Thursday, April 26, 2012


StoryLines is a free app that lets you play a game that's a cross between the old whispering game of telephone and the drawing game Pictionary. It could be an interesting way of reviewing vocabulary.

The game is played with 3, 5, 7 or 9 players. The first player picks a word or phrase. The second illustrates it. The third writes the phrase that they think is being illustrated. If you're playing with more than 3 players, the players then alternate between writing the phrase they think is being illustrated and drawing a new illustration. At the end of the game you see the whole chain of text and drawings played out.

StoryLines can be played against your friends online, with moves being shared on Facebook. StoryLines for Schools however, is specifically designed with no Internet element to the game (other than emailing the finished StoryLine to someone once you have finished) and can only be played in what the developers call  Pass-n-Play mode. It also includes some suggestions for vocabulary or phrases to use as a game starters. The suggested vocabulary is too hard (even at the 'elementary' level) for elementary-level students, or elementary-level English language learners. If I were using the game in class, I think I would take the first move myself and provide the phrase or vocabulary item, or I would require students to choose from a vocabulary list. I'd like to see a feature where the teacher could create a list of vocabulary in the app. I think this would be a fun game to play after teaching some idioms! I have a set of cards already to play a matchup game with idioms and pictures, so the cards with the words on them would be a good way to have the students choose the phrase to start the game.

I liked the fact that the drawing part of the game was originally deliberately kept very simple with no colors or different kind of artist's tools available. It's like doing a quick doodle with a pen. There is now an in-app purchase to add colors that I can see could be useful, but in-app purchases are a pain to deal with in school.

Here's a link to a short, 3 person, StoryLine that was created on an iPad and then shared via email. (You will need Safari or Chrome to see it - it's not compatible with Firefox.) The email you send to share your story contains a link to the page where the StoryLine has been uploaded. It would be nice if you could scroll back to the start of the StoryLine once it's finished 'playing'. I think that would be especially important if you have more than 3 people contributing to the StoryLine. In the school where I work, groups for 'center activities' almost always seem to have 4 kids in them, but you could play this game with 4 kids by choosing the 5 player version and having the teacher select the word or phrase that starts the game.

As a free app, this is certainly worth downloading, even if you only use it once a year!

(Updated 5 April 2013)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Apps for English Language Learners

I've created a list of apps that I think could be useful when working with English language learners. As with the other lists I've created, it's most definitely a work in progress!

At this point there are over 200 apps included. Most tend to be for elementary-age students, but there are some that are appropriate for older students too. A few, but not many overall, are specifically for students to work on grammar and sentence structure. Some are one-trick ponies - they do one thing only, do it quite well, but you might only ask your students to use it once a year. Some of these apps are appropriate for students to use on their own, but many (especially those originally designed for use by speech and language therapists) are intended to be used one on one or with a very small group of students.

I've listed the prices (in US$) as of when I added the app to my list, but app prices do change regularly, so check before you buy. Prices in parentheses are the price through the volume purchase program for 20 or more copies of the same app.

If you have any corrections or additions to make, please leave a comment on this post. Equally, if there is information you wish I had included, please let me know. I'd like to make this as useful a resource as possible!