Review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2012
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Montessori Crosswords

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Gently ease kids into phonics with superb Montessori-inspired puzzles

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • English Language Arts

Skills
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Pre-K–3
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (5 Reviews)

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Pros: Putting Montessori and technology together seems contradictory, but it works beautifully.

Cons: More detailed data on student progress would be helpful.

Bottom Line: The surprisingly great combo of Montessori principles and technology helps kids learn phonics without overstimulation.

Parents or teachers can adjust the time kids are allowed to play with the graphics that pop up between rounds, from 15 seconds to no limit at all. Try giving kids more or less break time depending on what they need to make a smooth transition.

Although there’s no teacher dashboard or data tracking of kids' progress, teachers or parents can reset how words that are successfully completed are tracked (if they want to start over for another user).

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Montessori Crosswords puts the language shelf of a Montessori classroom into kids' hands. Kids move beyond the ABC song and learn the sounds letters make and how to combine those sounds to make words. Starting with a picture and blank spaces for each letter of the word, kids then drag and drop the correct letter into place to spell the word. Tapping the letter allows them to hear its phonetic sound, or they can tap the blank space to hear the sound of the letter that they need for that space. Incorrect letters won't drop into place, so kids can try again.

There are three levels of increasing difficulty, for kids aged 3 to 10. Level 1 includes simple words with three sounds, like cat or fan. Level 2 moves into words with blended sounds, like fish or stop, and also offers the more challenging option of a crossword puzzle with two words. Level 3 introduces more complex words, like road or torch, and offers the challenge of a three-word crossword puzzle. Using the moveable alphabet, kids can also build their own words.

Most people don't equate technology with Montessori. But Montessori Crosswords does a lovely job of marrying Montessori principles and technology to create an app that can teach kids phonics without overstimulating students' senses. Visual and auditory inputs should appeal to kid users with different learning styles, and kids will be drawn to the colorful, lively interface.

Kids can access hints (seeing the word spelled out so they can match letters) by tapping the question mark. They can customize the experience, too, choosing capital or lowercase letters and print or cursive. What you won't find are a lot of unecessary bells and whistles and special effects that overstimulate kids, even though kids get a little brain break after each word to play around with a fun on-screen graphic. 

Overall Rating

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

This solid word-builder is robustly educational without distracting bells and whistles or sensory overload commonly found in kid apps. Design is bright and clean.

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

Combining technology with classic Montessori principles like phonics creates an accessible experience for kids to link sounds to letters.

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

The variety of experiences is superb, and help is readily available in-app. Data tracking kids' progress would be a nice addition.


Common Sense Reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 5 reviews) (5 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Chris C. , Media specialist/librarian
Media specialist/librarian
Kepner Middle School
Denver, United States
colorful and engaging
Montessori Crosswords is a low key yet fun way to encourage and support phonics education. There are six categories to pick from: simple words, consonant blends, words of any complexity, focus on one sound, Christmas words and a movable alphabet. For all but the movable alphabet a picture tile comes up followed by blank tiles of the appropriate number. The student can tap the picture to hear the word. They can tap the empty tile to hear the sound of the word. They can tap letters of the alphabet to hear their sounds. Students can drag the letters to the appropriate box to spell the word. If the letter is wrong it will not stay in the tile but return to its place in the alphabet. At the successful completion of the word is a moveable design intermission. For example a blaze of shooting stars. If the child touches the screen, the stars will shoot from the place they touched. Or there is a spiral sequence. Everywhere on the page the child touches begins a new spiral. Every intermission is different and requires some experimentation to figure out the pattern or action. This intermission can be limited or not limited depending on the teacher or parents wishes. There is a feature where the child can find the answer to the word by touching it. Even if they do this consistently they must still drag the letters to the empty tiles thus hearing the letter sounds anyway. Teacher or parent can allow or disallow this feature as they prefer.
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