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FAQ
Frequently asked questions about the principle of work and efficiency
of learning tools “SMART BLOCKS + WRITING TRAINER” and “WRITING TRAINER”

Question 1

You produce "Writing Trainer" but there is a wide variety of analogues on the market of educational toys, stationery, books and educational products. What is the purpose of your Trainer?

  • Indeed, the methods of learning of writing in all countries is based on a simple and understandable technology: there are used samples of letters and their elements (lines, curves) in copybooks and a child reproduces the method of outlining the strokes along the dotted lines, he visually remembers letters and then reproduces them in the notebook. This classic technique is universal and works in the U.S., India, China, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Israel and other countries.

  • The analysis of materials of scientific conferences, teachers' reviews, parents' views and psycho physiological rating of children while teaching them writing with the help of copybooks has revealed a common problem: the mastery of writing for children is the most uninteresting activity what causes eye fatigue and general fatigue.

  • Also disappointing thing for children is the need of repeated mechanical copying of letters from copybook in a notebook (from 15 to 35 times).

  • TESTPLAY created and patented "Writing Trainer" which purpose is to:
    • make the process of mastering writing interesting and fun;
    • reduce eye fatigue and general fatigue;
    • reduce the time of mastering writing.


Question 2

What is your Trainer looks like?

Writing Trainer is a flat plastic plate. On both sides of the plate there are printed uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as the elements that make up the letters (slanted and straight lines, curves, connections). All letters and their elements are made in the form of sensory lines with relief bottoms.

Side 1 (English)
Writing Trainer
Side 2 (English)
Writing Trainer


Question 3

is the purpose of sensory lines with relief bottoms?

The directing sensory lines for mastering writing are used in the known stencils for a long time. Montessori has not only shown their effectiveness in teaching writing, but also designed and patented them (U.S. Patent 1093369). Stencil with cut letters were put over sheet of notebook, and a child inserted pen in a slot and outlined a letter few times. This method completed the classic technique of teaching writing in copybooks, required less time, and training has become more attractive.

However, the experts pointed out that with the help of using the simple stencils it is difficult to achieve reproduction of letter's proportions (length of straight lines, curves, connections). The child's handwriting remained uneven, and the identity of the letters' size was not achieved.

To teach a child to assimilate length of each part of letter, we made relief with a set of projections. The projections are made in such way that when you traces pen on the relief bottom you can hear “crack”.



Writing Trainer Writing Trainer


Question 4

Can tactile signals of the pen while its movement on the relief bottom influence remembering of the letter?

Remember your childhood and the situation when you were on the train. The train moved off, gaining speed, passes some distance, and you can define the train speed and the distance by the flicker of trees and poles, which you can see through the window. Close the window, and the same parameters you will define by the clatter of the wheels. The wheels bump on the joints of the rails, audible and tactile signal is felt rails. This situation is identical with the stroke of letters embossed on the track simulator, when a set of acoustic and tactile signals form an idea of the length and configuration of the parts that make up the letter.



Question 5

What is the effect of Writing Trainer?

Mastering writing is based on that child puts the pen and traces it on the relief bottom. While hitting on projection, pen jumps up and then jumps down to the projection. In that moment you can hear crackling. Due to fine finger's motility child “reads” the tactile and sound signals.

The technology of Writing Trainer is simple: a child outlines the letters 3 — 4 times and then writes the same letters 4 — 5 times in the notebook.

Thus, the effect of Writing Trainer is based on the combining of such processes as:

  • visual image of the letters,
  • tactile – motor image of the letters, and
  • sound image of the letters.
Writing Trainer Writing Trainer Writing Trainer


Question 6

For example, can you explain how a child can learn to write the letter ‘O”?

For illustration we can show how a child can acquire the writing skills on the example of the letter “O”. The pen is inserted into the left upper part of the sensory line and moved down along the line. While stumbling upon the spikes on the relief bottom, the pen occasionally bounces as if riding the waves. It makes 9–10 such bounces on the line section that makes the left side of the “O”. Upon reaching the lower part of the sensory line a child moves the pen to the right, tracing the lower curve. Then the pen moves upward along the sensory line, again hitting the spikes on the relief bottom, thus forming the right side of the letter “O” with the according curved elements. The frequency of tactile sounds equals the number of spikes. Here, on the right line section, the pen also makes 9–10 bounces. It turns out that the sensory image of the whole letter (about 20 tactile signals) is formed in the child's motor memory as a set of 3D tactile signals for each of the sides (10 + 10), forming a complete letter (width, length and height).

The configuration of spikes on the relief bottom is designed in such a way that while tracing the sensory lines of the letters, the pen is bouncing up and down, thus causing the typical sound signal as “crack”.

It becomes obvious that the existing class of writing trainers, represented in the form of stencils with cut letters or letters in lines with a flat bottom, are based on the usage of only two kinds of memory:

  • visual memory;
  • motor memory of a 2D object.

For all that, 2D motor memory is limited by fixed size parameters (only width and length) of the letters.

The developed Writing Trainers produced by TESTPLAY fundamentally improve the use of child's motor memory using the mechanism of tactile image of the letters and introduce the use of the sound (aural) memory for the first time. Thus, to form and develope the writing skills on the base of letters and combinations of letters, Writing Trainer activates such powerful memory utilities as:

  • visual memory;
  • motor memory of a 3D object;
  • sound (aural) memory.
Writing Trainer


Question 7

How does Writing Trainer fit into the existing technologies of writing training in the kindergartens and schools? Is it possible to go without other teaching aids if you already use the Trainer? What was the school teacher's reaction to its implementation? Is the Trainer universal? Can it be applied for different languages or is it restricted within the particular language environment, for example, in Russia?

We produce Writing Trainers since 1986 and are proud to say that our Trainer does not come up against any technology of writing training used in kindergartens, schools and homeschooling. Quite the contrary, teachers recommend parents to use it as an effective teaching tool, that supplements the process of standard education. They understand that Trainer significantly increases the child's psychological interest in writing training due to the game element of tracing the pen across the spikes, accompanied with a “crack” sound. Despite the apparent simplicity of the Trainer, all teachers definitely note its didactic effect.

We have positive feedback from the use of Writing Trainers in schools, and not only in Russia, Ukraine and other countries of CIS, but also in the ancient language systems, such as Hindi and Chinese. We would remind you that in Chinese hieroglyphics is the primary writing system. Here's the conclusion: Writing Trainer does not come up against any existing educational technology in any language structure. It is universal. All the experts see it as an effective educational tool and a developmental toy at the same time.



Question 8

What is the service life of Writing Trainer? Do the spikes on the relief bottom of the sensory lines get rubbed away quickly and decrease in height? For how long does Writing Trainer preserve its features? Is it difficult for a child to take care of Writing Trainer?

Estimated service life of Writing Trainer was set up to 3 years by TESTPLAY. Our experience of practical use of the tool made us change our mind about it. Since 1986 we have produced more than 8.0 mln Writing Trainers, and we know some children who used Writing Trainer in 1986-1990's, grew up, got married and eventually handed their Trainers down to their own children.

Our experts have concluded that when an ink pen traces the relief bottom the lines get painted with ink. In such a case the ball on the tip of the pen spins and slides and does not abrade the spikes, what leads to the conclusion that usage of ink pens visually soils Writing Trainer, but also prevents the destruction of spikes, thus increasing its service life several times.

The exterior of Writing Trainer can easily be renewed by a simple washer. Kids love to do that.



Question 9

What is the didactic and psychological effect from using Writing Trainer? Are there any state expertise? Or feedback from professionals in other countries?

According to the results of state expertise of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine it is established that the use of Writing Trainer:

  • Promotes learning of writing 2.5—3 times quicker.
  • Reduces eye fatigue and general fatigue.
  • Develops interest for the process of writing.
  • Forms good handwriting.

Please note that in Ukraine, Writing Trainer is obligatory included to the Set of First–Grader and all schools are equipped with it.

We have similar conclusions from the Ministries of Education of Russia and other CIS countries, as well as from leading educational institutions of China (CNIER) and India (NCERT).



Question 10

Does Writing Trainer require some special storage, can it be easily broken, is it whimsical?

Writing Trainer is compact; its size allows placing it in a bag easy with books and notebooks. It does not afraid of cold and heat, using water it will just looks newer and fresher. Writing Trainer can be used while sitting at the desk, lying on the floor, in the car, in the airplane. It is unpretentious and does not afraid of injury.



Question 11

For what purpose did you start to produce a set of “Smart Blocks and Writing Trainer”?

The analysis of education technology of children from 4 years revealed two general patterns.

The first pattern: first of all children learn capital letters. They see them everywhere: on the bricks, baby's pictures, in advertisements. A child is forming a set of frequently occurring letters with a clear sound symbol.

The second pattern: when a child is learning to write he pronounces the letter in a drawling manner while outlining it.

Our studies have convinced: the faster child is outlining a letter, the clearer and faster he pronounces the letter during reproduction of it. The same goes for learning syllables. On this issue, our experts have defended two dissertations, research papers were presented at 12 conferences, which were reflected in publication and were patented.

Thus, the teachers agreed completely on the continuity of Writing Trainer with the showing of printed letters at the same time. This was the reason of appearance the set ’Smart Blocks and Writing Trainer”.

Smart Blocks and Writing Traine


Question 12

By what criteria have you defined the number of blocks, their size, color and design?

The number of blocks is chosen from so that there was an ability to use all four edges, taking into account the frequency of letters in the language (for example, the letter “A” is found in a set 6 times, the letter “K” is — 2, “I” — 3 times, and so on).

Previously, we produced sets of 28 bricks, but while delivering the product to India (52 letters in the alphabet of Hindi) and Jordan (28 letters in four versions in Arabic script) such amount of blocks proved to be not enough. Since 2002, we began to produce “Smart Blocks” in a set of 36 bricks.

On the edges of blocks all the letters of the alphabet, punctuation marks and mathematical symbols are printed. The size of blocks were chosen from the condition of facilities to set words by children's hands, using their natural sensitivity and development of fine finger motor skills for a better mastery of writing skills. Connecting bases of the blocks provide the right connection of blocks, they are connected without inversion. Children make words and whole sentences with pleasure. The yellow color is selected as the background, for the contrast of perception configurations of letters from 4—5 m, which makes it possible to use cubes for teaching in the classroom.

The application of mathematical symbols on the blocks can be used to form counting skills by performing tasks such as: how many blocks are in my hand? How many blocks left? Etc.

Besides the set of mathematical exercises Smart Blocks can teach an understanding of qualitative features: a comparison of figures like fat — thin, high — low, wide — narrow, and a comparison of areas and volumes like more — less, etc.



Question 13

Make it clear, is it better for children to use only “Writing Trainer”or just a set of “Smart Blocks and Writing Trainer”? To what to give preference in the distribution?

By the experience of sales in Russia and CIS countries, we can conclude that buying both products is in a ratio of 50:50.

At the same time in different market segments, this ratio varies. Thus, “Writing Trainer” is more sold in stores and departments of school stationery, and “Smart Blocks and Writing Trainer” is better sold in the segment of learning toys and books for children.



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