Last weekend, I was on the hunt for great phonics and spelling apps to help my four-year-old learn about word rhymes and building words on his own. While some of the other apps that I have encountered are great for younger juniors, Philip needs something that can help him learn beyond single-syllable words. In fact, I need an app that I can customize to better suit his ever-improving learning curve and keep him challenged for weeks and months to come.
Fortunately, the developers of Writing Wizard, L'Escapadou, contacted us about their phonics and spelling app called Word Wizard. Turns out, Philip loves the app and I do, too.
The app has two playing modes: Moving Alphabet and Spelling Quizzes. In the first mode, juniors can freely build words on their own without having to follow any instructions. For example, to build the word “dog”, juniors can drag the letters one at a time, in any order.
Each time a letter is dragged, the app will pronounce its phonics, e.g. “d”, “o”, and “g”. When two letters or more are put adjacent to one another, the app will try to pronounce the words. Depending on how you construct the word “dog”, the app may say “do” or “og” during the process. The instant feedback helps juniors understand the word they’re building and what letters they should be looking for next.
Word Wizard uses the built-in spell checker on iOS to identify the words being built. Words that are included in the built-in dictionary will be marked as white, whereas unrecognized words will be shown with a red drop shadow. Using the previous example, “d”, “o”, “g”, and “og” will be marked as red; whereas “do” and “dog” will be marked as white.
The app encourages juniors to play and explore without any limitation. Thus, juniors can drag the letter “s” to the end of say, the word “dog” to build its plural form. They can even build sentences, such as “good morning” or “I love you”. Because the app supports numeric keypad as well, you can even create sentences with a mix of numbers and words, such as “21 plus 13 equals?”
To move an entire word from one location to another on the letter board, simply drag the word with two fingers. To listen to the entire sentence instead of the most recent modified word, tap on the speech bubble button on the top left corner of the screen.
In the second playing mode, the app offers more than 180 sets of words with which juniors can practice their spelling. The difficulty levels range widely from the beginner’s set containing three letter C-V-C (consonant-vocal-consonant) words to longer words suitable for third graders.
The app will first pronounce the word, and then juniors are asked to drag the letters that would form that word. Similar to the Moving Alphabet gameplay, the app will pronounce the word as it is built. Should juniors forget the word they are supposed to form, they can tap on the speech bubble button to have it spoken out again.
Juniors can ask for hints when they can’t figure out how a word is built. Simply tap on the question mark, and a letter will appear starting from the first position. Juniors can also skip the word, and proceed with the next word on the list. Most lists contain 9–11 words. The app keeps track of how well each junior is doing with the quizzes.
Parents Need to Know
Word Wizard supports multiple user profiles, and parental reports to track the progress of each user. This is perfect for families with two or more children, and for classroom settings.
The English version of this app supports four different voice actors with American, British, and Australian accents. This is just one of many customizations that you can do in this app. You can also switch from lowercase to uppercase, switch to QWERTY keyboard, or change the letter size to make it easier to read longer words.
Word Wizard also has a nice feature which automatically replaces profanities with ”oops” as soon as the word is formed. You will not hear it spoken out nor see the final form of the word. The developers even included a detailed instruction on how you can modify the list of profanities.
Things I Like
I really like the Word Wizard’s learning approach. I can testify that Philip really enjoys playing and exploring different combination of letters on his own. Even though you can disable the ”speak-as-word-is-built” feature (presumably for older juniors), I’d recommend trying it out first as it is really helpful for younger juniors who are still learning to build words on their own.
I also like how the app allows you to customize so many different aspects of the learning process to suit the needs of each learner. Not only can you customize which keyboard you’re using, but you can also define which letters you want to be accessible on the keyboard.
Finally, I really appreciate the ability to define my own sets of words for Philip to practice with. Word sets related to his family members and school friends really motivate him to play with the app more frequently.
Word Wizard is a must-have for juniors ages 4+ who have mastered the basic phonics and are learning to read/write by building words. The app’s ability to speak out the words as they are built is crucial for juniors who are trying to build words on their own. With the ability to customize many different aspects of the learning process, Word Wizard is perfectly suited for parents who want to take greater control over their juniors’ learning curve.
If you like Word Wizard’s approach to building English words, you might also want to check out their other apps for building words in Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Spanish, and Swedish.
App was provided for our honest review.