Read, Write, & Type {a TOS review}

I remember back to when I was learning how to type and how good it felt to do so with speed and accuracy.  It made life so much easier to be able to efficiently type.  As my kids learn to navigate the computer it pains me to see them struggle to articulate their thoughts with a keyboard using the "chicken peck" method.  So then, you can imagine my excitement when my daughter (5) was given an opportunity to learn to type properly with Read, Write & Type by Talking Fingers Inc., before she's trained herself to "hunt and peck"
Who is Talking Fingers Inc.?
Talking Fingers Inc. Review
Talking Fingers Inc. is a company that creates original online software for a hands-on approach to learning phonics, spelling, and reading.  They have 3 programs for elementary students, ranging in grade from Pre-K to grade 4.
  1. Talking Shapes
  2. Read, Write & Type
  3. Word Qwerty
The software we have been using is Read, Write & Type.

What is Read, Write & Type?

Read, Write & Type is more than just typing instruction.  This online reading software teaches phonics, vocabulary, capitalization, punctuation, typing, and more!

This program is especially good with helping ESL students and those with difficulty in reading.  My daughter speaks English as a first language so we used the program with no additional assistance, but there would be a spoken assistance in a native language should it be needed.  Voice- over assistance is offered in nine languages:  Spanish, Arabic, Malay, Japanese, Mandarin, Farsi, Portuguese, Tagalog, and Korean.

Children learn to type by hearing the sounds of letters, such as the short a sound, versus the letter name.  The keyboard is shown on screen in a fun apartment, or home, type setting with characters in each window.  "Leftie" and "Rightway" help the child know which hand and which finger to use on the keyboard by Leftie or Right Way modeling a few times.  Another quirky character is "Vexor", a virus who steals the letter being learned.  The student then has to save the letter by completing several exercises of reading, writing, & typing. 

Phonics practice is given right away as the letters are never called by name, but by sound.  For example the first letter taught is "f", called by it's sound not letter name. 

In the first lesson "Leftie" model's to the student how to type "ff" and introduces who lives there, Fedasa.  Once the letter is introduced Vexor steals it and a new scene is loaded.    In the new scene the child is shown a picture and is asked to press the corresponding key if the picture begins with the letter currently being practiced.  If it doesn't the space bar is to be pressed.

In another scene the child is asked to press the key if the picture shown contains the letter sound in the middle.

Next the child practices typing the letter (or later, digraph) and uses the space bar over and over (f f f f f f ) to win the letter back.  If a mistake is made, Vexor blows the character back and the child tries again.

Finally the "sound tree" is loaded and a short and silly story is told and shown line by line, as the student types it out.  It is very gentle and encouraging, even in later lessons, as any word can be said again by pressing a help icon with the mouse.  (In this scene the help icon is a pair of lips).  As the child learns to type more letters this story scene gets harder as they sound out and type whole sentences, even using capitalization and punctuation!

As the child progresses more and more of the town is unlocked for extra practice and fun.  For example, there's an email tower where your child writes pretended emails that are "sent" all over the world and then they receive an email back.  Other places are opened to play again, for practice of letters learned.

Once two letters are learned individually, such as "c" and "h", digraphs are introduced with Vexor stealing two letters instead of one.   My daughter has completed 5 levels so far and has been introduced to several digraphs already, such as "sh", "ch" and "ck".

There are 10 levels to complete, and after each one a certificate is awarded which you are able to print off.

Once you exit this screen, by clicking the computer in the upper right, a review is loaded.  Here the student plays a game of typing beginning, middle, or ending sounds in a picture shown.  So for example, he/she would type "sh" for the example below.

Comprehension is then tested as a picture is shown and the student is asked to match the picture to a word or sentence. 

Last a word is spoken by a handy helper and the student types what s/he hears.  If the student passes this review with the accuracy you decide in the teacher log-in, a storybook is unlocked and then the child moves forward to the next level!

How we used this and what we thought

Read, Write & Type was used in our home by our 5 year old.  The program is designed for ages 6-9, but Emma can already read fluently so I felt she'd be a good candidate for this as she struggles to confidently spell on her own and didn't know how to type at all.

Being this program is multi-sensory, asking the child to type a sound heard and seen, Emma was soon able to sound out words all on her own to complete an entire typed sentence!

She has learned to properly capitalize a typed word at the beginning of a sentence, and to end her sentence with a period.

Currently Emma has completed 5 levels and has enjoyed learning to type and write.  All lessons were gentle and offered assistance if she needed, whether help was offered from Leftie or Righway if she typed an incorrect letter, or if she needed help by clicking a picture she didn't understand.

She absolutely loved the emails and the silly stories from the sound tree.

Our conversation about Read, Write & Type:

Emma, what did you think?  "very good"  What did you like?  "The part where they get across from Vexor." (usually at this scene she'd squeal with delight, "I'm winning!") Anything else? "I also like the stories."  (she means the typing stories as opposed to the story books at the end of the review, although she liked those too, she adored the stories typed for each letter or digraph.)

I appreciated that with my own teacher log-in I could choose a time frame/limit if I wanted and that I could adjust the percentage I wanted her to pass with, and the level of ease I wished for her speed and accuracy tests.  I didn't set a time limit for Emma, as I was usually nearby to hear how long she was on or if she sounded like she needed a break.

To read other reviews of Read, Write & Type, click the banner below: 
Talking Fingers Inc. Review

Wordless Wednesday | Superhero

"Here he comes runnin’ down the hallway Cape flappin’ in the breeze
A fierce look upon his face
He’s searchin’ for mister freeze

He’s gonna save the world, from the bad guys
Make it safe for you and me
Up and down the hall, and in every room
He’s making this world, a better place to be
Here he comes running down the hallway
He’s a super hero to me

He has goodness in his heart
He’s brave and oh, so kind
He’s got to save the world And do it all, before bed time
Here he comes running down the hallway
He’s a super hero to me"
Linking up with:


Times Tales {a TOS review}

The Trigger Memory Co REVIEW
My oldest child (9) is far advanced in many subjects, but in math he is "behind".  I say "behind" meaning just by public school standards, but on his own timing he is right on schedule.  He can add, subtract and skip count somewhat; however, he had yet to make the connection between skip counting and multiplication.
In late February we had the chance to try out the digital version of Times Tales, from The Trigger Memory Co.  In just a few weeks time he has already memorized all that this program has to offer and has passed the provided tests 100%.  He and I are thrilled with the ease of learning and with his success. 
What is Times Tales?
Times Tales is a unique and creative way to learn the upper multiplication tables.  Each number is represented as a character and when paired with another number character, an animated tale is told that includes the hidden multiplication answer.
The multiplication learned with Times Tales are:  3x6, 3x7, 3x9, 4x6, 4x7, 4x8, 4x9, 6x6, 6x7, 6x8, 6x9, 7x7, 7x8, 7x9, 8x8, and 8x9, split into two part videos.  Part 1 of the video is for the upper 3's and 4's and Part 2 is for the Upper 6's, 7's, 8's and 9's.
What is Included?
Included in the digital download of Times Tales are two videos, Part 1 and Part 2, and three PDFs which contain a crossword for each video, several sets of flash cards, a cube game, tests and an answer key.  Each video takes about 30 mins in total to complete, after which your child would practice, play games, and take the tests.  It is suggested that your child learn part 1, and then spend one week practicing with the provided printables before moving on to part 2. 
The Trigger Memory Co REVIEW
More on Times Tales
There are 7 steps to Part 1 and 6 Steps to Part 2.  Part 1 and Part 2 have the same steps except for "Meet the Characters" found at the beginning of Part 1.
Each part is about 30 minutes time, in total, but isn't done all in one sitting.  The timing depends on the needs of the student and how much review and practice he/she needs.  For my student, we did 1 to 2 steps a day until Part 1 was complete.  We then took a week of practice as suggested and carried on with Part 2, doing 1 to 2 steps a day until finished.
The steps are as follows:
Meet the Characters (found only in Part 1) is where the characters are introduced and important notes are made such as:  Mr. Week is only ever seen with Mrs. Week.  After the characters are introduced we are presented with the first of several Times Tales Game Show:  Beat the Clock.  For this segment your student attempts to name the characters before the time runs out.
Learn the Stories:  here we are told the story for each multiplication problems of the uppers tables.  The tales are first shown in a story book, with a written and spoken sentence.  This is followed by a short animation of the same tale and again the tale is repeated, for a final memory trigger,  as we go back to the storybook.
The tales of the upper 9's table is shown in a free download from the website!
Story Quiz is the next step where the student(s) are presented with a Times Tales Game Show:  Beat the Clock.  Students are given 3-4 seconds to answer questions about the tales they have just learned; such as:  What did the Treehouses grow and how many each?
The next step is You're the Storyteller.  Here the child tells back the story by pausing the video when prompted, saying the story, and then un-pausing to check his/her answer.  The characters are presented on the right side of an open book and the answer is presented on the left.
Now it is time to Practice the Flashcards.  The student is once again asked to pause the video at the prompt, say the answer to the flashcard shown, and then up-pause to check answer.  The flashcard is presented with the characters, then the answer is shown as the regular number format.
Next is Flashcards.  This step is different in that it is another Times Tales Game Show:  Beat the Clock.  Here the characters are replaced with regular numbers and we are asked to say the answer before the time runs out.  After the multiplication there is a Division Challenge where students are asked "what is missing?"
My son panicked a bit at the Division Challenge as he has never (at age 9) been presented with a division problem before.  I paused the video, even though there wasn't a prompt, and gave him more time to think about it and as he'd answer I'd un-pause for the answer.  The look on his face as he realized he could do the Division Challenge was priceless.
Final Step!  Written Test.  In this final step your student is congratulated on a job well done and asked to practice with the printables and take the practice and final written tests.
Our Thoughts
We gave this a try because my son's reluctance to do math has him behind his neighborhood friends.  Where he's still learning addition, they've moved on to multiplication and were keen on letting him know how little he knew.  I wanted him to have a good confidence boost with a fun and encouraging time at learning his times tables and Times Tales has certainly fulfilled that desire.
My 9 year old learned his upper times tables quickly - I'd day about a week for each Part - and he learned them with 100% accuracy.  He was so pleased with himself when he gave me his first written test and they were all correct.  His first time!!
I asked my son how he liked Times Tales and his answer was this:  "pretty good!  At first I thought it was really easy because it was only videos, and then it got a little harder because we have to say what is missing in the tales; but, when you say [what's missing], it's the answer!   Such as 7x8 is 56!!  And you have to go through a first level which is easy.  And 2nd level which is only a little harder.  It was fun and a neat way to learn."
To see other reviews of Times Tales by Trigger Memory Co., click the banner below: 
Times Tales by the The Trigger Memory Co REVIEW

Looking for Log Hotels

It's still pretty chilly here in Ontario, but we've been managing to get out and see if we can find any signs of life now that most of the snow is gone.
We recently read a really good "living" book, Log Hotel by Anne Schreiber.  It was recommended as part of an activity for supplemental science we've been doing, EdTechLens.  The book is hard to find so we got it with our interlibrary loan.
Following the books example we set out to find various states of decomposition in logs and see the signs of new life - even though right now everything is still in hibernation - and to see if we could find any nests. 
We actually found far more than I was expecting.  I love our little conservation area!
This (above) was a rare time Daddy got to teach.  He was showing how this tree was very rotted and was soon going to fall.  It already had signs of being a "Log Hotel", and wasn't even on the ground yet!
A hollowed out log and a log with insect trails!
Super neat natural playscape at the conservation area.
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