Newbery Medalist Kwame Alexander has partnered with education technology innovator Age of Learning to launch WordPlay, a video series that provides elementary schoolers a “master class” in story writing. Debuting in September within Age of Learning’s interactive learning game, Adventure Academy, WordPlay will be available to families on computers, tablets, and smartphones.
WordPlay consists of 10 episodes created, executive produced, and hosted by Alexander, who in each segment tackles a key stage of the storytelling process with the help of other authors and celebrity guests. These include rapper and hip-hop ambassador Toni Blackman; actor and author Maulik Pancholy of 30 Rock fame; and children’s book author and Emmy-nominated television writer Samantha Berger; who share insights into such storytelling elements as exposition, character development, and suspense building. WordPlay also features “The Pajama Drama Club,” starring kids who act out stories and perform literary songs in a theatrical production, and interactive activities to reinforce the lessons and inspire kids to create their own stories.
At Age of Learning, Nika Fabienke, Adventure Academy’s senior director of curriculum, noted that WordPlay is a strong and pertinent addition to the programming lineup. “As an award-winning author, Kwame Alexander has a passion for reaching kids in ways that are entertaining and that make a lasting impact,” she said. “That passion is the same thing that has driven Age of Learning to create entertaining, digital learning experiences. In WordPlay, the author’s expertise and playful approach are perfect fits for Adventure Academy, a game in which learning is fueled by curiosity and fun.”
Fabienke emphasized the increased urgency, at a time when traditional learning processes have been upended, to find ways to encourage kids’ creativity and self-expression. “It is especially important during these uncertain times that the learning does not stop,” she said. “Encouraging children to be creative through things like writing also pushes them to find and explore their own interests. As students are asked to spend more time working digitally and autonomously, Adventure Academy is a great space for strengthening skills around self-direction and independence. However, it is also important to continue emphasizing things like asking for help, collaborating with others, and accepting feedback. WordPlay connects children to an amazing role model, Kwame Alexander, who speaks to them directly and shows them how these qualities are integral to his own experience as a writer.”
Alexander likewise underscored the propitious timing of WordPlay’s release, with so many kids currently learning remotely at their home computers. “Writing is a way for them to practice interacting with the world—remembering that they are a part of it, and that writing their stories matters,” he said. “Also, educators are trying to figure out how to engage their students and keep them excited and learning. What better way than a show that was created during the lockdown with the parameters and limitations of the lockdown, based in learning from leading educational experts. I like to think WordPlay is also a classroom model of teaching writing, right now.”