Website review by Sandy Wisneski, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2020

StoryWorld

ELL-friendly reading program gives students support, independence

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Grades
Pre-K–2
Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, World Languages, English-Language Learning, Communication & Collaboration

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Pros: Features a multilingual (English, Mandarin, Spanish) library of leveled, voiced texts with detailed teacher dashboard. Activities focus on reading, listening, speaking, and writing.

Cons: Ability to assign stories and Lexile levels is limited. More limited book selection compared to other book platforms.

Bottom Line: This is a good specialized program for small-group instruction, especially for ELLs, with a great teacher dashboard and a pedagogical approach informed by research.

StoryWorld will work especially well for small-group instruction of English learners, and could be used either in person or in a remote setting. The interactive books and activities will keep students engaged, and the quizzes at the end of each story reinforce vocabulary, reading, and listening skills. Leveled stories and word books allow for differentiation between readers, but the downside is that the stories cannot be assigned independently. In small groups, however, teachers can get students working on the books that'll benefit them most and give students help when they need it individually or as a group. Teachers will want to check in on the dashboard regularly to track both individual students' progress and whole-class progress and to complete evaluations of student work. StoryWorld's dashboard is a real strength and can help teachers identify particular words or books that students are struggling with as well as skills that could use some further development. This could lead to some additional work in StoryWorld, or to lesson plans or activities outside of StoryWorld.

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StoryWorld offers 80-plus bilingual ebooks in English, Spanish, and Mandarin. To get students signed up, teachers add students' names individually through the dashboard and then share a link out so that students can access the site. Students select their name from a drop-down and then immediately begin working in the program.

Every word (or phrase) in the ebooks is clickable, so students repeat confusing words or phrases in whatever two languages they're working with. When they click on words, they hear native speakers read the story aloud, and there's an option to switch between languages, even in the middle of a story. After completing an ebook, students complete comprehension questions and activities that measure depth of knowledge, inferences, and opinions. Students can also record their responses, which are later available in the teacher dashboard, giving teachers additional data for assessment and the design of appropriate intervention strategies. StoryWorld encourages parents to read alongside their kids at home, whether or not they're fluent in the language. 

Each story includes six colorful worksheet activities (available in English, Spanish, and Mandarin) that reinforce core vocabulary with games and written practice. Flash cards with words and pictures can be used for vocabulary practice or a concentration game, and worksheets offer manipulative activities.

StoryWorld is a solid approach for helping English language learners developing vocabulary and comprehension skills. Stories are available at five different Lexile levels, and each offers consistent, self-paced learning with immediate feedback and useful audio assistance (with actual voices). It's unique and useful that students can switch between two languages to help them comprehend texts and assessments. On the teacher side of things, the easy-to-use dashboard tracks data on comprehension for vocabulary, listening, and reading. It goes beyond the surface-level tracking most other dashboards offer, showing teachers which words were clicked for help by the students, giving individualized information for lessons. Teachers can also see this data for a whole class. This is helpful for designing supplemental lessons. Like the dashboard, the quizzes also offers a nice step up from simple comprehension checks. Students are asked to record themselves retelling the story and also to respond in writing to a prompt. Teachers then can evaluate this work. This pushes the learning beyond raw comprehension, allowing students to demonstrate learning through different modes of expression.

There are some drawbacks, though, especially when StoryWorld is compared to broader reading programs. The library of stories is limited, and teachers can't assign books at specific Lexiles. Furthermore, while students do get feedback, more contextual, specific feedback on incorrect answers would be nice. This is a reading program that tackles very specific readers and their needs, so in that sense, some of these drawbacks are likely a cost of the focus on other benefits that StoryWorld provides (like fully voiced audio by native speakers). With that in mind, this is a specialized reading program that'll be just the thing certain educators need, while others may find it a little lacking as a comprehensive reading solution. 

Overall Rating

Engagement

There are a variety of bilingual interactive stories. The assists -- like clickable words with language translation -- help students gain independence. The design and interactivity is fairly basic.

Pedagogy

Stories offer five different Lexiles and scaffold student learning from basic comprehension and vocabulary development to synthesizing learning through speaking and writing. Some of the feedback could be better, though.

Support

The dashboard allows teachers to see detailed info on student activity. Texts feature real voices. There are articles available in the help center for students, parents, and teachers. 


Common Sense reviewer
Sandy Wisneski Classroom teacher

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