Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2013

Starfall

A range of clever activities for early literacy and math exploration

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Math

Skills
N/A
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Pre-K–1
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (12 Reviews)

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Pros: Fun, engaging, and often cleverly designed games and activities focus on a variety of math and early literacy topics.

Cons: The experience can't be personalized, and no student tracking means limited use as an individualized teaching tool.

Bottom Line: This great resource for fun games and animated books has intrinsic educational value.

One major strength of Starfall is its Teacher's Lounge, which features full curriculum guides, customizable printout activity sheets, and a variety of other teaching resources. Use these resources and guides to plan lessons, enhance existing lessons, or assign classwork or homework.

 

Teachers can use Starfall as a supplement to drive home classroom topics or introduce them in a different way. There's also a chart for selected literacy activities that outlines the topics addressed and the learning scope and sequence in the selected videos and games. Games are for individual play, so they're best used in a computer lab, at an individual learning station using a classroom computer, or as homework. Using the site requires some oversight, as teachers will need to be specific and proactive about which games kids should use if you want to align exploration with a specific classroom topic.

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Starfall offers a hodgepodge of songs, animations, books, and games designed to teach a range of early literacy and math skills. Reading activities go from letter and phonics exploration to an online library of animated picture and short chapter books. Math games focus on early math topics such as numbers and addition but also introduce more advanced concepts such as multiplication and fractions. The page dedicated to first graders conveniently organizes activities according to Common Core standards.

The quality and scope of Starfall's content is, for the most part, excellent. It uses a clear and deliberate teaching approach to introduce concepts. For example, kids can watch videos and play games that explore different ways to represent what the number 3 means. Starfall also provides opportunities to practice and explore new skills in creative ways. In an addition game, kids first answer that two frogs plus three frogs equals five frogs, and then they see all five frogs line up on a number line to show how 2 + 3 ends up being 5.

 

There's a wealth of reading content for new readers, though the original books focus more on offering good skills practice than on being quality children's literature. The most significant downfall is the lack of personalization options, like an ability to create playlists tailored to a specific student's needs. In addition, there's no feedback on performance; games are engineered to only accept correct answers so kids will end up responding correctly, but they'll get no feedback on their errors. Starfall would benefit from the addition of tracking tools to monitor how kids use the site and their progress.

Overall Rating

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

Kids will like interacting with a variety of interesting and attention-grabbing games. But there's a lot to look at, including a fun but irrelevant collection of songs, which makes the home page a little overwhelming.

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

Activities provide in-depth coverage or at least a solid introduction to a number of early literacy and math topics. Unfortunately, there's no way to adapt the experience for particular needs, and feedback is limited.

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

Extensive support materials bring the learning offline. A system for tracking progress, giving feedback, or showing accomplishments would greatly improve utility.


Teacher Reviews

(See all 12 reviews) (12 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Elizabeth J. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Ona Elementary School
Ona, United States
A great tool for lesson building and checking comprehension on all subjects!
The site can work with students both in a whole group or individual learning. The great part of the website allows students to work and play games even at home to help them with the concepts they learn in the classroom. I really have no complaints except for when using it in whole group if a student takes too long to answer it will give them a hint or highlight the answer. I sometimes think it is too quick to give it away and does not allow students much time to think but overall the application and ...
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