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Friday, May 20, 2011

Wordy Qwerty Review

You may remember back in the fall my kids and I had a chance to review Read, Write & Type by Talking Fingers.  To say that they loved it is an understatement.  And they KNEW that the Crew was going to have another product by Talking Fingers to review in the spring, so they asked over and over if we were going to review it and when, oh when, might that be?

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Well, their prayers were answered a few weeks ago when we were indeed selected to review Wordy Qwerty, the next "level" up from Read, Write & TypeWordy Qwerty teaches students to identify spelling "patterns" such as silent "e" and when the "c" makes the "ssss" sound.  Below you can see a sample parent report chart with all the skills that are covered.  (You may have to click on the picture to see it really well.)


 For each skill, there are several activities to complete- categorizing words to deduce the spelling pattern by discovery, listening to a catchy song about that spelling rule, typing sample words in sentences, recognizing correctly spelled words, and finally just spelling the words outright.  As a student progresses through all those activities for one skill, they are then allowed to continue on to another.  Correct answers are rewarded with points and game advancement.  Incorrect answers get no points (and sometimes cost you points) and also will initially stop you from advancing.  Correct typing skills are suggested, although they are not nearly as instructed as they were in Read, Write & Type.  Twenty common spelling rules, a.k.a. patterns, are taught, and the product is recommended for children in grades 2-4.  It is available on CD ROM for $35 or as a program played online with varying costs depending on how many licenses you need (but for one student it is $25 for a 5 year subscription).
  
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( The chart above shows a more detailed outline of what the first few activities cover.)

The pros:  I love this company, and Kris, the creative mind behind Talking Fingers is wonderful.  The jingles to teach the rules are catchy and effective.  I also like the encouragement for the students to place their fingers correctly on the keyboard before beginning to type and the fact that assistance is rendered for incorrect answers by fingers that show where the correct letter is located and what finger should type it.  I LOVE that parents can access a report that tells them how their child is doing with each skill.  Also, students can go back and replay skills that they need more practice on.

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The cons:  Have you ever really, really wanted to like a product but sadly found it lacking?  That's how I feel!  I want to start with saying both my kids who used this say they love it.  BUT, unlike with Read, Write & Type (RW&T), they weren't begging to use it.  In fact, each completed only two sections before this review was done, as opposed to both of them FINISHING RW&T before that review was due.  But both are willing to keep working on it, and they will, I assure you ;-).  As a mom though, I just feel like the program is lacking in a few areas.  First, the navigation is NOT intuitive at all.  Sometimes, I didn't know where to click to move on or how to advance from activity to activity.  In fact, there is no "start" button on the home screen-just a "replay" and a "next".  In my mind, I didn't want to do either...I wanted to "start" (but it should be noted that I played on my daughter's account AFTER she had already played, so maybe there was more introductory information, and I missed it).  I didn't care for the little buzzer to let you know that an answer is wrong.  Basically, the program allows for "multiple guess" before it finally kicks in and helps you.  I'd like to see it prompt you with more instruction after the first incorrect answer.  Otherwise, kids can just sit and click and eventually luck into the right response.  And currently the program has a parental control that allows you to chose what percentage your child has to achieve to move on, but that only holds true for the FIRST attempt.  If they fail to get that percentage the second time, they are still promoted so as to not discourage the student.  I DO NOT like that!!!!  I think it just reinforces the incorrect answers and negates the importance of knowing the correct one.  It is also possible on some screens, like the spelling test, to spell words incorrectly and never receive any feedback that tells you they are wrong other than a lack of points being awarded.  If I spell "cake" as "kake", I think the correct spelling should pop up and I should have to type it right before moving on.  Otherwise, there is no actual instruction and the wrong answer is never addresses.  That is NOT true on every activity, some do eventually prompt  you to type the correct letter, but it takes several wrong guesses before you get to that point.  Finally, this wouldn't be a stand-alone spelling program, and the sequence that skills are covered might not line up with the sequence your chosen core language arts program uses, so you'd want to check that out.

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The bottom line:  I love Talking Fingers, and we adore Read, Write & Type.  And I have to say I actually like the graphics a little better in Wordy Qwerty.  But I wish it held students to a higher standard of excellence instead of promoting them just so they don't feel badly about failing.  It's better to master a skill before moving on than proceed forward with a false assumption that you are ready to continue on.  With that said, I do plan for my children to continue working through the program over the summer, and I am confident they will learn the rules they don't know thanks to the songs if not the practice activities.  But the best part is, you don't have to rely just on my review to make your decision.  Talking Fingers offers a free trial of the online version HERE.  And you can read the reviews of other members of the TOS Crew HERE to see how their experiences differed from mine

Legal Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received two online subscriptions to Wordy Qwerty so that I could offer my honest review.  Those subscriptions were the only compensation I received.
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