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Sunday, January 12, 2014

App Review: Word Wizard

Word Wizard by L'Escapadou is a great app to add to any elementary classroom app list! It isn't a 'gaming' app per-say, but what it is is a whole lot of AWESOME! It is currently listed for $2.99, although I recently saw it go free for a few days so make sure to add it to your iTunes wish list and watch for a price reduction if it isn't a must have app for you for the moment.  That said, it is a must have app for my classroom at the moment and I feel it is well worth the $2.99! If you follow the Daily 5 format within your reading block I recommend this app as a great way to integrate technology within your word work choices. (this is not a statement endorsed by the Sisters or Daily 5 corporation, just my opinion!)

Word Wizard has two main components to it: the Talking Moveable Alphabet Activity and the Spelling Test Activity. Lets talk a quick look at both of these to see what you are getting for your money.

Talking Moveable Alphabet Activity.This is the feature of this app that I use the most in my classroom.  In the beginning of the year I have student use this to form their names and as a great way to explore the alphabet. Currently I have students practicing their individual sight word lists as a way to see it, hear it, spell it, and say it!  How it works: On the bottom half of the screen there are letter tiles.  You can choose to have either capital or lowercase letters and if you would like them displayed in alphabetical order or in the qwerty keyboard style. I always choose alphabetical order for my students. The top half of the screen is blank with fillable tiles or a plain background. You can choose if you want the students to drag the letters to the tiles on the top or for it to emulate a keyboard typing. I always choose drag for some extra fine motor/iPad skill practice. When a letter gets touched you will hear the letter sound in a very clear, correct pronouncing voice. Nothing irritates this K teacher more than when a app pronounces e as an a sound! You can also choose it to say the letter name if you'd prefer. When you place multiple letters next to each other it will blend the sounds together for the letters there. Great for beginning blending practice! When you place a complete word it will say the word correctly. Think of building the word said. It doesn't read it at the end as /s/ /i/ /d/ but rather as said. Students can also create sentences by making words and pressing the speak button. The app will then read the words together in a sentence format.  Other fun features: in case you are wondering they even thought of a profanity block if you have that kiddo in your class! No worries about spelling naughty words here! There is also a way to make an exception for the pronunciation of words so that it says a students name correctly instead of the phonetic version. Students can also build numbers as well, fun for exploring big numbers!
iPhone Screenshot 4

Spelling Test Activity. This feature I use more for my higher level students at the beginning of the year and for all of my students towards the end of the year when they are ready for more of a traditional spelling test.  This portion of the app is exactly what it says it is, a Spelling Test Activity.  There are some fun features in here though.  First, you can create your own customized list or choose from over 180 premade lists ranging from CVC words to Nature words.  Personalized lists can be imported or shared between users. Within the customized lists you can even have sentences, extending the life of this app throughout most of your student's elementary years. Within the settings you can have all letters present or only the letters found in the word. This is a wonderful feature for my beginning spellers! And if they ever get stuck there are hints as well.  After each word is spelled correctly, there is a brightly colored short animation (nothing too gimmicky) and at the end of a complete list the student can 'draw' with a fun animation feature. While my students like this as a quick brain break, it isn't what they spend a ton of time on and I super appreciate that! For both animation features you can choose the time students spend on it or whether you want it to be present at all.  There are user profiles that you can go into to see how each user is doing as far as percentage passing, hints used, what words they answered correctly, and when they took each individual quiz.
iPad Screenshot 3

What we wish for: I wish that within the Spelling Test Activity I could assign each student/user a specific test section before they play. Within my classroom students share devices so it is imperative to differentiation that each student work on their just right work.  It is very difficult for K students to go into their usernames and then choose the appropriate quiz from there.  I emailed the developer and asked about this feature-when I hear back from them I will let you know. What I noticed about L'Escapadou is that they are very attentive to the feedback they get back and have made many updates based on suggestions from the users. As educators, we LOVE when developers not only hear what you have to say, but make small additions to their apps that can really make an app classroom friendly!

Overall Word Wizard is a fantastic app for any educator or family member out there wishing to engage their child with some alphabet fun! Because of the app updates, superior developer support and customization this is an app that will get you a lot of use for your money! The Techie Teachers highly recommend Word Wizard by L'Escapadou!
***FYI if you are teaching your student another language or they are in an immersion classroom Word Wizard is also available in Spanish, Swedish, French, German, and Finnish! A great app in many great languages=perfection for today's worldly students!

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