Review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2018
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Sentence Sensibility

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Build, remix classic sentences in clever but limited game

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

Skills
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
4–8
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Pros: Exposes students to literary classics.

Cons: The repetitive sentence creation mode may cause students' interest to fizzle quickly.

Bottom Line: Students will find the game's two modes fun to experiment with, but the variety is just not there for this to be a long-term hit.

Writing complete sentences is one of those skills that everyone needs, but not everyone grasps. Sentence Sensibility lets students practice forming complete sentences and learn terminology associated with sentence writing and parts of speech while also exposing them, albeit briefly, to several literary classics. Group students together to see who can come up with the most correct sentences in two minutes using the Remix mode, or let students compare their first attempts in Unscramble mode, helping one another understand how the author used different parts of speech to construct the sentence. Extend learning beyond the game by challenging students to write or find their own sentences and scramble them before trading with peers to come up with solutions -- maybe even add some excitement by having them come up with silly sentences to read to the class.

The Remix mode might be useful for ELLs to practice different configurations, but teachers should know their students; some students might get frustrated by the two-minute time limit in this mode. It would be nice if teachers had some control over the difficulty of sentences, and more variety would keep students engaged longer. As it is, the limited selection and repetitive nature of the game may cause students to quickly lose interest. 

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Sentence Sensibility is a sentence constructing game for iOS (part of the Touch Press library). Students move word and punctuation tiles around to form complete sentences.  After an optional tutorial, students can choose a slow or fast-paced experience, and one of two modes. In the first mode, Unscramble, students have to place the words and punctuation in the correct order to form the sentence that the author originally wrote in works such as Little Women, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and the Declaration of Independence. Dots appear next to correctly placed words, and students can continue moving words around until they arrive at the solution, accessing hints along the way. The sentence then appears with a few of the surrounding sentences from the original work (this is neat, but longer excerpts might encourage more interest).

In the second mode, Remix, students get the same sentences from the first mode but all scrambled. The challenge is then to take this scrambled sentence and re-order it to make as many sentences as possible in two minutes. As they form correct sentences, the game lights up different parts of the sentence to show things like noun and verb phrases, types of clauses, and other sentence parts. Long sentences receive bonus points, and users earn stars for completed rounds. Unfortunately, many sentences have limited subjects, verbs, and modifiers, so users may end up writing very similar sentences in Remix mode.

Sentence Sensibility can be a good support tool when working with students on forming complete sentences, but teachers will need to provide a lot of support if they want students to truly understand sentence structure and parts of speech. Using the game Remix mode as an introduction, teachers can help students understand how all writers do similar remixing when refining sentences as they draft. Playing with sentences in the game can also encourage students to write more detailed sentences in their own work, or spark some discussions about how language is used to convey meanings differently.

Since sentences don't have to make sense in order to be grammatically correct, teachers will want to monitor students' creations to ensure coherence, and then work one-on-one with students to explain issues in context. Also, due to the somewhat strange nature of the Remix mode, this isn't a tool I'd use for teaching parts of speech, but it can be useful for getting students to think about their own writing, perhaps even encouraging them to produce writing that's worthy of publishing. As it is, students may enjoy the fun spin on sentence creation, but there's not much depth, so teachers won't want to rely on this game long-term.

Overall Rating

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

The timed challenges and novelty of the literary classics will engage students at first, but the lack of variety might burn them out quickly. 

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

With proper teacher guidance, there are some opportunities to learn about sentence structure, parts of speech, punctuation, and the writer's craft.

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

In-app tutorials and hints during play get students started, but they'll need to use trial and error to make sense of some of the features and point systems. 


Common Sense Reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

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