eSpark

Elementary site serves up videos, quizzes for math and ELA standards

Learning rating

Community rating

Based on 125 reviews

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Expert evaluation by Common Sense

Grades

K–6

Subjects & Skills

Character & SEL, English Language Arts, Math

Price: Free to try
Platforms: Web

Pros: Regular mood check-ins, curated content, detailed reports, and translated parent resources.

Cons: Limited accessibility features. Content quality varies. Checks for understanding could be more complex.

Bottom Line: This site's got some useful supplementary resources but could benefit from more accessibility options, more consistent content, and some in-depth assessments.

eSpark will work best as a supplement to your curriculum, specifically as a way for students to practice specific ELA and math standards. The developers recommend a few 20-minute sessions per week. It could work well at the start or end of your students' days or in between focused lesson and instructional time. eSpark could be particularly helpful for students who need some additional time with skills to get learning to stick. For this purpose, teachers can assign Small Group Skills, which offer short pathways. Teachers can also have students work through independent quests based on their success on placement tests.

One interesting feature to explore is the student video recording option. If you turn on this feature, your students can record a video where they teach the skill or concept they mastered.

eSpark is an online learning site with interactive learning paths featuring videos, games, and assessments. Sessions start with students selecting whether they want to focus on reading or math. Then they take a pre-assessment. After, they work through quests (basically, sequences of content and assessments). Notably, each day's quest begins with a check-in that focuses on how students are feeling. 

The quests involve watching videos and playing games while answering a series of questions along the way. The content, created by eSpark and curated from a variety of providers like PBS or Flocabulary, seems grade level appropriate and gets increasingly difficult as one moves from grades K-6 assignments. The quest directions are read aloud for the early grades, and gradually fade away for older students. After students answer questions, they get feedback that varies depending on the type of activity. Many activities signal results with a green arrow for a correct answer and a red X for incorrect. Some activities also include alternate instructions and explanations. The quests and learning paths are meant to differentiate instruction based on student progress; although, it was difficult to determine the success of this during our review. Teachers can track student progress on their dashboard, looking at overall weekly activity as well as specific progress toward standards mastery.

eSpark is a potentially useful tool for independent student work, especially for students who need additional practice outside of class time. It offers a nice variety of independent paths through content as well as short, assignable content for addressing specific needs. The mood check-ins and the reports are also useful. Students get some choice of activities. The Small Group Skills offer quick reinforcement for lessons, and the quests and learning pathways offer extended exploration of content. 

Content does vary in quality, given that much of it is curated from different sources. This makes grade level and skill match a little challenging. Some videos in a pathway seem to match better than others for a particular grade level, and the mix of formats could confuse some students. The pace of some videos can be quick, and text can be challenging to read. What makes this more challenging is that there aren't controls like captions, video speed, or a rewind button. They've also made a design decision to have the videos pause whenever students click off-screen. This means that students can't take digital notes.

Teachers will also need to work with students after they use eSpark to modify their daily instructional goals. Some of the Small Group Skills activities (approximately 15 minutes in length) might not include enough data to make full instructional decisions. For instance, kindergarten students can watch a video about counting by ones, two, or tens. But since there are only five questions at the end of the video, teachers likely won't have a large enough sample size to know if students truly mastered these various standards are not. There's also insufficient data to determine where students' learning may have broken down. This doesn't make the activities useless; it just requires teachers to do follow-ups and compare data with student progress on the learning paths. Similarly, in the reading section, the sixth grade lessons around plot development include several videos, songs, and texts to read. The story is engaging, but there's not inadequate follow-up when students answer the comprehension questions incorrectly. Lastly, the questions could be better worded to align with newer Common Core assessments, so expect to have to do some additional test prep instruction.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating
Engagement

There's a huge variety of video content. Activities are nicely varied but very basic. It's easy for students to navigate, but it lacks ways for students to tweak the video experience.

Pedagogy

The content is generally good but varies in format and quality. Assessments could be better aligned to how students must demonstrate understanding in teachers' curriculum.

Support

Great printable extensions. There are teacher resources and webinars and a chat feature. The platform itself is lacking in accessibility features, and support for incorrect answers varies.

Common Sense reviewer

Community Rating

A wide range of activities for students to learn from and enjoy

I love how there are specific games for a wide range of math and ELA topics. Students can choose the topic they need more practice with. The games are also very kid-friendly and is able to guide students into getting the right answer. It is a good helping stone for kids and can allow students to do some self-teachingsy through the game as well, rather than asking a teacher.

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