Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2015
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Tiggly Story Maker: Build Words and Record Your Own Tales

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Explore vowels, create some zany stories, but possibilities limited

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts

  • Creativity
  • Communication & Collaboration
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: Unique incorporation of 3-D toys and screen technology.

Cons: Too few consonant-vowel-consonant sets limit the learning experience.

Bottom Line: With or without toys, this app is better as part of the full set of three Tiggly word apps than as a standalone.

Tiggly Story Maker: Build Words and Record Your Own Tales is a fun way for kids to get a hint of the role vowels play in simple CVC words. Use it as a free-choice self-directed activity. Have kids record their creations as a story or a still image and write down all the words they discovered. Kids can look up the definitions for words they don't know. Give kids letter blocks and have them create and manipulate other CVC combinations. Using the toys adds a level of novelty and introduces a 3-D element to feeling the shape of a vowel; other than that, gameplay doesn't change much with them. Because content is limited in this app, teachers may want to consider looking at the whole package of three Tiggly word apps to expand learning potential.

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Tiggly Story Maker: Build Words and Record Your Own Tales is part of a suite of apps that combines use of real-life letter toys with digital wordplay. The set of toys is available for $29.99 and includes codes to download three apps. Each app can also be purchased and downloaded individually, and kids can take full advantage of the app without using the toys.

In Tiggly Story Maker: Build Words and Record Your Own Tales, tap a vowel from the top of the screen or place a toy letter in the missing spot to fill in the missing vowel between two consonants; for example, tap a vowel or place a toy letter in the missing spot to complete the word  "P-G." If the vowel choice makes a real word, an animation of that word appears (pig, peg, pug). Next, change consonants and continue playing. As play continues, animations do different things. In the Story Maker, move the pictures around while recording your voice telling a story. Grown-ups can get past the parent gate to download these stories onto the device's camera roll.

With the toys or without, kids are intimately involved in exploring just how important that middle vowel is in simple CVC words. Since it can be disappointing when your vowel choice doesn't work, the best word set is "B-G," as it's the only one for which every vowel makes a real word and -- importantly for young kids -- produces a picture or animation. Those images nicely bring the words to life, and random interactions add a heap of silliness that's bound to delight young kids.

It would be nice, though, if kids had more control over what the animations do. There's also only a small set of word groups, which limits gameplay a bit. The story option is fun, but it's not especially well connected to the word-building exercise. A "start recording" button would also give kids more time to process their new task by giving them control over when to start recording. At the time of this review, there were also some technical difficulties with the audio lining up correctly on playback. Though the game can be easily played without them, the toys do add a unique dimension of interactivity. And, in combination with the other two apps that come included with the toys, Tiggly Story Maker: Build Words and Record Your Own Tales is a fun way to explore vowels.

Overall Rating

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

The toys add a special element of fun -- but even without them, it's delightful to see what silliness ensues as animations interact.

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

Hear consonant and vowel sounds in simple three-letter words, and explore how changing the vowel changes the word. Kids take charge in constructing words but only for the limited number of available consonant sets.

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

There are minimal instructions, which works fine for word construction but not as well for story recording. Flip through a gallery of still images and recorded stories to review what you've done.

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