Review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2015
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The Waste Land

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Stellar performances, great media bring Eliot's masterpiece to life

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts
  • Social Studies

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Phenomenal dramatic performance alone well worth the download.

Cons: Not much to improve, though a more diverse group of commentators and opportunities to personalize the experience would be nice.

Bottom Line: Makes studying The Waste Land engaging and accessible for students and easier for teachers.

Teachers could use this tool as a complete resource for studying "The Waste Land." In a 1-to-1 environment with a copy of the app for every user, students could work independently, reading and viewing the dramatization. A teacher could supplement class or small-group reading with resources from the app if they have the only copy. Students could read the text outside of the app and then teachers could show the Perspectives videos or the dramatic reenactment to the whole class, or the class could read along while listening to the poem read aloud by different readers.

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The simple start screen presents seven options: Poem, Perspectives, Notes, Performance, Readings, Manuscript, and Gallery. Students can start in any of those sections or jump right into the poem and navigate to notes, readings, and the manuscript from there. The text is also searchable. For the audio readings, students can choose from seven different recordings, including two different versions by T.S. Eliot himself. The dramatic performance is presented as a one-woman-show starring Fiona Shaw and can be viewed chapter by chapter or all at once. It can also be paused. As students read the poem, they can read annotations about the content and context, as well as make their own notes that are automatically saved. Other features to support students' exploration of the poem include the original manuscript with handwritten marginal notes from the author, his wife, and Ezra Pound, as well as a gallery of images related to Eliot, the poem, and works that influenced it.

The Waste Land is a rich resource filled with supporting materials for teaching and analyzing the poem. No assessment components are included, so teachers will need to produce that on their own. The production quality is outstanding, and with several ways to interact with the text -- video, audio, annotated text, and commentary -- students will develop a stronger understanding of the work.

Each component stands out and would make a stellar app on its own. The dramatic presentation is amazing. The audio options are impressive. The commentaries are fascinating. And that original manuscript, filled with notes and revisions, is a masterpiece! Teachers could incorporate that into a writers' workshop, too, showing students the nitty-gritty reality of writing and revising in the days before word processors.

Overall Rating

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

An impressive performance by Fiona Shaw and expert perspectives from literature professors to a hardcore punk artist will appeal to students and show them the range of Eliot's influence.

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

The tool presents the text through multimedia -- written, read dramatically, and performed dramatically -- and it serves as a reference that includes commentary, annotated text, historical context, and cultural influence.

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

Students can add their own notes, but there's no way to share those notes. Navigation between the different features -- from text to notes to audio to search -- is elegantly simple.

Common Sense Reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

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