Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2017

Peekapak

Complete social-emotional learning units in a neat and tidy package

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Character & SEL

Subjects
  • English Language Arts
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
K-5
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)

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Pros: Detailed lesson plans use a variety of approaches to get kids engaged in the material.

Cons: There are no built-in assessment or reporting tools to help teachers track student progress.

Bottom Line: These 10 SEL units provide teachers with almost everything they'll need to spark positive character development in their students.

Peekapak ties in most easily to existing ELA curricula. Though many lessons could potentially stand alone, they really work best as a full package. That means teachers should plan for two 20- to 25-minute lessons per week for four weeks for each of the 10 units. If there's not enough time to do the full curriculum, teachers should be thoughtful in their choices of which lessons to skip so they don't lose the advantages of exploring topics from multiple angles. Or, perhaps better yet, they could do full units but only some rather than all 10.

Take advantage of the printable resources and really make the characters come alive for kids to get them fully engaged with the storylines and learning concepts. Though it would be great to have full parent participation, it may take some work to get families to put in the time required to complete all the home activities. Teachers may want to pick a few to send home so as not to overwhelm parents.

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Peekapak offers complete teaching units for 10 topics in social and emotional learning. Kids explore these issues as they accompany Leo the hedgehog on his first day of school. They follow Leo and a mixture of human and animal characters throughout the school year in Peekaville. Each topic unit -- such as empathy, honesty, teamwork, or self-regulation -- consists of an introductory storybook, eight activities to do in the classroom, and eight activities to send home for kids to do with their parents. For the home-school connection feature to work, teachers need to create a student list and provide a parent email address for each student.

Teachers get an easy-to-follow overview, classroom resources like character cards and posters, and step-by-step instructions for each lesson. Every lesson also has quick tips for adjusting the lesson to make it more or less difficult or to adapt it for an ELL crowd. When teachers create a class account, they indicate the appropriate grade level. This choice affects the content of some of the lessons; higher grade levels get more complex and age-appropriate activities.

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Peekapak's strength lies in its simple yet thorough approach to providing teachers with an easy-to-implement plan for covering complex topics. Lessons include a nice mixture of strategies that should get kids exploring concepts such as self-regulation and honesty from a variety of angles. This variety also should help teachers reach kids with different learning strengths. The material is presented on a neat, organized site that makes it super easy for teachers to jump right in. Classroom resources such as printable character cards and posters help make this curriculum an integrated part of the classroom that follows kids throughout the year.

The home-school connection is a great idea, but some lessons require significant time commitments from parents. Buy-in will vary greatly from class to class. The materials, characters, and story plots seem a bit more appropriate for the lower elementary years but aren't so far off as to be totally irrelevant for older kids. At the time of this review, the only data tracking available was that teachers can mark which lessons they've completed; some teachers might appreciate a built-in reporting or assessment tool. Despite that shortcoming, Peekapak has done much of the background work for teachers looking to integrate social and emotional learning or character development into their teaching.

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Overall Rating

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

A mixture of human and animal characters skews a bit toward younger kids but should be relatable for the full K–5 range. 

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

Kids explore the material through writing, drawing, movement, self-reflection, and more. Some lessons change based on grade level, and tips for adjusting the difficulty make it easy to adapt to your classrooms' needs.

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

Material is easy to access and navigate, with simple tips on how to get the most out of the lesson plans. Teachers can easily encourage parent involvement through the built-in home-connection activities.


Teacher Reviews

(See all 1 reviews) (1 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Chris C. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Concordia International School Shanghai
Pudong, 31
Peekapak Provides Kids The Reading and Writing Skills They Need, Along With A Healthy Dose Of Character

Overview
Peekapak is an exciting new tool that teaches K-3 kids communication skills while also focusing on social-emotional health. Common Core aligned and growing rapidly through product development and direct teacher feedback, Peekapak looks set to benefit many students in several ways. Peekapak is built around original stories that each focus on a particular positive character trait like empathy, kindness, and respect. Each lesson is 20-minutes long, which is a perfect time length given audience age. The characters, a mix of cartoon kids and anthropomorphic animals, have real personalities, with their own strengths and interests, making the cast of characters both enjoyable and believable within the context of the program. An additional strength of the program is the rich supporting material for both teachers and parents/guardians. This program invites the whole community to support the reading, listening, writing, and speaking skills of young students while developing positive examples of good character and healthy self-esteem. Another strength, and perhaps its greatest potential strength, is that the head of Peekapak keeps her business calendar open and online, inviting immediate feedback and discussion with teachers and parents. I have never heard of this level of openness. Clearly, Peekapak is a service that works with the community, not just for the community.
So how does sit work? For a teacher, Peekapak directs you to a landing page where you get to select the story theme of your choice. Choosing the perseverance theme, I am directed to a page that allows me to launch the story, but also provides a brief descriptor, a “Why this is important” explanation, “Big ideas,” “Listen for this language,” and “making connections” bullets. The page also has a link to unit resources in PDF form that is so attractive that they can be made into posters that build interest and extend the story. Further, there is a convenient “Print” button to assist teachers.
The left column menu also offers various supports, including reports, news tracking, and skills tracking (which is coming soon).

Concerns
No real concerns here. The program is not free, but you get what you pay for.

Sample Uses
As is clear from the site, this is a program for K-3 classrooms, specifically the language arts portion.

Commitment and Learning Curve
Low. Yes, this program really is user-friendly, perfect for the elementary school teacher, who must prepared myriad lessons every day.

Best for ES MS or HS?
ES

Cost:
Individual teacher accounts are free if you wish to try out the system, but the school/district must purchase Peekapk to make the most effective use of what Peekapak has to offer. Sometimes in life you get what you pay for, and Peekapak is definitely worth the look.

Website Link:
https://www.peekapak.com/

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