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Review by Dana Villamagna, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2013

StoryLines for Schools

Silly fusion of Pictionary and "telephone" makes vocabulary fun

Common Sense says
Teachers say (3 Reviews)
3-10 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Kids explore the meanings of phrases and drawings through mistake-friendly fun.

Cons: The only outlet for solo players is to connect to a peer through Edmodo.

Bottom Line: Free, easy-to-use game is a fun complement to vocabulary lessons.

For teachers, StoryLines for Schools would work well as a supplement to any class in need of vocabulary practice. Due to its low barrier of entry and adjustable and brief rounds of play, you can use it at any time to add variety to a day's activities.

And while free play will certainly be fun, to get students more actively learning, split them into groups and have the first student start a custom storyline using a concept or definition covered in class. For younger students, assign each group a specific concept or even the same concept. They can either look up a definition or write their own, depending on the desired outcomes. The group then passes the device around, completing the storylines. When groups finish their storylines, play them back for the class using a projector. Students will find the storylines funny, but try to edge the discussion more toward reflection on why and how assumptions about the meaning of things are made and what the impact is on their lives (e.g., misinterpretation of a text).

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Editor's Note: StoryLines for Schools is no longer available for download.

StoryLines for Schools is the classroom-friendly, social media-restricted version of the vocabulary building iOS drawing app StoryLines. It's a creative, fun experience best played in small groups -- three to nine players -- with one device. It's perfect for classrooms needing vocabulary practice with limited iPhones or iPads. But be aware that kids are free to draw or write whatever they want, including iffy words and pictures.

A StoryLines session begins with a student writing or choosing a well-known saying, idiom, phrase, word, or quote, and then passing the device to the next player who must draw what's written. Then the device goes to a new student who writes down what he or she sees. Depending on the size of the group, this can be repeated for up to nine students. StoryLines compares this game to the old-fashioned game of telephone, in which players whisper a sentence from person to person, morphing the sentence little by little into something entirely different.

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This game is a pressure-free, fun way for students to practice vocabulary, writing, and drawing while also trying out deductive and inductive reasoning. And with good discussion, kids can think about what happens when assumptions are incorrect. The only potential downside of this app is that kids need other willing participants to play the game; there's no real effective way to play solo, although Edmodo users can use the OpenMinds platform to play remotely with classmates.

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Overall Rating

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

StoryLines' pass-and-play mode is a safe, fun, and social game experience.

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

Switching between drawing and captioning gets kids thinking creatively and critically, but maybe not deeply.

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 clear tutorial explains the game at the outset. An in-app purchase provides kids with more drawing options.

Common Sense Reviewer
Dana Villamagna Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 3 reviews) (3 reviews)
Featured review by
Bethany R. , School district administrator
School district administrator
WAY Academy of Flint
Flint, MI
Fun app for building vocabulary and for developing some language concepts.

This is a great tool to help students unlock literacy concepts at a variety of levels. The collaborative nature of the app gives it an element of playing a game that helps make the writing process less intimidating for students. This app can serve kids in increasing their confidence with both vocabulary and writing skills.

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