Review by James Denby, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2017

Whooo's Reading

Innovative take on independent reading ditches multiple-choice quizzes

Subjects & skills
Skills
N/A

Subjects
  • English Language Arts
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
4-8
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Pros: Questions push students to read critically; supports a shared, meaningful independent reading program.

Cons: Avatars and rewards likely not suitable for older students; auto-generated questions can be too general.

Bottom Line: A convenient, well-intentioned tool for supporting a quality, interest-driven independent reading program, but make sure to tweak the auto-generated scores and questions.

Whooo's Reading is free, easy to access and could therefore be a great companion to an independent reading program. It'll work particularly in upper elementary through middle school. To get started, teachers will want to see the three week plan recommended by Whooo's Reading. Once it's deployed in a classroom, students can log what they've read, take quizzes, answer questions, and write book reviews. Teachers can adjust the platform to their needs by selecting the standards used in their school and also adjust the Skill Sets to tune quizzes to curricular focus (e.g. "vocabulary" and "main idea"). Since students can drive the experience, and log and take quizzes on any book, Whooo's Reading is easy to implement and is well-suited to student-driven reading. However, it's not as useful for assessment, since the quizzes are mostly automatic and not perfectly aligned with your curriculum. That being said, teachers can dig into students' responses to books and gain important insights into students' interests as well as reading and writing development. 

 

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Whooo's Reading is a reading website with a clear mission: to help students think more critically about whatever they read through open-ended vs. multiple choice reading quizzes. On the teacher side of Whooo's Reading, things are very simple. Log in, create a class roster, and then monitor student reading progress (students enter the books their reading; there's no pre-loaded e-books here), quiz responses, and writing. The teacher dashboard offers clear information about what students are reading and how they're thinking, including the quality of their written responses to quizzes, practice questions, and reviews. If teachers want, they can send feedback to students and award coins for the work they do. 

Students enter in whatever book they're reading (like Harry Potter) vs. being assigned readings. This is a big differentiator for Whooo's Reading, which is trying to build passionate readers. They can also see what other students are reading through the class shelf, and get suggestions new books to read. Students can answer questions, write reviews about books they have been reading, or take quizzes to assess comprehension. Students can either type in their responses or speak their responses using built-in voice recognition. This is a standout feature, making the program more accessible to students with limited typing skills or certain learning limitations; it works very well.

For all activities students complete, they receive coins they can use in the Owl Shop. This feature (which likely wouldn't appeal to older students) lets them customize their avatars. 

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Whooo's Reading definitely supports student reading comprehension and writing development. Though it's no substitute for teacher-guided, book specific conversations, assignments, and feedback, it could be a valuable component of a differentiated independent reading program. For younger students in particular, Whooo's Reading encourages students to read more and to thoughtfully reflect on what they read. It goes beyond the typical surface level questions of multiple choice and pushes students to examine what they read more deeply.

There's one big issue, though. Whooo's Reading amiably, and correctly, supports any book students want to read. This is good, because it fosters passionate reading. However, this means that the auto-generated questions students receive, while meant to be tuned to each book, can be overly general. In practice, I found that while these questions did push students towards deeper analysis, some students wrote responses that scored well but which didn't really show an understanding of the book. These scores can be edited, but this illustrates a limitation of relying too heavily on Whooo's Reading's automated features. While a teacher could get by with the automated aspects of Whooo's Reading, to maximize its potential teachers will want to add unique journal questions to the site (or better yet, get students to create good, book-specific questions). This means a bit more work for the teacher, but it also means a clearer picture of student understanding of what they are reading. 

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Overall Rating

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

As far as reading platforms go, this has a lot going for it. The focus on books students choose helps. There are also good hooks, like avatars, for younger kids.

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

Focuses on open-ended, more in-depth questions that teachers want students to answer (vs. multiple choice). The questions can feel a bit too general, bu they do a good job of building reading comprehension.

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

Quite a bit of info to help teachers get started, and it's key that teachers can tweak scores and questions. On the student side, there's voice recognition and audio support for help with questions.


Common Sense Reviewer
James Denby Educator/Curriculum Developer

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