Product Review of Word Mover
Word Mover is an app that mimics a consumer product featuring magnetic word tiles that can be arranged to create “found poetry.” Students can choose to work from a random word bank or create a new poem from the text of four famous works: the song “America the Beautiful,” President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18. There’s also an option for users to work from a screen marked My Own Words, where users can add their own words one at a time.
The app was produced by a partnership between the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and it’s about as literal as it gets in terms of asking learners to engage with text. Users touch and drag words into phrases and create poetry from scratch. Students can save their poems to the app’s homepage on their own device, and they have the option to share an image of their creation via email or through saving a photo to the device.
The ReadWriteThink website includes links to numerous lesson plans that integrate Word Mover as an activity in a larger lesson about civil rights, Shakespeare, or persuasive writing. In these contexts, the app could be a boon to educators as they work on units that address these subjects. The app could be even more useful if educators could import new word banks or their own “famous works,” though this is not a feature at this point.
Another potential use of the app outside of class might be as a vocabulary tool. It would be great if learners could input their own words — like a vocabulary list for an upcoming test — and use the app to build sentences that help define or contextualize those words. It can be arduous to add words one at a time, so it’s unclear how likely learners would be to use the app like this.
While it’s visually appealing and exciting as a concept, Word Mover is probably best used in a guided context. Given guidance in a classroom setting, there’s great potential for transfer and depth of study: Students get to manipulate and engage with four important texts in a novel way. However, a teacher’s voice is critical to add context and realize that potential. Without that, the four famous works seem a little out of place — it’s not clear why these texts are included or what makes them important. Further, there is nothing to tell us why the words that Dr. King and President Lincoln use are so different; there is nothing to explain why the words used in “America the Beautiful” are so different from those in Shakespeare’s sonnet. There’s real potential for a discussion of how word usage changes over time, how poems are different from spoken language, and how different literary devices are used in different types of writing. None of that discussion is included in the app, but the ReadWriteThink website offers some great resources for classroom use of the app.
Overall User Consensus About the App
Word Mover is visually appealing; it’s fun to experiment with color options while manipulating text. A younger user might be engrossed, but older kids may lose interest more quickly.
Curriculum and Instruction
There are great creative options built in. It’s exciting to take an existing text and modify it, and the app could be a great vehicle for teaching simple lessons about subject-verb agreement or more complex lessons on structure and form.
The walk-through help available within the app and on the associated website is detailed and helpful, and the help screen is easily accessible. The app works well with the iPad’s built-in accessibility tools, like text-to-speech.