My Bookshelf

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Kingdom of Possibilities

Play Time Theater by Make Believe Worlds, LLC
Designed for iPad
Price $4.99

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." attributed to Albert Einstein

This is an app that even Einstein would adore! It contains the power of  imagination while providing children an ability to create and collaborate, two desirable traits not easily found in this massive frenzy of mobile applications. However, Make Believe Worlds, has bucked that trend and created in their words,"a digital play set and puppet-show theatre".  Highly interactive,  this customizable program allows the user to create a digital fairy tale like play using an interface that contains six characters, a plethora of sound options, and stage configurations.  The setting of the play set is mindful of a Renaissance Fair with a mote, dragon, unicorn, princess (or wicked queen), prince, knight, evil sorcerer all of whom are customizable like a digital Polly Pocket.  Users create their set and characters, have a dress rehearsal, and then record their story using thier own theatrical voice while simultaneously inputting sound effects and music.  For a demo, watch this video:

The Good:  The minute I tried this app, I began generating tons of ideas for use in the classroom.  I'll begin with just a couple: First, students in writing workshop, who are completing the Fairy Tale Unit of Study (or student choice project), could use this app for drafting ideas and publishing a final product.  Teachers could also use this either as a scaffold to facilitate understanding of the genre or as a tool to enrich the final publication. This app could also be extremely useful in a reading intervention setting. To test my hypothesis, I am trying it out with some of my struggling readers. I have two reading groups that need continued support with reading comprehension. Therefore, we are immersing ourselves in the genre of fairytales, completing interactive read alouds that focus on comprehension building.  Since so many of my students love plays, we are going to spend part of our time creating a PlayTime Theatre play using the elements of the fairy tale genre that we learned through our immersion.  Since several of my students also struggle with fluency, the creation of a play will serve as a Reader's Theatre like activity - students will be practicing repeated readings without even realizing it (which are great for developing automaticity)! Furthermore, this app also allows student to practice expressive reading - which again, is a critical function of reading comprehension.

I began trying this app with kids yesterday and the response was more than positive. I had engagement, healthy discussions, and motivation to both read and write.  This is what reading teachers live for!

The Bad:  Well, if you are going to use this in a classroom, I would suggest two students (three at most) per iPad.  Otherwise, there is too much competition for screen time.   This app is learning by doing, it does contain some directions, but you really need to spend time experimenting prior to using it with kids.  This isn't a bad thing, necessarily, but unlike other apps it isn't completely intuitive (which is part of the reason it's so fantastic).

I give this app a big Thumbs Up.

Blogger's Note:  When I first tried this app I was having trouble with the sound (my sound button was muted, duh!) and I emailed the developers for help.  They responded right away with suggestions and were very helpful and kind.  So thank you Seth and David!  Also, I noticed that they have more "stages" coming out including pirate world, dino world, and space world.  I can't wait for Act Two! 

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