Review by Erin Brereton, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2013

Shmoop

Pop culture plus solid content equals legit learning

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Skills
  • College & Career Prep
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
6–12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (7 Reviews)

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Pros: Well-written, engaging material that uses humor and teen-friendly lingo to clearly convey concepts.

Cons: Students can't record quiz scores or easily track progress through most of the site -- and teachers can't do much without shelling out some cash, either.

Bottom Line: Cleverly written content divided into digestible sections offers solid educational value.

The site can be used to supplement classroom instruction –- including assignments and activity ideas to help students tie historical text to modern events and link economic concepts to their own lives. However, the teaching materials involve a fee: Teachers need to pay for an annual subscription. The teacher resource section offers ideas for how teachers can encourage students to use the free sections of the site. The guidance highlights some of Shmoop's more in-depth, analytical features, such as the literature sections that touch on symbols and allegory and study questions that can be used to reinforce learning.

Educators can choose from materials based on literature, U.S. history, economics, civics, digital literacy, and the Common Core subjects. Students have a few more topic options, including biology, pre-algebra and algebra, Shakespeare, and poetry. Each educational section features tabbed pages to help students dig deeper by learning about key concepts, related photos, quotes, analysis, and questions.

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Shmoop is a website offering students a variety of study materials written by scholars. The catch? Shmoop's study guides are purposefully written in a conversational tone. Sometimes they're downright hilarious, and the fun language helps students access complex subjects and relax into learning. Teachers have to pay to access site materials designed for educators –- including hundreds of student assignments, quizzes, and activity tips. However, most student content is free (with the exception of a few sections, such as the standardized test-prep guides and most of the calculus section).

The free learning guides available for students cover a variety of topics, including biology, U.S. history, algebra, and calculus. The site's literature section covers classics; users can also access in-depth allegory, character, and theme info on modern reads like The Hunger Games. And the site's learning resources are legit: Ph.D. and master's students from schools such as Stanford and Harvard write much of the conversational content, which is peppered with pop culture references.

Shmoop's real strength is in its presentation. Instead of just offering endless pages of content, the site breaks subjects down in fun ways. Mythological character profiles list zany faux relationship statuses (Agamemnon laments that he "was married to Clytemnestra, but then she killed me ... so yeah"). Virtual flash cards help students memorize AP Spanish terms, and a lengthy DMV section weaves humor into its state-by-state rules of the road. However, the actual learning material doesn't get buried underneath silliness; it's a great blend of pleasure and pedagogy.

Overall Rating

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

Pretty much every page offers in-depth -- but easy to understand -- info for both teachers and students. Educators will find more than just a few quizzes to hand out (for a fee). Students will laugh while learning, thanks to the lively text.

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

Teachers can buy subscriptions to add quizzes, activities, and current event and pop culture tie-ins to lesson plans. Students can get info on a variety of school subjects, plus quizzes, text analysis, and help structuring essays.

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

Students can learn about essay format and viewpoint and save drafts to work on later. But saving quizzes, results tallies, and other items isn't as easy, making it tough to track overall progress.


Teacher Reviews

(See all 7 reviews) (7 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Cynthia C. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
McSwain Elementary School
Merced, United States
Videos are engaging and hook students immediately!
My overall opinion of Shmoop is favorable. Using their videos to introduce or wrap up a topic or concept helps me switch up the way I teach and deliver my lessons. The Shmoop videos seem to get me in a more creative mood when designing my lessons. I want the rest of the unit of study to hold their attention the way the video did. A draw back of Shmoop is not always finding a video suitable to what you will be teaching.
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