What is Little Sponges®?
Little Sponges® is the first and only interactive bilingual curriculum that leverages the power of real-life videos, games, literacy activities and assessments to teach young students listening, speaking, reading and writing skills in multiple languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, French, German, and Russian. The web-based platform enables personalized learning on any device for children ages 2-8 years old. The research-based curriculum integrates language learning and academic content across the main learning domains. Little Sponges® is unique because it teaches in a way young children learn best. It engages young minds by using real-life videos from around the world, interactive games, engaging characters, memorable songs as well as native audio and subtitles.
What is the target age for this program?
Little Sponges® program is specifically designed for children in preschool through 2nd grade. In some instances, Little Sponges® has been used effectively for children as young as 6 months and as old as 11 years of age. The key factor you should consider when deciding how to implement the program is the development level and the knowledge base of the child rather than his/her age. Also, keep in mind that according to research the earlier a child begins learning a second language, the better.
What is included in the program?
In addition to the research-based, thematic curriculum, the language program contains more than 100 real-life video segments that teach through storytelling by native speakers. This allows young children to learn correct pronunciation from the start. The program also includes interactive learning games that enable children to practice both comprehension and literacy skills. In Review videos puppets ask children questions and help them practice speaking by modeling the correct answers. Memorable songs help children practice new vocabulary as they sing with Mishka and Frog. Digital vocabulary cards enable students to practice frequently used sight words. The Alphabet Island helps students learn the alphabet helping students develop basic literacy skills and writing skills. The diagnostic, formative and summative assessments are included in all of the languages so teachers and parents can see how students are progressing. Supplemental materials such as hand puppets and 300 vocabulary cards provide a great way to practice new vocabulary.
What is the teaching methodology?
Little Sponges® leverages a two-way dual-immersion method of teaching, where students are taught in both their native language and their second language. This method has been proven to be more effective than one-way dual immersion and full immersion. Each language track includes English and a second language. The main characters of the program, Mishka and Frog, take children on many adventures that cover key educational topics. While Frog always speaks English, Mishka always speaks the second language. This gives students “comprehensible input” and enables them to learn academic vocabulary in both languages. Little Sponges program not only teaches a second language, but continues to build upon the child’s first language as well, making it accessible and relevant to all students in a classroom. This program works for ELL students learning English as a second language as well as for native English speakers who are learning one of the world languages.
How much does the program cost?
How do I begin using the program? Is training provided?
The video-based training is accessible at any time through the “On Demand Training” link under the Home tab in our menu bar. Here you may watch a 20-minute training video, or read a thorough implementation guide.
Click here for some additional tips to remember while using the Little Sponges® program in your classroom.
A one hour in-person training at client’s location is included with any purchase of $15,000 or more. A one hour live webinar training session is included with purchase of $5,000 or more. For all other purchases, a video-based training module is included.
How does the program work? What hardware is needed to use it?
Little Sponges® is a web-based platform that works on any device and enables personalized learning at school and at home. No installation or downloads are needed. The program and all of its content is accessible online via our website. You can create an app-like shortcut on your desktop to make it easy to access the program on any device (without typing in the website url). Use this link to access the instructions for how to do that.
Little Sponges® can be used with the entire class in group-mode or in a personalized one-on-one setting, depending on your students’ needs.
Learning videos and games can be projected on a smartboard or projector for group learning in the classroom. This collaborative learning environment allows students to work together and learn from each other.
Students can also practice on their own. If a student needs extra practice in a certain area, he/she is able to use the program in personalized learning mode, preferably with headphones.
How do I access the program?
After purchasing the Little Sponges® program, you will receive your log-in credentials.
We have two types of subscriptions:
- Teacher Subscription: Teacher gets her own account that she can share with up to 25 students. This works well for classrooms with young students (preschool age) since the teacher only has one username and password to remember.
- Classroom Subscription: Teacher gets “group leader” account and each child in the classroom (up to 25 students) receives their own unique account and has to log-in to use the program. This works well with older students who can log-in on their own.
Because progress data is tracked by account, individual student progress is best tracked when each student uses the program with their own account, but can become difficult with younger students who may have trouble logging in by themselves. Even with a single teacher account that tracks progress of the class as a whole, individual student progress can be tracked via the pre and post assessments and the interactive learning games.
Also, because the program is able to be accessed on any device connected to the internet (computers, smartphones, tablets, etc), teachers are able to give parents the log in credentials and allow students to access Little Sponges® at home. This comes at no cost to the parents and no additional cost to the school.
Schools that use Clever or other SSO applications can request to integrate Little Sponges with their current system.
How often should I implement the program?
The program is flexible and allows teachers and students to control frequency and length of usage. For the best results, we recommend daily exposure (or at least 3 times per week) for 15-20 minutes each day. This assumes that Little Sponges is not the only way children are getting exposure to the target language and the teacher is providing other types of instruction as well.
If Little Sponges® is the only source of exposure that the students receive to the target language, we recommend using Little Sponges for 30 minutes or more each day to give children sufficient exposure and practice opportunities to achieve great results.
We realize that some schools can only offer instruction in the second language once a week. When this is the case, we recommend giving parents access to the program at home so that students can get extra practice.
How does Little Sponges® enable personalized learning?
The child-friendly interface allows even the youngest students to navigate the program on their own and be in control of their learning experience. The on-demand content allows each child to learn at their own pace by pausing and/or repeating learning modules. Mishka and Frog, the main characters of Little Sponges® program, provide ongoing support and feedback to help students stay engaged and motivated as they master new material. Children practice comprehension and reading while they play formative learning games and earn stars for answering questions correctly.
Teachers can personalize the learning experience by allowing students to select the language track that incorporates their native language and the target language. For example, ELL students who speak Spanish can use the English/Spanish track while Chinese ELL students practice using the English/Chinese track. This approach gives ELL students “comprehensible input” by leveraging their native language as an anchor.
This level of customization is impossible to achieve in the traditional classroom as most teachers do not speak multiple languages nor can they personalize their instruction for all students simultaneously.
Through creative use of technology, Little Sponges® makes bilingual learning more accessible, effective, and equitable than the traditional approaches. Providing personalized dual language instruction is more important than ever before as the number of dual language students continues to grow in US schools. Today, 32% of US children under 8 years of age are dual-language learners (defined as having at least one parent who does not speak English). According to NEA Policy Brief, by 2025 nearly 25% of all students in public schools will be English Language Learners, the fastest-growing student population group.
How do you define “progress” in your program? How is the data tracked?
Little Sponges is proven to close the achievement gap for ELL students by 85% in one school year. When the Little Sponges® program is used in preschool classrooms, the average Bilingual Index increases by up to 45% in 3 months, demonstrating improvement in both English and Spanish.
To measure growth, we use pre and post assessments for each grade level that enable us to see how much students’ knowledge of vocabulary and concepts has increased overtime (for example, percent improvement in English and Spanish over the course of the school year). In addition, formative learning games provide instant feedback and score at the end of the game. This allows students to see how they are doing and if they need more practice in any particular area. Students are rewarded with stars for answering questions correctly so they are motivated to keep practicing and improving to get the perfect score in each game.
What are the benefits of being bilingual?
There are many reasons to strive for multilingualism, and the list of benefits is far too long for this FAQ, but a few benefits include greater cognitive development, better social skills, higher tolerance, and being more creative. If you’d like to learn more about the benefits, our blog is regularly updated with articles and studies related to language learning.
I’m not bilingual. Can I still use Little Sponges® with my students?
Yes! While it does make learning a language easier when the parent or teacher knows the target language, that shouldn’t stop monolingual adults from teaching their children a second language. Because Little Sponges® utilizes a two-way immersion method, it is easy for children to comprehend new material and learn. We’ve seen teachers and parents who do not know the second language enjoy learning along with the children. This can be a great personal and professional development opportunity! In fact, half of the teachers who use our program were not bilingual when they started using our program with their students.
What types of schools use Little Sponges®?
Little Sponges® has been successfully implemented by a diverse set of schools that serve ELL, bilingual, and monolingual children. We have experience working with private and public schools, preschools and elementary schools, summer and after-school programs. Here are a few examples of schools that have implemented Little Sponges® program: Head Start, Academy of Multilingual Immersion Studies, LEAP Academy, Cincinnati Country Day School, Winton Woods City Schools, Prodigy Preschool, and Su Casa Hispanic Center. Little Sponges® curriculum is also being successfully utilized by parents who homeschool their children.
Can Little Sponges® be used with other educational programs?
Our curriculum and program can be easily integrated with any pre-K through 2nd grade curriculum. The curriculum is adaptable and enables teachers and students to be in control. They can select the learning modules that align with the existing curriculum or lesson plans. Any digital web or app based program can be easily integrated or combined with our program.
Do you offer any demo trials?
What devices and browsers can I use to access Little Sponges®?
You can use any device. Little Sponges® is a web-based program that is accessed via our website using internet connection. For the best experience, we recommend using Chrome browser. If the Chrome browser is not available, you may use another browser that works best in your country.
What if I need help when I start using the program?
Little Sponges® uses a single point of contact (SPOC) system so that you only have to contact one person at Little Sponges® and they will route your request to the appropriate person as needed.
At any time, if you have a question or request, simply contact your SPOC or submit your request/question via our Contact Us page. Our support staff will get in touch with you within 24 hours.
What if I am not very tech savvy?
Don’t worry! Our program is very user friendly. It does not require any special software, downloads or skills to use. If you know how to navigate a simple website, you’ll be able to navigate Little Sponges! In fact, we created the program with our youngest users in mind and ensured that even a two year old can enjoy the program without any special technology training!