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App review by Dana Villamagna, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2013
StoryLines For Schools

StoryLines for Schools

Silly fusion of Pictionary and "telephone" makes vocabulary fun

Learning rating
Community rating
Based on 3 reviews
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Not yet rated Expert evaluation by Common Sense
Subjects & Skills
Arts, English Language Arts, Communication & Collaboration, Critical Thinking

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5 images

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.

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.

Overall Rating


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


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


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

Community Rating

(See all 3 reviews) (3 reviews)
Featured review by
Jennifer A. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Montclaire Elementary School
Los Altos, United States
Fun Interactive Word App
This is a fun app for reviewing words or general concepts. The game is quick and keeps students engaged and laughing. It is accessible by all learners. I like that we can add our own word or phrase so it's very open-ended. I also like only having a single black writing tool. While the drawing created then aren't detailed artwork (at least not by 2nd graders) it keeps the game moving because students are busy trying to change pen color and thickness. It forces them to make a quick sketch, as intended.
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