Website review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2016

Night Zookeeper

Impressive, subscription-based writing resource with individual feedback

Learning rating
Editorial review by Common Sense Education
Community rating
Based on 1 review
Privacy rating
Not yet rated Expert evaluation by Common Sense
Grades
1–6
Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, Creativity

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Pros: Gamification engages kids with solid content.

Cons: Subscriptions are pricey.

Bottom Line: This platform will inspire young writers but does require a generous budget.

Because the Night Zookeeper experience is student-centered and it adjusts to students' choices and learning level, teachers can be pretty hands-off. They can give students a time per day to use it or assign a certain number of words written per day and/or games played per day. There are also lots of opportunities to publish student writing and share it with others in the class, on the platform, or with parents. 

The gamification, fantastical world, and individual feedback make this a great platform for reluctant writers who need some extra inspiration. For students who love writing, Night Zookeeper could be a way for educators to target assignments around narrative elements or parts of speech before turning students loose to write more freely. There are also parent subscriptions available, which teachers could introduce as an option for parents who are looking to pay for a writing tutor. 

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Based on a U.K. book series, Night Zookeeper is an adventure game that quizzes students on writing concepts and encourages them to write. Students start by drawing and naming their own avatar, which becomes a character in the game. Their first prewriting assignment is scaffolded like a text exchange, where students answer questions about their avatar with some responses that start with a sentence stem. Students are then given challenges to include in longer writing assignments (write a certain number of words, use adjectives, use compound words, etc.). With the tutor-feedback subscription, students will get individual feedback on their writing from a Night Zookeeper tutor. With a teacher-feedback subscription, teachers can leave feedback through the dashboard and then publish student writing. Between writing assignments, students play games -- challenges that contribute to story ideas (like creating other characters and sending them on adventures) or playing spelling, grammar, or usage games. Students earn points that can be used to buy accessories for their avatar.

Between the adventurous games, the control to create their own characters, and the kid-friendly design, kids will have fun on Night Zookeeper. The learning experience is unique for each student's needs and interests. It offers breadth -- with a wide range of writing concepts covered -- and depth, giving students options to practice skills in writing that can be polished and published.

Teachers can monitor students' progress through the dashboard, give students feedback on improving their writing, and then publish work to a class blog. Since each student works independently, teachers could assign Night Zookeeper as an at-home assignment and give students feedback virtually and reinforce concepts in person as needed. For kids who have a hard time getting started, it offers the support they need to jump in and write instead of facing a blank page. And the relevance of publishing and sharing gives students a sense of audience beyond the teacher. So, if the subscription is within reach, Night Zookeeper is likely a solid investment.

Overall Rating

Engagement

Kids are empowered to create their own animals, choose their challenge levels, pick which games they play, and select the topics they write about. Graphics are impressive, and games are educational and fun.

Pedagogy

Writing content is broad (spelling, typing, grammar, usage, descriptive writing) and deep, and the skills that kids learn are incorporated into their writing, which can receive specific feedback from a tutor and be published on-site.

Support

On-screen tutorials and clear instructions guide students through every step. Not all games have clear instructions. Consistency in written, verbal, or demo instructions would be helpful.


Common Sense reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

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Featured review by
Mike Saltz S. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Wilburton Elementary School
Bellevue, United States
A Powerful Engagement Tool for Writing!
I hope Night Zookeeper continues to be noticed in the US (based out of the UK)... there is so much potential. Kids who already love writing will be engaged by this, but I think it's even more important that it engages our struggling writers as well.
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