How I Use It
Although I was excited to try this product based on my experiences with Grammar Wonderland (Elementary) and other apps by this developer, I quickly realized that it was not going to live up to expectations. The purpose is to provide students in grades 3-6 with practice sorting words. They can do this either by practicing based on level and skill or by exploring worlds in an space-like setting. The practice mode has some merit, with students examining word structure to pair words that fit the selected category (prefixes, suffixes, digraphs, etc.) before navigating their character within the game. With four different levels available, teachers can direct students to the appropriate level or skill to reinforce what has been learned in class. However, some of the "skills" lack real sustenance. The vowel sort was one of the more "academic" categories in my opinion, yet I felt this was probably a skill that didn't need to be practiced by most third to sixth graders. "Endings" seemed rather vague to me, when what was really being practiced was sorting plural words. I felt that the app missed the mark on teaching anything about prefixes and suffixes since students were merely matching words based on how they looked rather than how the prefix altered the meaning of the root. In fact, very little reading was required at all to be successful since students just had to look for the letters in words.
In the world exploration mode, students work their way through various levels to complete each of four worlds. The activities are basically the same as in practice mode, but the puzzles themselves get harder as you progress. This requires some problem-solving and critical thinking, but that's not the real point of the app. I could see students being engaged in solving all of the puzzles so that's a good motivator to sort many types of words. It's great that this free app provides for multiple players so that students can pick up where they left off when returning to the app.
Based on my experience with this app, I am not planning to use it with students. As a technology specialist, I have to consider the value of the apps that to onto our iPad carts and I just don't think this one has enough benefits to the learner. I think many would like playing the game, but just don't see enough educational value to merit taking up space on our devices with this app. McGraw-Hill have several other apps that I encourage teachers to use, but this won't be one of them. There needs to be a stronger connection between the words presented and sorting that they are required to do. Since only a lite version is currently available, perhaps there will be improvements in a future paid version or better yet, a new release of the free version that better facilitates learning.