I’ve been looking for a good app to teach (or help with) phonics. LaLa is really into doing her phonics (we use Jolly Phonics and use the song book, and she now recognises most of the letters, and can sing most of the songs and do a lot of the actions) and I wanted to find something that would help her on the phone or my mum’s tablet, too, as she loves playing games on them. But most of the things we found weren’t very good. There are lots that go through the alphabet, but they usually use the letter names rather than the sounds and often don’t use the bets words to demonstrate the sounds. A lot of them are American. And I certainly couldn’t find anything that really works with the phonics that most children are taught in school in the UK.
Well, apparently we weren’t the only people thinking this, because some parents felt the same and went out and developed the Read Write Phonics app, which does pretty much everything I wanted from such an app.
Read Write Phonics app: review
The Read Write Phonics app is split into three sections: Read, Write and Phonics.
The Read section is split into five groups: explosive, nosey, friction, short vowel and long vowel. Apart from the short and long vowel sections, I didn’t know what the others meant, but apparently they are based on how the consonants sound. In the Read section a sound appears (and is spoken) and then it shrinks down and fits into a word and a picture illustrating that word appears (and the word is spoken).
The Write section is split into four groups of letters, in alphabetical order. It provides practise of forming the letters in writing. There is a letter outline with dots within it. First the app shows the child how to write the letter, and then they can try it themselves. They can get zero to three stars according to how well they do. Personally, I found the marking very stringent, because I couldn’t get three stars myself and then RoRo wasn’t getting any stars when she first tried it. However, she persevered and was really proud when she did get stars (I don’t think she managed three stars, but she did get two), so in fact it might well be of the right stringency (and perhaps I should do some handwriting practice myself!).
The Phonics section is split into ‘small words’ and ‘big words’. A word appears and is read out. You can then tap each letter or grapheme (letter combination, such as ck in duck) to hear each sound read out, or swipe across the word, to hear it blended, like a child does when they’re learning to read using phonics (d-u-ck). (I didn’t find these two things intuitive, and was a bit surprised that there was no way to blend the sounds, until I watched the demonstration video – see below.)
The font is brilliant. I was very impressed with its clarity and am unsurprised to find out (when checking on the website) that it is Sassoon Primary, which is a common font used in primary level books. Many apps I’ve seen don’t really think deeply about the font used and how clear it needs to be for children – even to the point where they’re using fonts that don’t use an open a, which is recognised as something children need.
I was also very impressed with the artwork and it’s far superior to the vast majority of children’s apps I’ve experienced. It’s very clear, simple, colourful and lively – exactly what you need for children.
As it’s only available on Android, I haven’t been able to test it fully with the girls, but my mum has been using it on her tablet with LaLa.
LaLa has enjoyed playing with it, though it doesn’t keep her attention for as long as other apps, such as pairs and counting apps. I think, if I had it here, I’d be able to tie it in with the phonics we’ve already done, so she could practise the sounds she already knows. And I think it probably does require considerable adult supervision and intervention at a younger age (LaLa is only two and a half, though, so younger than the age at which the app is aimed).
RoRo only tried out the Write section, but did enjoy that. Again, if I had it here, I think she’d have a go at the other sections, but is probably beyond the stage where it would be especially useful, as she’s already reading at a much higher level and only very occasionally blends (unfamiliar) words, now. I do think it would have been really useful to have last year, though, and hope I’ll be able to use it (somehow – perhaps I can kidnap my mum’s tablet?) with LaLa over the next couple of years.
To that end, my only real gripe with the Read Write Phonics app is that it’s not available on Windows Phone. (It is going to be available on iOS later in the year, but there are no plans at the moment to make it available on Windows Phone.)
Here’s a picture of RoRo using the Write section of the Read Write Phonics app.
Here’s a video introduction to the Read Write Phonics app, which shows very clearly what it can do.
And for a huge amount of information about the Read Write Phonics app and how it works, you can visit the Read Write Phonics website and they also have a Facebook page which you can like to find out more and get news about the app.
The Read Write Phonics app is available on the Android store for £1.49 (an iPhone version is due to be released later in the year).
Disclaimer: I received my copy of the Read Write Phonics app for free to install on my mum’s tablet for the purposes of this review. I may also be entered into a competition to win some vouchers, but have not received payment for this review and it is my honest opinion.