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LetterSchool (tap-trace-write letters) is a Top Pick app!


LetterSchool is one of the most popular and highly effective handwriting apps currently in the market, specially designed for pre-school age children. This innovative app was developed by Sanoma Media Netherlands B.V, and features three progressing levels – tap, trace and write – to learn every letter. It has incorporated attractive colors, sounds, phonics, and counting in order to turn using this app into a game-like experience, making it more appealing to children.

Even though the app has been fully created with children in mind, it is recommended that the parents review the settings depending on the preferences and proficiency level of their child prior to using it for the best results. The app offers 3 profiles with different styles of writing.
  • Handwriting Without Tears
  • D’Nealian
  • Zaner-Bloser

Each of these typesets can be changed if needed even halfway of completing it and it is designed to save the progress up to 3 different children if more than one child is using the app. Get your child also involved in choosing a typeface since they are more likely to engage with enthusiasm if it is one that they feel attracted to. However, try to get involved as much as possible when the child is using the app since one has to ensure that the child is using good techniques when writing. For example, when I was using this app with my daughter, she used to use both hands to write, kept rotating the iPad and tend to use odd angles when writing; things which need to be corrected early on before becoming a habit. She needed regular reminders to use her dominant hand and keep steady and correct posture.

The app offers writing help for both uppercase and lowercase letters. It also has a section for numbers (from 1 to 10). You can see the uppercase letters on the opening screen and swipe or adjust the settings to see the screens with lowercase letters and numbers.

Apart from the colorful and attractive interface, the app designers have used plenty of audiovisual techniques to make the writing process more entertaining to the child. For example, every letter has a very catchy jingle at the start, and a unique sound it makes. This helps to get the start of the phonics in the young mind of your child.

I believe it would be even better if the specific object that is connected to each letter is designed to change when attempting, giving the child a better understanding of the phonics. Or it can simply be repeated before you more on to the section with handwriting.

It is also important to know that the phonics used in this app can be different from the standard sounds that your child may be learning at school. For example, they have used the word “ice cream” when teaching the uppercase letter “I”, whilst most schools use a word similar to “inch” in order to introduce short vowel sounds to the child. For the lowercase of the same letter, they have used the word “igloo” which is, in my opinion, a better choice. They have used the word “xylophone” for the uppercase letter “X”, and the sound “zuh” in the jingle for the letter. 

Learning how to write a letter by hand is the main focus of this app. They have added the handwriting part after the introducing jingle of every letter. There are 3 steps in the process of learning to write each letter.

Tap

On this step, the child simply has to tap on the starting point of the letter, and there is an attractive animation that draws the shape of the letter to the end. There are more starting points in the more complicated letter. For example, a letter like “C” has one starting point while the letter “M” has 4 points to tap in order to complete the four lines that make the letter.

Trace

On this step, the child gets to fully trace the letter following the animation. They have designed a variety of animations (hearts, grass, bubbles, etc.) to encourage the child to complete the tracing of the letter each time. There are a starting point and a white line that guides the child to trace the letter from the beginning to the end.

 Write

As the final step, this shows the starting and the endpoints to the child, and the child gets to write the letter completely from memory. It is similar to writing in a chalkboard, without any animations or other distractions. There is a chalk line to guide the child that disappears as they complete it. Unlike the previous steps, the accuracy of the line has to be good on this step since the chalk line disappears if the child’s finger strays off the line. If they make a mistake, the app shows them the starting point again and they have to go back to the beginning. After a few faulty attempts, they get an arrow guideline showing them the correct path.

Suggestions for Future Updates

While I quite admire the user interface, the animations and the ability to select different styles of writing on this app, there are a few suggestions that I would like to make as well.

Better to have more options to customize the overall process. For example, I would have liked to skip the initial states and go for the final steps in simpler letters.

 The constant audiovisual prompts can be annoying at times. While these can be helpful for a child at the first stage, it can be distracting for an adult using the app to teach.

There is plenty of letter writing apps in the app stores. Do I think that this one is better than others? 

The answer is yes. It has a great interface and features to attract children, and a well-thought-out process to help a child learn writing letters. If you are looking for an app to help your child write, this is one you should try.

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