Thursday, July 28, 2016

App Review: Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree {TOS Review}

My kids love the iPad and playing games on it, so I was intrigued when we were offered the chance to review the app Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree, which is an interactive reading program from Star Toaster.

Orphs of the Woodlands at Tanglegate Review

Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree is actually a prequel to Star Toaster's original online game, but it is in the form of an iTunes app.  It is essentially a book with accompanying educational activities and game-like features.  The book we're reading is called The Journal of Flying Squirrel Abba, in which we learn about how Abba takes care of the orphs in his tree fort following a major flood.

Children read short illustrated chapters that are filled with pop-ups to help define words or cover various concepts like compound words or similes.  Subject areas covered include Math, Science, Grammar, Vocabulary, Thinking Skills, Character, Life Skills and The Arts.  This is an example of how you can click on the highlighted word to get a pop-up definition:

Students also do "training" which usually expands on a word or concept mentioned in the story.  Then they can

 consists of a short graphic (usually a definition/example written on the screen with a voice over explanation) that expands on something mentioned in the story, and then they can do related "jobs" which involves answering multiple choice questions.  Children can earn stars to buy supplies for the orphs when they answer correctly.  If the child has focused on the story or training, they should have no issue answering the questions.  Elliott found them super easy, and I think that's because oftentimes the answer was too obvious.  Either the wrong answers were too goofy to be possible, or the correct answer was basically answered for them.  When learning about similes, the word like was already bold before the correct answer was even chosen.

Elliott is coming out of third grade and is an average reader skill wise, but he doesn't particularly enjoy reading.  I've found the reading level is good for him--very few difficult words and no difficult vocabulary.  While he doesn't love reading, he has found parts of the story humorous, even funny enough to share with his little brother!

The book  is automatically bookmarked, so you can pick up exactly where you left off.  You can add multiple children, check their progress and look over the student's "work" to see exactly what concepts are covered across the different content areas and how they're progressing.  The app can be downloaded across multiple devices but it doesn't sync progress between devices. I set up the app on my phone so I could explore it ahead of time and know exactly what Elliott would be doing on the iPad, but it's easy enough to check from the child's account too.

Overall, I really like the concept of this app.  It's an easy way to get most children reading and reviewing a variety of concepts in all subject areas, especially if they are avid readers.  I have to admit, Elliott (9) didn't love the app as much as I expected.  Although listed for ages 9-11, I think the content is better suited for 6-9 year old children who are strong readers.  He was not engaged by the "game" aspect, he didn't find the questions challenging, and he wasn't particularly interested in the story line--I think he'd rather be reading biographies about filmmakers right now.  So while it's not something he will do on his own, I don't fault the app.  The story is cute and the questions are interesting, even if it is a little easy for the target age range.  I can see this being a good way to get in some educational use of technology, especially as a way to work on reading comprehension and stop that summer learning loss.  I do think it's a quality app with excellent graphics, and for the small fee of $1.99 for the app, it's a great deal.  I can understand why other children love it and I have no hesitation recommending it to friends and family looking for quality educational apps.

More Information
Star Toaster Website
Original Orphs of the Woodlands Review {The crew reviewed the original online game too!}

Orphs of the Woodlands at Tanglegate Review

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