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App review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2014
Big Bird's Words...A Sesame Street App

Big Bird's Words...A Sesame Street App

Creative tech activity helps build sight-word recognition, vocabulary

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Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, Health & Wellness, English-Language Learning

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Pros: Seamless connection between online and offline world of words.

Cons: Only one word pack is provided; some pictures aren't clearly identifiable.

Bottom Line: Creative and unique approach to whole-word recognition, exploring the world of words and expanding vocabulary.

Younger kids and those who aren't yet reading may have trouble using this app on their own, and teachers should be actively involved in helping them search for target words: Make suggestions, point kids in the right direction, point out features of letters so they can more easily find target words. Stronger beginning readers may enjoy hunting for words on their own or in small groups. In either case, teachers can expand on each word and word group with discussions about -- for example -- where milk comes from, what letters make up the word milk, and where they might find the word milk. Teachers can even get parents involved: Have kids go home with a word list and talk with their parents about where they might find the words. Everyone can share their results in class the next day. Kids can't save their word lists or record their progress, so teachers should follow kids as they interact with the app to see how they're doing. 

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Editor's Note: Big Bird's Words is no longer available for download.

The adventure starts in a virtual supermarket where Big Bird leads kids through an "I Spy"-type game, collecting pictures of objects on a word list (e.g., food that comes from chickens). Kids choose words from the list to look for in their environment -- at a real supermarket, in the fridge or pantry, in books, etc. When they find a word, they use their device's camera to center the word in the Word-o-Scope. When the app recognizes the word, it takes kids to a collection of related words, such as (in this case) farm, farmer, or protein. Kids click each word to hear Big Bird tell them what the word means and how it's related to the target word. The adults' section includes many tips for expanding the experience.

This ingenious use of technology to create a bridge between the digital and non-digital world may seem like magic to kids -- in fact, it almost seems like magic to grown-ups! Kids are involved in every step of the experience, identifying target words through inductive reasoning, making lists, exploring their environment to find words, and then expanding their vocabulary with related words. This is a great activity for kids and adults to do together. Younger kids especially may require adult help to direct them to where they can find the target words. Kids just starting to read will do best with this game, although all kids will benefit from being actively involved in learning new vocabulary words.

Unfortunately, the food word list is the only set available, so the experience is limited. There's also no way to make multiple accounts, save progress on a particular word list, or choose a specific word to explore. Any or all of these features would be useful for teachers.

Overall Rating


Highly interactive elements make this app super fun and engaging. Big Bird and Cookie Monster are appealing and familiar hosts, and kids will get a kick out of hunting for words.


Kids think critically about words that are all around them. Active-word explorations and related-words explanations enrich vocabulary. Related-words section could be a bit more interactive.


Features great extension activities, guidance for making the game a shared experience, and useful how-to help. Ability to save lists, choose words, or create user accounts would be helpful for classroom use.

Common Sense reviewer
Mieke VanderBorght Researcher

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