Review by Dana Villamagna, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2013
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Handwriting Without Tears: Wet-Dry-Try Suite for Capitals, Numbers & Lowercase

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Classic method offers three-step, low-stress learning approach

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Teachers say (2 Reviews)
$avg_user_learning_rating
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Grades
Pre-K-2 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: These time-tested methods translate easily between digital and real-life practice.

Cons: No phonics is incorporated, and some kids may find the interface dull.

Bottom Line: Kids get systematic letter- and number-tracing practice, and teachers get lots of data and support.

Use Handwriting Without Tears: Wet-Dry-Try Suite for Capitals, Numbers & Lowercase as a supplement to hands-on tracing practice in the classroom. Set a specific time each day for kids to trace one or two letters through all three levels. Incorporate the language used by the coach in the app (such as "frog jump" and "helicopter") during in-class handwriting lessons. One of the greatest assets of HWT is the support for teachers via the tracking and reporting information and the website-based ideas for helping kids learn handwriting with maximum fun and minimum frustration. If you have the budget, you can order the individual student user passes to track individual progress data, making classroom use even more effective. Teachers can also find Common Core correlations related to all HWT products on the HWT website to find out how to extend this app's learning beyond the iPad.

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Handwriting Without Tears: Wet-Dry-Try Suite for Capitals, Numbers & Lowercase is a very focused handwriting practice app based on the popular, long-standing program of the same name. The three-step system of tracing uppercase and lowercase letters and numbers on a virtual chalkboard with a "wet" sponge, a "dry" towel, and then tracing them with chalk keeps practice easy and consistent. Kids watch and listen to the coach complete the letter, step by step, then they erase the letter with a sponge, dry the letter with a towel, and try to trace the letter with chalk. Kids can repeat the same letter two more times with increasing difficulty to earn a colorful letter card, or skip to other letters. The pleasant-voiced writing coach provides crystal-clear verbal instructions and visual demonstrations, and the colorful letter cards give kids just enough reward without being distracting. Lowercase letters, including double lines kids must stay within on the board, are more difficult than uppercase letters or numbers.

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Through using Handwriting Without Tears' skillful Wet-Dry-Try system and its letter groups -- organized by similar starting points and lines -- kids learn to recognize similarities in letter creation and focus on one new skill at a time. Kids also practice following verbal and visual directions as they put forth effort to master letter formation. As kids develop fine motor skills from doing the same motions three times in a row through three difficulty levels to earn a letter card, the app gently promotes the emotional skill of perseverance. If kids veer too far off course, the app requires them to restart that tracing stroke. You can extend the learning with other HWT products or get more ideas via videos on the website; kids can continue learning in other sensorial ways, such as by using real mini-chalkboards or fun, creative movement.

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

Building upon the time-tested design of the Handwriting Without Tears system, this well-designed app keeps kids engaged in learning to create letters with minimal frustration.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

To master each letter, this app groups letters into "HWT Order" and gives detailed instructions, verbally and visually. Kids trace each letter three times, every turn requiring more accuracy and providing less prompting.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
4

Support is potentially the most valuable feature on this app. Find excellent verbal and audio instructions, tutorials, web-based videos, and the option for detailed reports for up to three kids (in-app purchase required).


Common Sense Reviewer
Dana Villamagna Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

3
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Featured review by
Cassie P. , Special education instructor
Special education instructor
West Virginia School for the Blind
Romney, WV
2
HWT: Great hands-on program, disappointing app

I am a big fan of the Handwriting Without Tears program and its use of multi-sensory approaches to teach letter formation; however, this app would best be used with students who need just a little more practice in forming letters. Use of the app should be supported by hands-on activities to improve fine motor skills. Additional visual aspects or auditory feedback would be most beneficial. Currently, the app would likely be placed at the Substitution level of the SAMR model. In order to move up the SAMR ladder, students could be required to write complete words using given letters to add a phonics component to the app, or choose words that have the same beginning or ending sound as the letter they are practicing.

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