English apps for middle school enrichment can be fun!

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Happy news from a friend

My friend’s daughter, who we’ll call Violet, is in middle school* and she had a great time playing WordWhile, my literary game, on her dad’s iPhone this summer. I was so happy when he told me this since that’s exactly the opportunity I hoped this word game would create.  It seems to me that English apps for middle school shouldn’t always be earnest or purely tools for creation.  They can and often should expose students to new vocabulary, new imagery and new ideas in a fun, playful way.

Violet is a pretty bookish young lady from a book-loving family. (It’s a good thing they live in a geographically stable part of the world, because a lot of books line their walls with still more perched precariously on top of shelves.) That doesn’t necessarily mean she’s familiar with the great literature that WordWhile draws on for play. Most people aren’t, so why should she be?

Analyzing tone, meter, and rhyme…playfully

Still, she had fun filling the gaps in these texts with silly words and phrases and reading the result.  In the meantime, she was getting a first taste of a lot of these texts, seeing the names of the authors.  She was also getting better at identifying the novel words.  This last item is important, because being able to pick the Novel word without already knowing the source text requires attention to changes in tone, register, meter, and rhyme.  It happens naturally in the game and the consequences of making the “wrong” choice are mild to say the least.

WordWhile is about playful, casual exposure to literary gems.  It’s a feature I would like to see in more English apps for middle school students.  If you haven’t tried WordWhile on your mobile device, you’ll find links to the Apple App Store and Google Play on the Home page. Do you know of any word games or other apps for mobile devices that take this playful approach?  If so, please mention them in a comment.


*Not all countries have “middle school” per se, but all countries have students ages 11-14.  I live in Quebec, Canada. Here, this translates to the last year of primary school and the first two years of high school.  Where I grew up (Toronto), it was grade 6 (end of primary) and “junior high”.

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