Bottom Line: A simple, to-the-point app that targets three areas of hard-to-spell words: long vowel sounds, homophones and word endings. Hands-on learning and reinforcing games help make this app unique among spelling apps.
To download Tricky Spelling ($2.99, iPhone/iPad), use the link below to help out Smart Apps for Kids:
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! The most spelling fun under one big top is found right here inside Tricky Spelling from developer Chris Hordern. As if traditional spelling weren't hard enough, so many words don't even follow typical spelling rules, like "i before e except after c." Enter Tricky Spelling, which targets three tricky areas of spelling for school-aged kiddos: long vowel sounds, homophones and word endings.
Each of the three areas addressed by this app has 10 lists, ranked from 1 to 10, with one being the easiest and 10 containing the most difficult collection of words. Once your kiddo selects a list and presses play, he is taken straight in to learning. A sentence strip appears with targeted words eliminated. A voice reads the sentence and then your student's job is to correctly spell the missing words. Words are spelled by dragging letter tiles, quite similar to those in a game of Scrabble, into the empty box in the correct order. If a letter is correct, it will place into the box when dragged. However, if a letter is not supposed to come next in a word, the letter tile will turn red and your kiddo won't be able to place the letter in the box.
Once a sentence is complete, your little learner presses the "next" button at the bottom right of the screen. Once every sentence in the section has been selected, it's time to play. A spinning clown wheel appears at the end of each level and your rugrat's job is to spell as many words as possible in the time allowed. Once the game is completed, she is taken back to the main screen.
A good selection of options is available under the "Settings" section on the main page, including volume levels for music, sound effects and voice. This is always a strong "yes" for me in app components as both a teacher and person who is easily driven crazy by constant app noise.
I really enjoyed the varied learning style that the letter tile feature of this app provides. Not all children learn the same, and this is fantastic for hands-on learners. It also involves the student in learning much more than a simple point-and-drag word selection might. As a speech therapist, I'm very happy to see that homophones were included. These little parts of the English language can be hard for students both with and without learning disabilities. Secretly, I want to send most of the people I see on Facebook the sentence practice for "there, their, they're." I also was really impressed with the number of lists each of the three sections has. They provide a great deal of practice on one particular section, which some kiddos need.
I would love to see a way that individual student progress can be recorded inside the app. As a teacher who works with one iPad and several children throughout the day, I really rely on data collection as a good help for an already overloaded brain. Quick reinforcers during practice would be a handy feature for elementary kiddos with shorter attention spans or who need more encouragement during practice.
Overall, I feel like Tricky Spelling is a solid spelling app that takes a new viewpoint on certain areas of spelling, and it's not like every app in the app store. If you have a student who needs extra spelling help on tricky words, get some big top learning here.