Purpose and Intended Use of Application

Ollie’s Handwriting and Phonics was created as a portable, accessible, and affordable way to put the best literacy research and tools into the hands of supporting adults who want to help children develop and master the building blocks of becoming successful readers and writers.

While learning to read comes more quickly and naturally to some children, learning to read is a still a skill and has to be taught.  Some children require more extensive drill of these skills and all children benefit from repeated practice of these skills to become fluent and independent readers and writers.  Yet many parents have questions about the best ways to support their children at home and many teachers are looking for creative ways to help incorporate more literacy practice into the day.

Ollie’s Handwriting & Phonics is intended to be used by educators working with children to improve literacy skills.  The application serves as a portable and affordable means to provide students the repeated drill of learning letters, sounds, and decoding/encoding (reading/writing).  Ollie’s Handwriting & Phonics is also designed for parents to provide answers in how to teach their child reading and writing skills by bringing a portable and fun teacher (Ollie the Owl) into the home.  The application is also a fun way for children to practice their literacy skills with errorless teaching as the app shows them how to pronounce letter sounds correctly and does not allow them to form letters (handwriting) incorrectly.


What’s the Big Deal with Handwriting?

In a digital age, why is handwriting still important? In an article published in the Journal of Early Childhood Education and Development, researcher Dinehart discovered a link between strong handwriting skills in preschool and academic success in elementary school.  Students who demonstrated better fine motor skills in Pre-Kindergarten had higher GPAs and standardized test scores in both reading and math in second grade.

Laura Dinehart is a professor at Florida International University’s College of Education

What do children need when developing handwriting skills?  According to Judith Schickendanz, PHD, children need to develop an image in their mind of how to form letters.  It’s important for children to see a skilled teacher, such as an adult, form letters.  This helps children see the line and curve segments that make up letters.  Children should have ample opportunities to practice letter making and be provided a variety of mediums (pencil & paper, chalk & chalkboard, paint, etc.) to try out their skills.

Judith A. Schickedanz, PHD is a professor of education at Boston University.  She co-authored the preschool curriculum Open the World of Learning which she helped adapt for Jumpstart, a research-based literacy program that works with preschool children in low-income communities.  She is also the author of several early childhood books including Much More Than the ABCs, Increasing the Power of Instruction, and Writing in Preschool.



Who is this app for?

Ollie’s Handwriting & Phonics is designed for pre-school through early elementary children (approximately ages 2 – 9).  Ollie helps young children at all levels and abilities develop and enhance early literacy skills.

How will Ollie help my child learn how to read and write?

Ollie’s Handwriting & Phonics uses a multisensory approach (sight, sound & touch) to teach capital and lowercase letter identification, letter sounds, basic phonics skills such as segmenting (breaking apart) and blending (putting together) sounds to read and write words, and sight words (words to be recognized automatically that occur at a high-frequency in texts and sometimes have irregular spellings – the, was, to).  These methods are modeled after successful and researched based systematic phonics programs used in the United States.  While these methods are most frequently used for students with language based learning disabilities such as dyslexia, they are beneficial for all students with varying levels and abilities.

How will Ollie help my student improve her handwriting?

Ollie’s Handwriting & Phonics using a multisensory approach (sight, sound & touch) to help children remember how to correctly form capital and lowercase letters.  Ollie serves as a teacher demonstrating the correct way to form a letter and uses errorless teaching to allow children to practice letters, be successful, and to form letters correctly even if no one is watching.  The handwriting methods used in this application are modeled after one of the most successful and widely used handwriting programs in America’s schools developed by occupational therapists.  Therefore the methods used are not only proven and research based but often compliment a child’s handwriting instruction in school.

How do I see Ollie trace the letter again?

After Ollie has completed his tracing sequence and it becomes the user’s turn, the user may tap on Ollie in the upper right corner of the screen to see him trace the letter again.  After he has completed the letter, the user can again work on writing the letter independently.

My child is impatient to draw the letter by himself.  Can I turn off the function of Ollie tracing the letter?

This application is designed to be a learning tool to help parents, teachers and therapists teach children the proper way to form letters and learn letter sounds.  Ollie demonstrating how to form the letter correctly and pronounce the correct letter sound is an important feature as it provides the necessary repetition and drill needed for students to master handwriting and phonics skills.  This function cannot be turned off.

Where can I get more information?

While in the application, click on the information button (i) to learn more.  Explore Ollie’s Handwriting & Phonics on the Blue Mango LLC website to find out more information.  Check out the Ollie App Companion Guide for Parents, Teachers and Therapists.  This includes downloadable PDFs with lesson ideas, tips to enhance your child’s reading and writing skills, checklists to use with children, a glossary of literacy terms, and suggested resources and materials.  Also, see below for direct links to the downloadable PDFs.

I have more questions!

Please feel free to contact us with more questions!


Glossary of Literacy Terms

blending:   putting together individual phonemes to form a whole word (i.e. /k/… /a/… /t/… blended together makes the word “cat”)

CVC words:  consonant-vowel-consonant words; the easiest words for students to begin to read that usually follow the most basic phonics rules of consonant sound-short vowel sound-consonant sound (i.e. cat, dog, cup, pig, etc.)

crossing the midline:   ability to do work on the opposite side of the body with the dominant hand – i.e. right hand doing work on the left side of the body.  How does your child write lowercase t?  With two strokes crossing over each other (crossing the midline)? Or with three strokes, one vertical line and two horizontal lines coming out of the vertical line (not crossing the midline)?

why is crossing the midline so important?

Crossing the midline enables children to develop a strong dominant hand and good handwriting skills.  Until crossing the midline is well established, you may notice a child using his left hand to do things on the left side of his body and his right hand on the right side of his body.

One dominant hand has not emerged leaving two mediocre hands – not a great thing for handwriting! Children may assume awkward positions when writing such as leaning far over to one side or turning their paper 90 degrees to avoid crossing over the other side of their body.

decoding (sounding out):   used during the reading process, the ability for a student to break apart and put together, or blend, sounds in words to read a whole word

dyslexia:  a language processing disorder in individuals with normal to high intelligence that causes the brain to process and interpret information differently; children have difficulty making sense of the sound/symbol relationship when learning to read; dyslexia may impact one’s ability to blend sounds into words, remember the rules of spelling, write, memorize common sequences or express oneself clearly

encoding:  used during spelling or the writing process, the ability for a student to break apart, or segment, sounds in words and write the corresponding letter

handwriting:  the process of correctly forming letters to produce a clear, legible print that can be created with ease

invented spelling / phonetic spelling: the way beginning readers and writers start to write words by applying the phonics rules they know to sound out and spell words independently instead of memorizing conventional spelling (i.e. I lik mi sisdr / like my sister;  We wnt to the prc / We went to the park;  It wuz sune / It was sunny)

literacy:   the ability to read and write proficiently; includes phonemic awareness, phonics, writing, handwriting, spelling, vocabulary and comprehension

multisensory approach:  using multiple senses or learning modalities to learn and remember information -auditory (hear), visual (see) and kinesthetic (touch/movement)

phonemes:  the smallest parts of spoken language that are combined to form words; often represented in the following format: /sound/ –  so /b/ is the sound for the letter B;  /k/ and /s/ represent the two different sounds in the letter C;  the word fish only has three phonemes even though it has four letters (/f/ /i/ /sh/); the English language has 41 phonemes

phonemic awareness:  the ability to hear, identify and manipulate the individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words

phonics:  the understanding that there is a predictable relationship between the sounds of spoken words and the individual letters (or groups of letters) that represent those sounds in written words

phonological awareness:  a broad term that includes phonemic awareness. In addition to phonemes, phonological awareness activities can involve work with rhymes, words, syllables and onsets & rimes.

segmenting: breaking apart of separating individual phonemes in words (seeing or hearing the word “cat” a student is able to say each individual sound /c/… /a/… /t/…)

tripod grasp:  considered the most efficient way to hold a pencil or the ideal pencil grip where three fingers are touching the pencil; the thumb and pointer finger pinch the pencil while the middle finger rests underneath the pencil; the ring and pinky finger gently curl into the palm to provide stability


Download PDFs!

Student ChecklistOllie App Companion Guide

Ollie App Student Checklist

Ollie App Comprehensive Teacher Checklist

Ollie App Guide to Using Student & Teacher Checklists


How to Grow a Reader & Writer: Tips for Improving Handwriting, Fine Motor and Reading Skills

More Resources: Websites, Downloads, Materials & Glossary