Review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2018
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WordWhile: Casual Literary Fun

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Clever fill-in-the-blank game playfully promotes literature

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts
  • English Language Learning

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Easy-to-learn, with material for a variety of ages.

Cons: Could use some more accessibility features.

Bottom Line: A different spin on reading the classics can engage students in the short term, but teachers should find ways to extend learning.

Getting students to read the classics can be a challenge, but WordWhile offers a game-based hook that gets students guessing the right (and wrong) words in classic texts. This unique approach to literature and vocabulary is almost certain to offer some short-term student engagement; however, to make sure students connect the app to broader learning objectives, teachers will want to support play with a larger, more engaging lesson.

While the game is intuitive enough that students could jump right in, teachers might want to start with some pre-reading activities to see how well students can guess words in context or to immerse students in close reading before introducing WordWhile. Given the app's text options, teachers could pair WordWhile play with lessons on genre characteristics using nursery rhymes, poetry, and Shakespearean monologues. If you've got an Apple TV in your classroom, try projecting your device to the class and work together on sharpening students' predictive reading skills and use of context clues. For solo play, differentiate by allowing students to choose their own texts according to length and complexity or by challenging students to mimic the author's style in a piece of writing. Just for fun, have students choose incorrect words or add their own at random to create silly alternatives to share with others, or use one of the texts as a clue in a digital breakout/escape room activity. 

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WordWhile is a game-based app that challenges students to fill in missing words from popular literary classics and proverbs. Students first create a basic profile (teachers can have unlimited profiles on one device) with a username, avatar, and background color. After tapping Play, students experience a short tutorial and practice activity, and then move on to the proper games. At the time of this review, there are five categories of literature to choose from (Proverbs, Shakespearean Speeches and Sonnets, Children's Classics, Pickin's from Dickens, and Selected Poems) and three speed options (Zen Mode, Timed Mode, and Virtuoso Race); however, the developer has been adding more content over time. Students can also choose between Silly and Tricky challenges and opt in or out of using My Novel Words. Once a game starts, students see text (e.g., a famous proverb) with one or more missing words in each line. For each missing word, the player chooses one of two options to make the text correct. If the wrong word is selected, it'll show up in red. At the end of each text, students get a score (accuracy and novelty) and can see how they compared to the original text by clicking on the red words. There's no going back to fix mistakes, but it's easy to restart or replay a text to get a better score. If students are really focused on getting a text right, there's an option to view complete texts before play. As students progress, they earn badges and can work toward completing all texts in a certain genre. 

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WordWhile gives students a chance to interact with familiar and unfamiliar classic literary texts. It can be a useful and charming way to introduce students to challenging works from Shakespeare and Dickens, and there are good scaffolding opportunities, thanks to the ability to vary text length and complexity. Students could use WordWhile to improve their memorization and predictive reading skills as well as sight word recognition, vocabulary development, and elements of poetry such as rhyme, rhythm, and figurative language. If students keep playing, they can work to improve their results by replaying sessions or starting back at the beginning if they mess up. Since scores aren't stored, assessment options are limited; although, this is really about hooking students on literature vs. assessing them. Students can save and share their completed texts, however. There aren't built-in opportunities for collaboration or participation in a larger community of players, and the user experience could be improved for students with disabilities by adding features such as audio, text enlargement, or a dictionary feature. 

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Overall Rating

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

Students will enjoy the interactive fill-ins, timed challenges, and opportunities to earn badges. The quirky design will appeal to some. Accuracy and novelty scores let students shoot for two different goals.

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

A good intro to literary classics. Students will learn some vocab while practicing predictive reading and unpacking context clues. Teachers will need to plan additional activities to support 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?

The basic design makes getting started a snap. Tutorials and hints aid in gameplay, but better feedback features, ideas for classroom application, and a community of users would greatly improve the user experience.

Common Sense Reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

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