Write for School
Device Compatibility: iPad
Developer: Little Caradams Pty Ptd
App Description: Write for School is an educational app featuring manuscript upper and lower case letters, number formation, letter blends and vowel formation instruction for primary aged students. Created by Australian developers, this app also provides D’Nealian and Zaner Bloser Style American letter formation along with numerous Australian, New Zealand and United Kingdom font styles in its instruction.
The main screen of the app provides the following options:
- Choice of using right or left hand (positions the letter on right or left side of the app screen)
- Choose the Writing Style Used by Your School (provides choice of the style of instruction and font)
- Personalize WriteForSchool button on the bottom right provides many font editing options:
Type of font
Thickness of the font
Position of the font on the screen (moves it up and down on the screen)
Writing line size
“Show Me” editing options allow you to create your own the order and letter formation of the letter. The default lower case letter “x” formation started with the left diagonal descending, different than American Zaner Bloser letter formation. I was able to edit this sequence using this editing feature. The default color for the “Show Me” video of letter formation is red. Other options are green and blue.
- The PLAY button takes the user to the activity page as chosen by the options set in Choose the Writing Instruction for your School and Personalize WriteforSchool button on the main page .
Five choices of letter and number formation instruction is provided on the activity page or screen:
a – z (lower case manuscript)
The activity page provides the following options for the user:
- Use of right/left hand
- Writing style
- Touch and sound of the letter
- Letter or number line
The writing area also provides the following options for the user:
- Picture provides hearing the letter and word name
- Show Me button
- Next button
- Try Again/Clear button
- Colored writing tools
The “Show Me” button provides a video of the letter being drawn, “Next” moves the user to practice the next letter in the alphabet, and “Try Again/Clear” clears the writing area for additional practice. A star guides the user in where to start writing and continues to guide the user in the direction of letter formation.
The a-z alphabet buttons provide easy choice of letter formation practice in any sequence. The picture speaks the letter and word name when touched. Phonetic sounds are not provided in the app.
Use: This app is primarily for preschool and elementary skilled students needing practice with letter formation. Although made by Australian developers, it provides many options for different styles of letter formation instruction for English languages. Easy to use, it provides visual and video instruction of letter formation. Although it does not provide arrows for direction of letter formation as is recommended by best practices (Graham, Steve), it does provide a star showing where to start writing the letter which also guides the user through the visual motor sequence of letter formation. The “Show Me” option provides a wonderful visual/video sequence of letter formation. Readily available “Try Again/Clear” and “Next” buttons allows for additional practice or moving on to the next letter in the alphabet. Using the letters and number line presented on each screen can allow for practicing letters out of sequence or by letter groups as directed by the teacher or therapist. Repeated practice is offered using different colored writing tools. Coming from a school that has adopted the American Zaner Bloser method of handwriting instruction, there were a few minor differences with how some letters were formed but which could be edited in Personalize WriteforEducation button using the Font Editor menu.
I found the options available in the Font Editor to be exceptional, allowing editing of the “Show Me” video formation sequence as well as changes to the attributes of letter writing with color choices, width of lines, sizes of paper lines and size of the font. Choosing different fonts available provides, letters with arrows showing the correct sequence of letter formation also with options of reducing the supports to dotted lines depending on the font choices available. Although the app is very straight forward for the user, the many options requires a bit of trial to determine how to customize the letter formation practice to the user as well as to a school’s letter formation instruction using the Personalize button options.
Pros: Writefor Education app include the ability to customize not only the color, the font, weight and thickness of the lines and formation of letters using the Font Editor menu. Few other app (that I am aware of) provide such in depth customization of the instruction component. Customization can aid users with vision, motor planning and motor control challenges and also provide fading supports to the user with use of different font types.
Instruction is provided by the videos (“Show Me”) of letter formation as well as use of a star showing where to start writing and which guides the writer in the direction of the letter formation. Although this does not provide the recommended numbered arrows for letter formation (Graham, Steve, n.d.), it does provide guidance for letter formation to the user. Accuracy for letter formation was lenient when tracing over the letter, stopping the written line when extremely deviant from the letter line. This can be good for beginning writers providing them the ability to learn the sequence and formation of the letter then requiring accuracy after letter formation is learned.
The “Show Me” video instruction is a wonderful aid for students who are visual learners to view format of the whole letter sequence. Many different opportunities for letter and number formation practice are provided in this app in a flexible and customizable skill and drill format.
Cons: Best practices recommends providing arrows and number sequence for letter formation (Graham, Steve) which is partially provide using the star guide during the writing process. The videos however provide a wonderful visual guide of how the whole letter is formed. The letter pictures provided in each writing activity I found somewhat distracting as many have animation which might be distracting to the user.
Use of a stylus is recommended for improved viewing of the star which visually directs letter formation but can be difficult to see under your finger when writing on the iPad. Although the app provides many opportunities for letter formation (lower, upper case, blends and vowels), best practice also recommends using the letters practiced in words and writing letters from memory (Graham, Steve, n.d.). Writing activities to reinforce recall from memory or writing words are not currently integrated into the app but can easily be performed following letter formation training with the app using paper, white board or chalkboard practice. Games of producing the letters by verbal or recall can easily be played using letter dice, flash cards or in a variety of tactile mediums (shaving cream, play dough, clay, gel bags, sand or aquarium rocks for real multi-sensory feedback.
Multiple user options are not available in the app. For teachers or OT’s customizing the app for multiple student use would be difficult to manage. Tracking the acquisition or completion of letters by students also is not available within the app. Screen shots could be take of single student work using the Home button and Power button and stored in a Photo Album by student for assessment and tracking purposes if assessment information was needed when using the app.
Special needs features: Widths and sizes of letters and numbers, line and color of lines when writing can be customized for the user providing great options for students with visual challenges, attention or motor challenges. Video “Show Me” option of letter formation provides a strong avenue for learning for visual learners. Guidance for letter formation using the star and a stylus can aid students with cognitive and motor planning challenges. Providing students audio instruction or coaching (by the instructor) using the classroom’s verbal instruction is recommended to allow a multi-sensory method of learning for students which is consistent with classroom instruction. Positioning of an iPad on an easel and use of an appropriate stylus for the student can help with access and being able to see the star guide when writing.
Final Comments: Despite some features that were missing according to best practice research (Graham, Steve) I was quite impressed with the many options and customization available in this app allowing instruction to mirror what is provided by school curriculum or customize the instruction to individual learners needs. The video “Show Me” option for visual learners is very appealing as this is a strong method of learning for them and readily available. Writing for Schools also provides a flexible means of learning upper, lower case letters, blends, vowels and numbers. The ability to choose your own order of practice of letter or number formation and the ability to customize using the “Personalize” button provide customization not only to school instruction but also to each user. Customizing instruction to multiple users on a single iPad could be very cumbersome but would be beneficial to students using dedicated devices. Using this app along with other hands on methods of letter formation would provide learners with instruction and multi-sensory modes of learning including writing on paper for functional carry over to classroom tasks. Instruction for those using Handwriting without Tears I believe could be adapted using the Font Editing options.
This app is a value for its ability to customize instruction to students and customize instruction for a specific school handwriting method. It would be great if a lite version was available for a brief time for teachers and therapists to trial prior to purchase to ensure that it will meet their students and school instructional methods. WriteforSchools is a worthwhile app for skill and drill practice of handwriting for primary aged students.
Have you used this app? What is your favorite letter formation app?
“Writing Numeral and Symbols.” N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Dec. 2012. <http://www.zaner-bloser.com/media/zb/zaner-bloser/HW_Student78.pdf>.
“Teaching Letter Recognition.” Web log post. The Reading Genie, n.d. Web. 24 Dec. 2012. <http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/letters.html>.
Graham, Steve. “Want to Improve Children’s Writing.” N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved on December 24, 2012 from http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneducator/winter2009/graham.pdf