Review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2015
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Mystery Word Town Spelling

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Old West crime-fighting takes kids on a spelling adventure

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts

  • Critical Thinking
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.
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Teachers say (1 Review)

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Pros: Witty characters and fun challenges draw kids in and keep them playing.

Cons: The ability for teachers to get student reports would be very helpful.

Bottom Line: A challenging and really fun way for kids to practice spelling.

Like a beloved book, Mystery Word Town will make kids excited -- and a bit sad, when it's over. With that in mind, be sure to plan enough time for kids to work through the whole adventure. Kids can easily complete one building in a few minutes, so you could have kids play through one building a day over 12 days, giving them a few minutes of class time to play. If kids get attached to the characters, think about extending the learning and fun -- have them write some of their own, fan fiction-like work about different characters. They could also write the back story, or a sequel of their own invention. The three leveled word lists give a great base, but you can, and should, create your own custom lists -- sight words, spelling lists, whatever you're working on -- to truly customize the experience.

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Welcome to Mystery Word Town Spelling, where a band of robbers has stolen some gold and hidden it -- and themselves -- in buildings around town. Kids have to spell words to go through doors and windows in search of the gold, as well as the outlaws. If playing in class, teachers can set up different accounts for multiple students, setting a difficulty level for each. There are three existing word lists to use, or teachers can create their own.

As they play, kids take on the role of the ghostly sheriff; and to open doors, they have to spell words correctly. Before playing, kids can create an avatar and choose their challenge level -- easy, medium, or hard. They'll then collect letters as they wander around various buildings in town -- and they'll use the letters to spell words. Along the way, kids can tap on pictures hanging from the walls to hear more about the town's tangled story from various locals. There's also an option to play a word game where kids create any word from the given letters rather than spell a given word.

Mystery Word Town will draw kids in and make them want to keep playing. The details of each scene are gorgeous and beg to be explored, even though they aren't interactive. The pictures on the walls are, though -- each tells a witty tale sure to delight and encourage some critical thinking. Little Bear comments about the wonders of seemingly impossible technology: "Imagine if you could carry a tiny telegraph in your pocket, to send messages to your friends."

Spelling is the educational focus, but the fun and critical thinking have potential to take learning beyond. If kids struggle with a word, they'll get a hint after two incorrect tries, but they won't find any hints as to where the gold is hidden. Players will also have to think critically and problem-solve, as they can only keep ten letters in their bank at any given time. At some points, they may have to delete a letter and go back and find another elsewhere to complete a word. The overall story plays out like an adventure game, with kids assembling bits of the story as they interact with the town and its characters. And these quirky characters are a hoot!

Overall Rating

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

Every piece of the adventure is engaging. From the detailed graphics to the witty character monologues to the overall adventure of catching the bad guys, kids will enjoy themselves.

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

A diverse group of characters entertains as kids spell words and search for the outlaws. Kids are empowered to freely explore the maze-like buildings as they find gold and catch the outlaws.

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

Teachers can set up accounts for multiple users, and kids can choose the challenge level of words. Teachers can edit the lists to add or delete words or create custom lists, including recording the words.

Common Sense Reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Jennifer K. , Other
Newark City Schools
Newark, United States
Fun and Engaging Sight Word Practice!
The Mystery of the app is that students find outlaws through the town. To catch each outlaw students explore a building in the town finding gold to capture them. Solving the mystery throughout the app make this highly engaging to students. Every time they capture a wanted criminal in the game it encourages it capture another outlaw. ...
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