Virginia Studies Weekly (Twitter @StudiesWeekly) is a popular classroom curriculum in a newspaper format, and it’s used in fourth grade classrooms throughout the state to support the Virginia Studies Standards of Learning. Did you know that there is an online version with read aloud support and informational videos? In fact, if you have the print curriculum you already have access to the online version. It is included free with the print subscription, and teachers can easily set it up for all students, and then students can access from school and home.
In the dashboard, teachers can import a class list or add students individually. The app generates unique access codes for students to use when they login for the first time. Teachers can assign lessons and assessments and track every student’s progress in the dashboard. Assessments are optional if you just want to use the program for enrichment.
Each article is displayed on a single screen with three review questions below the article, as well as several resources such as lesson plan, blackline masters, video resources, and standards alignment information.
Each lesson has an assessment with a bank of questions. The teacher can use the existing questions, edit the questions, and add new questions. The assessment is delivered online, and is also printable. The dashboard will show the student scores as well as items they highlighted in the articles.
When students work through a lesson, they have access to tools that help with reading. Students can highlight important vocabulary words and information and make online notes about it. They can also use the read aloud tool to listen to the lesson with text highlighting, which is very helpful for ELL students and those who may have learning disabilities. Each article has three questions that students can answer before going to the next article in the lesson, and some articles have instructional videos included. There are also two review games that students can play, however I believe the games could be improved (see below). After completing the lesson, students can access the online assessment, which also has the read aloud feature.
The program has several benefits, but some things could be improved. The three review questions at the end of each article do not have the read aloud feature, which can make the review more difficult for students that need reading support. The crossword puzzle and interactive spelling activity are also not special needs friendly. The crossword puzzle does not have a word bank, and it loads in a different screen so students cannot refer back to the articles. As a study tool, it’s not useful. The MisSpilled game is cute, but it is merely a spelling exercise, not vocabulary review. It can be overly difficult for students who struggle with spelling, particularly ELL and students with learning disabilities. I would not recommend those activities for students with special needs.
This school year is the last for delivery of the print curriculum, and starting in school year 2017-2018, only the online version will be available. If your school is considering Virginia Studies Weekly Online for next school year, you can try it with their 30-day free trial.[Disclosure: All blog posts are written by Andrea. Blog posts are neither sponsored nor endorsed by the respective companies of any service, hardware, or software mentioned. This blog earns a small commission through display ads.]