June 27, 2016

App Helps Students Boost Vocabulary and Creative Writing Skills

By Rob Klindt, Contributing Writer | Literacy Resources

Reading and writing teachers know that robust vocabulary, good grammar and solid sentence construction skills will help students ace their creative-writing assignments.

But the time and practice needed to master those skills can prompt groans of boredom or frustration from some students. Game-based learning apps for smartphones and digital tablets can help those students by providing extra practice via fun word games.

The "Shake-a-Phrase" app for smartphones and tablets helps students polish their grammar and writing skills.A good app teachers should consider for their classroom-tech toolbox is “Shake-a-Phrase: Vocabulary Fun” by Artgig Studio. The heart of the app is a fun feature that keeps students engaged by letting them shake their device to generate new content while playing interactive word games.

Content in the app includes more than 2,000 vocabulary words and definitions aimed at students in upper elementary and middle school grades. The self-paced games and quizzes include randomly generated phrases that help students identify parts of speech and boost their creative writing skills. Content aligns with English language arts standards in most states.

How it works

The learning focus of the app comes from two word and phrase games and a multi-level quiz game. To play, students use a finger to tap a navigation circle on the homepage to launch the feature they want. The choices are:

  • Shake It! Students shake their device and a random sentence appears onscreen. If they’re not sure about a word, tapping it will show a definition.
  • Story Starter. Shake the device and the first sentence of a random story will appear onscreen. It’s a great way to help students get started with creative-writing exercises.
  • Quiz Me. Students test their skills at identifying adjectives, verbs, nouns, conjunctions and prepositions in random sentences. They earn game points and progress to higher levels by tapping on the right words.

If students prefer not to shake their device to generate new content in the games, they can tap a “Shake It” button at the bottom of the screen in the word and phrase games, or the “Next” button on the quiz game.

Dynamic features

In addition to the “Shake it!” feature for generating phrases onscreen, the app includes numerous dynamic features that keep students engaged and the games moving. Among the most helpful are:

  • Copy-text button for sharing phrases via email
  • Five colorful background themes
  • Fun sound effects tied to each theme
  • Lively startup music
  • Touchscreen tap technology

In the quiz mode, answering a question correctly triggers a pleasant confirmation sound before the student goes to the next question or challenge level. Students can take as long as they need to answer questions. There is no penalty for wrong answers and multiple guesses are allowed.

What’s included

Content in the “Shake-a-Phrase: Vocabulary Fun” app is all inclusive. Once it’s been downloaded to a device, all the vocabulary words, quizzes, games, sound effects and previously saved favorites are available without an internet connection. There are no advertisements or in-app purchases, and registration isn’t required.

An internet connection is needed to send text copied from the app via email to teachers, parents or other students.

Download details

The “Shake-a-Phrase: Vocabulary Fun” app costs $1.99. It can be downloaded through Google Play and the Amazon Appstore and is compatible with smartphones and tablets running the Android operating system 2.1 or later. It’s also available on iTunes under the name “Shake-a-Phrase: Fun with Words and Sentences.” It is compatible with iPhones and iPad tablets running iOS version 5.1.1 or later.

Rob Klindt’s “App Reviews” combine his passion for writing with an ever-growing interest in educational technology. His simple, straightforward approach to reviewing educational apps help educators and parents leverage new tools for students in and out of the classroom.

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