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Endless Wordplay: School Edition
Pros: Attention to how letters and letter combinations actually sound in words.
Cons: The School Edition’s one-stop pricing is helpful, but the hefty price could discourage some schools.
Bottom Line: Good, holistic approach to the nitty gritty of constructing words.
Endless Wordplay is a good activity for kids just learning to read or working on spelling. Help kids as they figure out how letters change the sounds they make based on what others letters are around them. Use letter blocks or letters written on index cards to flexibly construct and deconstruct words. Point out the rhymes and construct rhyming lists of words that have a certain letter combination in common. Teachers can try out the free version to get a little sense of how the game works, but will need to buy the whole app to truly see what words are introduced and if and how the app can be useful for their classroom. Words get generally more complex as levels progress, so kids should follow along in the correct order (even though there's no option to create separate user accounts). Alternatively, teachers could point kids to particular levels to highlight certain types of letter groupings or words. Finally, have kids create their own sentences and/or stories using the words in each level.
In Endless Wordplay, kids construct words whose letters the Alphabot has shaken out of place. Tap and hold letters to hear their sound and place them, in correct order, in the word; Tap the question mark for hints. Each level includes three rhyming words (e.g., map, lap, nap); after spelling them, watch a short animation that acts out a sentence using the words in context (e.g., The map on my lap vanished during my nap). Words get longer and more complicated in successive levels; adjust settings to let kids skip around, or have them complete levels in order. A free home version offers three of the 90 available levels for a small taste of what the app does; The school edition is available for a flat purchase price.
With a focus on rhyming and phonetic sounds, kids can get great practice decoding how letters and letter combinations represent sounds that form words. Endless Wordplay makes a good attempt to address the peculiarities of the English language in which letters make all sorts of different sounds depending on the words they're in. When kids tap a letter they hear the letter's default sound. But as they place the letter in a word, they hear how it changes its sound as a result of the letters around it. For kids who need extra help, hints nicely point out that e.g., lap is like map, but starts with an m. The sentences and animations that follow each group of three words is a great way to see the words in context, though some sentences are such a stretch they seem more awkward than helpful. It would also be helpful if the sentences were read more slowly so that early readers could follow along. Teachers might appreciate a list of the words used each level. The content is solid, though without seeing what words are included, teachers may not know how useful Endless Wordplay is for their class. And, unfortunately, the free download doesn't allow teachers to test enough of the app to know if it's worth shelling out the big bucks.