When I learned our family would be reviewing a reading and typing program, I was excited. Levi, who is 4.5 has been enthusiastically learning his letters and sounds for about a year, and using the computer keyboard since he was 2. He loves computer programs, both online and offline software. So as I began to look at what Talking Fingers’ Read, Write and Type! Learning System was all about, I thought it sounded like something he would really enjoy and potentially learn from, though the target audience is 6-9.
From the website:
|HELP a child learn to read! This 40-lesson adventure is a powerful tool for 6-8 year olds just learning to read, for children of other cultures learning to read and write in English, and for students of any age who are struggling to become successful readers and writers.|
|TEACH important skills! Children learn phonics, reading, spelling, writing, vocabulary, punctuation, and even keyboarding.|
|ACTIVATE multiple brain systems! Children see, hear, speak, touch, move their fingers, and laugh with pleasure as they play each new level. Research shows this is the most efficient and effective way to learn.|
|SEE impressive results in just fifteen minutes a day! This simple yet revolutionary program teaches children to read while teaching them to write! Visual and auditory help comes from the Talking Keyboard and Helping Hands as children sound-out, spell, and read hundreds of words in engaging animated games and stories.|
Our experience with the product:
I first set up my parent account, and added Levi as my student, which was simple. Then I set up his account, and let him play around with it one day while my girls and I were doing our lessons since we were sitting in the same room . Since he has had quite a bit of experience with using computer programs, I didn’t hesitate to let him play around with it. He wasn’t on the site very long, so I soon realized I would definitely need to sit down with him and work it with him. As time allowed, I asked Levi to come sit so we could check it out and he refused. When asked why, he said the talking hands were scary. Since I hadn’t actually seen too much of the program in action, I went ahead and logged into his account to see what it was all about so I could know what he needed to do, and explain to him what it was all about. I worked the first couple of lessons, and it seemed straight forward enough. I suppose he didn’t like the strange accent the talking hands had, or just couldn’t get past the hands themselves, but once his sisters and I convinced him the hands weren’t really that creepy and I told him there was some pretty cool adventures to be had if he could just get past them, he finally agreed. The problem was, once I went to log back on, the program wouldn’t let me start at the beginning, so he didn’t get to hear the very beginning instructions and encouragement that the program offered. With my help, we continued working through the program where I had left off, but his fingers were really too little to stay on home row, so the typing part of the program wouldn’t work for him. He did understand and put together the sounds of the letters with the correct letter on the keyboard, but had trouble typing it correctly. This frustrated him, so I didn’t ask him to work with the program anymore. I asked my 10 year old if she wanted to try the program where Levi left off, but since she is reading on a high school to college level and is a very quick typer, she felt it really would not be a wise use of her time. So I continued the program until I saw a pattern of typing the sounds, going to the playground, and taking the evaluation at the end of levels one and two.
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What I like about this program:
I do think this program would work for children ages 6-9 that are not too advanced with their reading skills, with parental supervision. I’m not sure it would work well without a parent sitting beside the child to help out, at least for the first several lessons with the typing and instructions, but I can see students at the upper part of the age range really learning to type with it. This program is very colorful and has really cute characters and great sound effects. It is, in my opinion, very cost effective with the home license lasting for 5 years. The cd-rom version would be cost effective as well for a family with many kids who would be using it for years to come. It’s really the first program I’ve run across that pairs the hands-on typing exercises with learning phonics, reading, and spelling. With it’s neurodevelopmental approach, it has won many awards.
I would much prefer to be able to preview the lessons from the parent’s account before the child works the lessons, as well as have the ability for the child to go back over the lessons as much as they wish for practice, or as in my case, to rework something the parent has worked to try and understand the program. Many times with a program when a young child is having trouble, it’s nice for the parent to be able to work through it to help understand what the child is doing wrong or to be able to explain to the child what needs to be done. With this program, an account can be archived and another account be created, but the new account will have to work all the way up to the problem spot and won’t be able to repeat any lessons, then the student account reactivated to work on. Again, though, the student can’t go back to a previous lesson they already worked and passed. (* The student can go back and practice a couple of the exercises, but can’t rework the lesson.)
As far as the parent section, the parent can view the students current lesson progress, but once they move on it updates and you can’t see the previous progress reports anymore. It does encourage the parent to print out the progress. I tried reading the progress report to understand what the percentages meant that were being reported, but actually didn’t really every fully understand the progress reports. They didn’t seem real helpful to assess the skills being learned and practiced by the student. I’m also not sure how effective the reports would be to evaluate the phonics aspect of the program anyway since the child has to master the typing skills needed to report what he is hearing phonetically.
Levi knows his sounds well, but couldn’t effectively use the typing part of the program. But, of course, he is younger than the target age, so technically this “con” is that the program is not suitable for a younger audience than labeled for.
Good customer support:
I did contact customer support to ask if the child could start over anyway and I was just missing it, or if the parent had any way to preview the lessons,, and they said that you can’t start over or go back over what you’ve already done, so the only way a parent could preview lessons would be to archive the student and create their own account. They suggested that I archive his old account and create a new one for him so he could start from the beginning, as I have already described earlier.
The online home edition version of this product, which is what we reviewed, costs $35.00 for one student for a 5 year license. With this license a student that has finished or is taking a break from the program can be archived and another student made active to use the program. There are also pricing options for two to five students if you have several that need to work simultaneously.
The program is also available on cd-rom- home edition for $79.00, and includes printable workbooks, stickers, and laminated keyboard for practice, and a few other extras. * Note that the cd-rom is not compatible with Windows 7 or Mac 10.6.
We do plan to continue working with the program, as Levi has asked on occasion to work with it. I will continue to help him with the typing, and who knows? As fast as he seems to be growing his fingers might catch up and he could be typing on his own by the time our free one year subscription is up!
I received a complimentary one year online subscription as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew for review purposes. No other compensation was received, and opinion expressed here are exclusively my own.