Review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2013
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Roots to Words

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Baked-in vocab-building with Greek and Latin roots

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Teachers say (1 Review)
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Grades
4-7 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Extensive bank of roots and lists of words.

Cons: Not much to motivate kids to play beyond the satisfaction of learning new words.

Bottom Line: Getting to the root of words creates a healthy vocabulary.

Roots to Words is versatile enough to use for whole-class, teacher-led instruction on specific roots. The whole class can learn and explore a root together for daily or weekly word study, using the app together on a Smart Board. Teachers could also use it to assign individual word study, with students working independently. Daily, even weekly, practice could yield greatly improved student vocabularies.

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Roots to Words is a vocabulary-building tool that teaches word roots, in 15 different categories, to help kids learn to decode unfamiliar words. The drills provide a great way for kids to prep for ACT/SAT. There are no user accounts, and no personal information is requested. No ads, gimmicks, or visual enhancements distract from the focus on learning roots. Users can reset each category when all four levels are completed to allow play by another user or to replay themselves.

Kids start by selecting from a list of categories that include such basics as numbers and shapes and more advanced anatomy terms. Then, instead of getting a list of roots to review, they use their problem-solving and logic skills to figure out the correct root given the root's meaning and three partial words that should include that root. For example, the root meaning against, with the partial words -biotic, -thesis, and -pathy would lead kids to the root anti. Each category includes five to ten roots. Then kids put together roots and word parts from a word bank to create words that match given definitions. Each root has four levels of words to decipher, and the roots included are extensive. Hints are available by tapping the question mark. No scores are tracked, and incorrect choices get unlimited chances.

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Roots to Words is effective vocabulary practice that's fun -- for internally motivated learners. The design is simple, and there's no time to beat or scores to keep. Some kids may not find that motivating enough, but others will find the thrill in figuring out the words. Some of the words will be familiar, some quite challenging, and some will prompt a head slap when finding a root in a familiar word makes the meaning click. The approach of figuring out the root rather than just reviewing a word list helps retention, and after all four levels of a category are completed, kids can review the list of roots from that category. Knowing roots can help kids decode many other words in the English language (and others based on Greek and Latin). Kids may need some encouragement to spend time with Roots to Words, but their vocabularies will certainly benefit.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
2

Roots to Words doesn't provide any gameplay or design elements to engage or motivate kids beyond the joy of learning new words.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4

Instead of reviewing a list of roots, kids figure out roots from their definitions and the definitions of three partial words that should include the roots. They then build words by combining roots and word parts.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

Simple interface has no instruction, no user accounts, and no scores. After kids complete all four levels of a category, they can review the list of roots with meanings and examples or clear the category and start over.


Common Sense Reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

4
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Featured review by
Valerie H. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
Wemrock Brook Elementary School
Manalapan, NJ
4
Students can learn new words quickly and easily

The format is simple and basic graphics are used which may be less appealing to younger students. However the content is solid and if you are looking for a user-friendly app that students can learn to navigate quickly this is ideal. It would make an excellent center activity for small groups which you work with other students. If only one iPad is available, the app could be projected onto a screen so all members of the group can easily play along. I would include this as part of a language lesson or as reinforcement after learning about specific categories of root words (comparison, quantity, shapres, etc.) so students can gain further exposure and make connections to words they may already be familiar with, using them to learn meanings to new words. For example hyper means over, so if you know hyperactive, then you know hypertension. This would be a good addition to students prepping for the SAT vocab section as well. Overall, this is a solid app which offers excellent learning opportunities. However, if your students want flash and action, this isn't the app for them. Also, this app is no longer free and will cost you $4.99 which may be more than you're willing to spend.

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