Editorial Review

StudySync

Superb ELA resource spurs critical thinking with dynamic multimedia
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Graphite Rating 5
  • StudySync lets teachers digitally share and explore texts with their students.
  • A SyncTV episode in which students are engaged in a Socratic-style discussion about a text.
  • A "Blast" about Oprah Winfrey engages kids in a current debate.
  • The teacher toolbar offers easy access to student groupings, communities, assignments, and the library.
  • Teachers can assign work to individuals or groups of students, including rubrics for differentiated assessments.
  • The library of 900+ texts provides multimedia lessons based on strong pedagogy and best practices.
Pros
Every text is backed by quality multimedia; SyncTV gives kids an especially great model of how to communicate in class.
Cons
Initial setup could take quite a bit of time.
Bottom Line
StudySync offers great potential to build background knowledge, model critical thinking, and prompt in-depth discussion and writing.

Graphite Expert Review

Patricia Monticello Kievlan
Common Sense Graphite Reviewer
Foundation/Non-Profit Member
Graphite Rating 5
Learning Scores
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 5

A great selection of texts, stellar video content, and social features engage kids, connecting them with great literature and ideas.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 5

Lessons and activities like the Socratic Circle incorporate best practices for in-depth learning, as well as model collaborative learning and higher-level thinking.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 5

Audio and video supplements support the lessons. Multimedia tools and resources aid students, groups, communities, and assignments. A variety of support materials for teachers is also available.

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What's It Like?

StudySync is an engaging online resource that offers multimedia materials to support over 900 fiction and nonfiction texts. This digital library covers English language arts, history, science, math and technology, and social studies. Along with each text, the program offers audio, video, critical-thinking questions, writing/discussion prompts, and lesson plans. The kicker? All of these well-written lessons are linked to Common Core State Standards. What's more, StudySync is a research-based program aimed at developing students' skills for close reading and writing across the curriculum. Within teacher-created or public groups, students interact and engage in a variety of ways -- from 140-character quick-writes to more thoughtful responses, as well as peer-review activities.

StudySync's lessons and activities are delivered as both Thematic and Full-Text units. Each Full-Text unit offers a complete curriculum of fiction and/or nonfiction texts. The Thematic Units include fiction and nonfiction texts that surround a common theme, and slot easily into a teacher's preexisting curriculum. All units include a bevy of resources: Instructional Paths, which let teachers explore what's available and make thoughtful choices about the right content to use in their classrooms; both the simpler "First Read" and more complex "Close Read," assignments; videos and multiple-choice questions; and embedded grammar and vocabulary help. The short "Blasts" assignments prompt students to respond to provocative topics and current events. The Thematic Units also include Extended Writing Projects, which ask students to address a writing prompt (Narrative, Informative/Explanatory, or Argumentative). The Full-Text units include similar writing tasks and offer a wide range of texts.

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Is It Good For Learning?

The depth and quality of StudySync's multimedia materials really is outstanding, but its coolest feature by far is SyncTV, which can fit beautifully into classroom study. SyncTV's dramatized chats involve a diverse group of kids responding to a prompt on a variety of subjects -- Frankenstein's monster or Anne Frank, just to name a few. The student-actors bring in several points of view, citing evidence from the text, sharing their own activated prior knowledge, and making connections to what they already know. Their connections often lead to current topics that are important to teens. They use iPads or other technologies as they do research, but most of all, they bring sophisticated meaning to the texts, including outside quotes, biographical information, and in-depth character analysis.

The lively banter between the actors is appealing and genuine enough to keep teen viewers engaged. This type of rich discussion models for students what engaged learning can look like, and hopefully they'll be moved to emulate it in the classroom. With a wealth of resources and great tools for fostering active, engaged learning, StudySync is an endlessly valuable way to use technology to enrich, and maybe even redefine, your ELA classroom.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

Once you enter your class's info in StudySync's online community, you can assign tasks to individual students, small groups of students, or your entire class. Students can interact with each other in a variety of formats and on a variety of topics –- from short quick-write responses and “Blasts” to more engaged, thoughtful responses to Prompts and peer review.

StudySync offers these "Blasts" four times per week, and they are current, relevant questions debated through an online community. You can also create assignments in the Goals section. Possible assignments can include a SyncTV episode, reading and writing activities, or short 140-character "quick writes." The inclusion of the Common Core standards here is the icing on the cake, making it easy for you to incorporate StudySync's materials into your school's own curricular requirements.

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See how teachers are using StudySync