Sunday, February 24, 2013

Handwriting Without Tears App

Are you one of those people who likes to write? To grasp the pen in your fingers and feel it glide across the paper? I am not. My husband is, and I think he's crazy. (Though those 2 facts might not be related. Ha!) When I first heard about the Handwriting Without Tears (HWT) curriculum a few years ago, I was drawn to the name. It's not that my handwriting is a mess (in fact, I think it's pretty neat), but that I just don't like to write, ya know? I'd much rather type. Or let my hubby fill out forms and sign papers. {wink}

But from what I've heard over and over again is that the curriculum is more than just a cute name. It's a really great program for teaching kids handwriting. The multi-sensory program is geared toward students preschool-5th grade and is used for just 15 minutes a day. They recently released a new line of  student books, teacher guides, and the Wet-Dry-Try app.

Our techy family got to try the new app. 

The Wet-Dry-Try app is based on the curriculum's slate chalkboard activity that is used to teach capital letters and numbers. Like the physical board, the smiley face in the corner reinforces top-to-bottom and left-to-right directionality, and the frame prevents and eliminates reversals along with helping to keep the writing a consistent size.

So, how does it work? Simple, just like writing on a real chalkboard . . . without all the dust and the squeaky chalk! First, the app shows the child how to properly write the letter using a virtual piece of chalk. Then, the child uses a sponge to wet the letter. After that, he uses a towel to dry it. Finally, he gets to try his own letter with the chalk.

There are 2 ways to practice. The first is the pick and practice section. Here, the child can choose which letter he would like to write. Once he completes all the steps (wet, dry, try), he earns a star under that letter. With each star, the difficulty of the levels increase. Star 1 allows for the most stroke leniency; star 2 requires a little more accuracy; star 3 necessitates closely following the original chalk marks used to demonstrate the letter. After earning all 3 stars, the student wins a letter card.

The second choice to practice is by following HWT's winning order of letters. It teaches the easiest skills first, and then builds on prior knowledge. The letters are grouped together by formation: frog jump, starting corner, and center starting. In this section, the student begins with letter F. After he earns 1 star, letter E is opened, and so on. Again, there are 3 levels of difficulty for each letter and a letter card for completion.

My 4½-year-old and 3-year-old enjoy playing this app. I was a little skeptical at first since they have to trace the letter 3 times before earning a star. I thought the redundancy might bore them. Not once did they complain though. And I admit, once I tried myself, I understood why! It's kinda addicting following all the steps. I was a little nostalgic as I wet the board, dried it, and retraced the letter with chalk. I was reminded of all the times I did that in school as a child.

Then I heard, "Mommy, is it my turn yet???"

Alyssa did very well with her letters. She already writes beautifully with pen and paper. There are times when I have to remind her how to form certain letters, so this is great practice for her. Zac has not had much practice writing letters. He did well when he chose the letters himself (probably because he picked the ones that were easiest for him), but struggled when following the winning order, specifically in completing the letters with the curved lines. When he got frustrated after repeatedly hearing "Oops, Try again." I would help him. He did think it was pretty funny though when he'd hear "Cool beans!" when he'd trace the correct lines.

There were parts of the program that were a little confusing for the kids. For instance, if they strayed off the line at all, it would stop them and make them start over. Also, if they did not trace all the way to a connecting line (like the middle of the humps in the letter B), it would tell them they were wrong. I'm sure these are things that will be corrected as they become more proficient in writing their letters.

The app costs $4.99 and is available for both iPad and Android and can be purchased from iTunes or Google Play. The app includes capital letters and numbers because of their philosophy that capitals are developmentally easier, but I think it would be a great addition if they offered the lower case letters as well, maybe unlocked after the capitals are mastered. Regardless, we will be using Wet-Dry-Try to continue practicing the letters and perfecting formation. (And maybe I'll continue to play just because it's fun!)   

If techy-learning is just not your thing, make sure to check out the reviews of the physical books from Handwriting Without Tears on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.


Disclaimer: I received this product for free as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.
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  1. I love the picture of Zac & Tyler...never to young too start learning!!

  2. Thank you for a picture of the actual screen with your son...first one to show that so far (I was thinking the letters would be smaller so it was nice to see it for real!).