Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Vocabulary Building Apps We Love: “The Opposites” and “Word Cracker”

Lights are back on after a weeklong blackout at my house and it feels great to be getting a story up. During the blackout, I could recharge my laptop and iPad at the local library, so I spent some time with a pair of wonderful, slightly addictive apps that love words as much as I do.

Your tween to young teen will love The Opposites by Mindshapes Ltd. I think a quick, clear, and relatively easy way to build vocabulary is through the use of opposite words or antonyms. This app does just that. It features a pair of twin tweens who play a game of one-upmanship as they defiantly stand at either side of the screen and recite a list of words at each other. The words float to the ceiling inside bubbles. When you can identify a pair of antonyms (opposites), tap them and the bubbles disappear. If you don’t, the room will get very crowded. The twins will eventually crouch down to fit; and you’ll run out of time. But if you identify the specially highlighted word’s opposite, you’ll win a food prize that you can use on the twins to buy more time to identify all the pairs of antonyms. If you manage to identify all the pairs, you’ll get a lightening round of words to pair up quickly before the clock runs out. You must complete ten levels of increasing difficulty to make it through this app. In the process, users will learn 500 pairs of antonyms. The dictionary section will give you the definitions of all the words in the app, divided by level. And it’s a great price; by which I mean it’s FREE.

Word Cracker by Eoz Games is a great brainteaser and vocabulary builder. Users are presented with consonants and have to figure out where the vowels go. One level of difficulty is show spaces mode where you’ll see spaces where you place the vowels. The word “vowels” would appear as V_W_LS. But if you switch off this mode, you’d see VWLS which is—need I say—far more challenging.

And I love the way it uses themes to engage users. Users can work with U.S. States, Capitals, Presidents, the Periodic Table, Living Things, Sports, and Human Body themes, to name just a few. Several degrees of difficulty make this a kid to grown-up game. And if your friends have the game loaded on their device, you can challenge them to play the exact same game. You can set this game from very easy for the youngest readers to truly challenging. This really is a family app. If it’s possible to get to the bottom of this game, I haven’t discovered it yet. It’s the best $1.99 you’ll spend this year.

Bonus: my personal favorite app of the month is Fix-It Felix Jr. based on the new Disney film, Wreck-It Ralph. It won’t build your vocabulary, but it’s lots of fun. Styled after a vintage arcade game with pixilated graphics and classic arcade music, it offers a seemingly simple task that users must perform before time runs out (or Ralph gets you). Felix repairs broken windows with quick taps. Directional buttons help you climb up and down the building and leap here and there. And watch out for those geese. It’s a great little time waster and challenging in a non-frustrating sort of way. And it’s a good price: free.

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