App review by Stacy Zeiger, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2012
W.E.L.D.E.R.
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W.E.L.D.E.R.

Fast-paced word game puts on the pressure, may not build vocab skills

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Learning rating
Editorial review by Common Sense Education
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Grades
4–9 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.
Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Time limits, special tiles, increasingly difficult gameplay encourage kids to think quickly as they put together words.

Cons: Kids won't assemble anything beyond the most basic words, and they're unlikely to learn new vocabulary.

Bottom Line: A fun way to get kids to think about words and spelling, but look elsewhere to hone your students' vocabularies.

Teachers can use W.E.L.D.E.R. to get kids thinking about words and popular spelling patterns. Its design works well as a whole-class activity where students can work together to find words and increase their scores. Teachers may challenge the class to set a new high score, or teachers with multiple classes could have classes compete against one another. Using the one-player or two-player mode, teachers may also allow students to play the game when they finish work early.

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W.E.L.D.E.R. is a tile-based word game that challenges users to make words out of letters on a square grid. To begin, players enter the word machine where they're greeted with a board full of letter tiles and mechanical background music. To play, players must make words with four or more letters by swapping letter tiles, but they only have a limited number of swaps and must use them wisely. A tutorial guides them as they make their first words and reminds them of some of the special features within the game. Players may turn off the tutorial as they learn how to play. As players move from level to level, the game introduces new tiles, different swap limits, and a higher level of difficulty, making gameplay interesting and increasingly difficult.

There isn't much learning potential here: The special tiles, swap limits, and time limits require players to focus more on making words to score points rather than to meaningfully build vocabulary. For example, players might discover less-common words like stum while attempting to swap a U with an E to make the word stem, but there's no requirement to learn the word's meaning or otherwise reinforce its definition. Kids do have the option to click on words to learn their definitions, but it's hard to imagine kids using these unfamiliar words in another context.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

Increasingly speedy gameplay and fun features make this a good fit for adolescents and teens. The Dictionary feature may help kids learn new words.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

Gameplay doesn't require kids to learn words' definitions, so learning potential is limited.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

Difficulty ramps up slowly and lets players build skills steadily, and there's a helpful tutorial available.


Common Sense reviewer
Stacy Zeiger Homeschooling parent

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