“If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.”
-- Ignacio Estrada

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Word Wizard ~Review~

I discovered this app while I was on twitter a couple of months ago. Due to 'summer fun' and starting back to work, this review was put on the back burner. But now I am very excited to tell you about Word Wizard by L'Escapadou. 

I was initially interested for a couple of reasons. First, my daughter is a beginning reader and she is now a big kindergartener. I wanted an app that was versatile for both her and my almost 4 year old son. Next, I knew that I would have a couple beginning readers within my classroom this school year. I was looking for something customizable to accommodate the varying academic levels as well as fine motor abilities. The students are so motivated by the use of the iPad that I am constantly looking for apps that will be easily incorporated into the curriculum and IEP goals.

Word Wizard is not just a moveable alphabet. It can be transformed into a great reading, writing, and spelling tool. Word Wizard offers 2 different activities. Moveable Alphabet is similar to magnet letter tiles. The letters are displayed at the bottom (in ABC order). The user can drag the tiles into the open space at the top of the screen. As the letters move, the letter name is said. Once the letter is placed on the board, the letter sound is said. As letters are put together, the letter combinations are pronounced. Once words are formed, they can be moved around board to various spots by using two fingers. This offers great flexibility whether working on letters, spelling simple words, or working on a writing simple sentences. The verbal model (although not the best sounding voice) is a nice feature and takes the prompting off the teacher. The other section is called Spelling Quiz. A variety of word list are already available within the app, such as leveled Dolch words, family members, animals, etc. Word Wizard also allows you to add your own customized lists. The user is given a verbal prompt of a word. Using the same tile set up as with the movable alphabet, the user is expected to move tiles  into top section. When word is spelled correctly, a visual reinforcement is give (stars, sparkles, etc.) and displayed until screen is touched. If word is not spelled correct, no reinforcement is given. This section is great to work on spelling words or creating sentences without picking up a pencil.

IEP applications
The Moveable Alphabet allows the user to explore the letters and the sounds the letters and groups of letter make. This app would be great to use with students who are developing the skills of letter recognition and phonetic awareness. This section would also be useful when having student choose a letter for an activity and it could also be easily adapted into a matching or sorting activity. The Spelling Quiz would a tool for assessing students or doing a modified spelling test without the barrier of paper/pencil or forming letters.

So far this school year, I have used Word Wizard to have students practice spelling own names, practiced spelling reading words which we were reviewing from last year, and I have used it for letter assessments ("can you find the b?"). Word Wizard will also be used as an alternative for handwritten spelling test for a couple of first grade students who have some fine motor challenges. The ability to use the "screen capture" feature on the iPad will allow staff to have documentation of the words spelled correctly and can even quickly email the picture home for parents to see.

A few suggestions...
The content of Word Wizard is great. As mentioned above, I see many uses within the classroom as well a way to enhance development of IEP skills; however, there are a few suggestions:
  • Way to create upper case letters in alphabet section so that sentence would be graphically correct. This would be similar to a SHIFT key on a computer keyboard. This would get help when using Word Wizard to practice typing names 
  • Limit the time when/how long the reinforcement is given. Some students might fixate on stars or sparkles and not tap to go on  to the next word.
In conclusion, Word Wizard exceeded my initial expectations. It is not just another letter tiles app. The verbal feedback of letter names and letters sounds really helps students focus in on the letter or word when trying to spell. As fine motor and speech challenges are common among the students I work with, I am always in search of apps that can assess the students without the use of traditional methods (paper/pencil, verbal answer, etc.). Word Wizard is great app to do just that. I also really like the option of spelling a word and moving word somewhere else on the board. This would be a great way to do sentence completion activities as well.  For the number of uses I have found for this app within my classroom, I think that price is right! At the price of review, Word Wizard was $2.99.

developer: L'Escapadou
website: L'Escapadou
itunes: Word Wizard
category: Education
recently updated: August 18, 2011

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