How I Use It
This product is useful as an extra piece of practice and reiteration of a skill. We have been trying to rely on this product as our core language arts resource and it has fallen short in this capacity. It is comprised of excerpts and actually has a disclaimer that the texts in the program "are intended as touchstones to generate interest in an author's work." It then goes on to recommend using one of the many links to Amazon to order the complete texts. In addition, the skills associated with each text are not printed in the student edition and must be assigned by the teacher so students can access them online. For example, if you are to teach the skill of theme with a text, you need to assign that lesson from the website and students have to be able to access it on a device. No where in the print materials is the core lesson about what theme is and how to find it. The questions that are printed in the student text rely on the student knowing these skills in order to answer them, so they are not optional. Most of the texts and skills are written in language far above most students reading level and cannot be accessed without considerable scaffolding. We use the "access pages" that are provided for each lesson. This requires them to be printed and copied (and often cut and pasted together). Also, there are many errors; such as an ELD lesson where a text which was written by Studysync is listed as "Fiction" but has a lesson for informational text elements tied to it.
In my opinion the product should be used as an extra piece that allows practice for a particular skill. As the core teaching resource for language arts it falls short in both the texts used and the access and depth of the skills taught. They have videos for the texts and skills which can be useful (although they often aren't able to load in a timely manner). These videos are engaging to students who are on grade level, but can leave our below grade level and English learners confused because of the vocabulary used and rapid nature of the conversations portrayed. If you are a student reading at grade-level or above this resource could offer some learning, however with more than half of our students coming to us reading below to far below grade level, and over a third as English learners, I only see this product as widening that gap. In addition, the materials do not feel high quality. There is little color and a lot of the print and online materials are in gray-scale that is hard to read. The paper is very thin and notes written in ink bleed through to the other side of text. This is my take in a lower-middle school grade level trying to make this product work to teach foundational skills to young students. It may work differently at high school where students are more self-directed and resourceful. I think it is important for real teachers in the classroom who are using this product as their core resource to weigh in.