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Friday, May 20, 2011

Wordy Qwerty, a review

Your child knows how to read pretty well, she can even find the keys on the keyboard without hunting and pecking…but spelling’s still a bit of a challenge, right? The folks at Talking Fingers, Inc., creators of Read, Write, & Type, have a reading and spelling program for 2nd-3rd graders you might like: Wordy Qwerty.

Meet the program’s two mascots: Qwerty and Midi.

wordy qwerty seeing patterns

These two characters will explain word patterns (spelling rules) and give instructions to complete the various activities in Wordy Qwerty. As your child completes the activities and earns points, Qwerty will create spheres to give to Midi so he can build his marvelous music machine (it’s the music of the spheres, of course).

Activities are quite varied and include not only spelling, but memory, and reading comprehension as well.

The Patterns Game simply involves typing the word to go with a picture and putting words into the correct category based on their sound to recognize spelling pattern (see above). Then there’s the Recycler, where you need to choose which words are real words and which are not (the machine “recycles” the duds).

wordy qwerty word recyclerPop-a-Word will display a phrase at the bottom of the screen for a short while (the audio reads it to you), hides it, then random balloons flip over to reveal words. You need to pop the correct word balloons in the correct order. A little tricky, they throw in plenty of homonyms.

wordy qwerty popper

Write Stories gives you 2 lines at a time of a story, then removes second line, and you have to duplicate it, including proper punctuation and capitalization.

wordy qwerty story Read Stories is a comprehension activity that involves selecting the correct words from drop-down menus to complete the sentences in a story.

wordy qwerty story blanksAnd, of course, each set of activities has a little quiz to check for progress.

wordy qwerty testOh, and I forgot to mention…there are songs in the Karaoke! Each spelling rule has a groovy pop tune, with an upbeat audio file and lyrics on the screen so you can sing along.

As you complete each set of 6 activities, you’ll earn more spheres to help Midi build the music machine. The machine is rendered in 3-D animation, pretty cool.

You can see a full explanation of how Wordy Qwerty works and the sequence of spelling rules presented here on the Talking Fingers website.

The parental controls for this program are the same as for Read, Write, & Type . For a really complete picture of how the parent account works, its strengths and weaknesses, please see my review of Read, Write, & Type. I’ll give you an overview here. You have one parent account from which you can access records for all of your students (a separate license is required for each student using it at the same time). Progress records are very basic. If you want to know exactly what your child is getting right or wrong, you’ll need to actively supervise her sessions while she’s working in Wordy Qwerty.

wordy qwerty parentIn addition to checking your child’s progress, you can set the percentage correct they need to have to move on to the next level. You can also set the times and days of the week your student is allowed to access the program.

wordy qwerty parent controlsLicenses are in your name and can be assigned to students. There is an archive option, so if you have a student who completes the program before your license is up, you can archive that student and have another student use the license. You can even have a child take a week or month long break from the program while another one uses it. The first child’s progress will be saved and available when you restore them from the archive.

What did we think?

I used this program primarily with 7-year-old Mary, though David (age 11) did check it out. Mary had already completed Read, Write, & Type with success, so we were looking forward to trying out Wordy Qwerty. Spelling is definitely a problem area for her and she needs all the practice she can get. We took a temporary vacation from her regular spelling program to give Wordy Qwerty our full attention.

Mary seemed to enjoy the activities well enough, but she felt a little overwhelmed by Wordy Qwerty. The Patterns Game presents pictures and asks the child to type those words (no spelling clues). The first picture in this review is from the Patterns Game in the 2nd set of activities. You’ll notice words like “circus” and “city”, words that are pretty hard to spell if you don’t already know all the spelling rules. Circus could be spelled cerkus, cirkis,…you get the idea. If you mistype, the program will pause and cue you with the next letter and so on until you complete the word. After going through the list and organizing according to the directions, the spelling rule is given. Mary found this way of “discovering” the rules frustrating.

Similarly with the Recycler, your child chooses which of the words are real words and which are not. For instance, they might be shown “blade” and “blaid”. And then “tail” and “tale”. And then “wail” and “wale”. There’s no pattern to which words are correct and no rule to learn. Even a child who is an excellent reader (Mary is) with a large vocabulary (ditto on that), may have difficulty picking out which words are correct and which words are not. The nonsense words are garbled into gibberish on the screen once your child makes her choice, so she can see which words are correct. The program asks her to look over the real words after this activity and to click on any words she doesn’t know (Wordy Qwerty will read and define the word), but there’s no time allotment given for this and a child could easily skip this step (ask me how I know;0).

The other activities were less frustrating for her, though Write Stories is pretty challenging. If you goof up, Wordy Qwerty will prompt you with the next key (whether it be letter, space, shift, whatever), but the program does allow you to try to fix it yourself first. The balloon popping exercise is a good way to differentiate between homonyms, and I like that they refrained from injecting any nonsense words into it.

The songs, well, our family has never been crazy about ditties designed to learn something…but these are pretty well produced with hip sounding beats. Still, I haven’t noticed anyone singing them around the house, so I’m not sure how memorable they are.

Overall, what did we think? They say the proof is in the pudding, right? With something like this, I like to base my opinion on results, and I have to admit that I have not seen any improvement in Mary’s off-screen spelling while using Wordy Qwerty. Perhaps with more extended use we will see results. I think this program might work much better from someone who is a pretty good speller, but needs help with homonyms (Pop-a-Word would be good for that) or the occasional word (the Patterns Game would be good for helping them see patterns that match words they already know), and Wordy Qwerty might work well as a supplement to another spelling program for independent practice.

Wordy Qwerty is available as a 5-year online subscription for $25.00 (one user, see the site for rates for multiple users).

Wordy Qwerty is also available on CD for $35 (not compatible with Windows 7 or Mac 10.6).

Click here to try a free demo of Lesson 1 (silent "e") of Wordy Qwerty and find out how to get 20% off!

Also available from Talking Fingers, Inc.: Read, Write, & Type and a K-4 reading bundle which features both products.

For more reviews of this and other homeschool products, please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.

Disclosure: I received a 1-year license of this software free of charge in order to review it. I received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own and I was in no way required to write a positive review. My thoughts cannot be “pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered.” They are my own.

Credit: The quote in my disclosure comes from the 1960’s TV series The Prisoner.

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