My 3-year-old son, Philip, recently finished his first year of pre-kindergarten and is now preparing for a new term. One of the feedbacks that the teachers gave us throughout the past year is that we should encourage Philip to learn how to write at home. I know that he was a bit reluctant to hold a pencil and draw random lines, he much preferred to play with the iPad using his fingers.
A few months back, I bought a stylus for him to use with the iPad. It was the shortest one that I could find at our local shopping mall. Because Philip was still having problems with holding the pencil correctly, I thought this would be a good exercise for him. I encouraged him to practice drawing, coloring and tracing using the stylus with many apps but I couldn't make him use it for more than a few minutes.
After months of retrying and almost giving up, I stumbled upon LetterSchool, a great app that teaches your juniors how to write (or trace) letters and numbers in a fun way. Suddenly I found a perfect match for the stylus. Philip loves the app and as a result, he has started using the stylus again.
What the app offers
LetterSchool is a beautifully designed handwriting app that will teach your juniors how to write letters (both upper and lower case) and numbers (from 1 to 10) in an animated and fun way. Using a set of four activities, LetterSchool can really enchant your juniors to play with the app for a long time.
For each letter (and number), your juniors will be greeted with an animation and a voice over showing what the letter (or number) is and an example of objects that can be associated with it. Then, your juniors will learn to tap one or more dots along the letter, which are the points where you normally start or end your handwriting gesture. If your juniors tap the correct dot, the app will show a beautiful, fun, and engaging animation of how the letter should be written.
The second thing that your juniors will learn is to trace the letter with the dots as their guidance. This is where having a stylus would help them practice holding a pencil and learn the gestures to write the letter. Once your junior successfully traced the letter, the app will show another beautiful animation to celebrate the achievement.
In the final activity, your juniors are asked to write letters without the dots as their guideline. This will train them to memorize the steps it takes to write the letter, i.e. for each stroke, they have to know where to start, what the gesture is, and where to end.
If your juniors can finish all the letters (and numbers) in a section, the app would move from the silver level to the gold. The gold level is essentially a repetition to train your juniors, but it also offers several new animations and the ability to showcase your juniors' handwriting of the letters and numbers on the home screen.
What I love about the app
It's easy to fall in love at first sight with LetterSchool, because it has a beautiful animation and enchanting sound effects. No wonder Philip and his 10-month old brother, Noah, enjoy it whenever I mirror the app to our TV screen.
Learning how to write is not an easy thing to do, especially when you don't know where to start. It is a great thing that LetterSchool offers many subtle cues to help your juniors as they play, using various animations to entice them to make the correct gestures. This makes it possible for the app to be used by your juniors with minimum supervision.
Knowing that different people may have different preferences, LetterSchool supports multiple handwriting styles, i.e. D'Nealian style, Handwriting Without Tears style, and Zaner-Bloser style. As a parent, you can try them out and choose the one that suits your juniors best.
Even though I personally prefer the Zaner-Bloser style, I believe it's important for juniors to learn various handwriting styles. There has been more than one occasion where Philip had difficulties recognizing a printed letter that used a font face he had never seen before. I'm grateful that this app introduced me to a list of commonly known handwriting styles. If you're curious to learn more about this, you might want to check out this list of handwriting styles, ranked based on their legibility and neatness.
Finally, I personally love the last feature of this app, where if you have reached the gold level for a section, you can showcase the actual (unaltered) handwriting of your juniors as they write each letter. If your juniors have finished all the letters in that section, you can get a screenshot of the home screen and store it as their achievement for that day. The app allows you to revisit each letter and practice some more even after you've completed the gold level, thus if you're keeping track of the screenshots then you can see how your juniors have improved over time. I think this is priceless.
If you're trying to get your juniors to practice their handwriting skills, I believe that LetterSchool is the best app for that job. If you're getting this app, I suggest you find a good stylus that can work well with your juniors and the iPad. Finally, this app has a feature that allows you to track the progress of three different users. This might become handy if you have several juniors that are learning to write at the same time.
Get LetterSchool on the App Store.