Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2016


Superb ELA resource spurs critical thinking with dynamic multimedia

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts
  • English Language Learning

  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (6 Reviews)

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Pros: Every text is backed by quality multimedia; SyncTV models how students can communicate in class.

Cons: Just getting familiar with StudySync will take a lot of time; interface is a bit dated.

Bottom Line: StudySync offers great potential to build background knowledge, model critical thinking, and prompt in-depth discussion and writing.

Once you enter your class's info in StudySync's online community, you can assign tasks to individual students, small groups of students, or your entire class. Students can interact with each other in a variety of formats and on a variety of topics –- from short quick-write responses and Blasts to more engaged, thoughtful responses to Prompts and peer review.

StudySync offers Blasts several times per week, and they are current, relevant questions debated through an online community. You can also create assignments in the Goals section. Possible assignments can include a SyncTV episode, reading and writing activities, or short 140-character quick writes. The Common Core standards support is the icing on the cake, making it easy for you to incorporate StudySync's materials into your school's own curricular requirements.

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StudySync is a comprehensive, web-based literacy resource (and Chrome app) that offers multimedia materials, instructional resources, and supports paired with over 900 fiction and nonfiction texts. This digital library covers English language arts, history, science, math and technology, and social studies. Along with each text, the program offers audio, video, critical-thinking questions, writing/discussion prompts, and lesson plans. The kicker? All of these well-written lessons are linked to Common Core State Standards. What's more, StudySync is a research-based program aimed at developing students' skills for close reading and writing across the curriculum. Within teacher-created or public groups, students interact and engage in a variety of ways -- from 140-character quick-writes to more thoughtful responses, as well as peer-review activities.

StudySync's lessons and activities are delivered as both Thematic and Full-Text units. Each Full-Text unit offers a complete curriculum of fiction and/or nonfiction texts. The Thematic Units include fiction and nonfiction texts that surround a common theme, and slot easily into a teacher's preexisting curriculum. All units include a bevy of resources: Instructional Paths, which let teachers explore what's available and make thoughtful choices about the right content to use in their classrooms; First Read and more complex Close Read assignments; videos and multiple-choice questions; and embedded grammar and vocabulary help. The short Blasts assignments prompt students to respond to provocative topics and current events. The Thematic Units also include Extended Writing Projects, which ask students to address a writing prompt (Narrative, Informative/Explanatory, or Argumentative). The Full-Text units include similar writing tasks and offer a wide range of texts.

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The depth and quality of StudySync's multimedia materials really is outstanding, but its coolest feature by far is SyncTV, which can fit beautifully into classroom study. SyncTV's dramatized chats involve a diverse group of kids responding to a prompt on a variety of subjects like Frankenstein's monster or Anne Frank. The student-actors bring in several points of view, citing evidence from the text, sharing their own activated prior knowledge, and making connections to what they already know. Their connections often lead to current topics that are important to teens. They use iPads or other technologies as they do research, but most of all, they bring sophisticated meaning to the texts, including outside quotes, biographical information, and in-depth character analysis.

The banter between the actors is fairly genuine if a little canned, but the discussion should keep teens' interest. This type of rich discussion models for students what engaged learning can look like, and hopefully they'll be moved to emulate it in the classroom. With a wealth of resources and great tools for fostering active, engaged learning, StudySync is an endlessly valuable way to use technology to enrich, and maybe even redefine, your ELA classroom.

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Overall Rating

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

A great selection of texts, stellar video content, and social features engage kids, connecting them with great literature and ideas.

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

Lessons and activities like the Socratic Circle incorporate best practices for in-depth learning, while other activities model collaborative learning and higher-level thinking.

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

Audio and video supplements nicely support the lessons, and multimedia tools and resources aid students, groups, communities, and assignments. There's a nice variety of teacher support materials available.

Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

Teacher Reviews

(See all 6 reviews) (6 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 within this one platform that it does take some time to learn exactly how to tailor the specific facets of the resource to the needs of each class of students.

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