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Mystery Word Town Spelling
Pros: Witty characters and fun challenges draw kids in and keep them playing.
Cons: The ability for teachers to get student reports would be very helpful.
Bottom Line: A challenging and really fun way for kids to practice spelling.
Like a beloved book, Mystery Word Town will make kids excited -- and a bit sad, when it's over. With that in mind, be sure to plan enough time for kids to work through the whole adventure. Kids can easily complete one building in a few minutes, so you could have kids play through one building a day over 12 days, giving them a few minutes of class time to play. If kids get attached to the characters, think about extending the learning and fun -- have them write some of their own, fan fiction-like work about different characters. They could also write the back story, or a sequel of their own invention. The three leveled word lists give a great base, but you can, and should, create your own custom lists -- sight words, spelling lists, whatever you're working on -- to truly customize the experience.
Welcome to Mystery Word Town Spelling, where a band of robbers has stolen some gold and hidden it -- and themselves -- in buildings around town. Kids have to spell words to go through doors and windows in search of the gold, as well as the outlaws. If playing in class, teachers can set up different accounts for multiple students, setting a difficulty level for each. There are three existing word lists to use, or teachers can create their own.
As they play, kids take on the role of the ghostly sheriff; and to open doors, they have to spell words correctly. Before playing, kids can create an avatar and choose their challenge level -- easy, medium, or hard. They'll then collect letters as they wander around various buildings in town -- and they'll use the letters to spell words. Along the way, kids can tap on pictures hanging from the walls to hear more about the town's tangled story from various locals. There's also an option to play a word game where kids create any word from the given letters rather than spell a given word.
Mystery Word Town will draw kids in and make them want to keep playing. The details of each scene are gorgeous and beg to be explored, even though they aren't interactive. The pictures on the walls are, though -- each tells a witty tale sure to delight and encourage some critical thinking. Little Bear comments about the wonders of seemingly impossible technology: "Imagine if you could carry a tiny telegraph in your pocket, to send messages to your friends."
Spelling is the educational focus, but the fun and critical thinking have potential to take learning beyond. If kids struggle with a word, they'll get a hint after two incorrect tries, but they won't find any hints as to where the gold is hidden. Players will also have to think critically and problem-solve, as they can only keep ten letters in their bank at any given time. At some points, they may have to delete a letter and go back and find another elsewhere to complete a word. The overall story plays out like an adventure game, with kids assembling bits of the story as they interact with the town and its characters. And these quirky characters are a hoot!