Practice Book Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on August 30th, 2011
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Practice Book is an interesting interactive app for iPad designed to give children the opportunity to trace letters or words dot-to-dot style, enjoying sights and sounds along the way.

Being very simple to use, parents can create templates, connect-the-dot style, involving letters, words or even phrases for children to practice with. It is also nice that one can add their child's name and photo to personalize their experience.

Piano notes can be heard as these letters are drawn and colorful shapes such as treble clefs, musical notes, geometric shapes or letters flow onto the page as the child traces. This interactivity is delightful and I appreciate how scales are used as one moves up and down letters, using the same notes for horizontal lines found in letters like “A” or “L,” adding to the educational value of this app as the player can also hear the differences these letters make as they practice their vertical, horizontal and circular strokes found in the letters of the alphabet.

I am very excited to be reviewing this app as my son is at the perfect age for this application. At 3.5 years, my boy has known all his letters and phonics sounds for a long time, thanks to other educational applications. He has also begun to sound out words and is very aware of words that one may see on random signs found in our daily lives, and has become obsessed with knowing what every written word he sees out-and-about says. My boy also likes to practice writing my husband’s and my names on the walls of our house, luckily with just a finger, but he has not yet shown a lot of interest in writing letters with a crayon or marker on paper.

There is time enough for all of these milestones, but with all of the interest in reading he is showing, I thought he would be enjoy this application, and I was right. My son loves spending time with this app, connecting the dots to both basic letters and to the words “mom” and “dad,” as well as to our first names, his own name and the names of his favorite toys and animals. Parents and children will bring as much or as little to this app as their imagination will muster, and I am as proud of my son’s new-found ability in his fine motor stills as I am with his impressive list of words that he is eager to write and talk about.

Because my son is new to creating letters, this is an app we work on together. I may demonstrate the correct way to connect the dots in terms of the up or down motions commonly used to make letters or give him simple instructions that he can follow by himself. Sometimes I hold his hand and together we trace over template in the hope that his muscle memory for writing these letters will develop. We often use a stylus as well to get used to holding a pencil to write.

I appreciate that numbers can be incorporated here as well, but not lower case letters or most of the grammar icons one would find on the keyboard, something that would have been interesting since there is room to work with complete sentences and it would be nice to introduce my son to the use of periods, question marks and exclamation points.

It would also be a wonderful addition if arrows and numbers were added to show what strokes are commonly made first and in which direction they are intended, in order to make the most out of this app when kids use this by themselves. I think it is also important that musical notes and decorations would still play if one needs to trace back over a space already filled in, as in the letters “B” or “G,” to encourage the printing of these letters in the correct fashion that is taught in school and which makes the most common sense. As for now, my son sometimes enjoys connecting these dots not always in order and I wish that this app and others like it could out-smart this behavior by not reacting to tracing connections made out of sequence in this dot-to-dot activity.

I do like the aspect of creating a practice book that kids can go back to and work on alone and it is nice that one can create titles for each page and outlining their content, as these pages can fit a lot of characters if one so chooses, but when I tap on a previous page found in the table of contents this app believes that I am trying to email this page to friends instead of working off this specific section - something I hope can be worked out in a update soon.

My son and I spend a lot of time working with this app, more than I would think an attention span of a boy his age would allow, but my son is smitten by the use of music and visual effects used when connecting the dots as these elements keeping him engaged for a very long time. I really like that these effects can be stimulated by just the tapping of these dots, giving me the ability to tap around in the correct direction and giving him the chance to follow my lead and allowing him to fill in these lines for himself. I have seen other apps like this, but these audio and visual effects make for a most enjoyable experience, and it is great fun creating new and personal words to practice.

Often times I comment how my son does not know that he is learning when in reality he is, but here, he is well aware of what he is absorbing while working on this application and gains a great sense of accomplishment from the time he spends with this app. I am impressed with my boy’s ability to understand that he is learning and his eagerness to do so. I am very happy to have the chance to review this application.

iPad Screenshots

(click to enlarge)

Practice Book: Alphabet screenshot 1 Practice Book: Alphabet screenshot 2 Practice Book: Alphabet screenshot 3 Practice Book: Alphabet screenshot 4 Practice Book: Alphabet screenshot 5
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