Review by Heather Wilson, Common Sense Education | Updated July 2018
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Mad Libs

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New take on classic game is still fun but has limited classroom appeal

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • English Language Arts

Skills
N/A
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
2–6
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Pros: Adaptable to different levels; can be used by individuals, pairs, or small groups.

Cons: Limited number of free stories; incorrect words (e.g., an adjective instead of an adverb) aren't identified.

Bottom Line: For better or worse, this app is first and foremost about the fun; it can offer some variety, but not much learning.

Think of Mad Libs as a gap filler that can provide quick engagement rather than an in-depth learning tool. It'll work best as a follow-up to parts of speech instruction; that way students can more successfully choose accurate words. Students can work individually, but they're likely to have more fun in pairs. Have students share out their Mad Libs to get the whole class laughing. Teachers can also project the app for the whole class and get suggestions from students; for a dose of random fun, have students submit a bunch of different words, put them in different boxes (e.g. a "noun" box), and then pull words randomly. Mad Libs can also be assigned as homework to give students a fun alternative to worksheets or bookwork. Make sure to check out Mad Libs' Educator's Guide for some creative ideas for using the app or booklets.

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Mad Libs is an app version of the popular booklets that were first published in 1958. It can be played alone, in pairs, or in a group. One player asks other players for words of a particular part of speech (noun, verb, adverb, etc.) to fill in the blanks in a story. The resulting words turn an otherwise typical story into a silly story that's sure to get students laughing. There's an initial batch of 21 free stories (which can be played over and over), and extra, paid story collections are available in the app's bookstore. 

While the experience will be familiar to any fan of Mad Libs, there are some novel additions. If students are struggling to find a word or don't know the part of speech, they can swipe right for 10 ready-made word suggestions or swipe left for a definition of the requested part of speech. Unfortunately, if students enter in incorrect answers (e.g., an adjective instead of an adverb), the game doesn't let students know.

While Mad Libs is a surefire way to energize your classroom, it has limited learning value. It can reinforce some instruction on parts of speech, but there aren't learning extensions, new challenges or leveling, or even measurable data to track skills development or learning. As a result, this is a fun activity that can provide a brain break or some variety between other, more effective ways to build grammatical competency.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Mad Libs is time-tested fun, and students will enjoy the 21 free stories. It's a great hook for a lesson, and it'll make kids focus on choosing a variety of words for each story.

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

Although it's not designed explicitly for learning, this can be used to add variety to practicing parts of speech.

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

Support is limited to the How to Play and Word Tips sections. If desired, the player can swipe right for a list of 10 appropriate words to choose from for each word requested.


Common Sense Reviewer
Heather Wilson Media specialist/librarian

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