Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2016
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Name Play: a name reading and writing practice kit

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Simple but fun games cleverly let prereaders explore familiar names

Subjects & skills
Skills
N/A

Subjects
  • English Language Arts
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Pre-K-K
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Pros: Using students' own names as the backbone of literacy activities ups the appeal.

Cons: Activities aren't always clear due to minimal instruction. Only one student's name can be the focus at a time.

Bottom Line: This collection of name-based mini-games offers a targeted and clever introduction to literacy.

Use Name Play as a gateway into the world of reading and writing. Only one name can be the main focus at a time, and there's no way to easily change this, so teachers may need to uninstall and reinstall the app for each new student. Involve each student in this process so they see how their own name becomes the protagonist. Add the class's names to help students learn to spell and recognize the names of their classmates. Help introduce each of the activities to the students so they know what they're supposed to do, then let them explore freely to experiment as they please. Continue the learning offscreen with exercises in which students read, write, and play with the letters of their names and those of their classmates. For instance, students can create posters using the letters of their names to think of other words that begin with the same letter -- for example, "Alex" can be "Alligator, Lion, Elephant, Xylophone."

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Name Play: a name reading and writing practice kit is an early literacy app that uses names as the context for teaching students about letters and spelling. Students open their lockers to choose from a variety of games that all involve playing with and/or spelling their names. Activities include a magnetic letter board, vintage video games, writing practice, and more. Students or teachers can add lockers with the names of classmates and play with those names as well. To explore the hallway, students swipe from side to side and find more name-based activities, such as handing out lunch boxes according to named labels. Each completed activity earns students a new way to customize or decorate the lockers.

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Name Play is a great way to hook students into literacy learning activities. It's fun for students to see their own names -- and those of their classmates -- front and center in this collection of simple but cleverly effective activities. Because students see familiar names as the protagonists, they get to feel a great sense of ownership over what might otherwise be relatively standard letter-play games. It's also harder for these simple games to feel repetitive because students likely will delight in repeating each game with the names of all their classmates, friends, and/or family. There is a dashboard to "track" which activities students complete, but in reality it doesn't give any particularly useful information. Overall, Name Play nicely provides a more personalized experience with early literacy games that'll go a long way to keeping students engaged with learning.

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Overall Rating

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

Using familiar names makes otherwise simple activities shine. There's a good variety of things to do, and since students can keep adding names, the fun easily continues.

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

Free exploration through letter-play activities gets students manipulating names, and there's a variety of interactions with names that enhance learning potential. It would be nice to see more diversity in pre-programmed names.

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

Students collect locker decorations via completed activities. There are a variety of ways to customize the games to make them relevant and accessible. Not all activities are immediately clear, however, and the dashboard isn't very useful.


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