Friday, April 15, 2016

Learning to Read and Type with Talking Fingers Inc. {A TOS Review}

We had the privilege of trying out a great program called Read, Write & Type from Talking Fingers Inc.. This research-proven, online program teaches children several skills: phonics, reading. spelling, writing, and typing. I was excited because it was something all the children could use. The younger children are working on their reading skills, while the older children were able to work on their typing skills. These skills are all learned in a fun, game world staring a couple of talking hands and a computer virus named Vexor.

We received a one year subscription to Read, Write & Type for multiple users. The program is recommended for children ages 6-9, but Harold has been enjoying using it as well, and he is only 4. Each of the children have their own account with their own password, as do I as the parent/administrator. This program consists of 40 lessons in which the children focus on both learning to read and learning to type. This is done one sound at a time. Each of the sounds is represented by a "story teller" as pictured above in the windows of the houses. When the child first starts out on this learning-to-read journey, the windows are all empty. Once the child completes the lesson, the story teller returns to the window. As you have probably noted, their windows are their letter's position on the keyboard. Lefty and Rightway teach the students which finger to use for each letter. These friendly hands actually move to demonstrate the correct finger placement. 

After being shown the letter and the sound, they have to try to save the letter from Vexor. Here they play a game focusing on the sound the letter makes.

At the beginning of the lesson, Vexor leads the child to the movie theater (later it is a video store) where the child has to look at a picture and determine if it begins with the letter they are learning. If the child is not sure what the picture is, or if they need to hear the word, they just need to click the picture. If the word starts with the letter the child is to type the letter, if it doesn't, they click the space bar. In the screen shot above, the trap door opens a little bit each time the child types correctly. After several correct answers, the letter escapes out the exit doors. As you can see, Vexor is not happy at all. The children love the little fits he throws.

It is then time to focus a bit more on typing the letter and words (once the child knows enough letters). The child has to help the story teller make his or her way across an area of the park by typing the letter or word that the talking hands direct them to type. So far in their adventures, the children have helped the story tellers across the playground, the pond, and the topiary garden. If they make too many mistakes, Vexor will blow them backwards to start again. 

The children then get to go to the Story Tree and help write a story. This story is shown to them a line at a time, disappearing after the child sees and hears what it says until the child types it. Stories starts simple, with the child just typing the letter in the first lesson while a story appears. However, as the child learns more letters, they are able to have more complex stories. Each line of the story adds to the illustration, which then becomes animated after the story is complete.

After the child is done with the story, the story teller returns home and the letter goes in the box with the star on top over on the right hand of the screen. Once four letters (or blends like "th") are learned, the child will receive a certificate. There are a total of 10 certificates in the program.

The children then have opportunities to practice their skills with bonus areas in the town. As they progress through the program, they will open up new areas in which to play.

If you look at the comparison pictures above, Harold is not as far in the program as Tabitha. He has the bonus blimp, but his email tower is not complete yet, his fountain is not ready and Vexor's ship is not there. 

Let's take a closer look at what children can do to help improve their skills.

They can earn points for their certificate by going to the bonus blimp. Here they may repeat any of the already completed lessons from the movie theater, video store, park, or story tree. These lessons appear to come up randomly.

They can also go with Vexor to his ship to play games. These games help to reinforce the phonics portion of the program. Children will look at pictures and have to type the first, middle, or ending sound. Next they read sentences and choose the correct picture. Then they have to read sentences and choose the one that fits the picture. Finally, they will see a picture and have to type the word. As always, if a child is unsure on what the picture is, they are able to click on it to hear it spoken.

Another fun skill game is at the fountain. The children can soak Vexor with water if they can type fast enough. They have to be accurate of course. This is great practice for the older girls.

Finally, the children can go to the email tower to write their own stories and have them "sent" to other places in the world, while receiving letters in return. This is a chance for the children to practice creative writing and typing.

Hannah remembered the following from one of her story tree lessons. I think she had some help from Tabitha.

Here is one that Tabitha wrote. 

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to grab one that Amelia wrote. 

The older girls are going through the program at a good pace, learning which fingers to use for typing and improving their speed and accuracy. They definitely enjoy spending time in the bonus sections.

Hannah's reading skills have improved greatly since using Talking Fingers. I have stood in the room, listening to her sound words out that she is typing, and she has been quite accurate with her reading in the bonus games. I have also been impressed with her typing skills. She makes sure she is using the correct fingers to type the letters, though her going is slow, she is improving.

I did want to spend a bit of time talking about the parent/teacher account. When you log in to your account and set up your students, you are able to set the passing grade. I kept the default of 70% for each child. As they work their way through the program, you can check to see what their grades have been for each lesson. It gives a grade for Phonics, Reading, and Spelling. Then it gives the average. It also tells you what level they are on. You can click on each student's name to pull up a bar graph that shows the grades and the date the level was completed. This will be great to add to portfolios that we have to hand in.

This is a wonderful multi-sensory program for learning to both read and type. I love that it focuses on beginning, middle, and ending sounds, making sure the child can isolate the sounds. Typing the words is a great way for the children to build the words, sort of like we used to do with movable letters. The program is fun and has a decent amount of variety to keep a child from getting bored. We just love that Vexor is so funny. This is definitely a program I highly recommend. 

You can find Talking Fingers Inc. at their social media accounts:


Don't forget to check out what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about the program. Just click on the banner below:

Talking Fingers Inc. Review

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