Review by Leslie Crenna, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2013
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Middle School Vocabulary Prep

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Colorful, simple vocab practice lacks word context

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • English Language Learning

Skills
  • Critical Thinking
  • College & Career Prep
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.
6–8
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)

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Pros: Intuitive and simple navigation, easy to read, appropriate content.

Cons: Words don't appear in any kind of context; music might turn some kids off.

Bottom Line: Offers kids solid practice but misses opportunities to engage and empower them.

For teachers using an iPad, there’s an in-app paid upgrade that allows you to add as many student names as needed, set the number of questions for the test, and track student progress.

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Middle School Vocabulary Prep is a flashcard-like study aid. There are a few different ways kids can use the app to improve vocab skills: Learn mode gives parts of speech and concise definitions –- often one-word synonyms –- in large text. Quiz and Test modes utilize some 300 middle school words and let kids know how many they've gotten right out of the total. In the word-based quiz, students get a word and must choose a definition. The definition quiz does the opposite; students get a definition and must choose the correct word. When they answer correctly, they see a big "Correct"; when they answer incorrectly, they get "The correct answer is" (followed by the correct answer).

When students feel ready, they can take the BIG Final Practice test with 50 items presented as they are in quizzes. In test mode, students receive no feedback on selections until they see their total number correct at the end. When finished, students can email their results to others.

In general, the app is tight and focused, and navigation is nearly flawless, save the small Stop and Go Back buttons. Music and design work together to create a pleasant space for learning. However, the ultimately spare content sacrifices an important element: usage examples in context. It's not quite enough to just see the word; it would really help to see how it's used in a sentence. Additionally, there aren't any games or other engaging activities, and students have no way of customizing their own experience.

Overall Rating

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

Colorful and simple design is consistent and intuitive. Optional classical music serves to relax kids who need it but might turn off others. No games or significant encouragement.

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

The app doesn't give examples of words used in context, which isn't great for deep learning. Kids also don't have many options for customizing the experience. However, the ability to email results could be motivating to kids.

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

Simple navigation and nice, large text are helpful. In the final test, incorrect answers are indicated only in the final score. Relaxing classical music might help some kids focus.


Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Wheatley D. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Warren Mott High School
Warren, United States
Straightforward Self-study tool for Vocabulary Definitions
This app has a clean design and useful vocabulary. I can see it being helpful as an enrichment tool for individual practice, perhaps for students who finish early or as additional drilling for students who are lacking linguistically. However, I take issue with a few elements. First of all, I could not find the rationale for the selected vocabulary anywhere. Is it based on Common Core? Does it come from English Language Arts standards? Not sure. That made me feel uncomfortable, as I wasn't clear ...
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