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Review CornerSoftware
The Write Connections
Rating: four and a half stars
The Bottom Line
Very appropriate for home or school use, this program provides a whole lot of handwriting practice, as well as early concepts recognition. There is a wonderful little message conveyed here as well -- that everyone is unique in their own special way.
Award of Excellence
Ages: 2-8   Subject: Writing  Brand: Children's Choice Corp.
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
 
 
Write Connections Product Overview
This unique program is dedicated to teaching kids to write letters, numbers, and words. While there is no shortage of software designed to improve and develop children's skills in subjects like reading, math, and science, writing has been one subject area that has been largely overlooked. The Write Connections contains fun activities, videos, songs, and games that will help to teach and reinforce the mechanics of writing to young kids aged 2-8.

The host of the game is Tucker the Tiger, who was born with spots in the place of stripes -- spots that look very similar to the dot-to-dot patterns that are traditionally used as guidelines to help kids practice writing their alphabet. There is a wonderful little theme and moral here -- that everyone is unique and special because of their individuality. Tucker grows to not only accept his spots, but he learns to love them!

After the introductory video which tells Tucker's story in gorgeous 3D, and after signing in, kids arrive at Tucker's "home page" which serves as the main screen. Here kids (and parents) can access the 6 "activities" as follows:

  • ABC's (see screenshot at the right) involves selecting a letter from the rows of alphabet blocks and watching the lower and uppercase letters displayed, and the correct writing formation demonstrated. Tucker also names an animal that starts with the selected letter. Kids can watch a video of real kids singing the classic alphabet song, as the lyrics are shown line by line on-screen and a pawprint acts as a bouncing ball to highlight the lyrics word by word. Worksheets can be printed for each letter from this activity. The worksheet for the letter "Cc", for example, has a picture of a cat, and lines of letter practice for the letter C (both upper and lowercase). It even has the child's name at the top as well as space to practice it!
  • 123's has a similar format as the ABC's activity. Kids click on any of the numbers from 1-10, and the selected number will be displayed in numeral format as well as the dice equivalent. They can see that numeral in the form of a dot-to-dot pattern and watch as it is filled in, in the correct sequence. There is an accompanying song about numbers, and a print option as well.
  • Kids learn about 10 colors in the Colors activity, and watch as the color words are filled in before their eyes. Each color is demonstrated with an object of that color.
  • There are 6 basic shapes to explore in the Shapes activity, and each is displayed in dot-to-dot format in the form of the actual shape as well as the word. Again, there is a fun song/video to watch and printable worksheets featuring these shapes.
  • Custom (see screenshot below) allows parents and children to create their own handwriting worksheets. They can choose their own text and print it out for hands-on practice. The different formats are Worksheets, Journal, Thank You Card, and Party Invitation.
  • The Fun & Games section contains Games, Movies, and Coloring. In Games, kids follow mazes matching shapes and colors, or play a number game which involves clicking on the numbers from 1-20 in the correct order. There are 6 movie videos that reinforce concepts learned in the program and which are great fun to watch. The songs are cute and the video sequences contain real kids demonstrating the concepts, as well as interesting animations. For example, the numbers movie features a song "one little, two little, three little fingers" and shows some claymation hands. The Coloring section is a simple painting screen with a choice of 3 images.
The printouts act as worksheets or coloring pages. The handwriting practice sheets can be printed in one of two fonts -- D'Nealian or Zaner-Bloser. The letters and numbers can be printed in Solids, Dots, or Arrows.

Children enjoyed the animations, the story line, and the activities. As a parent of a child going into Kindergarten, I fully appreciate being able to create custom handwriting practice sheets and cards for my child. Most notable are the journal pages and cards. My daughter dictated a letter to her grandmother for me to input. We printed it out in the form of dot-to-dot patterns and she then eagerly wrote her letter to her grandma! The thank you cards are a nice touch as well, so even kids who are not proficient at writing can still "write" cards to their friends and family. This is a lovely way to help children appreciate the joys of communicating through the written word.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98/NT 4, a Pentium 166 MHz processor, 32 Mb RAM, and 6X CD ROM. Mac users require a Power PC 75 MHz with 32 Mb RAM, System 7.5 or higher, and at least 6X CD ROM.

Skills Covered
recognizing and developing correct written formation of letters and numbers, handwriting skills, alphabet recognition, colors, shapes, numerals to 20.

Educational Value
This program provides excellent practice and reinforcement of correct written formation, something that is rather hard to find in the world of children's software.

Entertainment Value
This is a quiet program that is nice to look at but not as exciting as some other children's software. Kids play quiet games and much practice will come away from the computer using the title's excellent handwriting printouts.

Design
The program is easy to navigate. You won't find difficulty levels in the program, but there doesn't really seem to be a need for them. Tucker the tiger is very helpful and explains things fully.

Replayability
Kids and their parents will likely use this program a lot. The targeted age group of 2-8 is quite broad, and although this title is most appropriate for children in Kindergarten and first grade, children a bit younger and slightly older can benefit from the program as well.

Dollar Value
Suggested retail price is $39.95 US. This program is valuable for its unique and fresh approach to teaching handwriting.

Released: 1998