Website review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2020

StudySync

Superb ELA resource features engaging activities, stellar support

Learning rating
Community rating
Based on 8 reviews
Privacy rating
69%| Warning Expert evaluation by Common Sense
Grades
6–12
Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, English-Language Learning, Communication & Collaboration, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Flexible materials work well online and offline. Activities model productive discussion and critical thinking for students with a range of needs.

Cons: Setup can be time consuming, and it might be tricky to integrate text excerpts into your existing curriculum. Pricing isn't especially transparent.

Bottom Line: An exceptional, ever-growing resource for helping your students become close readers, careful writers, and critical thinkers.

There's a spectacular amount of content here, so take advantage of the videos and documents that help teachers (and their students) get started. StudySync can become your core literacy program or supplement your school's existing ELA program. Introduce the program to your students with the SyncStart video units. Follow the Core unit instructional paths or select individual text studies. Engage students in a variety of oral and written responses: Collaborative Discussion readings, Thinks short-response questions, Prompts, Extended Writing Projects, and Extended Oral Projects for ELLs. Build critical thinking skills with individual, small group, and classroom Collaborative Conversations about the readings. Use the slide-in Access scaffolds to support ELLs and students who are approaching reading at grade level. Use the daily Blasts to help students develop their critical thinking skills as they engage with daily news stories and develop their own media literacy skills.

For schools with their own literature study programs, use StudySync to supplement existing 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, you can show the videos and discussion prompts on-screen in your classroom 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 featuring more than 2,000 literary and informational texts with learning activities supported by high-quality multimedia and instructional resources. Each text includes built-in activities (like quizzes and writing prompts) that are inspired by and aligned with the Common Core State Standards, and the program is guided by current research for reading, language, and writing instruction. There are hundreds of full-length texts (like Shakespeare plays and Newbery Medal winners) and excerpts from novels, plus short stories, poems, and essays. Tons of informational texts include a wide range of biographies, autobiographies, letters, journals, persuasive writings, historical documents, speeches, and newspaper articles. In addition to StudySync ELA, StudySync also offers a separate product called SyncBlasts, which features daily current events stories and nonfiction articles that focus on social studies and STEM topics. 

Each grade level features six units with 30 days of paced work for a total of 180 potential days of instruction. Each unit contains novel study options (2 per unit for middle school, 3 per unit for high school) that include curricular supports. Plus, 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) as well as a research project that culminates in oral and multimedia presentations and prompts for a written response. The full-text units focus on 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. The StudySyncTV videos use diverse groups of teens to dramatize Collaborative Conversations, which help 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.

Texts are available in both English and Spanish to help support English language learners, and many texts allow users to toggle between Lexile levels to find a passage with exactly the right challenge. There's also a daily blast that provides brief current events news stories alongside writing and discussion prompts. Most notably, the developers have committed to building a library that reflects diversity: At the time of this review, StudySync has improved its available texts by adding more and more female authors and authors who are people of color. 

Teachers can try out StudySync for free, and can contact the company for solo teacher, building-wide, and district-wide subscriptions. Depending on your needs -- and your school's subscription -- you can choose to use StudySync as your primary tool for assigning texts, assessing student progress, and promoting learning and collaboration in your classroom. You can also pick and choose selections from the program's vast library, and you can create and upload your own texts and questions. Video guides, printables, and setup information help teachers use StudySync effectively with or without devices for every student.

With tons of texts, activities, and supporting materials, this is an exceptionally flexible tool for supporting literacy development in grades 6-12. There's enough here at every grade level to compete with a textbook-based literacy program, plus there are a wealth of resources to boost student engagement, model productive class discussion, and develop foundational reading and writing skills. Whether this becomes your ELA program or supplements what you already have, this is a remarkable suite of tools to help your students grow their reading and writing skills. The focus on classroom discussion and presentations is especially good. Using StudySync can help your students develop how they engage with texts and -- perhaps more importantly -- how they engage with each other. The developers' commitment to equity and access is also impressive. There's a clear commitment to adding texts by women and people of color and improving accessibility features for ELLs and students with special needs, including access online and off. The developers also seem receptive to incorporating teacher and student feedback. Overall, this is one of the best literacy programs out there; it's definitely worth checking out the free trial to see if it's a good fit for your classroom.

Overall Rating

Engagement

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

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

The lessons have multisensory 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
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

Community Rating

(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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Data Safety
How safe is this product?
Unclear whether this product supports interactions between trusted users and/or students.
Unclear whether this product displays personal information publicly.
Unclear whether user-created content is filtered for personal information before being made publicly visible.
Data Rights
What rights do I have to the data?
Users can create or upload content.
Processes to access and review user data are available.
Processes to modify inaccurate data are available.
Ads & Tracking
Are there advertisements or tracking?
Data are not shared for third-party advertising and/or marketing.
Traditional or contextual advertisements are not displayed.
Behavioral or targeted advertising is not displayed.

Continue reading about this tool's privacy practices, including data collection, sharing, and security.

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