I am excited to report that there is an app that goes along with a series of books that was very popular on my shelves as a third, fourth and fifth grade teacher! My students LOVED the Who Was/Is, What Was/Is and Where Is Series published by Penguin Random House LLC and they always made sure that I knew if new ones were coming out so that I could go buy them to make sure our classroom collection was complete. This year in kindergarten I did not always make sure I had the full collection so I know I am behind! There are over 120 titles available in this series and it is still growing! Students in these grades loved the stories on famous people that they knew or that were new to them. They would pick up one and not care either way and eat them up like candy. They are so good for building the background knowledge on that person and would be a good foundational text if learning about a famous person. It would also be good for providing a mentor text for writing one’s own biography (or autobiography).
Getting back to the app, it is currently being sold for $0.99 and contains over 5,000 questions about the famous people that their books are about. It is safe for kids as there are no advertisements and no in-app purchases (which drive me nuts by the way!).
When you open the app, you are given two choices: Who Was? Adventure or Who Was? Arcade. In Who Was? Adventure, you have to type in your name so it can keep track of your levels-first name is enough. It will provide you with a learning level so that you can learn how to interact with this game. Then, you will move through the levels by clicking on the person’s head that is next on the timeline. You will know you can go to this level because the person’s full head will be showing. The rest of the faces are peeking out from behind the bubble. When you open the bubble, you are brought to that famous person’s timeline. Here is lays out all of the important dates that surround that historical figure (or current famous figure). You can click on the little book icon to get a picture of what the book in the series looks like. To start the game, you click on the purple oblong bubble that says “Play Level.” Once you click there, it gives you your goal that you need to meet in order to pass to the next level. It also provides some “lightbulbs” that when you press them, gives you some factoids about that person. Once you start playing, it asks you who would be the person that matches with the fact. You have to click on the famous face and new faces drop in so you have more to choose from and more to confuse you with. Once you finish, if you answered enough correctly, you will move to the next round. You may also get an Achievement for answering a high percentage of the questions correctly. You can view your Achievements which opens and looks like a sticker book collection, which my younger self would have eaten up (well, actually I kinda love it now!).
This app is a great sidekick to the books and a perfect app to have on library devices for use for students. This would be a great hook to reading the series as you do need to have some background knowledge on the books. I can see this being something in a classroom as well as in a library but if classrooms don’t have the books stocked in their classroom libraries, it may be better suited in the library. Of course, once students know about the app, and if they love the series, they will probably want to download it on their own devices. A great price for a learning app connected to a series of biography books! Can’t beat that!