Friday, May 20, 2011

TOS Review: Word Qwerty

Last fall we tried out and reviewed Talking Fingers' Read Write and Type, a program that teaches reading, spelling and keyboarding skills.  Our experience was mixed.  I honestly did not like the program and found the animation and story line annoying.  At first my girls weren't too thrilled with it either.  In fact, in the amount of time we had to use the program before I had to write the review, I was having to make my 7-year-old use the program, just to have enough information to do the review.  I was pretty negative about the program in that review, and some of my main complaints have not changed.

But a funny thing happened: as they used it more, they really were learning some skills that other programs (computer or not) were not teaching them, and once they figured out how to use the program, they started to like it.  The day that Kaitlyn (my 7-year-old) finished the program, she was actually excited that she got all the way through, and suddenly Megan (my 5-year-old) was begging me to "play too".  Since our license was still active, and I was allowed to have one child using the program at a time, I simply shut off Kaitlyn's access to RWT, and started Megan's.  Megan also had some of the same problems, but once Kaitlyn showed her how to use the program, she flew through it and was super-excited to finish as well.  Despite what I still consider a cheesy story-line and awful music, they did learn skills by using it.

So when offered the chance to review Word Qwerty, Talking Finger's sequel to RWT, I asked the girls if they were interested in doing the next level.  They were enthusiastic, and I went ahead and signed up.

Word Qwerty takes kids through the next steps of reading and writing fluency, and picks up where the RWT system leaves off.  It's geared toward 7-9 year-olds, but my 5 year old, who is reading at about a "late 1st grade" level, was able to use it just fine.  Children do not have to use or complete RWT before using Word Qwerty.

RWT teaches how to read, write and type, but at that stage children may have difficulty spelling some words because of the different rules of "construction" in the English language.  Word Qwerty teaches how words are put together in English and uses reading and writing tools - aka, fun games - to help the child gain fluency and comprehension.  

Wordy Qwerty has a total of 20 lessons, each comprised of six parts to guide a child to reading and writing fluency through the program:


  • Patterns – for instance, sorting words by the beginning letter.
  • Karaoke – rhymes and songs teach the 20 rules of word construction.

  • 3 - RECYCLER
    4 - POP-A-WORD

  • Recycler – watching the recycler make new words by changing the first letter.
  • Pop-a-Word – helps recognize outlaw words by memorizing them.


  • Write Stories – using the spelling rules to types stories that are dictated a line at a time.
  • Read Stories – reading a good story and filling in the missing words.

  • Interested?  Check out this video that explains how the program works:

    You can also check out a free demo AND get a 20%-off coupon to use if you decide to order the program.  You have a few choices in purchasing.  You can choose to use the program online (license is good for 5 years) starting at $25 for one student.  You can also order the program on CD with several hands-on items included (program guide in a 3-ring binder and Jingle Spells on audio CD) starting at $35 for the Home Edition.  While the Home Edition is perfect for homeschoolers, it does not work with Windows 7 or  Mac 10.6. The programs are also available for schools to purchase. For information on School License, Talking Fingers, or the K-4 bundle click here.

    Our Opinion:
    So - that's a lot of information about the program and how it works.  The question you're probably most interested in, is "How did WE like it?"

    The jury is still out.  Like Talking Fingers' Read, Write and Type, I find myself having to coax the girls to use the program.  When we sat down a few days ago to have a frank discussion about what they like and what they don't, they both complained about the songs being "annoying" and "dumb".  Given that memorizing the songs that teach the spelling rules is critical to learning what the program is geared to teach, it seems like a BIG minus.  However, just because they don't like the songs, doesn't mean they haven't learned them.  Several times I've caught both of them singing the various songs as they go about their day (NOT during their time using the program).  On the same topic, both my boys have complained about the music, to the point that we had to institute a "head-phones required" rule for when the girls did Word Qwerty.

    I have noticed a huge gain in both girls' spelling AND reading skills since they started using it.  The strange thing is that if I try to ask them specific spelling questions verbally that incorporate the rules they're learning, they seem to have a poor understanding of how the rule actually works.  For instance, one rule teaches that the "ch" sound can be spelled "ch" as in much or "tch" as in match.  I used those specific words to test their understanding of the spelling rule in this conversation:
    Me: "How would you spell much?"
    Kaitlyn: "M...u...c...h"
    Me: "How would you spell match?"
    Kaitlyn: "M...a...c...h"
    Me: "What other letters, instead of "c...h", could you use to make the "ch" sound?"
    Kaitlyn: "Um....."
    Me:  (wait)
    Kaitlyn: "Um...t...c...h?"
    Me: "Yes! else could you spell match?"
    Kaitlyn:  "M...a...t...h?"

    However, if I SHOW Kaitlyn  the words much and match she can read them just fine.  Same thing with Megan.

    Overall, I think the program could use some better music, and some revamping in terms of teaching the kids to incorporate the rules verbally, as well as visually.  But it does have some benefits and may work very well for helping kids learn how the English spelling rules work, which may lead to better spelling very quickly.

    Want to know more?  Check out what my other crew members had to say about Word Qwerty here.

    Disclaimer: As a member of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received a complimentary 2-person license to the online version of Word Qwerty in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased review. No other compensation was received.

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