Oh my Gosh! ABC Gurus by Colto is tons of fun while giving preschoolers a total immersion experience in the first steps in learning to read. Kids not only learn the alphabet in this easy to navigate and play app but also the phonetic sounds of each letter by coloring and outfitting the letters. Colto bases their new app on incidental learning theory or the ability to assimilate material as a byproduct of experience rather than confined in a structured environment, i.e. In therapy, when someone needs to gain range of motion or strength in their arms, playing catch with a ball gets them to reach higher and exercise longer than simply doing repetitions of arm exercises. Learning through active participation, creative expression, and the ability to share information learned integrates the material in a way that is easier to apply when beginning to sound out words in the future. In short, it makes reading less intimidating by making it familiar in both body and mind. Let’s open up the app and take a look at what makes ABC Guru's rock!
On opening, you are greeted by The Letter Planet. You can choose either uppercase or lowercase letter by toggling between the two. Spin the planet for a letter, and then it’s time to get busy! Here you can either color in the letter or have kids trace the letter. While coloring or marking the letter, the letter sounds out, /b/b/b/b/. The sound is also regulated by the pace in which you color, adding to the fun. Making those coloring marks integrates vision, hearing, and movement that set down multiple pathways for material retention than simply rote memorization alone. The motor act of coloring in and of itself helps ground what is being taught, and coloring is not limited to one color selection. You can add stripes, zig-zags or anything else your heart desires to extend this portion of the play. The next step is the personification of the letter by adding eyes, mouths, body markings, and hats. It is this personification that creates a social/emotional response. That simple act of making the letters different every time helps kids to be more flexible in their thinking. This broadens the presence of viewing letters across the expanse of a word and helps kids learn to generalize. A “T” is for the top in the first place and the sound is the same in last place for hot.
Once your fancied letter is fully outfitted, tap on the next arrow to watch your letter come to life and interact with something or someone starting with that letter in a fun animated clip. I do appreciate the fact that Colto kept the sound of the letter consistent with the animated feature so as not to confuse early learners. Variances in sound can always be shaped later. Take a snapshot, and then save their creations to the camera roll in a separate album to show and talk about later. The sharing portion is essential to expand on creativity and ideas and helps set the stage for future writers. Thankfully there is an option to also turn off the snapshot feature (the sound and feel of making a snapshot are retained) for those kids that can take hundreds of photos.
My only wish would be to have a home button once you’ve got a letter, in case you should change your mind and wish to select another letter. The upside to not having the home button is that it teaches kids to finish what they have started. There is a secured link to another app by the company and also an informative parent’s section in the upper left-hand corner on the home page. I would highly recommend reading this to get the most from the app, and then both can be hidden from view in Settings for independent play by a child. Spending time getting to know an app before use with kids is invaluable, and can help keep their motivation high and allow you to focus on the child’s performance for data collection.
ABC Gurus is a great app to add to your toolbox. It is laughing out loud funny and helps little ones retain the material in a smart way. Colto has done their research and stands behind their product. It is highly recommended for preschoolers or those learning their letters and sounds. It can also serve as a great beginning handwriting app, and one that facilitates the creative expression of ideas.
About the Author
Jo Booth has been an Occupational Therapist for over 30 years and currently works in Pediatrics with early intervention. She sees kids newly diagnosed on the spectrum as well as medically fragile kids. She loves to move, explore and play every day; so that “her kids” grow up to be healthy independent learners.