Review of textThing

The Primary English Magazine - Published by NATE, Feb '03

If you're the author - mail me :)

textThing is a program that new users won't be able to tear themselves way from. It contains nine 'things' any teacher would want to do with a text:

  • rebuild it letter by letter (like the old Developing Tray activity)
  • rebuild it word by word
  • unscramble words in it, letter by letter
  • choose a version of a sentence that makes sense
  • take a spelling test
  • sequence sentences
  • punctuate a text
  • complete a cloze procedure

There are a number of appropriate texts provided to do all these activities with, but the real value with this product is that it will allow you to load your own text very easily and without a lot of fuss. Texts can be typed out, or gathered from the Internet or any other source, and dropped into textThing. You can even use a scanned text.

Once the text is there, textThing will let you organise group folders to which you can assign particular pupil and activities. The program also allows you to make printed copies of most of the on-screen activities.

On the opening screen, once you have chosen a text, you next choose what you want to do with it, and the activity appears on the screen. It is a very clear and simple screen, with choices for the pupil kept to a minimum, so that they can immediately begin the activity. If the user gets stuck, then she or he clicks on the Help button and a genie (or a man in a suit!) appears and goes through all the options for the chosen activity. I got stuck fairly early on in the letter-by-letter activity, but a quick click (in my case on the Peek button rather than the Help button) got me going again. It is also a simple matter to start the activity again, using another of the buttons provided on the screen.

Teachers will find textThing very useful for literacy hour work, both for whole-class and for group or individual tasks. It also allows texts from any other subject in the curriculum to be chosen and used as the basis for a bank of activities. The program builds on Sherlock, another popular piece of text manipulation software from the same company, but it does so much more than the earlier program, without getting complicated for the user. And because the focus of the work is on texts and text-related tasks, textThing will help many teachers to demonstrate the integration of ICT into their literacy work.

Finally, let me give you a word of warning about this fascinating resource. When you close down the program at the end of a session, you are given your 'statistics' for that working period. I wont tell you my timing, and scores…