Talking Shapes Online (Crew Review)

Talking Shapes Review
All my children have shown a proclivity for learning through computer programs, so I’m always on the lookout for new things they can try out.  We were recently given a chance to review a new online version of the Talking Shapes: A Supplemental Curriculum for Early Literacy app from Talking Fingers Inc., and Arianna (4) has enjoyed having a program just for her.

Talking Shapes {Talking Fingers Inc. Review}

About Talking Shapes

Talking Shapes is an online program that you can access through any computer or device with Internet access.  It teaches phonics using pictures that children can associate with letters and their sounds.  They practice writing the letters, reading the sounds, and creating words by putting letters together.

There are seven “books” users work their way through.  As they complete the lessons in each book, they can see their progress on the main menu.  Arianna completed three of the books during our review period, and each one used consonant-vowel-consonant words focusing on a particular short vowel sound.

Main Menu
There are a variety of different activities within each “book.”  In some, pictures are shown, and the student is supposed to choose from a selection of letters in order to spell the word.

Talking Shape 1
After the student has practiced several words, they are given a chance to read and then fill in missing words in a rhyme.

Talking Shapes 3

Our Experience

I had high hopes for Talking Shapes.  It seems like a fun concept to help children learn phonics.  In actuality, however, it seems like the online version still needs a bit of fine tuning.  (I haven’t used the app, but I’m guessing our frustrations were due to technical issues related to the new format.) I tried to let Arianna work independently while I was doing lessons with the boys, but she constantly was running into problems with things not working for her and I would have to tell her to just quit for the day, or else stop what I was doing and come over to click around or test things to get everything going again.  (She uses several other online programs with no trouble, so I know it wasn’t just that she didn’t know how to use the computer.)

For example, she is okay with a mouse, but I thought using our touch screen computer would be a good way for her to practice writing letters.  Unfortunately, we ran into all sorts of problems trying to use the touch screen (she couldn’t drag her finger without it adjusting the zoom, so she had to tap it just right, which proved frustrating).  I finally gave up and just had her do the best she could with the mouse.  It didn’t really matter, because she didn’t have to form the letter correctly; just scribbling over it made the letter appear.

letter formation scribbles
Overall, I liked the phonics practice it gave Arianna, but while the idea of “talking shapes” makes sense, at times it seemed like a hindrance to actually making progress with learning to read.  Arianna already knows most of the letters and their sounds, but in some of the activities she was supposed to choose a picture, rather than a letter, so she had to learn which pictures meant which letter, which seemed like an extra, unnecessary step.  (Then she used the mouse to scribble over the picture and reveal the letter.)  For example, in the activity shown below, she was supposed to spell the word in the picture between the two girls, in this case, CAT.  The “talking shape” of the cat represented C, but then she was supposed to choose the A and T.  She had a hard time remembering that the girl with her arms down represented “A.”  If she had been shown the actual letter she would have been able to complete this word quickly.

Talking Shapes 2
These activities would probably be more helpful for students who have no previous phonics knowledge, but Arianna found them a bit frustrating because she thought she knew how to spell the words but then she got tripped up by the “talking shape” pictures.

Overall, I think Talking Shapes has a lot of potential.  It really helped boost Arianna’s confidence in her reading skills, and I was glad to have a place for her to practice outside of her regular lessons.

Talking Shapes {Talking Fingers Inc. Review}
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