App review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2013
Word Wonderland (Elementary)
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Word Wonderland (Elementary)

Challenging arcade-style space game fails to integrate real learning

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Learning rating
Editorial review by Common Sense Education
Community rating
Based on 5 reviews
Privacy rating
Not yet rated Expert evaluation by Common Sense
Grades
3–6 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

Pros: Multiple user profiles and levels could span a broad range of abilities.

Cons: No instruction or help is provided to help kids understand the word categories.

Bottom Line: Space game encourages critical thinking, but targeted language learning is ineffective.

Ideally, this app would help with spelling, vocabulary, and reading, but the challenge of thinking is lost in the game's execution, and kids can just match letters without understanding any of the targeted concepts. When it comes down to it, Word Wonderland (Elementary) is a fun arcade game that's designed to be educational but doesn't quite make the grade. Any classroom use should follow direct instruction and include careful teacher monitoring to assess kids' understanding through observation and questioning.

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Word Wonderland (Elementary) is an educational game intended to help kids practice different ways of sorting words. In this arcade-style word game, kids explore different space worlds, guiding a space crab along a complicated obstacle-ridden path to his destination. To clear the path, kids have to sort words into their proper categories -- from vowel sounds at the easy level to Greek/Latin roots at the expert level. Kids choose from four levels of challenge -- easy, medium, hard, and expert. They can work on concepts like short and long vowels, r-controlled vowels, blends, digraphs, prefixes, suffixes, diphthongs, endings, and Greek/Latin roots. The Tips section in Settings includes tutorials showing each feature -- stars, arrows, machines -- and how to use them, although nothing in the Tips explains the targeted learning concepts.

A free Lite version is available that lets kids try out two levels in each of the four worlds.

The problem with Word Wonderland (Elementary) is that the critical thinking kids must do during the gameplay isn't related to the word skills the app is intended to teach. There's no explanation of any of the word concepts. What is a diphthong? How does r control a vowel? The word sort ends up being an activity in which kids just match the letters in words to letters on the space path. Given the suffix -ion, for example, kids could just find the word ending with -ion (e.g., suction) and drag the suffix into place. No critical thinking or understanding is required. The tutorials are focused on explaining the intricate rules surrounding the logisitics of navigating the space path -- the arrows, stars, and machines -- and maneuvering the space crab along the path. The arcade gameplay is fun and challenging, once kids figure it out (see the Tips section in Settings), but the whole learning approach seems like an afterthought. The educational aspects of the game aren't explained, accessed legitimately, or tracked. Multiple user profiles track kids' progress but don't provide reports of skills mastered. The Tips section offers instructions for the arcade play of the game, but no information is included about the learning terms and concepts.

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?

The arcade game play is fun and challenging once kids figure it out (use the Tips section found in Settings).

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?

The learning approach seems more like an afterthought than an essential part of playing the game. The educational aspects aren't explained, accessed legitimately through gameplay, or tracked.

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?

Multiple user profiles track kids' individual progress but do not provide reports of skills mastered. The Tips section provides instructions for the games, but no information is included about the learning terms and concepts.


Common Sense reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

Community Rating

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Featured review by
Crissy W. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Village of Barboursville Elementary School
Barboursville, United States
Cool graphics, sounds, and characters help students practice spelling and decoding skills
I really like this app. It could be used to reinforce skills that have already been taught (digraphs, blends, short vowel sounds, etc.). It is very individualized as students enter their name and pick a character. Then, they choose to go into the activities or the practice skills. They can pick different levels so they can work at their own individual level. Within the activity, it feels more like a game. It is colorful, challenging, and has sounds that go along with it. Students proceed through ...
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