App review by Adirondack AccessAbility Inc., Common Sense Education | Updated February 2014
StoryPals
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StoryPals

Fun stories with a text-to-speech tool to aid comprehension

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Grades
2–6
Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, Critical Thinking, Communication & Collaboration

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Pros: With helpful data reports, it's good for comprehension assessments, as well as independent reading.

Cons: The somewhat narrow selection of stories mean it won't be as great for long-term use.

Bottom Line: Independent reading and writing activities make for good, quick comprehension assessments, but it isn't suited for long-term, ongoing assessments.

Before having students read or hear stories independently, it's best to work closely with them, either one on one or in small groups, to model the story reading process. When working with multiple students, the tool can be a great way to more easily assess reading and listening comprehension as students read silently. On the creative side, working with students to write original stories is a fun process, and can also help kids become more metacognitive about narrative structure, aiding in their reading comprehension. As you create stories, help kids develop good questions for an adjoining assessment. Creating a quiz for one of their original works is a great exercise in higher order thinking and processing.

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StoryPals is a reading comprehension and story-creating app that uses supports to help guide students towards independent reading and comprehension. Students can choose from 24 lively, animated stories, each with interactive illustrations. The stories are leveled (Flesch-Kincaid) from 2nd to 6th grade. Students and teachers can also create their own stories and assessments, adding to the 24 included in the program. The basic version doesn't offer text-to-speech highlighting as the story is read, but supports digitized (recorded) speech in user-created stories. The full version offers text-to-speech highlighting for every text, which signals words as they're read aloud. After kids read, they can take a brief assessment using who, what, when, and where questions -- responses are recorded and time stamped. Teachers can then assess students' listening and silent-reading comprehension, monitoring progress over time. Up to six kids can be entered and tracked.

StoryPals is a good app to support kids as they develop reading comprehension and response skills. As kids learn how to respond to "wh" questions, they can gain a deeper understanding of content.​ But, with only 24 stories included, the app's usefulness may be limited. With repeated use, and without adding original stories, kids may begin to memorize the stories, rendering the quizzes invalid. While the ability to create your own stories is a nice feature, it can be time consuming. Nevertheless, it can be a worthy creative tool for students and teachers who would like to co-write stories.

Overall Rating

Engagement

Kids will find the text cute and engaging, and the illustrations are likable and interactive. Access to additional stories would increase long-term engagement.

Pedagogy

Provides built-in scaffolding, so kids can choose to listen to the text or read the passages independently. The assessments can be a good indicator of students' skills, but the long-term usefulness may be limited.

Support

The help files can be a bit confusing; younger children will need support, both in getting started and if they get stuck later on.


Common Sense reviewer
Adirondack AccessAbility Inc. Assistive Technology Consultants & Trainers

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