We are reviewing the new online version of the Talking Shapes: A Supplemental Curriculum for Early Literacy app from Talking Fingers Inc.
What is Talking Shapes?
Talking shapes is a program which teaches young children to learn how to recognise letters and write them within the context of short three-letter words. Its pretext is that two sisters invent the alphabet many, many years ago. Each letter not only corresponds with an item or animal beginning with the letter, but also has the shape of the letter (hence ‘Talking Shapes’). For example the C sound is learnt by using a curled up cat (as shown above).
Reading and writing is taught using a multi-sensory approach:
- The child hears the sound by listening to the story:
- They become familiar with the shape of the letter by using the mouse to write the letter:
- Each book contains six sounds. The child uses these sounds to create and read words:
- There are many games at the end of each book which reinforce the learning and help the child begin to read the words they have learnt:
How Did We Use Talking Shapes?
B5 and I used the program, completing one book per week. B5 knew all her letters and sounds before we started but was struggling to learn how to blend. With the help of this program she is well on her way to learning to read!
What Did We Think of Talking Shapes?
I am structuring this review a little differently to normal because for both B5 and I there were some really wonderful features in Talking Shapes but also some not so wonderful features. Following is B5’s and my pros and cons of the program:
- Each letter is linked to an animal or item with the same shape and sound
- The ‘connect the letters’, where the student must physically connect one letter to another to make the sound was a wonderfully visual way to show my daughter how to blend (and for this alone I would recommend the program):
- As a history-based school, I liked the fact that the premis of the books were two sisters who lived a long time ago inventing letters.
- The rhyming is fun and always appeals to my children
- It is very repetitive, which for this age group is very useful.
- There is nothing to indicate when the student has got it wrong, which for my perfectionist five-year old is perfect. If B5 was to hear a beeb or see a cross each time she did not get it right, she would give up before even getting started!
- The program in general is very slow-moving
- Simple graphics
- Writing the letters is all about filling in the letter shape rather than writing it. A student could scribble over it and still be moved on having learnt nothing about how a letter is formed
- In the same vein, when writing the letter, it only shows up for the part where the student has hit the letter exactly, so even if he/she has made the correct shape, just outside the specific area, it is not correct. In fact the student needs to go over the parts he has missed making the exercise of actually writing the letter futile
- We are on the forth book and it has only worked in capitals so far
- The games were incredibly slow-moving, frustratingly so at times
Would I Recommend Talking Shapes?
For us, Talking Shapes was a good fit purely because my daughter was struggling to blend, which they addressed by creating a means of physically connecting the letters. This effectively showed B5 what blending actually meant, removing the obstacle to her reading. Because of this program B5 now understands the process of reading.
That said, this was not so useful to teach writing for the reasons stated above. But for us, that is okay. B5 has no issue writing and has beautiful copywork. She is an artist at heart so physically making the shapes on paper is no problem for her. Reading those shapes and making sense of them is her struggle. But not anymore. Talking Shapes has helped her to overcome the stumbling block preventing her from reading (blending) and for that I am very grateful 🙂