Review by Fayme Evenson, Common Sense Education | Updated December 2017
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LightSail

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Robust, full-featured reading app measures meaningful literacy gains

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • English Language Learning

Skills
  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
1–12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (23 Reviews)

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Pros: Real-time opportunities for assessment and feedback make monitoring and encouraging student reading convenient and inviting.

Cons: Some embedded assessments are deeper than others, and some users might balk at making pleasure reading so data-driven.

Bottom Line: A powerful, well-designed literacy platform for developing engaged readers.

Teachers can use LightSail to monitor their students' reading in real time and in great detail. Teachers and students can monitor students' per-page progress through books in addition to students' performance on Common Core-aligned assessment tasks throughout the texts. Teachers can engage in written dialogue with students about their reading through the built-in note-taking features. In the classroom, teachers might use LightSail to generate reading groups, or they might use it as a way to evaluate student progress broadly and focus class time accordingly. Plus, teachers can use the daily articles from the Washington Post, KidsPost, and News for Kids as well as their corresponding quizzes to engage students in daily nonfiction reading. The content and activities are aligned with both Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and general reading strategies, so teachers, including those not using CCSS, can be sure that what they are planning with students is relevant and developmentally appropriate. To further support teachers, LightSail also has classroom videos, lesson plans, and daily guides as a starting point for instructional planning. 

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LightSail is an e-reading literacy platform for iOS, Android, and Chrome that helps teachers support their students' independent reading. Students can use LightSail to check out texts from their schools' digital library and read the books directly on their device. As students progress through a book, questions appear to gauge their comprehension, from simple multiple-choice questions to longer narrative responses. As students complete these assessments, they earn badges and also earn a Lexile measure, an evaluation of their current reading level based on their answers to the reading comprehension questions and the difficulty of the particular book. The Lexile measure is updated in real time with each assessment. Students always have access to their own data, showing their per-page reading progress, their earned badges from completed tasks, and their Lexile scores through the engaging student screen. Teachers can also view their students' data in real time and post to a classwide leaderboard to celebrate student successes and milestones.

As students select texts, other recommended reads appear on the app's home screen. These books can be sorted by their Lexile measures, offering reading experiences to students who might be relaxed, right at their level, or more aspirational. Students can also browse book selections sorted as literature and from informational text. As with the Lexile measures, the recommendations are updated in real time. Teachers can search by Lexile measure and assign specific students appropriate text for their current level. Students can make notes as they read, and their teachers can view students' annotations (which show the relevant highlighted text) and then respond to notes, allowing students to engage in dialogue with their teacher as they read. A student's portfolio captures the text and annotations, so students might use their short-form notes for writing longer essays later. Teachers can annotate text, too, and those annotations can extend to all classes or academic areas. 

Using LightSail is a district- or school-wide endeavor, requiring schools to license texts and manage a digital library. It's thus unlikely that teachers could elect to adopt LightSail for their classroom without the support of their school or district. But once that investment is in place, this system offers a powerful way to measure and monitor students' reading achievement.

LightSail is appealing because it's so responsive. It's exciting to feel that a list of recommended reads has been curated just for you, and it's encouraging to know that consistent engagement with increasingly difficult texts can result in better scores. Some assessments are richer than others, but all assessments seem meaningful; it's clear to students that they're being tested to ensure that they're engaging effectively with texts. 

From a Common Core-alignment perspective, LightSail is a powerful and flexible tool. When students answer an in-text comprehension question, a corresponding standard appears at the bottom of the screen. This same information appears in the teacher's dashboard, where it's easy to track students' progress across standards. At the same time, if you're more interested in focusing on specific reading strategies (literary devices, inference, etc.), you will also be able to track students' progress using those measures.

Yet another impressive feature of LightSail is the developer's commitment to improvement and innovation. In addition to solid built-in features for text-to-speech, font adjustment, and dictation, LightSail offers extensive dictionary features, including special support for English language learners. Plus, there are daily news articles from publications like the Washington Post that include in-text assessments, making LightSail more and more of a one-stop shop for teachers to use for getting their students reading. Other big improvements have included offline support; students can read, annotate, and take assessments without a Wi-Fi connection -- a great feature that truly lets students engage with texts anytime, anywhere.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Book selections include current fiction and informational texts that students most want to read. Students earn badges and get updated Lexile measures in real time, giving them instant feedback and encouragement on their reading performance.

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

Embedded assessments offer varying levels of depth, but the ongoing opportunities for assessment and feedback make this a terrific option for literacy development.

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

In-app supports are increasingly robust, including an extensive web-based teacher portal and built-in text supports for students. Plus, students can read, write, and take assessments offline.


Teacher Reviews

(See all 23 reviews) (23 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Carole-Ann M. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Global Neighborhood Secondary School
Manhattan, NY
Super engaging and the kids really respond to seeing their Lexile levels go up as they answer questions correctly.
I really like this program even if I know I will miss having the kids read from the classroom library. One issue though is realizing what books to order and convincing the admin to buy the number of books you need. We are sharing the books through the whole school so teachers are going to have to be really careful about getting kids to make sure that the return the books digitally or other students can't check them out.
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