Review by Andrea Meyers, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2019


Superb ELA/EL resource is a complete package

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts
  • English-Language Learning

  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Scaffolds make the program accessible for ELs and other students needing extra support. High-quality videos model Collaborative Conversations.

Cons: Texts are predominantly excerpts; doesn't offer a way to add standards for states that don't participate in Common Core.

Bottom Line: StudySync continues to thoughtfully grow its already robust platform, offering a complete secondary ELA/EL program that cleverly bridges reading and writing, online and offline work.

StudySync can become your core literacy program or supplement your school's existing ELA/EL program. Introduce the program to your students with the SyncStart video units. Follow the Core ELA and EL unit instructional paths or select individual high-caliber text studies for your class. Engage students in a variety of oral and written responses to the readings with Collaborative Discussions, short response Thinks, one or two paragraph Prompts, Extended Writing Projects, and Extended Oral Projects for EL students. Challenge students to create daily Blasts -- short, concise responses to relevant questions based on current events and big ideas -- and then have your students do peer reviews using the rubrics. Build critical thinking skills with individual, small group, and classroom Collaborative Conversations about the readings. Use the slide-in Access scaffolds to support English learners and students who are not quite on reading grade level.

For schools that have their own literature studies program, you can build on the available texts and materials or create texts and units from scratch. Use the Assignments section to monitor all of the learning activities. Assign tasks to individuals, small groups, or the entire class. Use the assignment reports to track student progress. Choose from dozens of built-in rubrics to assess student writing and skills activities, or create your own custom rubrics. If your school has shared devices or very few at all, you can cast the videos and discussion prompts to a classroom whiteboard, and use the included printables for students to read and complete assignments.

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StudySync is a comprehensive core literacy program for grades 6-12, all based on the Common Core State Standards and research into best practices for reading, language, and writing instruction. It offers over 2,000 literary and informational texts with learning activities supported by high-quality multimedia and instructional resources. Most of the texts are excerpts, which can be awkward to incorporate, though there are about 270 full-length texts. The program is designed for secondary classrooms, but some of the texts have lower Lexile levels and can be used to support instructional differentiation. Literary texts range from Beowulf and Shakespeare to Newbery Medal winners and poetry, and informational texts include a wide range of biographies, autobiographies, letters, journals, persuasive writings, historical documents, speeches, and journalism. There's also a growing bank of Spanish texts. EL teachers can use them to scaffold learning, and teachers in bilingual programs can use both English and Spanish versions of texts to supplement instruction. And using the text and unit creator, teachers can add texts to the library and create units with the new and existing texts. Schools that use Google for Education will be able to integrate with StudySync, so students can compose in Google Docs and submit to StudySync seamlessly.

The breadth and depth of StudySync competes with ELA/EL textbook programs, making this an easier transition for teachers used to non-digital approaches to literacy. It's flexible enough to be used online or off, and does a great job of integrating reading and writing. Through the text studies, students build their close reading and comprehensions skills, in addition to identifying context clues, story elements, and textual evidence. These text studies incorporate grammar skills work via handouts for study and practice. Students also hone their writing skills with multiple types of responses to the readings and the Blast prompts. The Core ELA/EL units last 45 days each, with four units for each grade level, and provide a guided instructional path for teachers to follow, complete with all the necessary instructional resources. High school teachers have access to additional novel studies to supplement their literacy programs. 

In addition to the text studies, each unit has an Extended Writing Project that focuses on a specific type of writing, such as narrative, literary analysis, informative writing, or argumentative writing. EL students read most of the same material as their peers and complete an Extended Oral Project with scaffolds that support speech practice. Students also complete a research project for each unit, which culminates in oral and multimedia presentations and written responses to the presentations. The full-text units study full-length novels and plays with comparison texts. Each unit includes teacher and student reading guides with vocabulary lists, key passages, notes from StudySyncTV, and close reads. Some of these units include PDF and epub copies of the text, though others do not. 

Speaking and listening are an important part of language studies, and StudySyncTV is a major component in the program. The videos use diverse groups of teens to dramatize Collaborative Conversations, which helps students learn how to hold discussions about the texts. The student actors use technology in the videos, often referring back to and reading aloud from the text to illustrate a point. Their interactions are respectful and open to other points of view, and they make connections to their own background knowledge. Though the videos are scripted, there's not much else out there quite like them. The student actors try to make the interactions as realistic as possible, and the videos will likely hold students' interest. StudySyncTV can serve as a model and springboard for your own class conversations and help your students learn how to verbally engage in critical thinking.

Overall Rating

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

The dynamic combination of high-quality texts, videos, and opportunities to engage in Collaborative Conversations will appeal to students of all skill levels and language backgrounds.

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

Research-based lessons and activities embrace higher-order thinking skills through independent study and collaborative learning. English learners engage with the same content as their peers.

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

The lessons have multi-sensory supports that improve accessibility for English learners and students with special needs. Teacher support materials, printables, and video professional development are built in.

Common Sense Reviewer
Andrea Meyers Instructional Facilitator of Technology

Teacher Reviews

(See all 8 reviews) (8 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Kate H. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Excellent platform to support transformed teaching that puts powerful learning in the hands of students.
I LOVE using StudySync in my classroom because it challenges the students, yet engages them in learning using modes that are increasingly pervasive in modern culture. It helps me to truly differentiate my instruction and spend time with individual students who really need more assistance, but then also allow those who want to push forward more the opportunity to do that, too. It does not not much time to set up and get started, but, like any robust curricular support there are so many great resources ...
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