Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2017
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Word Runners - Touch Press Games

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Clever combo of vocab and puzzle solving is a tad limited

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Social Studies
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
4-5
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Pros: The six-level tutorial gives students a grand tour of all the ways words can help them throughout their journey.

Cons: With no options for hints or in-game help, struggling students may just give up.

Bottom Line: Stories cleverly integrate reading comprehension and problem-solving skills within the engaging context of an adventure-themed puzzle.

Word Runners - Touch Press Games is best played individually (though students may want to share strategies when they run into a roadblock). Teachers can focus on building students' reading comprehension, vocabulary, and/or learning more about the game's historical themes. After students play, ask them to share new words they learned. Help students define the words and use them in context. Check for comprehension by having students create drawings, comics, or narratives to retell the stories in their own words. Encourage them to pay particular attention to word choice as these puzzles are all about using the right words to have a desired affect on the outcome of the story. The games can also be an exciting introduction to a history unit. Have the whole class play the same game to pique their interest before a whole-class discussion, or students can pick a topic that particularly interests them and research it on their own to learn more.

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Word Runners - Touch Press Games is an elementary school ELA game that blends puzzle solving with reading comprehension and vocabulary. Students collect abilities from words (as they run above them) and then use them at other points in the story to overcome obstacles. The stories students read through (and run over!) are about historical topics such as the origin of the Olympics or Charles Darwin. First, choose to play as Annie or Felipe, then complete a quick tutorial, which shows how to literally pick up clues in the text that may prove useful further along. When a character is standing on top of a useful word, tap the down arrow to claim it -- for example, grab an "ax" and use it later to chop down a "tree." Other words change environments -- such as the sun that melts a block of ice -- or can be combined for the right effect (for example, pick up a bow and an arrow to shoot at a monster). These games rely on students reading and making decisions based on what's in the text, so students need to be comfortable readers to play. There are five adventures in all, each with multiple levels.

Word Runners - Touch Press Games is part of a series of games from a single developer, each with its own learning theme. Every game has a brief, free trial period, after which teachers will need to purchase a monthly or yearly subscription for an all-access pass that allows students to play all the games in the series. Alternatively, teachers can download Word Runners - Touch Press Games as a single purchase to unlock all the levels.

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This clever puzzle game will get students thinking about the meaning of words and how to take advantage of their meaning. As students explore and experiment with words and their combinations to clear obstacles, they'll consider the meaning of words and how they relate to each other. Note, however, that the writing in Word Runners is clearly designed to serve the puzzles vs. be sophisticated writing. In this way, it's best to think of Word Runners less as a reading comprehension exercise and more as a logical thinking game with the added bonus of reading and vocabulary. Students may also pick up some tidbits about, say, the Civil War or space exploration. At the very least, the stories may pique students' curiosity to go learn more. A big missing piece, however, is that there's no hint or help system. When students are stuck, the only options are to keep persisting or give up, both of which could cause some frustration when students feel like they've just tried everything and can't figure out what they're missing. And with only six adventures, students may quickly run through them all. If teachers subscribe, there are other available games to try. As a single-purchase download, Word Runner - Touch Press Games has a limited shelf life.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
5

High-interest historical topics and daring adventure stories will capture students' imaginations.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

To overcome obstacles in the correct order, students use logical thinking and puzzle solving; to use the available tools, students must carefully consider the meanings of the words.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

A thorough tutorial teaches students how to play the game. Once they start real levels though, they're on their own. Players need to have a good grasp of reading and the English language.


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