A whirlwind of letters: Wordle takes the school by storm


Audrey Carbonell and Gillian Ho

“My wife asked me, ‘Is everyone in your office talking about Wordle?’ and I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ She was shocked that an English teacher wouldn’t know what Wordle was,” English teacher Andrew Fippinger said.

Since this conversation, Fippinger has begun playing Wordle, the newly popularized online guessing game, daily. Four out of five of the English teachers in Fippinger’s office participate in a Wordle group, playing the game and using the sharing feature to send their statistics to the text chain they have together. “We aren’t really competitive with each other, but we like to joke around about how we did,” Fippinger said.

The word of the day, which is generated by the program at midnight, is broken down into six boxes. When a player guesses a word, the server color-codes the letters — gray if the letter is not in the word, yellow if it is in the word but in the wrong spot, and green if it is in the right spot. Each day’s answer is uniform for all players on the website.

“Everyone talks about [Wordle] every day so it’s good to do it to be in the conversation,” James Zaidman (9) said. “It’s good to keep your brain sharp and expand your vocabulary too.” Zaidman found out about Wordle after seeing a friend play the game during an English study hall last week. “It was hard at first, but now that I’ve been doing it every day it’s been getting easier,” he said. 

Players use different strategies and goals for determining the day’s word. Math teacher Charles Worrall tries to use letters he knows are in the five-letter word from previous guesses to arrange new words in future guesses, he said. Although Charles Seo (11) is a new player, he has found that using vowels early on has helped improve his score, he said.

Furthermore, history teacher Melissa Morales tries to use words with common consonants and vowels to try to figure out the word faster, such as ‘steak,’ Morales said. Similarly, Emily Akbar (9) uses words with the letters R, S, T, and N, because they are the most common consonants in the alphabet.

Because a new Wordle is released every day, it has become part of a daily routine for many students. Maddie Yoon (11), for example, has integrated Wordle into her nightly routine, she said. “I play when it’s released at midnight so it does not get spoiled for me.” 

“The fact that [Wordle] only comes out once a day is really important to its success — it’s like the equivalent of a TV show that only comes out once a week, and everyone waits for it to come out,” Fippinger said. 

Other students take Wordle less seriously and see it as a fun pastime. Lucas Borini (11) is not bothered if he misses the daily Wordle, he said. “I might forget on some days, and it’s not really a big thing for me.”

When a player completes the daily Wordle, they can send their results through a sharing feature. Although the actual word is not revealed, players can show their thought process during gameplay by sharing the order of the colored boxes which lead them to the final word. 

Morales first learned about Wordle through Twitter after players used this sharing feature to post their number of attempts, she said. While Morales was hesitant to begin playing as she plays a different word game daily, she ultimately found Wordle to be interesting and different from other word games. “If you have downtime for 10-15 minutes, it’s just a nice form of relaxation to solve a quick puzzle,” she said. “It’s not a big investment.”

Morales recommends the game to anyone, including teachers and students. The game has a proper balance of quickness, fun, and challenge, she said. “I think everybody could solve the puzzle every day.” 

Although Nathan Robertson (9) is not an avid player, he thinks those who frequently play word games would enjoy Wordle, he said. 

The sharing feature prompted Freddie Vogelbaum (11) to begin playing Wordle. “I was inspired by people who sent their Wordles in those text messages to a group chat,” he said. “Everyone flexes their score by using the share function.” 

Wordle’s sharing feature has stirred up competition within the school community. Nicolas Wong (11) and Vogelbaum had a heated debate on who consistently gets the word faster and who is the better Wordle player. 

Seo, who heard about Wordle through Vogelbaum, has also been participating in fun-filled competitions, he said. “I share what I get and compare it with friends and family,” he said. 

Unlike Seo, Fippinger has the opposite mindset: “I try to avoid thinking of Wordle as a competitive game.” Fippinger said.

Since there are six attempts allowed total, players such as Vogelbaum and Wong try to get their word in the least attempts possible. Some players, such as Worrall, have guessed the word of the day in two attempts, and average around four attempts, he said. “I like it best when I’ve guessed incorrectly a few times and have to give some real thought to what word might be possible at that point,” Worrall said. “It’s less fun if I randomly guess too accurately at first.”

On the contrary, Akbar prefers to complete each day’s game in fewer attempts, “I’m really competitive, so I try to get it in [fewer] rows than everyone else,” Akbar said. 

Beyond friendly competition, Akbar also enjoys Wordle because of the spontaneous words that are released occasionally. “Sometimes the most unexpected word comes up, like a couple days ago it was ‘knoll,’” she said.  

Worrall was first introduced to Wordle by math teacher Linda Hubschman, based on his interests in crossword puzzles, he said. “I tried it, and now I’m hooked.”