Review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2018
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Portfolio and communication tool makes formative assessment a snap

Subjects & skills

  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Individualized learning fosters open communication among students, parents, and teachers.

Cons: Most of the onus is on teachers to keep up with feedback and reporting, and navigation feels clumsy at times.

Bottom Line: A useful way for teachers, students, and parents to monitor progress and demonstrate holistic evidence of learning.

Take advantage of Sesame's customizable rubric creation to make expectations clear and give students the opportunity to improve upon their skills. Have kids show their understanding of a topic by submitting a series of Snaps, or add your own Snap and ask them to respond. Since the platform lets students respond to tasks with pictures, audio, video, or text, it's a great fit for any subject area. Want to individualize instruction? Create a playlist (a series of Snaps containing resources and activities for students) and encourage kids to respond in their own time and in their own way.

In addition to creating lessons and assessments, teachers can use Sesame for preparing reports and conducting parent-teacher conferences. They also can give students scannable codes that link to their user accounts, allowing them to quickly and easily upload on-the-spot Snaps as warm-ups, exit tickets, or quick checks for understanding. Additionally, students can provide photo-, video-, or text-based reflections on their own learning, tag standards, and engage in communication with their teacher.

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Sesame is a portfolio, assessment, and parent communication tool (available through an app and on the web) where teachers and students communicate through pictures, audio, video, and notes. Teachers create individual student portfolios and then provide students and parents access to them via an invite code, email link, or QR code. Teachers assign content via Snaps, which are comments, photos, audio, or video recordings with options to attach resources. Students then respond with Snaps, providing evidence of their learning. For example, a student could upload a picture of her math assignment, and the teacher could leave a comment with suggestions for progress the next day. If invited, parents can create accounts to view their child's progress. Teachers also can create assignments, checklists, customized rubrics, and rating scales and assess them directly from the site. 

Links to both Canadian and American learning standards allow teachers to directly import learning objectives to a rubric, and the ease with which students can upload Snaps allows teachers to provide evidence and valuable feedback on student learning to families. A variety of reporting features enable teachers to view and export assessment data for analysis over time, but customization and collaboration capacity depend upon the type of account. Navigation feels a little clumsy, with a lot of back and forth between screens and activities. Also, with the site's basic design, teachers will want to engage students with quality assessments, feedback, and resources.

Metacognitive activities such as self-evaluation and reflection are excellent ways teachers can drive the conversation about how learning is measured. By assessing strengths and learning over time, especially for students who don't test well, teachers and students can use Sesame to identify patterns and target areas needing improvement, remediation, or refinement. Teachers can further personalize via playlists, coupling specific feedback with resources that drive student growth; then they can follow up with activities that encourage reflection and self-evaluation in order to provide students with the support they need to be successful. The chance to highlight the value of process over product can lead students to embrace a growth mindset and encourage students -- and teachers -- to see the value of learning beyond a test score.

Sesame tries to minimize the time teachers spend on assessment, allowing for more focus on learning activities and fostering communication, but some teachers might feel overwhelmed at the process of giving feedback to students one at a time. Generally, though, this is a great way to increase communication, address students' needs, and enhance student learning.

Overall Rating

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

Kids will like the variety of assessment formats and opportunities for personalized feedback, but engagement will largely depend on the responsiveness of their teachers.

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

Facilitates individualized learning, metacognition, and increased involvement of parents and students in the learning and assessment process.

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

The uncluttered interface and wide range of tutorials available will help kids get started, and the platform facilitates teacher conversations and strategies for both struggling and advanced students.

Common Sense Reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Jaclyn C. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Empower students to own assessment!
A great tool to help meet the needs of the realities of the busy classroom and triangulation of assessment.
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