Common Sense


ELA Tools Backed by Research

A lot of tech tools claim to have learning benefits, but how do teachers know what's the real deal? One way is to look for either tech that's inspired by the latest research into learning, pedagogy, and instructional design or tech that's been evaluated by researchers. It's not always easy to find this information, so we've curated a list of English language arts apps, games, and websites that fit the bill. 

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Top Picks


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Homer: Kids Learn to Read App

A captivating, comprehensive beginning reading resource

Bottom line: Concrete phonics learning alongside books, songs, storytelling, and art.

Well-designed literacy site with great activities for new readers

Bottom line: This fantastic learn-to-read site has valuable extension materials for classwork or homework.


Highly engaging, age-appropriate site with delightful games

Bottom line: Curiosityville is a great online learning tool for kids that addresses a range of topics.

Social Stories

Quick and simple behavior-reinforcement tool for kids with autism

Bottom line: Teachers will find this an efficient way to engage their students in understanding and creating social stories.


Useful app and website combo has potential to fuel guided reading

Bottom line: This is a pedagogically sound tool that, while still a work-in-progress, has real potential for teachers looking to upgrade their guided reading assessment and instruction.


Immediate feedback and breadth a major plus, despite emphasis on drills

Bottom line: Students can improve targeted skills with tons of practice modules and visually appealing tasks.

Lexia Reading Core5

Interactive reading program promotes targeted, individualized growth

Bottom line: A good blended reading platform that offers students some choices, and teachers actionable data and useful offline resources.


Differentiate reading instruction with high-quality texts and lessons

Bottom line: The quality and scope of texts, lesson plans, assessments, and supports on this platform can help facilitate targeted reading instruction in any classroom.


Subscription-based, student-facing app fine for independent practice

Bottom line: A potentially more engaging -- although uneven -- option for your students, if you've got a Premium membership.


Schoolhouse Rock meets Tupac in this delightful hip-hop-based platform

Bottom line: Flocabulary has the goods: It's savvy enough to keep kids focused, and teachers will be tapping their toes to the unorthodox learning method.


Safe social-publishing platform with amazing badge system

Bottom line: Super-safe, engaging platform for teachers to support sharing of student videos, blogs, and podcasts.

Proloquo2Go - Symbol-based AAC

Brilliant tool helps kids with speech difficulties communicate

Bottom line: The price is hefty, but Proloquo2Go carries its weight by providing students and teachers an effective, one-of-a-kind communication tool.


Fabulous tool can help kids create social stories

Bottom line: Pictello is a great way for kids to create social stories that can help them find their unique voice and prepare for internal and external struggles.


Draw kids into weekly news with powerful symbols and voice narration

Bottom line: Students can expand literacy skills, learn about the world, and get involved with discussion questions and activities.


Superb ELA resource has comprehensive coverage, tons of supports

Bottom line: StudySync offers a complete core literacy program for secondary schools, making it easy to recommend, especially for teachers new to digital platforms.

Mars Gen One: Argubot Academy

Hone powerful persuasive skills on a red-planet adventure

Bottom line: A visually appealing, pedagogically sound exploration of what makes a valid argument.

SAT Vocab by MindSnacks

Variety is key in charmingly effective SAT vocab app

Bottom line: Upgrading to the full version gets you great games and a thorough word list for SAT vocab prep.

Animoto Video Slideshow Maker

Slick video slide-show tool lets kids tell stories and share them

Bottom line: Anything that happens during school can be turned into an engaging video slide show.

Visual Thesaurus

Watch words branch out into intriguing, layered language maps

Bottom line: With such a great visual take on the depth of language, more ways to personalize the experience would make it even better.

Smart, stylish site helps students commit new words to memory

Bottom line: It's a great, goal-oriented learning resource with the potential to turn vocab lessons into a fun challenge.

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