Talking Shapes–An Online Reading Program

We were given a one-year subscription to the online version of   Talking Shapes: A Supplemental Curriculum for Early Literacy from Talking Fingers Inc. in exchange for a fair and honest review from my four-year-old daughter, Eliana…with a little help from me. Just a little.

We previously reviewed a Talking Fingers Inc. program called Read, Write, & Type here. Eliana really wanted to try Read, Write, & Type, but was nowhere near that level. Talking Shapes came along as an ideal tool to prepare children for the reading and typing involved in Read, Write, & Type and the other Talking Fingers Inc. programs, but ultimately for reading itself. Happy little Ellie!

Talking Shapes {Talking Fingers Inc. Review}

Tell me about Talking Shapes.

The idea behind Talking Shapes is to help children understand that their mouths make shapes when they make (or read) a sound. That sound is represented by a letter or a group of letters. Those of us who know how to read sort of take that for granted. Pre-readers, however, need to make the connection between what their eyes see, what shape their mouths form, and what their ears hear.

That is the premise behind Talking Shapes, invented by a neuro…neurophy…by a really smart gal who went to school for a really long time. Her name is Dr. Jeannine Herron. She based the program on reasearch intended to help children engage both sides of the brain as they learn.

It’s ideal for preschoolers, kindergarteners, and other younglings who may be struggling to learn to read.

Talking Shapes {Talking Fingers Inc. Review}

That’s all fine and good, but what’s the program about?

Essentially the seven-part story involves two girls who invented the alphabet back when togas were all the rage. Each shape the girls talk about corresponds with a letter and an object or animal that begins with that letter sound.

They also emphasize the shape the child’s lips make when they say that letter by looking into a pond while they make shapes. You can use a mirror if you don’t have a pond handy.

Talking Shapes {Talking Fingers Inc. Review}

That’s great, but does the child like it?

If Ellie is like your kiddos, this program is a hit. It is not dull and repetitive like some phonics programs. It’s a screen–she likes it. I have to put time limits on or she would sit at it all day, even when it gets too hard.

Essentially, she begs to do her lessons. Okay, fine, you can learn, Ellie.

She’s not reading yet, but I don’t push it–I let it happen when it happens. By the end of this program, however, she will know 40 phonograms. Cool, eh? How many do you know? (Are you looking up phonograms in the dictionary right about now?)

Talking Shapes Logo_zpsfqtjuper

What do I think?

People, you know by now that I’m old school and will take a book over a screen any day. I have learned over the past nearly two decades of homeschooling that it isn’t always my preferences that matter. What is most effective and ensures a love of learning is ideal. Of course, I don’t want everything in the world to have to be entertaining to a child in order for them to participate, so a balance is important. You, of course, have your own screen guidelines for your family, so…there you go.

I would rather have Ellie drawing her letters in the sand or on paper than using the mouse to trace a letter on the screen. If you have a touch screen, this is not an issue, but we don’t. That said, when I saw how she maneuvered that mouse, I was very impressed. There was a lot of hand-eye-brain stuff going on there, so I enthusiastically let her continue. Honestly, though, I would prefer it as a quick and convenient app I could whip out on my phone or a tablet rather than a computer program.

Talking Shapes {Talking Fingers Inc. Review}

Additional thoughts for my fellow roadschoolers:

Internet access–that blessed, cursed subject again. You must have internet access. There are images and movies and this will take a few cookie size bites out of your data. We had a lot of trouble with internet access during this review period, and it did make it difficult. Still, the program wasn’t glitchy or flashing in and out like some do when our “free if you can stand it” access is poor.

Space considerations? None. You already have a computer. Ideally, this would work best on a touch screen, so that’s even less space.

Find out what more conventional homeschoolers think by clicking on the banner below:

Talking Shapes {Talking Fingers Inc. Review}

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Typing Fingers — Learning Phonics, Writing, and Typing Together

In exchange for our honest review, we received a one-year subscription to Read, Write & Type by Talking Fingers Inc. In the biz, that is known as a disclosure statement. Moving on…

I’m going to be completely honest with you here, because I always am. I did not want to review this product. You know I’m old school. You know I’m not a fan of screens. You know I sniff books and licked paper once–maybe you didn’t know that. Pretend I didn’t say that last part.

But my kids…they’re young. They’re hip. They needed to learn how to type. So I hemmed and hawed and said okay fine we’ll review it. And my kids cheered and I was popular for, like, three minutes until I took advantage of my newfound popularity and said, “Hey, washing dishes is fun! Let’s do it!”

I went into this with a bad attitude–like stinky cheese. After several weeks of watching my seven-year-old type properly and enthusiastically, however, I am sold on the idea that perhaps this method of learning to type is ultimately better than the antique typewriter I wanted them to learn on. Click clack click clack ding…wheeee!

Talking Fingers -- Review of Read, Write & Type

I keep talking about typing, and that is how we are using Read, Write & Type, but this is not merely a typing program. It is a multi-sensory approach to learning to read and write. My seven- and ten-year-olds are quite advanced in those areas, so they didn’t need the help (so far anyway), and our four-year-old isn’t quite ready for this. The idea is, however, to work on those three skills together.

Who would benefit?

This is an ideal program for ESL (English as a Second Language) students to learn English literacy (as opposed to conversational English). The available voice-over assistance includes Arabic, Farsi, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Mandarin, Portuguese, Spanish and Tagalog.

It would also be great for struggling older learners. In my opinion, if somebody is strong in one of those areas, but not the other two, or struggles in all three areas, they would receive the most bang for your buck.

I don’t like to use screens to teach phonics to little ones, but in the past I’ve had a stalled early reader who took off as soon as I switched to a screen. In that case, perhaps this would be good for a child just learning to read, although then you can’t sniff the book and lick the paper. I didn’t test it with my four-year-old, because her hands are tiny, and…well…I’m old school. She, however, is begging for a turn.

What does it entail?

The program teaches sounds and basic writing as the student learns the location on the keyboard with the assistance of talking hands…or talking fingers. Get it? Because the program is Talking Fingers Inc. You’re a smart one!

 Talking Fingers Inc. Review
It involves games of sorts, too, but nothing highly visually stimulating, and no unrelated games. It all fits together without overstimulating the child.
There is no violence, no motorcycle chases, no pop-culture, no aliens…so far…although there is a virus. Achoo.

Talking Fingers Inc. Review

I think Elijah’s favorite part is the emailing. He informed me that he writes an email letter and it is sent to another child in the program. I didn’t get to witness this and am not sure if he understood it properly; I think at the time I was being attacked by the sweet little bipolar cat we so lovingly adopted…or maybe I was feeding people, because they keep eating! Anyway, don’t quote me on this aspect, because, while I do have eyes in the back of my head, they were napping.

(UPDATE: the email thing is true! He sends a letter and receives a pre-screened (and sometimes edited) letter from another child in the program. Are you aware how fun it is for a boy to type emails about pizza and ice cream and send them to other kids? Very motivating!
Talking Fingers Inc. Review

Kids can earn certificates of merit as they move along. This is pretty motivating for some kids, especially since you can print them out. We live in a travel trailer, though, where extra paper lying around is the enemy, so no printing for us! Still, my littles enjoy the blue ribbons.
Talking Fingers Inc. Review

A talking virus…talking hands…certificates of merit…voice overs…whatever. The kids enjoy it while they are learning to type. That’s what matters to me–that and the lack of anything questionable. I don’t think a talking booger-ish virus is questionable, is it? Nah!

Look! She’s typing! She’s seven!

Despite my initial trepidation, this is one of the curricula items we’ve reviewed lately that we will continue using. My children are definitely improving their typing skills and enjoying it in the process. Thanks Typing Fingers!


Additional information for my fellow roadschoolers:

This program is all online. It is not a terrible data hog, but it does have some moving images and such. Basically, you won’t be streaming video, so it’ll definitely use less data than the big game. If your children need help with phonics and typing, this is a good multi-purpose tool that won’t get scratched up or eat all your data.

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Talking Fingers Inc. Review

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