Review by Joe Dillon, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2016

Raz-Kids

Solid choice for leveled readings and progress-tracking

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Teachers say (31 Reviews)
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Grades
K-3 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: In addition to the huge library of leveled texts, teachers get a detailed view of students' progress, even as they read independently.

Cons: You won't find great literature in the program's libraries, and kids may be enticed to speed through books just to earn points.

Bottom Line: Trusty -- if a tad dated -- tool for helping younger students become proficient in many aspects of reading.

Once inside Raz-Kids, teachers create class rosters. From the roster view, teachers can assign reading -- this can be specific books, a level of books, or the whole Raz-Kids library. The Running Records feature is a helpful tool for pre-assessments as well as ongoing and benchmark assessments; they comprise shorter-length recorded readings and brief quizzes. 

Depending on the skills teachers want to reinforce, they may assign differently. Kids can have books read to them, they can read by themselves, or both. The recorded readings are a great tool, especially for those looking for an organized way to track students' reading fluency. While the Raz Rocket reading-room rewards are nice, it would probably be best for teachers to help students recognize some of the more intrinsic rewards of reading, too.

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Raz-Kids is a website (also accessible through Kids A-Z apps on Chrome, iOS, Kindle) that gives kids access to a virtual bookroom of more than 400 ebooks from just about any Internet-enabled device. Kids can choose between listening to their books, reading them aloud (and recording their reading!), or simply reading silently. Teachers and parents can access a simple dashboard to see, and even hear, all of the work kids are doing. There are also quizzes for each of the texts, which help parents and teachers monitor student progress. Along the way, kids earn stars for practice and achievement, and they can use their stars to personalize their progress-tracking Raz Rocket or build their own robot with the Robot Builder.

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Especially in the earlier grades, these texts provide great practice in both fiction and nonfiction reading. Students can choose to listen to a book before reading it independently. With this support, kids should be able to work through lots of books -- even those that might be a stretch for their current reading level. Although the Raz-Kids bookroom reaches fifth grade, the fourth- and fifth-grade books fall a bit short in reading level, and the quiz questions don't seem sophisticated enough. Because of this, Raz-Kids is probably best for K-3 students and may not provide the same benefits for fourth- and fifth-graders.

Once teachers familiarize themselves with the program, they'll be able to individualize students’ reading practice by using the Running Records feature for benchmark assessment and monitoring progress on readings and quizzes through the teacher dashboard. Teachers can assign specific books or allow students to browse and read according to interest and preference. The Raz Rocket and Robot Builder features reward kids for their efforts, allowing them to spend their earned stars on all kinds of digital trinkets. This might work for younger readers, but older kids might find this a little childish. In the end, the genuine feeling of accomplishment after having completed so many texts should be an intrinsic -- and more powerful --  motivation. Think about Raz-Kids as a way to track your students' reading progress, but keep in mind that it's most likely to succeed when teachers set context for developing foundational independent reading habits.

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
3

A bit dated, but the engaging stories and high-interest nonfiction texts keep kids turning pages. The record and playback features will help reluctant readers. Kids can earn and spend points decorating their digital rockets.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4

Teachers can place the focus on reading for fluency, comprehension, or even for pleasure. Kids have access to a decent set of texts, under a variety of topics and styles. There's a lot of material for kids to engage with independently.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
4

Intuitive and user-friendly, teachers may not need any support to set up their classes. Teachers, or an entire school staff, can watch both live and recorded video trainings to thoroughly learn the ins and outs of the software.


Common Sense Reviewer
Joe Dillon Technology coordinator

Teacher Reviews

4
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Featured review by
Marc T. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
Blackwell Elementary School
Marietta, GA
4
Great for use with my lower readers!

My lower readers benefit from this app because of the read to feature. It allows them to follow along and read aloud with it. It provides assistance with words they would normally struggle. It gives them a sense of independence.

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