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What we love…

how the app teaches and reinforces simple word pronouncement, spelling and putting it together as a word

What we’d love to see…

highlighting for the story as it is read, instructions that are read aloud for the reader to help them understand what task is required


This app, although a bit expensive provides a good educational experience for your child by using a “teach”, “do”, “learn” method that proved effective with my son.

Our Rating

Talking Shapes by Talking Fingers is an app for iOS used on the iPad designed by Dr. Jeannine Herron who designed the app after studying how young children learn best.  The app has children listen to a story, sound out letters, draw a letter using visual examples and then put letters together to form simple words. The app features three stories, the first of which is about two sisters who created the alphabet a long time ago.  Letters are embedded within the pictures to help children recognize words that begin with a particular letter as well as promoting recognition.  The app practices spoken words made up of specific individual sounds (phonemes), learning about what letters stand for specific sounds (phonics), drawing/tracing letters which practices fine motor skills and letter recognition, sounding out three letter words and putting them together as a word.
The app teaches 17 letters in the three books and 18 individual letter sounds and by the end of the app, children have been exposed to sounding out, spelling and reading 30 words.  Talking Shapes was developed with a research grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to help provide instructional solutions for preschoolers and early elementary aged children.
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In all three stories, after exposing the child to the word, they need to speak it, trace the letter both stand alone, on the object as well as without a sample to teach reproduction.  Navigation within the story is done by using a “next button” and the app utilizes the microphone on your iPad to practice speaking the word to ensure you have appropriate pronunciation.

Book One is “The Fat Cat” is about “Pat” and “Nat” who are two girls who created the alphabet a “long time ago” and a story about a fat cat that sat on a hat and how the girls attempt to write down the story to help preserve it.  The stories provide visuals to explain that each time that a persons lips move they create a new sound and explains that words when they are spoken are simply sounds that are drawn on a piece of paper which means that they are creating the alphabet.  This story teaches the following words: “cat”, “fat”, “hat”, “sat” within the story.

Book Two is “The Silly Hen” which teaches the word “fan”, “pan” and “can” by simply switching the first letter out for each of the words.  In addition, it teaches, “let”, “pet” and “net”, “he” and “me”.  The story teaches similar concepts to the first story and explains how to make the letter – for example, the letter “L” is done by going “down and across” to shape the letter.  This story teaches 11 letters in total.

Book Three is “The Dancing Pig” is a story about additional letters that the girls invented after having so much fun making the other stories.    Words taught in this story include, “big”, “pig”, “dig” , “wig” .


iPad Screenshot 4The app presents simple stories in the “read to me” which are used in conjunction with word pronunciation, writing the letter in context and hearing the story.   The app then allows you to draw letters, find the letters and find the shapes.

The find the letters requires children to find specific letters to match an emotion and spell out a word like “pig”, “sad”   Children must correctly sequence the letters in order to complete the word.  It does give instructions – although they are not read out loud on how to complete each specific game.  If a letter is placed in error, it simply pops back up to the top and does not provide feedback to the user on why they it didn’t fit.

In terms of enhancements, I would like to see the ability to have word highlighting within the stories as they are read to the user.  In addition, it would be nice if a word was describing a specific action like “wag” if that the tail actually did a wag from the dog.  I would also like to see the instructions for the games read aloud since the app teaches budding readers.

This app would be a great addition to your library for parents of a preschooler or early elementary school aged child.  I found that the app engaged my son and encouraged him to pronounce words correctly, spell out specific letters, match them and more.  Be sure to check out our video for a more complete overview of the app.  It provides a comprehensive view of a variety of letter sounds and encourages children to hear them, pronounce them, draw/trace them and finally put them together. My son was very engaged with the app and asked to play it several times while I was testing it. The app contains no external links or in-app purchases. I encourage parents to read the “i” button as it provides a great context for the activities contained within and how to best use the app with your child or children.

Talking Shapes – Talking Fingers Inc.

Requirements: Compatible with
Size: 0 MB


NOTE: A fee was received to expedite this review to the top of our waiting list but this payment has not influenced the objectivity of the review and all opinions have been offered honestly.

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