Bottom line: Writing Wizard has every feature needed in a handwriting app, along with some amazing options for customization. This brand-new app should be the go-to for every parent, teacher and therapist to work on handwriting. ** TODAY ONLY: REDUCED TO $1.99!**
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There are two types of apps that need to really bring it in order to impress me, and one of them is handwriting apps (the other — alphabet apps). When I first opened Writing Wizard, I was hoping for not only bells and whistles, but maybe some cartwheels and flips, too.
I’m thrilled to say that I wasn’t let down! Of course, L’Escapadou has already developed one of my top apps — Montessori Crosswords, a Top Pick and one of my earliest reviews at Smart Apps For Kids. So it shouldn’t surprise me that Writing Wizard is full of all the features you might want in a handwriting app. There are even some features I didn’t even know I needed, but I can’t imagine doing without now.
Writing Wizard starts off with the choice between Zaner-Bloser, D’Nealian, or Handwriting Without Tears styles. This can be changed at any time in the settings. While this does not cover the whole world when it comes to styles, it’s still a necessity in any handwriting app to offer choices. Users in countries that use other handwriting styles should investigate first if any of the three is close enough to be useful.
The other options are really smart, too. There are two modes — free mode and 5 stars mode. In free mode, every parameter can be changed while playing, in order to fully customize to each child’s ability. In 5 star mode, these parameters are pre-set for each attempt, allowing the difficulty to gradually increase over five attempts at each level.
The parameters to set include the letter size, difficulty, the style of the tracing, whether stops along the line are allowed, and if a model is shown. Other handwriting apps do have some of this ability to increase in difficulty (like my previous favorite, Letter School), but none that I know of let the user so easily customize each aspect. For most children, a gradual progression in difficulty is likely to be useful. But children are all different, and this customization allows the adult to dictate that all attempts will be made at the easiest level, or at the hardest, or somewhere in between.
Writing Wizard also has another feature that is simply amazing — individual profiles for a seemingly unlimited number of users (I added 30 before I stopped trying). This feature is perfect for families, educators, and therapists. Occupational therapists can set up exactly the right parameters for each child they treat, teachers can set up a profile for each student in the class, and families aren’t even limited by a set number of profiles — finally a three-year-old and a six-year-old can both use the same app to practice!
The app includes uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and even a words section. There is a preprogrammed list of three-letter words as well as a list of b, d, p (listed as often confused letters). Within those lists, the order of presentation can be changed, and words can be added. Plus, in keeping with the customization of this app, the adult user can very easily add an entire word list. Spelling practice made easy! Numbers from 10 up can also be added to a list for practice on number combinations.
When each letter is first displayed, the app automatically names the letter then pronounces it phonetically. And thankfully, the sound itself is produced without the sometimes-added schwa (like “duh” instead of /d/ or “muh” instead of “mmmmm”).
Of course, even this can be customized. The recording can be changed for each letter, and additional recording added that is played each time the tracing is shown. This provides a great opportunity to add in a key word matching a particular phonics program or to allow the child to practice the sounds by recording the auditory input.
But the feature that literally made me gasp, then cheer, is viewed in the "Profiles & Reports" section of the app. Under each user, there is a tracings history, which shows exactly what the user has traced and exactly when it was used. And I mean exactly — a copy of the tracing is shown! I can see that on my daughter’s tracing of uppercase M, she picked up her finger twice. But by star 3, when no stops were allowed, she traced it perfectly.
This page can also be exported and emailed, a great feature for teachers and therapists to be able to keep in each child’s records or send to parents. Parents can, likewise, email the report to teachers and therapists, to show how the child is working at home.
All of these features would be meaningless if it wasn’t also fun for the child, and thankfully, it is. Some handwriting apps show the letter with arrows for a child to follow. In Writing Wizard, the child sees the letter as it is written first, before even attempting to trace. This visual is then followed by the typical arrows. Of course, this can be customized (as discussed above), but that visual model is a great way to help a child develop the right method.
The tracing can either be shown with stickers or with a simple line. When stickers are used, it varies each time: hearts, swirly circles, spinning dots, ice cream cups, pinwheels, stars — a seemingly infinite variety that really does keep kids engaged.
After each tracing, the user can interact with the stickers or line. They sometimes fall off the letter, and tilting the iPad moves them all around while swiping up brings them back to the letter. Other times the sticker letter can be moved around the screen, or the stickers “jump” off the letter when tapped. A time limit can be set on how long a child can play after each attempt, which is great for use in a classroom.
I didn’t expect to be quite so wowed by a handwriting app, but I can’t imagine using any other at this point. The customization is simply amazing. It’s also a safe app — there are no social media links or in-app purchases, and both the “More Apps” section and the control sections have a child lock requiring a math computation (19+7, 14+5) to access.
This is simply a must-have app for those working on these three styles of handwriting, both at home and in schools. I couldn't think of a thing to change.
Heather H. will soon have stellar handwriting, as she can't stop playing with this app. SmartAppsForKids.com was paid a prioritiy review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.