Review by Stephanie Trautman, Common Sense Education | Updated July 2016

Words With Friends EDU

Super-fun school version introduces preset list of academic words

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • English Language Arts
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
2-12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (3 Reviews)

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Pros: It's both fun and highly engaging, and the dictionary tool can be a helpful support.

Cons: Teachers can't create and assign their own word lists, a feature that would help contextualize the vocabulary kids learn in the game.

Bottom Line: Kids can have fun learning new words, though it'll probably take more to really cement these terms into vocabulary.

Teachers are best off using Words With Friends EDU as a supplemental vocabulary tool where students can learn new words and practice using the ones they know. Be flexible in how you use the game in class; you can simply play for fun (and practice with new words), or you could offer play toward students' participation credit or even count the points and badges earned toward gradebook credit. While there are only a few lesson plans provided, what's there can be very useful. Though you can't load your own word list into the game, consider how you might adapt the game into your existing lessons. Also, you won't have control over who plays whom in the game, but it's worth it to assign partners in class -- pair kids based on who you think can best support each-others' success.

Most of all, encourage your students to use the built-in dictionary and the provided Power Word list as they play. Keep track of students' use with the dashboard's "Shout Out!" and "Watch Out!" information. You'll be able to stay on top of who's winning and succeeding, as well as who might need some more guidance or support (such as a student who doesn't utilize the dictionary or hasn't played any Power Words yet). For those who need to connect play to standards-based instruction, make use of the dashboard's standards report -- it has information on students' progress toward mastery of various Common Core language standards.

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Words With Friends EDU is a classroom-friendly take on the hugely popular mobile word game. The EDU version's gameboard is simple and familiar to anyone who's played the original Words With Friends. The EDU version, however, adds some new features to the gameboard; it's flanked on both sides with supports to help kids dig deeper into their word usage. On the left, students can search a list of power words. If used in gameplay, these power words offer students more points (though only if they select the correct usage in a multiple-choice question). On the right side of the screen, students can look up any word in a dictionary widget (provided by Dictionary.com), potentially exposing them to new words and meanings. 

Throughout the game students can earn points they can use toward customizing an avatar. They'll also work toward earning badges based on their achievements. For teachers, a basic dashboard offers "Shout Out!" and "Watch Out!" alerts, which offer insights into students' successes and areas for improvement.

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Words With Friends EDU is a lot of fun, and most students won't turn it down. It's interactive, can (sometimes) be fast-paced, and brings a certain amount of excitement to spelling and vocabulary. Students can use problem-solving skills to strategize the best letter or word placement to get the most points or to score even more by using the game's power words. Kids can try as many nonsensical words as they'd like before getting one that actually fits. This trial-and-error could be beneficial for younger students or ELLs, though it can also greatly slow down the game. Unlike in the consumer version, students can't communicate with peers inside the game, something that may promote more focus on the actual learning of new words and meanings.

While students can see a list of words they've played in a current game, they can't easily see all the words they've played over time. That's too bad, because a feature like this could really be beneficial in helping kids retain, and build on, what they've learned. Also, beyond the game, there isn't much here to help individual students reinforce or cement specific words into their vocabularies. The Power Word list is preset in the game -- teachers can't generate or customize their own lists. This makes connecting gameplay with relevant concepts in class challenging at best. This disappointment aside, the game still offers a really engaging way for students to encounter new language, and the more they do this, the better. 

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Overall Rating

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

Students (and even teachers!) will come back to play again and again. The game's lively layout and the ability to play classmates in real time make this an alluring choice for vocabulary practice.

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

The Power Word list offers a nice incentive, but more features to connect words learned in the game with real-world use could take learning further. The ability for teachers to create custom word lists would be a huge improvement.

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

Kids can gain some knowledge about word usage, and the built-in dictionary is a nice reference. Giving teachers more control over the game's settings could boost opportunities for meaningful differentiation.


Common Sense Reviewer
Stephanie Trautman Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 3 reviews) (3 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
K Oakley N. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Students are excited to play and learn!

Students need more vocabulary development. WWF allows students to learn in a way that is different from rote memorization and allows them to use various levels of cognitive engagement. Students and teachers love it!

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