Word Wonderland (Elementary)

App review by
Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Media
Word Wonderland (Elementary) App Poster Image
Engaging game, but learning seems incidental, lacks depth.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn to break down words into parts and sort words into matching categories. Games include vocabulary concepts like roots, suffixes, and prefixes; and spelling and phonics concepts like silent e, diphthongs, r-controlled vowels, and le endings. Ideally, this app would help with spelling, vocabulary, and reading, but the challenge of thinking is lost in the game execution, and kids can just match letters without understanding the concepts.

Ease of Play

The tips section includes tutorials explaining and demonstrating how to play different facets of the game, but nothing explains in-depth how to avoid the spacecraft that comes in and takes out a star in the middle of the game (or what it does with that star). For an educational word game, this includes many distractions that don't enhance the targeted skills.

Violence

Some arcade-game-style space explosions take out stars.

Sex
Language
Consumerism

The lite version offers a few levels to play for free but includes frequent links to buy the full version.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Word Wonderland (Elementary) is a mutilevel, arcade-style game designed to help kids practice many ways of sorting words in categories from vowel sounds to root words. Although the gameplay is engaging and challenging, the learning is incidental and lacks depth. Also available is a free lite version that lets kids try out two levels in each of the four worlds. The game is recommended for kids in grades three through six.

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What's it about?

In this arcade-style word game, kids explore different space worlds while guiding a space crab along a complicated path, past obstacles, to a final destination. To clear the path, kids have to sort words into categories, from vowel sounds at the easy level to Greek and Latin roots at the expert. Kids choose from four levels of challenge: easy, medium, hard, and expert. They can work on such concepts as short and long vowels, r-controlled vowels, blends, digraphs, prefixes, suffixes, diphthongs, endings, endings with le, and Greek and Latin roots. Multiple profiles can be set up on a device. The Tips section in Settings includes tutorials showing all features -- stars, arrows, machines -- and how to use them. Nothing in Tips explains the concepts relating to the words or word parts, however.

Is it any good?

The problem with Word Wonderland (Elementary) is that it contains no explanation of any of the targeted word concepts, and the critical thinking kids do is not related to the word skills the app is supposed to teach. What is a diphthong? How does r control a vowel? The word sort ends up being an activity for matching letters in words to letters on the space path. For example, given the suffix -ion, kids could simply find the word ending with -ion (suction) and drag the suffix into place. No critical thinking or understanding is necessary. The tutorials are focused on explaining the intricate rules surrounding each part of the space path -- the arrows, the stars, the machines -- and maneuvering the space crab along the path to the end. Word Wonderland plays like an arcade-style space game with some words thrown in almost as an afterthought. That said, the space maze is fun; this just isn't an app suitable for real learning.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • To improve educational impact, explain the concepts to your kids or help them find the concepts in the Practice Skills section that corresponds to what they've learned in school or at home.

  • Steer kids to word apps such as Word Joust or phonics apps such as Phonics Genius for word-skills practice, and save arcade games for strategy.

App details

Themes & Topics

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