Review by Ericka D, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2020

S.S. Grin

Fantastical game helps teach friendship skills through storytelling

Subjects & skills
Subjects
N/A

Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Character & SEL
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
3–6
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Pros: Incredibly interactive game uses vignettes to teach relationship skills and perseverance.

Cons: Length of time it takes to complete an activity could be limiting, especially since students can't save mid-activity.

Bottom Line: Riveting role-playing game reinforces relationship skills, but plan carefully so that students can save their game.

Students will love getting to play this game, and teachers would benefit from using it in a variety of ways. Consider presenting this to students as they work in pairs or small groups so that they can use some of the social skills they're learning in real time. This could also serve as part of a guidance or wellness program. If you use it during a social studies lesson, you can carry the lesson over to an English language arts essay prompt. Teachers could also ask students to debrief after playing by writing in a daily journal, reflecting on interesting interactions throughout the game, and connecting those interactions to off-screen ones. And, you can connect the skills presented in the game to digital interaction vs. face-to-face conversations. Ask students how things like respect and stopping and thinking are helpful online as well as off. Whether teachers have their entire class complete this game individually in a computer lab or use it as an extension activity for students throughout the day, the multiple options are sure to benefit students and teachers alike.

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S.S. Grin begins by asking the player to create their avatar. Then students meet several characters in the game called the "Pirants" and "Billy the Squid." The player is a new recruit on the ship S.S. Grin to protect Pacifico island. Crew members help out the inhabitants of Pacifico by completing tasks. Each of the crew members has their own strengths and interests: friendship, respect, planning and thinking ahead, stop and think, listening, and emotions. Students then learn the secret mission for members of the S.S. Grin, which is to protect special Friendship Stones from being stolen. In addition to the Pirants, there are other villains who specialize in interfering in friendships by demonstrating things like disrespect, being inconsiderate, and not thinking through consequences.

S.S. Grin does a good job of introducing each character's values and strengths via role playing and storytelling. It loops kids in immediately and helps activate their background knowledge for future activities. The developer does a great job of placing students directly into several of the vignettes mid-scene. This requires students to use their knowledge, context clues, and foresight to be able to determine their next move in the game.

It also places value on process over perfection, so students must rely on real-life resources, regulation strategies, and other pro-social supports to complete their goals. And students have to pay attention to more than the content of what's being said. Each interaction in S.S. Grin is layered with elements like tone, inflection, and appropriateness. To extend learning, students can participate in a close-knit and informative community of pro-social practices and get weekly emails teaching a social-skill of the week. The only downside to this game is that if students need to log out mid-scene for a logistical reason (e.g., bell ringing), the level may not save until the student completes the vignette. It would be nice if students could save at any point and pick right back up when they log in again.

Overall Rating

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

The role-playing and story-telling nature of this interactive game will reel students in.

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

Everything from practicing inference to learning frustration tolerance is built into the fabric of this game. The only downside is that each level takes a while to complete. 

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

Tips, hints, and tutorials are embedded into each vignette and activity. There's a greater learning community that shares lessons and suggestions for further education. 


Common Sense Reviewer
Ericka D Counselor, psychologist, or social worker

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