Common Sense Review
Updated March 2013

Lists for Writers

Save struggling students from writer's block with tidy creative tool
Common Sense Rating 3
Teacher Rating (1 Teacher Review) 3
  • The top of the main page starts with the Character section and follows with Personality.
  • In the Words section, the Adjectives list begins with aback.
  • The middle of the main page includes words related to Setting and a Miscellaneous section for commonly used words, like for animals.
  • A Fantasy, Myths, and Magic section might spark some interest in literature or mythology.
  • The Plot section includes Dramatic Situations listings – for example, Deliverance, Pursuit, and Disaster – plus short basic descriptions of each.
Pros
Kids can run wild with the extensive lists of words, plot ideas, characters, and more.
Cons
Without a tutorial or much guidance, kids may need extra help getting started.
Bottom Line
Lists for Writers provides well-organized creative fodder for writers of all ages.
Leslie Crenna
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

The presentation is spare without graphics, audio, or activities, and it works; however, the app might benefit from a brief tutorial that allows users to select words and put a sentence together.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

This app could be the basis for writing activities for a range of ages and could stand on its own with only brief explanation.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 2

While it lacks a tutorial and there are no references to other resources, the navigation is as simple as can be.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

Assign students the challenge of writing the wildest, most ridiculous one-page story they can, using as many of Lists for Writers' words and ideas as possible. They'll see how vibrant a piece of writing can be and may be inspired to continue exploring the world they've created. Make sure kids understand that using lists isn't "cheating" but rather a tool that many real writers use to get started with their own work.

Moving forward, kids can tone it down: Have them develop a two-paragraph character study using at least three words from each section under Character, or start a classroom discussion of favorite stories to see how they fit the basic plot structures outlined in the app.

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What's It Like?

Lists for Writers lights kids' creative spark by providing lists of essential words and concepts. Quirky character names, personality words, settings, action verbs, rhyming words, colors, and emotions are just a few of the lists available that students can draw from here.  Writers in grades 4-12 can easily mix and match the above to create rich sentences like this: "Enamored, Parker grabbed his jacket and ran out of the pastry shop, leaving a slice of mincemeat pie behind." A plot section adds a bit more depth into creating a well-rounded piece of writing with "the 7 basic plots," 36 dramatic situations, 7 conflict types, and a huge list of "issues," from "abandonment" to "yelling."

Upon opening the app, users find a main menu list offering about 50 items in six categories. Some lists, like Phobias and Plots, have additional information. There are no in-app controls or buttons. All navigation is controlled by tapping text in lists or going back with the device's back button.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Kids can use technology to acquire and use words that convey ideas and experiences precisely, including concrete words and sensory details. They'll sharpen storytelling fluency and develop a greater variety of words and plotlines in their writing. Literary forms like poems, scripts, short stories, and novels are all supported by the app's brainstorming catalysts that identify emotions and help characters move beyond obstacles. The plot section can also help developing writers understand traditional story structure and apply it to new pieces.

Motivated kids who are ready to write will browse the very organized and accessible lists and select words that appeal to them, fit a purpose, or satisfy an assignment. Most kids, however, will need some guidance or specific activities to understand how to put the lists to use. With a bit of structure, Lists for Writers could be especially helpful for kids who may not consider themselves skilled writers, alleviating the initial frustration of writer's block and giving kids some concrete ideas to get started, work with, and maybe even enjoy developing.

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