily, it moves on after two wrong attempts, but it was a source of frustration for him. He’s the kind of child who gets overwhelmed easily, and is very sensitive, so other children may not be as bothered by this if they can’t pronounce the words just right for the App to understand.
I wish the app required proper letter formation when it asks the child to write the letter. The problem is that the letters they are asked to write are quite small on the screen, and it allows children to “draw” the letter in any order (they are filling in the letter shape). Your child just has to swipe over it (scribbling would work- which is what Mr. Man did) and the letter will fill in. I don’t feel like this app effectively teaches letter formation for this reason.
We used the Talking Shapes app multiple times a week for about a month, and by the end of the month, he was choosing to only use the “play games” section so he could use the drag-and-drop to spell words since he doesn’t have to say anything for that section. He did enjoy the games, and I saw an improvement in his ability to spell three letter words.
I liked the stories behind the letters, and thought the picture association was helpful. I liked the visual cues, and Little Miss likes to look at the pictures. She is the one who enjoyed this app the most. She’s too young to use the App for the games, but she leans over Mr. Man’s shoulder and says things like “/c/ /c/ CAT!” as she looks at the graphics.
The pictures and story line for each letter is really well done, and this App has so much potential. However, the glitches were too much for our family. In addition to the microphone issues, we’ve had issues with it freezing up the iPad (we’ve had to hard reset quite a few times and intermittent lack of responsiveness. It also took longer than 24 hours for it to download and install when I first made the App store purchase.
The content of this Talking Shapes is fantastic. Hopefully, the creators of the App will be able to find a solution to the glitches and update the App, because overall the story and games are very well done. If the App didn’t have as many technical issues, my kids probably would have loved it. (If they do update it, I will do my best to return and report!)
In a Nutshell
Talking Shapes has fantastic potential, and I will be watching for updates in the App store in the hopes that they work out some of the glitches we experienced. When it’s updated, this App is going to be great. The story basis for the letters is really well done, and I feel like it would help with letter recognition for kids who enjoy stories and pictures. It’s wonderful for visual learners, and learners who appreciate pictorial cues to help with memory.
Talking Shapes is recommended for Pre-K to K.
Purchasing Information: You can get the Talking Shapes App in the iTunes store for $5.99.