I should also point out that the company offers numerous products, outside of their technology offerings here. This review will only focus on their Reading Horizons Discovery digital application, which can be used as an entire curriculum or to help supplement whatever reading curriculum you already have in place in your school.
One final addendum I feel I should make before beginning: While I do feel highly capable of reviewing and evaluating the technology components of this app, I have never been a literacy coach, or spent much time studying best-practice methods for language learning. Therefore, while the curriculum seems incredibly solid from a basic teaching standpoint, I don’t claim to be an expert in language learning.
This review will be broken up into two parts, the student side of the app, and the teacher side. We’ll cover what the students see first, and then get into how the teacher can manage lessons, track student progress, see student growth, check progress against the common core standards, and a whole lot more.
The Student Side of Reading Horizons Discovery
Students can also check out their overall progress, the achievements they’ve unlocked and trophies they’ve earned, they can see how many coins they have as well, which is the digital currency they get for completing lessons. The students can then use the coins to play games and purchase decorations for their clubhouse.
In general, students will tap the big green “next” arrow to work on the lessons that have been assigned to them. When they first start out, they’ll be starting with the Reading Horizons Discovery Reading Assessment powered by the Lexile® Framework for Reading that provides a Lexile score, to track their progress throughout the course of instruction. The Lexile score does come at an extra cost, due to the extra charge that Lexile® adds on, but it is a feature available for classrooms.
The Lexile level feature is great because teachers can easily track student growth, but more on that later. In general, the Reading Horizons Discovery assessments do a nice job of measuring a student’s current ability level so that the curriculum can be based on their specific needs. They offer assessments in Phonemic Awareness, Most Common Words, and Spelling/Word Recognition.
If you’re looking for deeper and more specific detail on the exact curriculum that is offered by the software, I’d recommend checking out the very friendly user guide and their video tutorials (they’ve got a ton of support materials for teachers).
Outside of the lesson sequence, students can also visit the Vocabulary Word Wall to work on their reading, listening, pronunciation, spelling, and decoding skills. There’s also six reading games the students can play and the Library, where students can read stories that center around the different themes of the app (Safari, Pirates, etc…)
Overall, and from a technology/software perspective, the app is incredibly well-suited for young learners. It’s got a very simple interface, an enormous diversity of activities, challenges, and fun ways to practice and improve upon reading skills. Again, I can’t speak to the specifics of the team’s pedagogical model, but I can definitely see this program being a good fit for supplementing your elementary reading curriculum.
The Teacher Side of Reading Horizons Discovery
In other words, if you’re wanting a very quick overview of where your student is at before sitting down for a meeting with them or their parents, you can get that. Or, if you want to see exactly where a student is at with specific phonemes and words and skillsets, and exactly how they’re lining up with specific Common Core Standards as well, you can get that too.
Another of my favorite features is the Response to Instruction (RTI) status warning that pops up for students who are struggling with the curriculum (represented by the red circle). This is a really quick identifier to help let teachers know who is having difficulty, and exactly where they’re having difficulty.
Even if a student got a 95% on an assessment, if there was one particular area where they had trouble (like punctuation for example), the teacher will still get this notification so they can see that there is something the student is struggling with.
On top of that, if you visit the message center, you’ll get individualized notifications for where each student is at, in terms of both successes and challenges. And, if a student has been struggling with a particular area for more than a few times, the software will recommend specific in-class / teacher-mediated interventions to help the student, since the software isn’t giving them what they need in that particular area.
This is one of my absolute favorite features, and a great way to help create a blended classroom, where the software is there for support and guidance and some instruction, but also to help the teacher know specifically where the student is struggling and offer some strategies to help. I would think that this could be particularly beneficial in schools that don’t have reading or literacy coaches to draw on for extra guidance.
Teachers can also see exactly how students are doing on assessments, the progress and growth they’ve made across lessons, and compare Lexile scores for every time they’ve taken an assessment. It’s a really great way to see how your students are doing and it can of course be broken down by particular skillsets as well.
Aside from these features, teachers also have the ability to preview student lessons, customize the specific content type that students will work on, set pass/fail levels, run batch prints on reports, and basically any other type of customization you could imagine. They’ve done a really nice job of giving teachers complete control over the digital learning environment, without making the interface overly complicated and convoluted.
As I mentioned above, I can’t speak to the specific literacy pedagogy/method that the software employs, as I’ve never seen it in action in the classroom and I don’t have the background or training to evaluate it in any official capacity. However, from an educational technology perspective, I think the Reading Horizons team has an incredibly solid software package here.
In terms of pricing and roll-out, the Reading Horizons team can work with classrooms as small as 10 students all the way up to the school and district level. For pricing, you’ll have to contact them directly for a quote, as they work on a case by case basis, but they are flexible in working within a school’s needs and budget.
Overall, if your classroom or school is looking for a reading software solution, I’d recommend checking out the free 14-day trial to see if it’s a good fit for your students and for your needs. But from my perspective, they’ve got a great thing going here, especially in terms of the data that teachers have access to, and how easy it is to see exactly what challenges your students are struggling with.
I was not compensated for writing this review.