TouchTronic: Seriously. You Need These

This post contains affiliate links which means Amazon tosses me some change whenever someone makes a purchase through one of these links and allows me feed my book habit!

I had the opportunity to visit EDExpo in Atlanta , and it was amazing.  It's basically where companies come to get in contact with store buyers, but they allowed some bloggers to crash their party.  Pretty nice, huh?  I got to wander around with Dana from Prepping the Primary Grid Iron, Deirdre from A Burst of First, and Molly from Lucky to be in First.  We met Pete the Cat.  It's a hard life.
There were some cool things, some odd things, but this thing completely stopped up in our tracks.  I recently had a conversation with our tech gal where we talked about using technology in the classroom authentically and not just for the sake of using iPads because they're cool.  This app/product combo is all that and more.
Love these for small groups and reading centers! With free apps, TouchTronic Letters are perfect for hands on learning with your beginning readers.

This is not a paid review, but I will say that I was given this set of TouchTronic letters.
I honestly think that we were freaking out so much about how awesome this product is that we made the guy uncomfortable, and he possibly gave us these one the premise that maybe we would go away, and he wouldn’t have to call security.  It was that inappropriate.

So anyway, TouchTronic Letters and Numbers.  They are sets of letters and numbers that you can use with an iPad.  Right now, they're are two apps for each product, but it seems there are plans for more.

The letters set (the one I was given during our group freakout) is $29.99 on the Junior Learning site and usually around $25 on Amazon.  There are several apps for it right now-an ABC app, 3 letter words app, and a couple of others.

The ABC App:

The 3 Letter Words App:
My first grade friends LOVED this app.  I like it because it is something you would have your kids do anyway but with bonuses:

•Immediate feedback.  If it’s not a real word, nothing happens.  If it is a real word, a picture pops up.

•When you tap the letter on the screen, it makes the letter sound.  This is reinforcement my kids need over and over.

They also sell a letter mat.  I think it would definitely be helpful so that the letters don't become a jumbled mess.  Also, just setting up the letters in a learning station would help kids with alphabetical order.

The math set blew me away.  I really, really want this one.  That’s pretty dumb because I DON'T EVEN TEACH MATH.  I keep trying to come up with reasons I should go ahead and buy it.  So far, I haven't come up with any.
This is using the Place Value App.  All I did was use a number and tap it on the place value section, and it "built" it.  What I love is that you can use the plus or minus sign with this also to see how the number changes depending on the place.  So, if I tapped the 7 with the plus sign, it would change to 800.
There are addition, subtraction, greater than/less than resources on the apps, too.  The apps are free and the numbers set is $19.99.  There is a class set available too.  I'd love to see a set of 6 available because that would be great for learning stations or small groups.

Anybody else using TouchTronic Letters? How do use them with your students?

Three Ways to Look at Messy Handwriting

Oh handwriting.

I’m kind of a handwriting fanatic.  A friend of mine once said that good manners and good handwriting will get you halfway through life.  The other half is hard work.  What’s so hard about neat handwriting?
Messy handwriting got you down? It could be because of bad habits but don't overlook other underlying causes.  #3 caught me by surprise as a mom and reading specialist.

Handwriting has gotten shoved to the side in the last 5-10 years.  There’s no time for it now that we have to start test prep in first grade.  Handwriting does matter though-whether it’s because you simply can’t read your students work, or there’s something deeper going on.

Bad Habits

Easily half of the students I work with simply have some really bad habits.  Either their grip is terrible or their letter formation is incorrect.

Why does it matter though?  First, writing is a means of communication.  If you can’t write legibly, you can’t communicate.  Second, when I taught fourth grade language arts we did a ton of writing.  Many of my students held their pencils incorrectly, so their hands got tired well before the work was done.  They hated writing because after awhile it hurt.

It’s easy to make the leap that since there’s so little time to teach handwriting, kids’ poor handwriting is a result of this.  And most of the time that’s true, but sometimes there’s more going on.

Fine Motor Skills

But maybe some of those kids don’t have bad habits, they actually have fine motor issues.  I have used Stetro grips for a long time, and I loved them.  However, I worked with a few kids this year who honestly could not get their fingers to work with them.  That’s why I’m loving these Grotto Grips.  They were designed by an occupational therapist.  They don’t just help kids hold their pencils correctly, they help build hand strength, too.
Here’s a glowing review: One of my students (about 12 seconds before I was going to share these new grips with the group) made a comment about how much she hated pencil grips and that using them was torture (her exact word).  You can imagine how excited she was to see my new grips.  By the end of the group, she was begging to take the grip back to class with her.  These kiddos are asking me where they can buy them.

Vision Issues

No, we’re not talking about Little Sally needing reading glasses.  This is a whole new area of learning for me.  Honestly, as a reading specialist, I’m kind of mad that this never really came up in my 60 hours of graduate courses.  Instead, I learned about it as a mom.

My younger daughter has messy handwriting.  No matter how much I worked with her, made her rewrite, or what grip I found, her handwriting was still messy.  She was also making a lot of careless errors in math.  Flipping the places of numbers when recording her answer, leaving out steps, etc.  She is a now a very strong reader but had gotten of to a slow start.

This teacher momma was beside herself.  My own child couldn’t be bothered to write neatly or check her math work carefully.

Finally, one of her teachers (and now our hero) talked to me about seeing a vision specialist.  Turns out her eye muscles aren’t balanced and don’t converge correctly (come together when focused on text).

Why this matters:

Reading-Her eyes weren’t sweeping across the page together.  There was a lot of backing up and rereading for both eyes to catch up together.  While she’s smart enough to compensate for it, it can definitely interfere with comprehension and most certainly fluency.  For kids with very jumpy vision, you might see kids that never “read" punctuation because they’re eyes aren’t catching it.

Handwriting-Your eyes, brain, and hand are working together.  When these aren’t working together smoothly, handwriting doesn’t flow smoothly either.

Math-When the problems have so much text and so many steps work on, pieces get lost visually.  When your eyes are sweeping across the numbers correctly, the numbers don’t get seen correctly.

Among other tests, the doctor took used a special set of goggles that tracked her eyes as she read.
It was fascinating to watch the screen to see what was happening with her eyes.  Imagine a heart monitor, but the lines represented the movement of her eyes.  None of her yearly eye checks had caught this.  It was such a relief to find out what was going on with this girlie who is so smart but didn’t always look it on paper.

What can you do?  I certainly can’t justify pulling kids from their classroom to work on handwriting, but I do work it in wherever I can.  When were working on phonics skills in isolation, I can work with a kiddo on letter formation.  If we have two minutes left at the end of a group, we might grab some dry erase markers and practice them on the table.  It’s important to see if things can get a little better.  If their not, maybe there’s something bigger going on.

And now it’s spring break for me, so I’m off to spend some quality time with a few projects I pinned on Pinterest!