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The quality review is the result of extensive evidence gathering and analysis by Texas educators of how well instructional materials satisfy the criteria for quality in the subject-specific rubric. Follow the links below to view the scores and read the evidence used to determine quality.
Section 1. English Language Arts and Reading Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) and English Language Proficiency Standards (ELPS) Alignment
TEKS Student %
TEKS Teacher %
ELPS Student %
ELPS Teacher %
Section 2. Texts
Section 3. Literacy Practices and Text Interactions
Section 4. Developing and Sustaining Foundational Literacy Skills
Section 5. Supports for All Learners
Section 6. Implementation
Section 7. Additional Information
|Grade||TEKS Student %||TEKS Teacher %||ELPS Student %||ELPS Teacher %|
The materials provide well-crafted, publishable texts that cover a range of student interests. Many texts are provided by experts in various disciplines or adapted by the publisher’s in-house authors. The materials include increasingly complex and diverse texts. Texts expose students to content-specific terms and varied sentence structures with proper mechanics, usage, and spelling. The materials offer a wide range of relevant, high-interest titles covering a range of student interests.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
For a quick search of titles, one can download a list from the “Teacher Resources.” Some text passages embedded within the units are “Iggy and the Hunt for Atlantis,” “Psychology of Propaganda,” “Summer at the Lake,” “Tightrope,” “The Woman with Three Names,” “Claudette Colvin: A True Revolutionary,” “Soccer and the World Cup” by Olivia Sanzzi, and “A Mad Scientist’s Guide to Neuroplasticity.” The passages’ content and language are appropriate to the subject matter and are diverse, high-interest texts appropriate for middle school students. The materials include diverse texts such as “China’s Great Dragon” by Amber Middlebrook and Natalie F. Masters and “The Power of One Person” by Laurel Aquadro and Jessica Peters. Texts are of high quality and cover various topics.
In “Timeless Tales” Unit 3, a variety of texts by established authors incorporate the elements of the hero’s journey story structure (e.g., Losing Ariadne by Olivia Sanzzi and Natalie Masters, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Odyssey by Homer, The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling). These are well-crafted and popular texts with complex vocabulary and grammar.
In Timeless Tales Unit 4, diverse texts by the publisher’s in-house authors represent persuasive, informative, and entertaining writing. The materials include passages that seventh-graders can relate to while analyzing the author’s purpose (e.g., “For Your Consideration: ‘Made For TV: Why Movie Theaters Will Soon Disappear,’” “Lights, Camera, Action Sports: Extreme Athletes in Hollywood,” “Movie Magic,” “Scary Movie”).
The book Visit Yellowstone (author unknown) is an informational, literary nonfiction text. The writing is descriptive; the author’s word choice includes “Hungering to visit a place bursting with breathtaking natural wonders, like roaring waterfalls and explosive geysers?” The Legend of the Texas Bluebonnet is a direct and clear retelling of a well-known Texan story.
Cycle 10 includes a traditional chapter book: Humphrey the Humpback Whale. This book is a very well-written and well-edited text. Cycle 11 includes the argumentative text Sandbox Games. This text is another well-crafted text; it appropriately increases in complexity for a middle-of-the-year text. Cycle 12 contains the most varied and complex texts of the seventh-grade year, including A View From Above, a poem; Fossil Hunters: The Black Hills Dig, a comic book; Mission Incredible, a fictional chapter book; and a number of expository texts, such as Earth: Atmosphere. For instance, in Mission Incredible, the author uses specific language and content to advance the story, which is about a child pretending to be in space (e.g., “Charlie carefully stepped through the hatch of the spaceship and took off his aluminum foil helmet and jacket.”)
The materials include a limited variety of text types and genres. The text content and text types meet some of the requirements of the grade 7 TEKS. The materials do not include realistic fiction, historical fiction, mysteries, humor, myths, fantasy, science fiction, or argument. The materials indicate the grade 7 Lexile range is 975L–1100L. Students progress through “cycles” within the program and move through their grade-level units based on their performance. The materials for grades 6–8 are included within four units. The various literary and informational texts and passages contain illustrations, bold words, timelines, glossaries, and many other graphic and print features.
Examples of literary texts include but are not limited to:
The Power of One Person by Laurel Aquadro and Jessica Peters (literary nonfiction)
Can the Internet Help End Property? by Laurel Aquadro (literary nonfiction)
The Real Sherlock Holmes: Dr. Joseph Bell (author unknown) (literary nonfiction)
A Mad Scientist’s Guide to Neuroplasticity by Jennifer Branson (literary nonfiction)
“Bored” (author unknown) (poem)
“Tightrope” by y Laurel Aquadro (poem)
Mask by Olivia Webb and Natalie Masters (novella)
The Three Little Bugs by Linda Jacobs (fable)
Mission Incredible by Lori Schimmel (adventure story)
Examples of informational texts include but are not limited to:
Psychology of Propaganda by Peter Jacobson (expository)
Claudette Colvin: A True Revolutionary by Jenny Branson (expository)
13 Things You Didn’t Know About the Eiffel Tower by Amber Richards and Jennifer Branson (informational)
“Extra Pieces” by Jennifer Branson (informational)
Murasaki Shikibu—The Woman Behind the First Novel by Jessica Peters (biography)
“El Dorado: The Lost City of Gold” by Patricia Engle (expository)
How Mountains Form (author unknown) (process/procedures)
George Washington Carver (author unknown) (biography)
Examples of print and graphic features include but are not limited to:
Claudette Colvin: A True Revolutionary by Jenny Branson includes an illustration of a line of passengers waiting to get on the bus with an African American girl at the front.
At the beginning of The Real Sherlock Holmes: Dr. Joseph Bell, there is an illustration of Dr. Joseph Bell and Sherlock Holmes; the London skyline is in the background, and the title is printed on top of the plume of smoke coming from Sherlock Holmes’ pipe.
The World of Wonders passage “Can the Internet End Poverty” by Laurel Aquadro includes an illustration of a braceleted hand holding money, the outline of a person’s hair, and the headline “Can the Internet End Poverty” on a computer screen. The text includes bold words and a glossary.
Race For the Moon includes photographs, illustrations, and diagrams related to the “Space Race.” Other text features include subtitles announcing the start of a new topic, bold type indicating key vocabulary, and a glossary providing the definitions to that vocabulary. The photographs (“courtesy of NASA”) provide context for readers with limited to no understanding of the Space program.
The materials provide texts that are appropriately complex for seventh grade. The publisher utilizes “The Lexile* Framework for Reading” to determine the difficulty of the reading levels. Although the materials provide a Lexile score for each text, the materials do not include qualitative features for each text within the grade level; they provide a general overview of qualitative features based on Lexile levels. No text complexity analysis is included.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
In the “Teacher Resources” component, teachers find the “Istation Books and Passages” document that lists all the available books and passages. It also lists the Lexile range for the seventh-grade level (975L–1100L), according to The Lexile* Framework for Reading. The materials are designed for students to progress through instruction at their own pace via “cycles” and units.
The materials include texts at the appropriate quantitative level of complexity for the grade level. The measure is based on the Lexile that accompanies each text and stage of reading. The following stages of reading are accounted for: Emergent, Early, Beginner, Transitional, Intermediate, and Progressing Adolescent. Each stage of reading is assigned based on quantitative and qualitative features per the Lexile.
According to the “Istation Stages of Reading,” each stage has general “Reader Characteristics” and “Text Characteristics” that will guide the qualitative selection of text, based on Lexile measurement and targeted skills. For example, for an Emergent Reader (no Lexile range), the text characteristics are “repetitious phrases or patterns, one line per page with few words in the line, and predictable text with strong pictorial support.” For Progressing Adolescents (700 L–1150 L), the text characteristics are “many new vocabulary words requiring readers to use context, glossaries, or dictionaries, a wide range of complex and informational texts. Texts present societal issues important to adolescents, such as growing up and family, and texts present multiple themes using multiple text structures.”
Texts used to teach reading skills (e.g., summarizing, making inferences, evaluating story elements and text structures) increase in complexity. The order in which the texts are used is determined by the student’s level; this is based on the ISIP assessment, administered monthly. The texts include illustrations, bold type, glossaries, figurative language, and structures that correlate to the genre.
Unit 3 “Timeless Tales” include “Losing Ariadne” (author unknown) (750L); “Pile of Problems” (author unknown) (840L); “Balto and the Race of Mercy” by Olivia Webb; and “Pompeii” by Olivia Webb.
Unit 4 Timeless Tales include “The Bully” by Olivia Sanzzi (770L); “Mom’s Phone and the Intergalactic Cyborg Empire” by Brantley Hightower (840L); “Kabuki Theater” by Olivia Sanzzi (900L); and “Songwriting” (author unknown) (1080L).
Although the materials provide a Lexile score for each text, they do not include qualitative features for each text within the grade level. The materials provide a general overview of qualitative features based on Lexile levels. No text complexity analysis is included.
The materials contain questions and tasks that support students in analyzing and integrating knowledge, ideas, themes, and connections within and across texts. Lessons target certain skills and provide opportunities for students to apply the knowledge they learn. The materials provide a series of activities that build conceptual knowledge, are text-specific/dependent, target complex elements of the texts (such as making inferences or using symbolism to extract deeper meaning from the text), and integrate multiple TEKS. The questions and tasks included require students to discuss important details and ideas as they synthesize information from multiple texts.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials require students to use text evidence to support answers, claims, and inferences. Students make personal connections to texts via the “Reading 6–8 Model of Instruction Experiential Learning.” The questions and tasks target a pathway of “concrete experience,” “reflective experience,” “abstract conceptualization,” and “active experimentation.” This process entails “engaging in an activity to give context to a skill, reflecting on the experience, gaining understanding and skills from the activity, and applying new skills or learning to a novel situation.”
Additionally, the materials integrate standards throughout each lesson and support applications of learning in contexts outside the classroom. In this grade level, students begin with the “HumanEX” Unit 1, “NexLevel” Level 1. In Unit 1, “Making Inferences,” students employ various skills that require them to make connections and identify important big ideas; they build conceptual knowledge of tasks that require inferencing. As the “Model of Instruction Experiential Learning” unfolds and students build knowledge, they move from the “concrete experience to active experimentation.”
In “Timeless Tales” Unit 3, “Priority—Symbolism,” students look at a series of pictures of flowers (a bouquet; a man giving a bouquet to a woman; wilted flowers between a man and a woman turned away from each other with angry expressions). To identify and analyze icons, symbols, and symbolism, students answer questions such as “When you see this picture, you just see flowers, right?” “...are your thoughts and feelings about the flowers different than they were the first time you saw them? How?” “Now what are your feelings about the flowers? What do they represent in this picture?” In Timeless Tales Unit 3, “Priority—Protagonist/Antagonist,” students begin thinking about their “favorite animated movie” and answer the questions “What is it?” and “Why is it your favorite movie?” Teachers explain that the conflict in a story usually occurs between a protagonist and an antagonist. Students practice identifying these classic character types using a graphic organizer, which includes guiding questions such as “What is the problem or conflict in the story?” “What is the story goal?” “Who is the protagonist [or antagonist]?” “What clues tell you this?” It also requires students: “List at least three to five traits for each character [type].”
In Timeless Tales Unit 4, “Priority—Author’s Stylistic Choices,” questions require students to target complex text elements and analyze how text details affect meaning (e.g., “Which sentence sounds the most informal?” “Which sentence might you say to a friend in conversation?” “Which sentence uses the most formal language?” “Which sentence looks like it belongs in an encyclopedia or a textbook?”) Students discuss questions like “Are the words formal or informal?” “Are the sentences long or short?” and “Does the author use imagery?” and record their findings on a graphic organizer. Students then explain which version they liked best and use text evidence to support their opinion.
After students read Chapters 11 and 12 of Masks by Olivia Webb and Natalie Masters in “TT 2.0 NexLevel,” in the “Masks Novella” unit, students brainstorm possible themes of the text. They choose two of the themes and create a visual presentation of them, including two pieces of text evidence for each theme as well as two images that represent each theme and “its implications” for “the story and the world.”
The materials contain various tasks and questions in which students analyze the language, make inferences, and draw conclusions about the author’s purpose in cultural, historical, and contemporary contexts and provide evidence from the text to support their understanding. Students also study the author’s word choice to describe characters and determine the motivations for their actions. Students can make inferences about the author’s purpose and craft and analyze literary choices to understand the text. However, there are no explicit materials to compare and contrast the purposes of different authors’ writing on the same topic or analyze an author’s choices across texts.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The “Content at a Glance” provides various lessons that cover “comprehension skills, word analysis skills, fluency skills, and vocabulary skills.” In Lesson 1, students make inferences. In Lesson 2, students learn about plot elements and symbolism. In Lesson 3, they learn about the antagonist and protagonist, which also leads to comparing and contrasting. In Lesson 4, students dig into nonfiction text structures and the author’s purpose. Intertwined in all lesson units is the opportunity for students to write on the topic. Additionally, there is a focus on vocabulary that includes root word analyses and analogies.
In “Timeless Tales,” Unit 4, “Text Structures,” five lessons introduce students to the five main text structures in expository writing. Students understand and identify the different text structures by defining the structure and analyzing keywords and phrases found in the text. Students complete a chart with the text structure, definition, and keywords or phrases to identify that structure. Then they repeat the process with a partner. Finally, they analyze another text independently using the same process.
In Timeless Tales, Unit 4, “Priority—Author’s Purpose,” guided instruction and independent practice supports mastery in determining the author’s purpose, including persuading, informing, or entertaining. Students learn to determine the author’s purpose by reading given texts and answering questions such as “Do you think this article is going to try to make us believe something?” “Are there more clues to help us figure out the author’s purpose?” “Do you see some other sentences that are opinions?”
Although the materials include lessons about the author’s purpose and stylistic choices, students do not compare and contrast the purposes of different authors’ writing on the same topic or analyze an author’s choices across texts.
The materials include a cohesive, year-long plan for students to interact and build key academic vocabulary instruction in and across texts. Vocabulary activities, such as using word analysis and context clues, allow students to determine unfamiliar or multiple-meaning words. The materials also provide teacher-directed lessons containing scaffolds and supports to differentiate vocabulary development for all learners.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials include a “Content at a Glance” resource. Each lesson contains various tools and techniques to make the building of vocabulary and vocabulary instruction engaging, individualized, and relevant. Each unit contains a vocabulary activity as a part of daily lessons and instruction, including the study of Greek and Latin roots. Additionally, students practice their understanding of academic vocabulary and build key academic vocabulary both within and across texts by using vocabulary in context. For example, the “Middle School Reading: Context Clues Priority Report Lesson” employs five strategies to support the application of unknown words in the appropriate context. This lesson provides a lesson objective, a pre-filled key terms chart, and scaffolded support strategies; it also lists the necessary materials.
The program places students at their individual level of vocabulary study based on ISIP assessment results; this assessment is administered monthly. Students then follow learning paths that include games and activities designed to develop vocabulary focusing on different areas, such as word analysis, syllabification, analogies, and words in context. Teachers deliver small group instruction to struggling students based on the monthly ISIP assessment results and the data collected as students work on the program between monthly assessments. The lessons correspond with grade levels lower than seventh grade.
In “HumanEX” Chapter 1, students play a card match game previewing the unit’s vocabulary. They also practice spelling academic and SAT words in a game called “Nekokami.”
HumanEX Chapter 2 provides students with a preview of the unit’s vocabulary via a “Hype Dance Battle.” Later in this unit, students practice verb tenses and aspects in a game called “Faceplant” and also have the opportunity to choose an unlocked game for further practice. Finally, students begin their journey in “TT 2.0 NexLevel,” where they play vocabulary and word analysis games in the “Arcade.”
In “Timeless Tales” Unit 2, teachers guide students through a series of lessons describing how to use a mnemonic chart to study vocabulary words. Students use a graphic organizer that includes the vocabulary word and its part of speech (baboon—noun), a linking word (spoon), the definition (“a large monkey with an elongated snout”), an illustration of the word, the linking word interacting with a caption, and two sentences from the text. According to the program’s guide, this unit corresponds to grade 6, which inherently provides differentiation for all learners.
The materials include a clearly defined plan for students to self-select texts, read independently for a sustained period of time, and write about what they read before advancing to the next section of learning. Without teacher support, the interactive reading curriculum requires students to follow specific protocols and procedures to achieve independent reading goals.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
“Training Videos” provide a quick tutorial and help articles to support teachers and administrators with the initial steps of getting started using the program. The “Teacher’s Features” button includes a video about how to use the “Teacher Station,” taking the teacher “on a tour of some amazing teacher tool features that allow the extension of Istation in many different ways.” Materials state: “The educator will see how they can use featured Istation animation in various topics to teach the whole group, small group, or even one on one to enhance the learning experience.” At 5:08, the speaker reviews the self-selected resource “World of Wonders,” which is a “self-selected reading option that students will also have access to during Ipractice at home." The “More about Teacher Station” link provides written guidance on the Teacher Station feature and its components.
In World of Wonders, students select texts to read and respond to based on their place within the interactive curriculum. The first time students enter the World of Wonders in the curriculum’s “HumanEX” section, they work as interns to help the curator catalog some artifacts. The artifacts are attached to a collection of texts. Students choose the texts they wish to read and write a response to a prompt. The response must be sent to the curator to advance to the next tasks.
Throughout the interactive reading curriculum units, HumanEX Units 1 and 2 and “TT 2.0 NexLevel” Level 1, students self-select texts to read and respond to the reading in writing, based on a given prompt. Students either save the written response to complete/edit later or “publish” their writing. Teachers evaluate reading responses received only after students have published the writing. Students must complete and publish the written response before moving to the next section.
Students monitor their independent reading progress in the World of Wonders archive as well. Students see stories they have read (indicated by an eye icon), stories they have unlocked and have access to choose, stories they have not yet unlocked (indicated by a grey lock icon), stories for which they have started a written response (indicated by a pencil outline icon), and stories for which they have completed and published a written response (indicated by a filled-in pencil icon).
The instructional materials also include a section called the “Istation Report and Management Portal.” Within it, the “Lexile–Find a Book” feature helps users find books at the appropriate Lexile and use subjects of interest as search criteria. Ways to track books students read, such as reading logs or charts, were not found. A “My Library” resource area is embedded in the instructional platform, but it is unclear whether students can maneuver through this independently for self-selection purposes.
The materials provide students some opportunities to develop composition skills across multiple text types for a variety of purposes and audiences. Materials allow students to write literary texts to express their ideas and feelings about real or imagined people, events, and thoughts; students also write informational texts to communicate ideas and information for specific purposes. Materials also allow students to write argumentative texts to influence attitudes or actions on specific issues, but they provide limited guidance on crafting texts for a specific audience. The materials are grouped for middle school, grades 6–8. Students have some opportunities to develop composition skills across multiple texts. There are a couple of opportunities across grades 6–8 to write correspondence in a professional or friendly structure.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
In “Middle School Reading,” students read “Mei and the Terra-Cotta Army” by Krystal Craiker, complete a quiz, and then write a personal narrative about something that happened to them that they will never forget. They must include important details addressing who was involved and where the event happened, capturing what makes the event hard to forget.
In “Timeless Tales 2.0 NexLevel,” the “Masks Novella Unit” provides an opportunity for students to write a literary text. Students write an imaginary story incorporating a story word list that contains possible characters, personality traits, and setting ideas: Tagore, the Producer, authenticity, defiant, injustice, rebel, hack, the Empire, mask, the Pit, choose, destiny, and Acantha. Students must incorporate the elements of fiction into their imaginary stories.
Timeless Tales 2.0 NexLevel Level 2, “Priority—History and Culture,” provides an opportunity for students to write an informational text describing the important aspects of a specific culture. After reading several texts and exploring the aspects of various cultures, the teacher assigns a specific culture to each student. The student looks up information about that culture and writes an informative essay exploring “aspects of visible and invisible culture as well as how that culture impacts people’s lives.”
Middle School Reading provides an opportunity for students to communicate information by writing an objective summary of the passage “Soccer and the World Cup” by Olivia Sanzzi. The materials prompt students to include “the central idea and all important supporting details.”
The materials note that “this packet of lessons has been separated and distributed across sixth and seventh grades because it was written to cover multiple grades and concepts related to informational text.”
In Timeless Tales 2.0 NexLevel, the “Argumentative Essay Prompt (The Woman with Three Names)” provides an opportunity for students to write an argumentative essay proving that “at least one part of the samurai code influenced Sutematsu’s choices, outlook, or thoughts throughout her life.” Students must “include specific text evidence from the passage and the Samurai’s Code sidebar” to support their analysis. Student essays should be “a focused, structured, and coherent piece of writing that includes an introduction, transitions, coherence within and across paragraphs, and a conclusion.” The materials instruct students to “use the author's craft to develop a thoughtful idea that uses specific facts, details, and examples from the text.” The materials do not provide explicit guidance about addressing a specific audience.
While the materials contain some opportunities for students to develop composition skills across literary, informational, argumentative, and correspondence text types, the activities are limited and not specific for each middle school grade level.
Most of the written tasks in the materials require students to use clear and concise information and well-defended text-supported claims to demonstrate the knowledge gained through analysis and synthesis of texts. Materials provide opportunities for students to demonstrate in writing what they have learned through reading and listening to texts. There are some opportunities for students to use evidence from texts to support their opinions and claims.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials do provide opportunities for students to use evidence from texts to support claims and opinions. “Timeless Tales” Unit 1, “Priority—Summarize and Paraphrase,” provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate in writing what they learned through reading. After reading the nonfiction text “Google Technology Sparks New Design,” students write a response paraphrasing and summarizing the information in the text. Students read the article and create “Gist/Main Idea Statements” for each paragraph. Students use their gist statements to construct a summary of the information in the article.
In Timeless Tales Unit 2, “Priority—Plot Elements,” students create a graphic organizer by writing guiding questions to identify plot elements such as exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution (e.g., “Who are the characters?” “What are the most important complications and events in the story that move the plot along?” “When did the story take a turn?” “How is the conflict resolved?”) The teacher reads the short story “In Honor of Ellie Rose,” based on “The Elephant that Was Honored in Old Age” by Marie L. Shedlock, adapted by Yvonne Guerrero-Welch. Students then use different color highlighters for each element and find text evidence that helps them identify the plot elements. Students write the evidence found in the text in the appropriate section of the graphic organizer.
Timeless Tales Unit 3, “Priority—Symbolism,” provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate in writing their knowledge of symbolism. Students independently read “Belle and the Bully: A Middle School Tale” and identify the primary symbol in the story. Students conduct a second reading, “highlighting any information that pertains to the primary symbol,” and record the information on a graphic organizer. Finally, students write a concluding statement about the symbolism in the story.
In “Middle School Reading,” students read “The Flying Dutchman” by Olivia Webb, complete a quiz, and write a literary analysis of the text, examining the effect of the use of foreshadowing on the reader. Their essays include a thesis statement and text evidence supporting the thesis.
In Timeless Tales “2.0 NexLevel,” the “Masks Novella Unit” provides an opportunity for students to use text evidence to support their opinions and claims. After reading Masks and Altyn, students write an essay about the common themes found in each text. The essay must include “an introduction that gives a brief summary of each story and ends with a thesis statement about the common themes; body paragraphs that compare how each story develops the theme through events and character interactions, using text evidence; and a conclusion that paraphrases the thesis statement and ends with a universal/big idea.”
In TT 2.0 NexLevel, “Argumentative Essay Prompt,” students first read “The Woman with Three Names” by Laurel Aquadro and Jessica Peters (an article about the life of Sutematsu Oyama). Students then write an argumentative essay in which they prove that at least one part of the samurai code influenced Sutematsu’s choices, outlook, or thoughts throughout her life. Students must include specific text evidence from the passage and the “Samurai’s Code” sidebar to support their analysis.
In Timeless Tales 2.0 NexLevel, “Multimodal Texts,” “Extending the Lesson,” provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate what they learned through listening to texts. Students select a poem or speech that also has a recorded version. Students listen to a reading of the text, analyzing “the way the delivery enhances or detracts from the message.” Students consider how the speaker uses tone and volume to communicate meaning.
Students apply composition convention skills and have opportunities to publish their writing. The materials facilitate students’ coherent use of the writing process elements (planning, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing) to compose text. Students have opportunities for practice and application of the conventions of academic language when speaking and writing, including punctuation and grammar. However, grammar, punctuation, and usage are not taught systematically across the year, and the composition skills may or may not be applied in increasingly complex contexts.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
A writing “Scope and Sequence” focuses on grades 6–8 with headings that include ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, and personal narrative writing. However, many of the lessons do not provide systematic instruction for each middle school grade level with increasingly complex contexts. Rather, the materials provide individual lessons on the various components of the writing process.
There are lessons for each part of the writing process, including planning, drafting, revising, editing, publishing, with specifics for online learning and teacher-directed lessons. For example, in “Writing Rules” Unit 1, “Paragraph Building—Ideas Trait,” students develop a topic and generate ideas to support that topic by completing a web diagram graphic organizer. Teachers model how to generate broad ideas; students then follow the teacher’s guidance to narrow down to one of the ideas. Next, students generate ideas based on the prompt “What makes a summer celebration fun?” Finally, they add details to the narrowed topic idea chosen for their personal narrative.
In Unit 2, “Organization Trait,” students organize their ideas and transform those ideas into sentences and, ultimately, paragraphs. At the end of each lesson’s guided practice, students apply the skills studied to their composition.
In Unit 3, “Voice Trait,” students learn about writing expressively, identify the elements of voice traits in a paragraph, and create and evaluate paragraphs that incorporate the components of the voice trait.
In Unit 4, “Word Choice,” students define and explain word choice by drawing pictures and comparing two exemplar paragraphs. The teacher models steps to revise a weak paragraph by changing the word choice. Then, students choose one of two photos provided by the teacher and write their paragraphs using vivid words and descriptive phrases.
In Unit 5, “Sentence Fluency Trait,” students practice sentence fluency in their writing by using “different sentence beginnings...meaningful transitions, and...a variety of sentence lengths within a paragraph.”
In Unit 6, “Conventions Trait,” students learn the symbols used to edit writing for basic conventions and apply that information to example paragraphs as well as their own writing. They study a chart listing the symbols used to indicate spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar errors. Then, using all tools available (a checklist, the chart with the editing symbols, a dictionary), they read a paragraph and follow along as the teacher guides the editing process. Finally, students complete the editing process independently.
Materials do not provide direct instruction for practice and application of the conventions of academic language when speaking. In “Timeless Tales” Unit 3, the “Hero’s Journey Lesson Extras” include an opportunity for students to present a critique of an example of the hero’s journey. The materials instruct students to “come to class prepared to present a critique of their chosen example, employing eye contact, speaking rate, volume, enunciation, a variety of natural gestures, and conventions of language to communicate their ideas effectively.” The materials also include a presentation rubric, which is the same for grade 6, that addresses voice and poise. However, the lesson does not include instructional materials to model and teach these skills.
Overall, the materials provide an opportunity for practice and application of the conventions of academic language when speaking and writing, including punctuation and grammar, but grammar, punctuation, and usage are not taught systematically, in, or out of context. A chart is provided with proofreading marks so students can apply the marks to published pieces and their writing.
The materials provide some support for students’ listening and speaking about texts. The teacher-directed lessons include some speaking and listening opportunities focused on the text(s) being studied in class, allowing students to demonstrate comprehension. However, most oral tasks are unstructured, lacking response starts, specific talking points, or discussion prompts. Although the materials provide many opportunities for students to speak and listen, the oral tasks do not regularly require students to use clear and concise information and well-defended text-supported claims to demonstrate the knowledge gained through analysis and synthesis of texts.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
When teachers use teacher-directed lessons, students speak about and listen to texts. These lessons are set up using the gradual release model. In “Timeless Tales” Unit 3, “Priority—Text Fluency,” students learn four different routines to support fluency development. In the “Oral Cloze Routine,” students “follow along as the teacher reads a passage aloud and models correct fluency.” At designated places, the teacher pauses, “allowing the students to fill in the missing words.” For the “Partner Reading Routine,” students read passages multiple times aloud with their partners. This routine “supports the development of comprehension skills” by having the students complete a graphic organizer to summarize the text read. In the “Phrased Reading Routine,” students read words “grouped as in normal speech, pausing appropriately between phrases, clauses, and sentences,” which supports students’ comprehension through phrasing. Lastly, the “Fluency Development Routine” “incorporates multiple modeled readings, comprehension discussions, varied choral readings, paired reading practice, and independent reading.”
During the Timeless Tales Unit 3 “Symbolism” lesson, students make clay symbols: “Have one of the students orally instruct their partner on how to construct their symbol out of clay without naming the symbol…Then have students discuss what the symbol could be and how it might represent that student. Next, have students switch roles and repeat the exercise.” Students can also bring an object from home to then share and discuss their objects.
In Timeless Tales Unit 3, students create a “gist” after reading “Excerpt from The History of Storytelling.” They take turns asking questions about each paragraph and suggesting the gist statement for each. Students comment on and improve upon one another’s gist statements as they go. Teachers evaluate students or have them evaluate themselves using “The Student Lead Discussion Rubric.” Sections of the rubric include active listening, communication, participation, and engagement.
In Timeless Tales Unit 4, “Priority—Author’s Purpose,” after discussing and defining one of the reasons authors write (i.e., to persuade), students work with a partner, taking turns to read aloud “For Your Consideration: Why Brooklyn Should Win Best Picture,” paragraph by paragraph, and discuss questions designed to help them determine the author’s purpose. Once all pairs have completed the work, the class discusses and explains their decisions, using the evidence from the text.
In the “Integrating Research and Technology” section of the “Lesson Extras” of Timeless Tales Unit 4, “Priority—Vocabulary Visa,” students select five to seven vocabulary words and create a script using the words correctly. They record their scene and show it to the class. The class decides if the words were used correctly and explains why or why not.
In the “Middle School Reading: Main Idea Priority Report Lesson,” students determine the main idea of the “Project Connection Paragraph” and discuss their thoughts with a partner. Students read along as the teacher reads aloud the poem “Summer at the Lake” by Laurel Aquadro. The teacher thinks aloud, and students answer questions and complete a graphic organizer to determine the main idea of the poem. Finally, students read stanzas of the poem aloud, answer questions to check comprehension, and work together to discuss and compose a summary of the poem, using the completed graphic organizer and poem itself as a guide.
The Timeless Tales “2.0 NexLevel” “Masks Novella Unit” also provides some opportunities for students to engage in text-based conversations to demonstrate comprehension and connect to texts. For example, while reading a section of Masks, students “focus on making connections between Masks and 1) themselves; 2) another story, movie, or TV show; and 3) the world.” The materials provide a simple key of symbols for annotations. After independently reading and annotating, students are paired up to discuss their connections and annotations. Students work together to fill out a “Bull’s-Eye Organizer” based on their reading and discussion. Although the materials do not specifically require students to refer to specific text evidence to support their discussions, students discuss their annotations and connections with the whole class. This novella unit is designed to cover multiple grades and literary concepts.
In Timeless Tales 2.0 NexLevel Lesson 6, “Analyzing Poetry,” students read “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes and “My Life Closed Twice Before Its Close” by Emily Dickinson. The materials provide questions to guide students through the analysis and synthesis process to compare the two poems. For example: “How do the structures of these two poems differ? How does the specific structure of each poem support its message? How are the themes of the two poems similar? How do these two poems come to different conclusions about this theme?”
The materials engage students in productive teamwork and student-led discussions. They provide guidance and practice with grade-level protocols for discussion to express students’ own thinking. Rubrics for student-led discussions and presentations detail the protocols and language expectations for students.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The “Student-Led Discussion Rubric” measures “components of a student-led discussion, including active listening, communication, participation, and engagement.” “Actively Listening” includes summarizing what others say, asking clarifying questions, and making thoughtful comments. “Communication” involves giving and following oral instructions. “Participation” assesses asking for suggestions, taking notes, and identifying points of agreement and disagreement in the group. “Engagement” requires providing and accepting constructive feedback.
In “TT 2.0 NexLevel L3,” “Priority—Evaluating Persuasive Content,” when reading “Effects of Social Media on Teenage Health and Well-Being,” students discuss their predictions, words/phrases they find with positive and negative connotative meanings, the claim in the text, and the tone of the text. They also answer discussion questions: “Based on the text features, what do you think this article will be about? Why?” “What is the article’s claim?” “How would you describe the author’s tone?”
The “Timeless Tales NexLevel Masks Novella Unit” provides an opportunity for students to discuss text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world connections with a partner. Students read a portion of the novella and annotate connections. Then, partners discuss their connections and work together to complete the “Bull’s-Eye Organizer” based on their reading and discussion. Students informally share their connections with the whole class.
The “Presentation Rubric” is separated into four categories: “Ideas and Information,” “Organization,” “Voice,” and “Poise.” Ideas and Information includes conveying ideas and information using relevant facts and examples to support claims. Organization includes stating main ideas clearly and moving from one idea to another in a logical order, presenting an effective introduction and conclusion, and using presentation time well (not too rushed nor too slow). Voice involves enunciating, speaking loudly, using an interesting tone and emphasis, and using formal language conventions. Poise requires emphasizing main points with natural gestures and maintaining eye contact with the audience.
Timeless Tales Unit 3, “Hero’s Journey,” provides an opportunity for students to work in pairs or small groups to create an original hero’s journey tale. Students can create a formal digital presentation or a series of drawings or images; they may also use digital devices to record their stories using student actors. Students must be “ready to defend how their stories match the hero’s journey narrative structure.” After this, the whole class reviews and discusses the films and presentations. Finally, students evaluate themselves using the Presentation Rubric.
In TT 2.0 NexLevel L1, “Priority—Characterization,” “Extending the Lesson,” students research a fictional character and find examples of characterization. Using visual aids, they orally present the information they found to the class. Also, small groups can work together to create and perform a skit explaining one of the six letters in the acronym WALTER (used to analyze characterization).
In Timeless Tales Unit 4, “Author’s Stylistic Choices,” students research an author with a distinctive writing style. Students present their findings to the class. The presentations should include the author, contextual information, description of style, comparison of two passages written by the author, and an analysis of the two passages and stylistic choices. After the presentations, students engage in a whole class or small group discussion comparing and contrasting the styles of various authors.
The materials engage students in short-term inquiry processes to confront and analyze various aspects of a topic using relevant sources. They also support student practice in organizing and presenting their ideas and information in accordance with the purpose of the research and the appropriate grade-level audience. Although the materials support students in identifying primary and secondary sources, they do not engage students in sustained recursive inquiry processes.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The research unit includes a “Research Unit Overview Teacher Guide,” teacher slideshow, and student guide, with graphic organizers, worksheets, and reference materials to support students through the research process. The materials for the research project guide students through the process of picking a topic, creating basic and analytical research questions, writing a research plan, creating source notecards, synthesizing research notes, citing sources in MLA format, paraphrasing, and revising and editing using a checklist. The teacher’s slideshow mirrors the information on the student research worksheets. The “Research Unit Overview” states: “This unit is designed for students in grades 6–8 and can be easily adapted to suit any topic or classroom. Each lesson includes ideas for differentiation, and can be accomplished in 20 minutes, leaving additional class time for completing research, writing, or conferencing with the teacher.”
In “TT 2.0 NexLevel,” “Research Unit,” Lesson 3, “Source Basics,” teachers explain the difference between primary and secondary sources and give examples of both. Students record the definitions and examples of each on the “Source Basics” section of their student guide and complete the activity at the bottom of the page. They fill in the reasoning as to why the given source (like the US Constitution, a high school history textbook, or a recording of a presidential speech) is a primary or a secondary source. Students also learn how to vet their sources for reliability, credibility, and bias. Within these lessons, there is a link to articles for students to examine and decide if they are primary or secondary resources (e.g., “Biden Meets with Leaders,” “Fauci Says CDC Looking at Study Suggesting 3 Feet Sufficient For Social Distancing”).
In TT 2.0 NexLevel, Research Unit, Lesson 4, “Finding Sources,” teachers explain that scanning text for keywords taken from the inquiry question is the key to determining if a source is relevant to the topic of a research project. For example, if the inquiry question is “Why did people in ancient Egypt wear makeup?” the keywords to search for are “ancient Egypt, makeup.” Students practice scanning for the keywords soccer and Panyee using a passage in their student guide.
Although the materials do not address the presentation of research to the appropriate grade-level audience, the Timeless Tales NexLevel 2.0 research project provides support for students to create a written report of their research findings. It includes a “Group Collaboration Guide” for a “group research project with defined member roles and a rubric for evaluating collaborative student discussions/projects.” Materials suggest putting students in groups of four to six and provide “Group Member Role Cards” describing various roles and responsibilities (e.g., reader/recorder, reporter, runner, leader). Students select from a list of topics, conduct research finding “at least 3 unique, reliable sources per person,” organize “a panel talk presentation,” “take questions from the audience,” and “support all comments and claims with facts from their sources.” A rubric scores the presentations on collaboration, active listening, communication, participation, and engagement. The materials do not provide direct, explicit instruction for the group collaboration research project or teacher guidance for the implementation of the components of the project.
In TT 2.0 NexLevel L4, “Priority—Rhetoric,” in the “Extending the Lesson: Research” section, the teacher assigns students a rhetorical appeal to research. Students find a visual, audio, and written example of the assigned appeal. Students then analyze the examples they found; create a visual display as a slideshow, Prezi, or poster; and present to the class.
The materials contain one research unit intended to be taught across multiple grade levels. They do not engage students in sustained recursive inquiry practices within grade 7.
The materials contain interconnected tasks that build student knowledge and provide opportunities for increased independence. Questions and tasks build and apply student knowledge and integrate reading, writing, speaking, listening, and thinking. Materials require students to analyze the integration of knowledge and ideas within individual texts and multiple texts.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials provide opportunities for increased independence, following a “Teach, Guided Practice, Independent Practice” structure. Students are introduced to skills at the beginning of each unit, practice the skills with guidance from the teacher, then continue developing the skills independently. Those skills are further developed in subsequent lessons. For example, in the “Middle School Reading: Text Evidence Priority Report Lesson,” students analyze evidence from the text to make inferences. They read the first paragraph of The Call of the Wild by Jack London and discuss the text evidence that supports “why strong, furry dogs are in high demand.” Partners continue practicing by discussing questions such as “What is one inference you can make about Judge Miller?” and “What text evidence supports your inference?”
In “Timeless Tales 2.0,” while reading “The True Horror Story of Typhoid Mary,” students have an opportunity to read in phrases, do a cloze reading focusing on vocabulary, partner read, and complete a “Sequential Summary Graphic Organizer.” This lesson starts with the teacher reading aloud and continues with students reading independently. To increase independence, the teacher can assign an unfamiliar portion of the selection to students, ask them to read independently, and then “select three sentences that best capture the meaning of the text.” The teacher models fluency by reading “The True Horror Story of Typhoid Mary” as students follow along. The teacher pauses, allowing students the opportunity to insert words and phrases from the text. The teacher then reads a second version of the text, “pausing at pre-marked words but picking up the pace of the reading.” Next, the teacher distributes unmarked copies of the selection to students. Students read the selection silently, identifying 10–15 words to omit “that they feel have important meaning” in the text. Finally, students read the text to a partner, pausing at the omitted words. They change roles and repeat the process.
In Timeless Tales Unit 3, “Symbolism,” students learn about icons, symbols, and symbolism found in everyday life and fiction works. During a reading of the poem “Freedom” by Brittani Shipman, students participate in interconnected writing. They complete a graphic organizer that helps them identify familiar icons or symbols and the name and meaning of each image. Listening and speaking are embedded within the “Teach” portion of the lesson with planned discussions (e.g., “I am going to show you some cards that show images you may see in everyday life. As you look at the cards, think about what the images mean to you. We’ll discuss as we go. Display some or all of the Common Icons and Symbols cards. Ask students to name each image and discuss its meaning.”) Thinking processes are explicitly defined and practiced (e.g., “Good readers monitor their thinking as they read by pausing and thinking carefully about the possible deeper meaning. They make inferences about possible symbols in a story and make connections between concrete objects or events and the abstract ideas the author is trying to convey.”)
In Timeless Tales Unit 4, students work cooperatively in small groups. The teacher assigns “a different text on the same topic to each small group or pair.” Students read the text, identify keywords and phrases related to text structure, and complete a poster-size graphic organizer of the information. They then use the information in the graphic organizer to draft a summary of the text. The teacher compiles a sheet of all summary statements. Students participate in a gallery walk, matching summary statements to the correct graphic organizer and identifying the text structure. In “Author’s Purpose,” as an introduction to determining an author’s purpose (i.e., persuade, inform, or entertain), the class discusses questions such as “How do companies get you to buy things?” “Do you think this...is going to try to make us believe something?” “Is the author trying to teach you something?” “Does the author want me to feel something?” Once the definitions of each purpose for writing (persuade, inform, entertain) have been explored and explained, students use different passages to determine that purpose. Teachers guide students through a process designed to focus on each purpose individually. Students read the title (“For Your Consideration: Why Brooklyn Should Win Best Picture”) and decide if “the article is going to try to make us believe something.” Next, students listen to the teacher read the first paragraph of the passage aloud and answer questions about the text (e.g., “Are there any...clues that help us figure out the author’s purpose?” “Do you see some other sentences that are opinions?”) They then work with a partner to read the remaining paragraphs out loud, use the questions discussed as a class to determine what sentences are opinion, and, once the entire text has been read and annotated, write a sentence explaining what the author wants them to think or believe. Students share their ideas and conclusions with the class. Finally, students use “Made for TV: Why Movie Theaters Will Soon Disappear” to complete the process modeled by the teacher and practice with a partner independently.
In Timeless Tales Unit 4, students learn to “understand how an author’s stylistic choices affect meaning by identifying writing styles in sentences and short passages.” Students read sets of sentences and short passages, then answer questions such as “What do these three sentences have in common?” “Which sentence sounds the most informal?” “Which sentence uses the most formal language?” and “Which sentence uses imagery?” Once teachers introduce the concept using short sentences, they distribute copies of three different versions of “The Long Shot” as well as questions referencing those texts. The teacher reads the first version out loud and presents three questions students will ask themselves as they analyze the text to determine the author’s style: “Are the words formal or informal?” “Are the sentences long or short?” “Does the author use imagery?” Next, they reread version 1 of the passage and think about each of the three questions. They circle formal words or phrases, underline sentences to demonstrate their lengths, and draw a box around words that help readers paint a picture in their minds. Based on the evidence they have found with guidance from the teacher, they conclude that the style of version 1 is formal.
The materials provide scaffolded practice over the course of the year. However, due to the program’s structure, materials do not spiral the teaching and practice of the standards (TEKS) across the year. Instead, they focus on supporting individual student mastery of specific skills as determined by the progress monitoring data for targeted skills.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials are designed to immerse students in “authentic learning experiences” and “texts in multiple genres at increasing levels of complexity.” Students practice skills “across four critical domains of reading: word analysis, text fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.” Students interact with the materials, practice the skills, and submit work in the online platform’s sequence. Teachers use reports generated by the program to monitor student progress and use teacher-directed lessons for “targeted skill instruction for individuals and small groups.”
For example, in “Timeless Tales” Unit 3, “Protagonist/Antagonist,” the lesson embeds scaffolded practice to help students identify the conflict, story goal, antagonist, protagonist, and character traits in a narrative story. First, in the “Teach” section, the teacher introduces the narrative elements associated with the protagonist and antagonist. Students take guided notes as the teacher introduces essential vocabulary and concepts. Next, in “Teach/Guided Practice,” the teacher helps students identify the conflict, story goal, protagonist, and antagonist in a basal reader or picture book. Lastly, in “Independent Practice,” students read “Hercules and the Hydra,” adapted by Olivia Sanzzi; they complete a graphic organizer to identify the conflict, story goal, antagonist, protagonist, and character traits.
Materials include a scope and sequence for grades 6–8 that “outlines the framework of skills that are taught, practiced, and reviewed” for the various programs (e.g., “Istation Reading” and Timeless Tales).
The “Istation Reading Scope and Sequence” breaks down the literacy skills by category as they are addressed in “Cycles” 7–15. Students take subtests to determine the appropriate cycle for their skill level. The Scope and Sequence provides skill descriptors for the following categories: Listening, Phonics and Word Analysis, Writing and Spelling, Vocabulary, Fluency, and Comprehension. The Scope and Sequence also breaks down the skills addressed in “ISIP Intervention Lessons” and “Cycle-Based Teacher Resources.” The Scope and Sequence describes the skills addressed in “Teacher-Led Classroom Small Group Instruction,” including supplemental vocabulary, comprehension, and writing activities. The materials support distributed practice over the course of the year. Fundamental skills, such as phonics and word analysis, are mainly in the beginning cycles. Vocabulary skills, such as decoding irregular words using syntax and context, are addressed throughout the cycles.
The “Timeless Tales Scope and Sequence” and TT 2.0 NexLevel Scope and Sequence provide an overview of each unit’s literacy skills and specifies the type of instruction: provides an overview of each unit’s literacy skills and specifies the type of instruction: “Interactive Curriculum” or “Teacher-Directed Lessons for Small-Group Instruction.” The literacy skills and descriptors are broken into the following categories: vocabulary, reading fluency, comprehension, writing, and research. The various literacy skills identified for the Timeless Tales lessons are not balanced or distributed over the year. For example, some skills, such as analyzing “how the author’s use of language contributions to mood, voice, and tone,” are only addressed in Unit 2. Other skills, such as writing “informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content,” are present in each of the four units. “Reading Fluency” and “Language & Listening Skills” are taught in each unit through Interactive Curriculum and Teacher-Directed Lessons for Small-Group Instruction. Some of the identified skills are not addressed in any units (e.g., “Explain the difference between rhetorical devices and logical fallacies.”)
The instructional materials actively engage students “with texts in multiple genres at increasing levels of complexity,” and students practice skills “across four critical domains of reading: word analysis, text fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.” Reading fluency skills are routinely practiced in each of the units. Vocabulary instruction is addressed in multiple units. However, text analysis skills are often only addressed in one of the units.
In addition to the interactive curriculum, Timeless Tales provides teacher-directed lessons that can be used for targeted skill instruction for individuals and small groups. Some of the targeted skills are addressed multiple times, while others are only addressed in one unit rather than spiraling over the school year. For example, Timeless Tales “2.0 Next Level” contains several lessons that address text features. The materials provide a chart that explains several text structures (listing the text structure, a definition, keywords, graphic organizer, and text example). Guided practice assists students in identifying and analyzing text features. Students read an informational article and identify its text features and structure. “Extending the Lesson” activities provide additional opportunities for students to integrate these literacy skills using various texts. For instance, students can work independently or in small groups to identify the different text features within a collection of newspaper and magazine articles.
Overall, the teacher-directed lesson structure allows the teacher to select the lesson that each student or group of students needs, as determined by the online program or classroom observation. Given this structure, a teacher would be able to use various lessons for scaffolded practice throughout the year, as needed by the students. However, the number of lessons does not allow for a year’s worth of spiraling and repeated practice.
The materials do not specifically label learning opportunities for students working above grade level. The materials provide some planning and learning opportunities, such as extensions and differentiation. However, due to the adaptive nature of the materials, students work at their current level of mastery. Extensions included in each cycle are for mastery of that skill rather than for grade-level mastery.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials indicate that upper-grade-level materials can be used for “pre-teaching or enrichment purposes” with students who demonstrate mastery at the “initial level of instruction” (students who reach “Tier 1” on the program’s assessment scale). For example, in “Comprehension—ISIP Advanced Reading Teacher-Directed Interventions,” teachers find a collection of lessons in an “instructional sequence to master targeted and prerequisite skills needed to improve reading.” The lessons are grouped to accommodate students reading within the 600L–1000L Lexile range. Materials state: “Timeless Tales Comprehension (Grades 6 and Up) lessons may be used in conjunction with ISIP™ Advanced Reading Teacher Directed Lessons” for supplemental curriculum.
In “Vocabulary—ISIP Advanced Reading Teacher-Directed Interventions,” teachers find a collection of lessons in an “instructional sequence to master targeted and prerequisite skills needed to improve reading.” The “Timeless Tales Vocabulary Visa (Grades 6 and Up) lessons may be used in conjunction with ISIP™ Advanced Reading Teacher Directed Lessons” for supplemental curriculum. Also, in “Text Fluency—ISIP Advanced Reading Teacher-Directed Interventions,” teachers find a collection of lessons in an “instructional sequence to master targeted and prerequisite skills needed to improve reading.” The lessons are grouped “to accommodate all levels in grades 4–10.”
The “Instructional Tier Goals” support document explains that the purpose of the assessments built into the materials is “to identify students potentially at risk of reading failure.” Students are placed into “Tiers.” The highest tier is “On track to meet grade level expectations.” The materials are designed for grades 6–8. Therefore, students in grades 6 and 7 have access to texts with above-grade-level Lexiles and complexity levels.
Although the materials do not label sections specifically for students who demonstrate literacy skills above grade level, they include “Lesson Extras” and extensions that consist of modifications and additional activities. These may provide opportunities for students to apply above-grade-level literacy skills in different contexts. For example, in “Increasing Student Engagement,” in the “Lesson Extras” of “Timeless Tales” Units 1 and 3, “Priority—Sequential Summary,” after completing the guided and independent practice, students choose a movie, video game, or television show they enjoy. They then complete a graphic organizer to identify key elements and create a sequential summary of their selection.
The Timeless Tales “2.0 NexLevel Masks Novella Unit” provides “Extension Lesson” activities. After exploring themes in the novella Masks, students read Altyn, identify “ways that Masks and Atlyn share similar themes,” and provide text evidence for support. The materials point out that “to do so, they must make inferences.” This activity might present a challenge for some students working above grade level, at the sixth- or seventh-grade level. However, the materials point out that “the Masks Novella Unit lessons are broken up across grades sixth through eighth because they were written to cover multiple grades and literary concepts.”
After reading a teacher-selected passage for fluency in Timeless Tales 2.0 Nexlevel, “Fluency,” students needing more can “divide text into beginning, middle, and end sections.” They identify key information for each element and use the provided organizer or create a summary flowchart. Additionally, students can orally share their chart with the class and compare the chart they created to other charts. For example, students “write their own bat myth” using the information from the article “Bats: Fact or Fiction.” They model their writing after other myths they have read. If students have not read any other myths, the teacher can share a few to get students started.
In TT 2.0 NexLevel, “Priority—Vocabulary: Analyzing Context Clues,” the “Extending the Lesson” section provides three opportunities for students to practice using context clues. One option is “Create,” in which students create a new word. The word cannot be one that is currently in the dictionary or used in slang/pop culture. Students must write using this word, making sure to include context clues so that others can guess what the new word means.
In the “Research” section of Extending the Lesson in TT 2.0 NexLevel L3, “Priority—Analyzing Argument,” students research a controversial topic assigned by the teacher and take a position on it. They gather multiple, credible sources; create a presentation advocating for their side of the argument; and present it to the class. The “Create” section challenges students to create and present a visual representation of the importance of strong evidence; students use common materials such as construction paper, blocks, and straws.
The materials provide planning and learning opportunities, including extensions and differentiation, for students who demonstrate literacy skills below that expected at the grade level.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials include an individualized, interactive, student-paced program that utilizes a monthly assessment to determine each student’s reading level (“ISIP™”). The ISIP™ assessment places students in one of three levels: Tier 1 (“On track to meet grade-level expectations”); Tier 2 (“At some risk of not meeting grade-level expectations”); or Tier 3 (“At significant risk of not meeting grade-level expectations”). According to the results of the ISIP™ assessment (i.e., the “Priority Reports”), there are targeted intervention opportunities for teachers to reteach “specific skills-based, small-group lessons” to struggling students on Tiers 2 and 3.
All Priority Reports lessons include modifications for struggling students, found in the “Adapting the Lesson” section of the “Lesson Extras.” For example, in “Timeless Tales” Unit 2, “Priority—Plot Elements,” teachers give struggling students a blank graphic organizer on which to apply their knowledge of plot elements based on fairy tales they already know. These are extensions to differentiate rigor for students demonstrating below-level literacy skills. Teachers may also assign work to students based on need using the backpack feature in the program.
In the “Instructional Tier Goals,” the materials state that goals “become progressively more difficult with each assessment period.” Goals target overall reading ability with the following subcomponents: “reading comprehension, word analysis, vocabulary, text fluency, and oral reading fluency.” Additionally, per “Istation Books and Passages,” the program is designed with a readability measure correlated to Lexile, which allows each student to experience uniquely designed lessons regardless of grade level. The purpose is to “match readers to the text within their instructional or independent reading ability.”
“ISIP Advanced Reading” offers lesson guidance for teachers to build comprehension for students. There is a guided lesson within “7B Reading Comprehension,” “Unplug Yourself!” The provided dialogue allows teachers to teach prediction and summarization and check for understanding, for students not proficient with these skills. These lessons are listed as Tier 2 intervention tools; these types of lessons are included at various graduating levels.
Lastly, in the Timeless Tales Unit 4 “Priority—Text Structures” lesson, struggling students receive a completed text structure graphic organizer and a list of keywords and phrases. They identify corresponding information in the given texts (e.g., “Film Festivals and Distribution,” “Songwriting Basics,” “Film Release Methods).
The materials include supports for English Learners (ELs) to meet grade-level learning expectations, such as sentence stems, graphic aids, and vocabulary activities. The materials also provide some support commensurate with the various English language proficiency levels defined by the ELPS (beginning, intermediate, advanced, and advanced high). However, the accommodations for linguistics (communicated, sequenced, and scaffolded) are limited, and the curriculum does not include a study of cognates or bilingual dictionaries. Due to the program’s individualized, adaptive nature, support within the materials recommended for ELs is identical to support for students performing below grade level.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
This individualized, interactive, student-paced program utilizes a monthly assessment to determine the student’s reading level (“ISIP™”). The ISIP™ assessment places students in one of three levels: Tier 1 (“On track to meet grade-level expectations”); Tier 2 (“At some risk of not meeting grade-level expectations”); or Tier 3 (“At significant risk of not meeting grade-level expectations”). Opportunities for teachers to support ELs are included in the “specific skills-based, small-group lessons for targeted intervention.” Teachers deliver intervention based on these results, not strictly based on students’ English language proficiency level.
Although other languages are not offered in the materials, teachers can select “Product: Reading/Espanol” to search for Spanish resources. Additionally, the “Search Wizard for Espanol” contains the options to “Find by Skill” or “Find by Cycle” under the “Emergent Reader” and “Early Reader” reading stages. Selecting the reading stage will bring up an aligned lesson that addresses a particular skill. Lessons, such as “Comprehension auditiva,” also provide supports (e.g., picture activities as the mode for comprehension input and output). Each “Cycle,” 1–18, has lessons that correspond to the stages of reading; other resources include “book resources, lesson resources, materials resources, passage resources, poem resources, and reference resources.”
Due to the program’s individualized, adaptive nature, ELs’ vocabulary study is based on the results of the monthly ISIP™ assessment. Teachers find suggestions for the use of vocabulary cards in the “Teacher Resources” section of the program. Activities include “I’m thinking of...” in which the teacher selects a card and provides clues about the word; students try to guess the word. In “Charades,” a student acts out the given vocabulary word within the designated time frame; the rest of the students try to guess the word.
“Vocabulary Visa” provides modifications for teachers to support various learners, including ELs. Though the activities are not labeled using the English language proficiency levels as defined by the ELPS, the activities correspond with the different levels of English language proficiency (beginner, intermediate, advanced, advanced high). For example, in “Timeless Tales” Unit 3, “Vocabulary Visa—Concept Maps,” the “Adapting the Lesson” and “Modifying for ELL” sections include suggestions to support students’ understanding of how to use word maps of synonyms and antonyms to apply their knowledge of vocabulary word definitions. For instance, in “Word Wall Repair,” students “fix” the mistakes on the student-created word wall. In “Word Scramble,” students race to be the first one to unscramble a set of vocabulary words using the word’s definition as a “clue.”
In Timeless Tales Unit 4, Priority—Vocabulary Visa, students understand vocabulary words used in the context of an unfamiliar text and in analogies. Teachers support ELs by having them play “Charades”: a student acts out the given vocabulary word within the designated time frame while the rest of the students try to guess the word. Alternatively, students create a vocabulary wall, covering one entire piece of paper with the word written in bubble letters, descriptions of the term, and three images representing a given vocabulary word.
The materials provide a few suggestions that allow students to use words from their first language to help them connect to English vocabulary. Teachers find these suggestions in either the Adapting the Lesson or the Modifying for ELL sections of the Lesson Extras. There are no scaffolds such as translations, cognates, bilingual dictionaries, or other comprehensible input modes.
The materials provide word analysis lessons in which students develop vocabulary in English. There is no intentional, strategic use of students’ first language as a means to linguistic, affective, cognitive, and academic development in English. In Timeless Tales Unit 3, “Word Analysis: Syllabification,” students use rules and patterns to explore unknown words and improve spelling and vocabulary. Lesson Extras suggest ELs work in pairs to look up each word using an online dictionary with clear syllabification and determine the rule that applies to each syllable division.
In Timeless Tales Unit 4, “Word Analysis: Understanding Words in Context,” students use word charts to identify context clues to determine words’ definitions. In the Lesson Extras, teachers pair students together. One partner writes each vocabulary word and its definition on one side of a card. The other partner looks up the antonym for each vocabulary word and writes it on a card. They match the vocabulary word with its antonym and glue the cards together. In an additional activity, students work in small groups to find synonyms for each vocabulary word, then create a sentence using the word and the synonyms as context clues.
The materials contain assessment and guidance for teachers and administrators to monitor progress, including how to interpret and act on data yielded. Formative and summative assessments are aligned in purpose, intended use, and TEKS emphasis. The assessments and scoring information provide sufficient guidance for interpreting and responding to student performance; they are connected to the regular content to support student learning.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials contain a variety of formative and summative assessments. The program’s “Indicators of Progress” (“ISIP™”) is an “online developmental assessment” that provides screening, progress-monitoring, and “continuous formative students assessments.” Materials include “Computer-Adaptive Testing,” which uses “a sophisticated, adaptive algorithm, the computer selects assessment items based on the student’s abilities regardless of age or grade level.” The Computer-Adaptive Testing program responds to a student’s performance by adjusting the difficulty level of items based on their performance accuracy. “On-Demand" assessments also can be administered by the teacher in direct response to student need and performance.
The ISIP™ is designed to be used as a “tool that informs teachers’ decision-making and intervention strategies.”The assessments are nationally normed, can be completed in 30 minutes, and are administered monthly. The “ISIP Summary Report” shows the number and percentage of students in each instructional group for the current month. The “Distribution Report” shows the number of students performing in ranges of ability. The ISIP is directly connected to regular content to support student learning in the online adaptive curriculum. Materials provide students an individualized instructional path based on their “demonstrated ability level” on the ISIP assessment. The assessment content for grades 4–8 includes word analysis of multisyllabic words, reading fluency with a focus on understanding, vocabulary development that helps students recall terms and provides interaction with prior knowledge, and comprehension skills. The curriculum contains frequent embedded skill checks that assess and identify when a student is having difficulty with a skill. The materials address the students’ needs by providing reteach activities and “another opportunity to learn the skill before moving ahead.”
“Benchmark Assessments,” or summative assessments, “assist educators in identifying students in need of intervention, which includes the use of a universal “screener” that assesses students at the beginning (BOY), middle (MOY), and end of the year (EOY). The BOY identifies potential reading problems. The MOY assesses student progress and needs for additional support. The EOY assesses if students have “achieved grade-level reading standards.”
“Istation Reports” support teachers and administrators in interpreting and acting on yielded data. In the “Program Guide,” the “Reports” section states the reports “can be run at the class, school, or district level depending on the level of access and desired information.” The reports can be filtered through a “drill-down” function, providing data on the individual student, class, grade, school, and district level. The real-time assessment results can be viewed at the “district, school, grade, teacher, group, and individual student level by all subgroups, demographics, and performance levels according to user permission settings.”
Teachers use that data to inform effective, targeted instruction for individuals or small groups using the provided teacher-directed lessons; these lessons correspond to the specific skills with which students struggle. Teachers access different types of reports in the “Reports” section of the website. For instance, “Skill Growth by Tier” shows “each skill assessed and the progress made by the students through the current month as measured against performance goals within tier groups.” The “Priority Report” alerts teachers of students needing additional support and provides lessons based on demonstrated weaknesses.” The “Standards Report” “groups the standards that relate to each ISIP™ skill and provides actionable steps to help improve each skill.”
On the istation.com website, teachers and administrators can access information that shows the alignment of the program to the state standards (TEKS) by clicking on the heading “Toolbox,” then choosing “State Correlations.” Under the “Texas” state subheading, teachers and administrators find links to PDF documents categorized by grade and subject (e.g., “Reading: 6th–8th”). The link connects to the “Istation Reading® Curriculum Correlated to Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for English Language Arts and Reading Grades 6–8.” The table for each grade level includes the subject (“Reading,” “Writing,” and “Inquiry and Research”); the TEKS number; the student expectation in words; the sections of the “iStation” app that correlate to that TEKS; and the iStation teacher resources that correlate to that TEKS.
The materials include year-long plans and supports for teachers to identify the needs of students and provide differentiated instruction to meet the needs of a range of learners to ensure grade-level success. The overarching year-long plan created by the individualized, computer-adapted structure provides teachers with resources to engage students in multiple grouping structures, which are comprehensive and attend to differentiation to support students via many learning opportunities. The “Teacher-Directed Lessons” (TLDs), the program’s version of a teacher edition, contain annotations and support for engaging students in the materials; there is also support for implementing resource materials and student progress components. However, the TDLs do not include support for implementing ancillary materials.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials include plans that are comprehensive and support diverse learners through many learning opportunities. The design “serves as a universal screener and progress-monitoring tool” that provides data on which teachers base their small group differentiated instruction. Benchmark assessments administered at the beginning, middle, and end of the year provide detailed data (identifying students who may have reading struggles, determining the amount of progress or lack of progress students have made, and identifying whether or not students achieved grade-level reading standards, respectively) throughout the year. In addition to data compiled from the monthly “ISIP™” assessment (“Istation’s Indicators of Progress”), the computer-adapted testing and the on-demand assessments determine which TDLs to implement. The materials provide a “Scope and Sequence” organized by “Cycles” rather than a traditional year-long plan of instruction. However, the materials can be implemented throughout the school year. “Istation Reports,” like the “Priority and Standards Reports,” provide teachers and administrators with immediate data to inform effective instructional plans for students. Reports automatically link to additional lessons for further intervention.
The program provides differentiated instruction by adjusting the Lexile level of passages based on the students’ ISIP “Comprehension” score. The “Timeless Tales” units provide differentiation to support students by adjusting the “level of difficulty, activities, and populations provided to students” based on student performance. This population includes students struggling to understand and master the skill, those needing English language support, and those ready for enrichment.
The TDLs provide “over 2,300 research-based teacher-directed lessons that can be used to differentiate instruction for individual students, small groups, and whole groups.” They include “a scaffolded lesson structure that builds from basic to complex skills; and interdisciplinary content in English, math, science, social studies, and the humanities.” Teachers find differentiated instruction suggestions for diverse learners in “Lesson Extras” of the “Timeless Tales” Units. For example, Timeless Tales, Units 1 and 2,” “Comprehension—Making Inferences” includes “Lesson Extras” for “Adapting the Lesson,” “Modifying for ELL,” “Increasing Student Engagement,” and “Integrating Research and Technology.” For instance, the materials suggest making “Surface and Deeper Meaning Picture Cards” to differentiate for English Learners. The cards include a picture and “deeper meaning prompts to help students understand making inferences.” For example, the surface meaning prompt asks, “What color is the kitten? Where is the kitten?” The deeper meaning prompt asks, “How does the kitten feel? Why hasn’t the kitten gotten out?”
In Timeless Tales Unit 4, a research and technology extension engages students to research authors with a distinct writing style, such as Ernest Hemmingway or J.K. Rowling. Students research “the elements that contribute to the author’s style” and present their findings to the rest of the class. The materials provide a list of guidelines for the presentation: “Name of author, Contextual information (nationality, time-period, genre), Description of style, Comparison of two passages written by the author analyzing the author’s style, Analysis of the two passages and stylistic choices.” After students present, they participate in a whole class or small group discussion comparing and contrasting the authors’ styles.
In “Middle School Reading: Text Evidence Priority Report Lesson,” teachers guide students in analyzing evidence from the text to make inferences. There are accommodations and enrichments to implement at specific parts of the lesson. For example, during “Step 2” in the “Demonstrate” section of the lesson, teachers read aloud excerpts of The Call of the Wild by Jack London, adapted by Jessica Peters. At the same time, students follow along on their copy and work in pairs to answer questions about inferences that can be made about the characters Judge Miller and Buck. A provided accommodation includes allowing students extra reading time, modeling how to highlight evidence that supports their inferences, and providing students with highlighters to practice that strategy. As enrichment, teachers can ask students to use specific details they found about the two characters and write a summary of the text.
The materials have ancillary materials, such as the “Home School Connection,” “Jump Paths,” and the “Istation App.” “Ipractice,” a component of “Istation at Home,” “supports classroom instruction by providing students with the opportunity to explore different worlds, witness history, and practice new skills through mini-lessons, reteach lessons, and self-directed navigation.” Istation at Home guides student learning by providing online and printable books for students to self-select and “practice skills which aid in reading fluency and build their confidence as readers.” The “Parent Guide '' provides a list of all of the Ipractice activities available for Istation home. However, the TDLs (i.e., the teacher’s edition of the curriculum) do not include support for implementing these ancillary materials and student progress components.
The materials include implementation support for teachers and administrators. The materials are designed to assess students’ literacy skills, place them at their instruction level automatically, and assess their progress monthly. The materials provide TEKS-aligned scopes and sequences outlining the essential knowledge and skills taught in the program, the order in which they are presented, and how knowledge and skills build and connect across grade levels. The computer-adaptive instruction that can be delivered year-round provides for a school year’s worth of literacy instruction. However, the “Teacher Resource” and the teacher-directed lessons do not include a school year’s worth of literacy instruction or realistic pacing guidance, routines, and support for 180-day or 220-day schedules.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The “Cycle and Unit Descriptions” section of the “Toolbox” tab of istation.com includes a link to the “Istation User’s Guide: Interactive Instruction Page.” The “Istation Reading: Cycles of Instruction” section explains how the entire program works and details the purpose, objectives, and benefits of each stage of the interactive instruction. It also explains how each part of the program is connected across grade levels.
Materials provide several scope and sequence documents outlining the essential knowledge and skills taught in the instructional materials’ various components: “Writing Rules,” “Istation Reading,” and “Timeless Tales.” Although these documents are not broken down by grade level, they are organized by writing skills, cycle, and unit. The “Istation Reading Scope and Sequence” is organized by grades 6–8, “Cycle of Instruction,” and “Teacher-Led Small Group Instruction.” The materials specify the cycles and frequency with which Cycle of Instruction skills are taught. The “Timeless Tales Scope and Sequence” outlines the skills addressed in each unit. The skills are categorized by “Vocabulary, Language and Listening, Reading Fluency, Comprehension, and Writing.” The Scope and Sequence denotes which skills are “Covered by Teacher Resources” and which skills are covered in each unit. The “Writing Rules Scope and Sequence” “outlines the framework of skills that are taught, practiced, and reviewed in Istation’s Writing Rules!” Each skill has an “Online Instruction” and “Teacher-Directed Lesson” component. The Scope and Sequence identifies specific instruction skills (e.g., “Select a topic appropriate for the audience.” “Write simple and compound sentences.”) These instruction skills are divided into the following categories: “Ideas, Organization, Voice, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency, Conventions, and Essay Writing (Personal Narrative).” The Scope and Sequence identifies how each instructional skill and category is often addressed by online or teacher-directed instruction.
The TEKS alignment is found in the “State Correlations” section of the “Toolbox” tab on istation.com. The “Istation App” (student platform) and “Istation Teacher Resources” correlate to each specific TEKS and the Texas English Language Proficiency Standards. For example, the interactive learning platform (Istation App) provides students with instruction and practice on TEKS 7.9F (analyzing “how the author’s use of language contributes to mood, voice, and tone”) with “TT 2.0 NexLevel L3, World of Wonders: The Midnight Prowler,” “Writing Rules, Essay Writing, Personal Narrative, Voice Activity,” and “Writing Rules Essay Writing, Expository, Drafting.” Additional teacher resources available to support student growth with that skill are “TT 2.0 NexLevel, Mood,” “Writing Rules, Expository Essay Characteristics, Lesson 1.3, Voice,” and “Writing Rules, Personal Narrative Characteristics, Lesson 1.2: Voice.”
Explanations of how the materials should be implemented for maximum efficacy are found in the “Assessment Information” section of the Toolbox tab of the istation.com website. Students complete the “ISIP™” assessment monthly throughout the school year; this makes for 8–12 automatic assessments per year, depending on each district’s school year’s length. Also, in the Toolbox, under the “Usage Criteria” tab, teachers find guidelines for student usage of the digital component (30–40 minutes per week).
The “Instructional Tier Goals” section of the Toolbox tab on istation.com includes guidelines for student growth and pacing of the program throughout the school year. Because the program is intended for supplemental intervention, it is suggested Tier 1 students spend 30+ minutes per week on the program. Tier 2 or 3 students should spend 40+ minutes per week. According to the “User Guide,” the “Middle School Bridge Cycle” alone contains over 1800 minutes of content, which would be enough for 45 weeks of instruction for a Tier 2 or 3 student. Additionally, there are 15 cycles of “Istation Reading,” “Middle School Reading: HumanEX,” and “Middle School Reading: NexLevel.”
In the “My Boards” tab, implementation lessons are on “cards” and sorted by topic. For example, in “Getting Started,” the cards include “How Do I Know if ISIP Is in Progress?” “Visit Our Help Center,” “Visit Istation Teacher Resources,” and “Access Istation Instruction.” The “How Do I Know if ISIP Is in Progress?” card states: “The ISIP IN PROGRESS bar indicates when an ISIP assessment is in progress. When the ISIP assessment is complete, the student moves seamlessly into the interactive instruction.” In the top right corner of the teacher login page, there is a green “Get Help” icon. The “Help Center” includes a “Get Started” section that contains implementation guides for teachers. These guides are available for Day 1, Month 1, Month 2, “Ongoing,” and “At Home.” There are also training videos available within the Help Center. Additionally, a searchable User’s Guide contains both “Teacher’s Tools” and “Technical Information.”
The materials provide information for administrators to collaborate with program specialists to “design targeted and customized professional development sessions” to support “fidelity of program implementation by training educators to differentiate instruction for effective screening and progress monitoring, disaggregate data for instructional use, and track growth toward campus/district goals and initiatives to optimize usage of the program as well as uncover growth opportunities.”
While materials include a school year’s worth of literacy instruction through the computer-adaptive instruction that can be delivered year-round, they do not include a school year’s worth of literacy instruction or realistic pacing guidance, routines, and support for 180-day or 220-day schedules through the Teacher Resource or teacher-directed lessons. Students work on an individualized instructional pathway of lessons based on their results on the ISIP assessment. The “Cycle and Unit Descriptions” page on the Istation website states: “Students move forward through the Istation interactive instruction at their own pace. Because the Istation curriculum is designed to automatically place students at their individual instructional level, students and teachers do not choose what activities to complete, nor can students be moved backward in the instruction. Istation performance is not intended to be used for classroom grades.”
The digital student edition’s visual design is neither distracting nor chaotic. Materials include appropriate use of white space and design that supports and does not distract from student learning. Pictures and graphics are supportive of student learning and engagement without being visually distracting.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The pictures and graphics in the online student application support learning and engagement without being distracting or chaotic. The online application uses a soft blue cloud background. The design is free from distracting images and colors. The text uses a clear font in contrasting colors from the background so that it is easy to read. The materials support student learning by providing clearly labeled icons with simple images that reflect the content. Icons are appropriately sized, are not crowded, and contrast with the light blue and white cloud background.
The main screen of the student application contains clearly labeled links to the various instructional tools. The links include simple icons and labels both in English and Spanish. The “ISIP” reading assessment allows students to select a theme that adjusts the visual appearance of the assessment. For example, the night theme has a dark background with white lettering. The “Library” page contains colorful images and clear labels for reading levels and genre categories. After selecting a reading level or nonfiction text, the students are directed to the appropriate online library. The book titles are clearly labeled. The pictures are easily identifiable by students and support student learning by clearly identifying the book topics.
The pictures and graphics are supportive without being distracting. The colors are bright, clear, and colorful. Animated characters that represent diverse populations are included in each lesson. The characters move around the screen to create an engaging “game-like'' environment. Text features and fonts are appropriate and adequately placed for students to navigate each screen. Icons, such as a “go back button,” are repeatedly used. Hence, students are familiar with what appears on their screens as they work through lessons. When students are working through reading passages, the pages are uncluttered; white space is appropriately used for readers in grades 6–8.
In “HumanEX” Chapter 1, “Fluency,” students read a short passage with missing words. They are instructed to read quickly and select the correct word from the dropdown box to complete each sentence. The font is in a grade-appropriate size, and adequate white space surrounds the text. An animated female character provides instructions on completing the activity and then leaves the screen for the lesson’s fluency portion. When students read for fluency, the only graphics are a partial background covered by a large white box of text. It does not distract from the activity or from student learning, and it is not chaotic.
At the beginning of HumanEx Chapter 1, Unit 2, students interact with “Ari,” who is standing in what appears to be a museum with exhibits like holograms. Ari leads them through learning and practicing the skill of summarizing. The words the character speaks are shown at the bottom of the screen (white font color displayed on a semi-transparent, black background). The character pauses to allow students to choose one of two responses displayed in the screen’s left corner just above the closed caption text in a light blue font color. For example, Ari needs to create a flyer for “the Cosplay contest,” and students can either click on “Cosplay contest?” for Ari to explain what Cosplay is or “So what is the problem?” to hear the situation that he needs help with. While Ari is speaking, the student is unable to click on any other images on the screen. Once he is done speaking, icons appear to support student learning (e.g., a question mark that clarifies how to interact with the character; an icon resembling a computer screen that opens different tools for taking notes and a glossary; pause and stop buttons that can be used when the student needs to take a break or end work for the session). The text that needs to be summarized is displayed on a white background with black print (regular and bold type). Any missed text or mistakes made are highlighted, and students have subsequent opportunities to correct those mistakes, which supports student learning.
In another activity, “NexLevel” Level 1, “Arcade,” students play a game matching color-coded cards labeled “Word” (blue cards), “Definition” (green cards), and “Context” (red cards). The game board is large, and the directions appear in a teal-colored box with white lettering. The parts of the screen needed to complete each step of the task are highlighted in teal. Once students have completed their matches, they click the green box with white lettering at the top right corner to check their work. All correct matches are outlined in bright green, and all incorrect matches are outlined in red. Jazzy music plays as the students play the game. The bottom row includes an icon with two half-circle shapes (it displays the instructions for the game) and the pause and stop symbols.
The technology present in the materials supports and enhances student learning. The curriculum is a winner of several national educational technology awards. As a supplemental resource, the materials provide a technology platform that includes assessments, a reading library, oral reading fluency, and writing rules activities.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
Each student lesson is on a digital platform. The technology components enhance student learning by providing engaging visuals and explanatory animations. The consistency present in each lesson creates a platform that students can work through with familiarity. Lessons start by welcoming students to the site. An arrow allows students to click back to replay if additional instructions are needed or if they need to hear the questions once more. The materials are easy to navigate with clearly labeled icons and instructional paths; they are free from extraneous, distracting information, images, and animation.
The “Reading Program Guide” describes the materials as “dynamic game-like educational technology” consisting of “adaptive assessments and curriculum...aligned to Texas educational standards.” Students access the application via “PCs, Macs, iPads, and Chromebooks.” The technology automatically places students into the program at their current instructional level. Students then work through the individualized path, which consists of lessons that follow a “research-based instructional method: introduction and teach, guided practice, application of skills, and reteach as needed.” The activities are sequenced from easy to more complex.
The platform provides a “Teacher Station” that includes a preview of the online lessons, including “Timeless Tales” and “Nexlevel.” The materials are clearly labeled and organized by grade clusters. Appropriate teacher guidance is provided in the online “Toolbox” and “Help Center.” Teachers and administrators access reports detailing when students are experiencing difficulties with specific skills via the website. Teachers use that data to deliver “Teacher-Directed Lessons,” which can also be searched and printed as needed. A “Teacher Help Center” is supported by “qualified personnel who can answer questions about the system or help resolve an issue”; it is available via a toll-free phone number, email, and chat when logged into the website. Bilingual (Spanish/English) personnel can assist if necessary as well.
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