Review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2015
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Sentopiary

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Prune grammatically perfect sentences with simple diagramming tool

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • English Language Arts
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
5-8
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Pros: Four levels take kids' sentences from simple to complex.

Cons: Explanations for each part of speech are brief, so students may need more direct instruction.

Bottom Line: Sleek visual format makes grammar more tactile and concrete.

Teachers could incorporate Sentopiary into direct grammar instruction, using it as practice for kids to identify parts of speech in the challenge mode and then add it into a writer's workshop by having students create their own sentences. Some explanation is presented in the app, but the definitions will serve as more of a reminder and example than full instruction on the parts of speech and their functions in sentences. There are no user accounts, and student sentences and progress aren't saved.

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Students can work in two modes: create and challenge. In create, they create their own original sentences, choosing the sentence structure and selecting words for each part of speech. In challenge mode, the sentences are given and students identify which word goes with each part of speech.  Kids advance through four levels or can jump around between levels. Level 1 includes articles, nouns, pronouns, and verbs in present tense. Level 2 adds adjectives, direct objects, and past and future tenses. Level 3 includes prepositional phrases as part of a noun phrase and verb phrase, and Level 4 incorporates adverbs and progressive tense verbs.

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Sentopiary elegantly combines a little grammar-in-isolation practice with grammar in the context of writing to give students a well-rounded understanding of sentence structures and parts of speech. Since kids can get as silly as they want with their creative sentences, they'll have fun, and the challenge of advancing to the next level once one concept has been mastered will keep them engaged. Teachers may prefer a little more practice at each level, but the number of sentences offered is reasonable for students to easily  work through in a class period. This fresh, visually appealing approach to grammar is reminiscent of diagramming without so many rules. It brings a bit of tactile learning to grammar that makes the logic of grammar easier to grasp.

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Overall Rating

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

Colorful yet elegant design keeps the focus on the words and grammar. The expanding sentence structures against the white backdrop are visually satisfying and orderly.

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

The two ways to play empower students to practice identifying grammar structures and also be creative, writing their own sentences. Four levels of play keep students challenged.

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

A few short screens of tutorial demonstrate how to play. In-app help defines the part of speech selected and offers a few examples.


Common Sense Reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

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