Review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2015
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Words for Osmo

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Versatile word game challenges across content areas and abilities

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (2 Reviews)

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5 images

Pros: Very easy to upload new word packs shared by others or to create custom lists.

Cons: Games run long at easier levels, with players needing to accumulate 100 points.

Bottom Line: Fun game-like way to review spelling patterns or content vocabulary.

Teachers can register with Osmo to set up multiple player accounts on a device, download more word lists or create their own, and connect with other educators through the forums to share lesson plans and ideas. Several lesson plans are available on the website, from CVC word patterns to geography. Teachers can have students work alone to review a specific word list or set kids up in small groups to work together to review a word list. For an extension, students could create their own word lists, choosing words, finding images to represent them, and creating a game for their classmates to play.

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Words for Osmo is a free download that accompanies the basic gaming system from Osmo. The system, which includes two other apps and toys, retails for $79.99. It comes with a base and a reflector attachment that clips over the iPad's camera. The base fits any iPad, only requiring a slightly different configuration for the iPad Air and Mini. The device will have to be removed from its cover, so teachers may want to help younger kids with the setup. Words for Osmo also includes the two sets of alphabet cards, one in red and one in blue, with uppercase letters on one side and lowercase on the other. The camera reflector allows the device to see what kids are doing with the letters.

Students play alone, competitively, or cooperatively, finding the missing letters for the word displayed in a picture. Choose from several themes of words, download other word packs for free by connecting to the Osmo website, or create your own word packs. Difficulty adjusts based on performance but can be manually adjusted for 12 levels ranging from easy -- short words missing only one letter -- to very hard -- 10-letter words with no letters to start. Each round lasts until a player reaches 100 points.

Words for Osmo turns your tablet into an old-school wordplay board game. But here, the digital element ramps up fun and expands learning. The range of difficulty means every student can be challenged, and the variety of word packs -- and the option to add your own -- makes it really versatile for fun and learning. What's more, Osmo's merging of digital and physical play does a great job of fostering social, collaborative learning. Gameplay might not necessarily boost literacy skills, but there's a lot of potential for kids to learn through playing with peers or with parents.

Hints can be enabled in the settings, which will fill in a letter automatically after a minute with no activity, or they can be turned off. The images are striking, high-quality, real-world photos. Keep in mind that competitors have to play at the same challenge level because they aren't taking turns. They'll both see the same word at the same time and race to see who can fill in the missing letters the fastest. Every game runs until someone gets 100 points -- at two points a letter, that makes for a pretty long game for the easier levels with only one letter empty per word. Also, in future updates, it would be great to see Osmo take learning and literacy even deeper with challenges that are a bit more classroom-ready.

Overall Rating

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

Game-style play, either competitive or cooperative, will draw kids in. Photo graphics are dazzling.

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

Challenge adjusts as kids play and can be manually adjusted to 12 levels, from easy to very hard. The combination of digital and physical play enables great social, collaborative learning.

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

Unlimited potential for extending learning by the creation of custom word packs. Dozens of themed packs are easily available through the website, where there's tons of information on how to use the game and extend learning.

Common Sense Reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 2 reviews) (2 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Heather C. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
Northwest High School
Indianapolis, IN
Osmo: Awesome interactive tool for word practice
Words for Osmo is an awesome tool. I love that two students can play the games/activities together as a simple competition. The only downfall is that the iPad needs to be removed from the case to use the tool. I am hoping this will improve as they receive customer feedback.
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