I was approached on Twitter to review an educational app for vocabulary, so I figured: what the heck? The developer seemed nice enough and he sent me a code for downloading Shake-a-Phrase, which I somehow messed up and ended up buying the thing after all. So, there’s a sort of disclaimer here: I should have gotten this app for free in exchange for posting my opinion about it, but I bought it anyway. Take it for what you will.
What is Shake-a-Phrase? It’s a vocabulary app that seems nicely suited for learning some basic parts of speech (when you shake the app, it changes the sentences). There are three main components to it, including a section in which you tap words to identify the parts of speech identified (the basics: nouns, verbs, adjectives), and each time you do it correctly, you move to another level. I’m not sure what the levels bring you, to be honest, but I can see some advantage to my students around parts of speech here. It might get way to repetitious after about ten minutes, though. There are a few “themes” of words — sports, monsters, etc. — that make it interesting, but only to a point.
Another component of Shake-a-Phrase provides you with a one sentence story, and if you tap words, it pulls up both the definition and the part of speech of the word. This is useful for learning new words. Again, useful but repetitious after a while.
The third component is called “story starter,” and they give you the first part of a story, which is designed to inspire your writing. Except you can’t write on the app. Which seems strange to me, as I was all set to imagine “what if a flaky serpent evolved into a witty pixie …” But there was no room on the app for my words. I sort felt let down.
Overall, the app is nicely designed, and it is pretty fun to play for a short amount of time, although it feels a bit like the result of an adult designing a game that they think a kid will play for hours when the kid really wants to play Plants and Zombies. I don’t think my sixth graders would find it all that interesting for too long.
Yet, Shake-a-Phrase could be a nice addition, or extension, activity for work around Parts of Speech. What would make it more valuable for me would be for the app to have all of the major Parts of Speech, not just the Big Three. You can only get so far with nouns, verbs and adjectives. Prepositions, pronouns, adverbs and the rest would be more helpful. And if it were something I could pull up on the interactive board, that would be neat (Can you see us shaking the board? Yeah.)
Still, for younger students who are just learning that we even have things in our language called Parts of Speech (although why and if Parts of Speech are important to improving writing is whole other conversation), the app might be a beneficial entry point for fun practice. The shaking of the app and the silly stories that appear on the screen would likely be a draw for a lot of kids.
Peace (in the shakeable words),