For the past few weeks, Middlenificent, Littlenificent, and I have had the pleasure of using Read, Write & Type from Talking Fingers Inc. I have been looking for a typing program that would grab the interest of my 9-year old for about two years now with no luck. She quickly became bored with everything we tried and would return to her hunting and pecking ways as soon as I wasn’t standing over her at the keyboard.
When the opportunity came up to review Read, Write & Type as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I was excited to see a program I hadn’t tried yet but skeptical that it would be any better than the others at keeping her attention, especially when I saw that she was on the oldest end of the recommended age range of 6-9.
As I read about the program though, I got really excited about the way it combines phonics with whole language and the skills of reading and writing with typing, spelling, grammar and punctuation in what seemed to be a really natural, multi-sensory way. I decided that even if it didn’t work for my 9-year old, I was fairly certain my newly reading 5-year old would love it! And when I read these sentences on their info page:
Most first graders find keyboarding easier than using a pencil. Typing is often easier for first graders than fourth graders, because they haven’t yet formed the “hunt and peck” habits that can create frustration and delays later on.
I was sold! The thought of avoiding with the 5-year old the situation I was in with my 9-year old was beyond appealing! Littlenificent wasn’t typing at all yet, and I thought that if this program could teach her how to do it right from the start, that would be amazing! And if it happened to help the 9-year old, I might buy stock in the company! 🙂
So How Does Read, Write & Type Work?
Read, Write & Type is a completely online program without any software download required. There are also CD editions available for those who don’t have reliable or affordable internet access.
We received a one-year subscription to Read, Write & Type for multiple users for the purposes of this review. We were emailed the log-in information and I was able to set up an account for myself as the teacher quite easily. From there, I was able to set each child up with their own unique username and password. I was given the option to put a limit on the time period they were allowed to use the product (time of day and days of week), and to set up a pass-level percentage. I left these at their default levels as I wanted to see how the program worked before setting limits and such, but I really appreciate that the options are there and so easy to change in the future.
Each of the 40 Read, Write & Type lessons begin with the screen above and an incredibly catchy opening song. Every time either of the girls started the program, my 3-year old would come running from wherever he was in the house and usually ended up sitting next to them watching them for the entirety of their lessons.
Each of the keys on the keyboard contain a character with an alliterated name (Ann the Ant, Bud the Banjo, Cass the Cat, etc.). All of the characters are storytellers. The keyboard is split in half to be two houses that the storytellers live in. A vexing computer virus, appropriately named Vexor, tries to steal the letters to prevent the storytellers from sharing their stories. Lefty and Rightway are the names of the two Helping Hands who guide the student in their quest to keep Vexor from achieving his goal. Through the 40 exciting levels, the student builds hundreds of animated sentences and stories and is rewarded with certificates of advancement after every four letters.
While being disguised as a really fun game, the instruction is very systematic and provides students the opportunity to practice all 40 of the sounds used in English. Students move from learning to identify beginning, middle and ending sounds in words, to blending sounds together and spelling regular words, and then to reading and writing by touch-typing.
On this screen, the student is being asked to identify the beginning sound for the word “note.” They must type the letter “n.” One thing the computer cannot do is tell whether the student is using the correct fingers. There are plenty of reminders from Lefty and Rightway, but I still found I couldn’t stray too far in the first few lessons or both girls slipped into bad habits in their desire to free the letters quickly!
On this screen, the student has progressed to reading the whole sentence and matching it to the appropriate picture.
And this screen shows a simple story using only the storytellers the student has freed (i.e. the sounds the student has learned) at this time. The words are shown one at a time as the student is guided through reading and then typing the story. My 5-year old daughter often forgot the end of the sentences as she was typing in which case she could click on the lips to have it repeated.
Littlenificent’s favorite activity was the E-mail Tower, which offers a word processor for writing original stories and sending simulated e-mails. She would type an email, often to Grandma or Grandpa, and then send it. A world map comes up and shows it going from Southeast Asia-ish to America. (I was pretty impressed with this since we’re actually in SE Asia and the grandparents in America, but maybe that’s just how it looks for everyone?) Then her favorite part was that an email would come from another kid to her. She loved reading these emails! I’m not sure whether or not she realizes they aren’t real, but I sure won’t be the one to tell her! 🙂
Suitable for ESL Learners
As if all that were not enough, the program is also geared towards those learning English as a second language! I was stunned to see that voice-over help is available in NINE different languages: Arabic, Farsi, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Mandarin, Portuguese, Spanish and Tagalog!
When you set up each student account, there is an optional ESL index space where you can choose the language for your student. Then when they are playing, they will see a yellow balloon at the lower right hand corner of the screen. They can click on the balloon at any time to have the instructions for the lesson repeated in the language you have chosen.
My husband and I are fluent in Malaysian so I just had to give it a try to see how good it was! I was quite impressed that the Malaysian sounded natural and really gave good clarifying instructions for a student who might be confused.
While we used this program primarily for its typing component, I think it would be wonderful for ESL students wanting to learn to read and write in English.
Our Opinion of Read, Write & Type
I am extremely impressed with this program. I’ve mentioned Littlenificent several times above in my descriptions, but I’ve kept you in a bit of suspense about Middlenificent’s reaction to this program.
Let’s just say I had better look into buying some stock in this company!
She loves it! People, this is big! She loves it! She looks forward to doing it each day; she actually does more than I ask her to do; and she can finally type! Yes, in a little over a month, her hunting and pecking has already become a thing of the past! I can’t believe it!!!
I will forever love this program for what it has done for her! 🙂
Of course, nothing is perfect, and there is just one thing that I would love to see added to this program. My kids really struggled with the lack of a clear beginning and ending for a lesson. As each activity ends, it goes immediately to a loading page and then the next activity starts. Our first few times trying, they just kept going and going until I finally realized how much time has passed – oops! Then we tried setting a timer for 15 or 20 minutes, but the kids never felt like they were done – I was always stopping them in the middle of something which nobody enjoys. There is an achievement certificate, but it only happens after every four storyteller rescues which can take up to an hour depending on the student.
I finally figured out to tell them to stop for the day at the end of each letter and that seemed to work, but I would have really liked there to be an option at the end of each activity of “Do you want to go on?” with the option of them hitting something like, “No, I’m done for today” or “Yes, I want to keep going.” And it would have been nice at the end of each letter to have a screen with something like, “Great job rescuing the storyteller today. You’ve finished another level and Vexor is even more vexed than before!” And then maybe buttons they could click to continue to the next lesson or to stop for the day. That would have really helped us, and I wouldn’t have had to be the bad guy who was always making them stop playing this game that they love so much!
Connect with Talking Fingers Inc. Online
Give Read, Write & Type a Try!
Parents and teachers can try out a sample lesson, or students can try out the first 8 lessons for FREE! You really have nothing to lose by taking this product for a test run, and I think you will be as impressed as we have been with it.
If you decide to purchase it, the online version is a five year subscription. You can get it for a single user for $35, two users for $55, three for $70, four for $85, and five users for $100.
I am so thankful to have found Read, Write & Type! It has filled a hole in our homeschool that I had begun to despair of ever filling!
I, along with other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, received a free copy of this product in exchange for our honest reviews. You can see what my fellow Review Crew Members thought of it by checking out the Crew Blog Post for this product. I always love checking out everyone’s reviews as they always seem to find features I’ve missed in the products we review!