Helpful Tips

Some tips to help you to get started with Headsprout.


If a student completes an episode and is eager to try another, gauge whether he or she will be successful. Each episode involves many active responses on the part of the student, and it is much better to end an episode wanting more than to attempt a second or third and quit while tired or frustrated. Always take a short break (move around, stretch, get a drink) between any consecutive episodes.
Establish a time for completing Headsprout episodes when your student is free from distractions and when you are available to give help if needed. For best results, an adult should be nearby to listen (intermittently or consistently, as needed) for accurate oral responding while the student completes episodes.
Create a schedule to ensure students complete three episodes per week and post it in a place that is easy for the student to see. Ask students to point out "Headsprout time" on the schedule.
Allocate 30 minutes of computer time for students to complete each episode. Episodes can take as little as 10-20 minutes to complete, but students should be encouraged to learn at their own pace. If there is extra time, students can practice reading stories in the Reading Room.


Make sure students have functioning headphones or good quality speakers so they can clearly hear the program prompts. For the "K-2" portion of the sequence, students should also have access to microphones.
Press the F11 key (at the top of the keyboard) once the program is loaded to maximize the screen image and hide other toolbars.
Move the keyboard behind the computer to minimize distraction (the keyboard is not needed during the program).

Readiness Activities

Conduct the Placement Tool prior to beginning Headsprout episodes to ensure students are successful and challenged right away. The placement assessment can be conducted at the start of each new school year.


Let the program do the teaching. A key feature of Headsprout is that students can work on the episodes by themselves. Headsprout episodes are designed to teach students without requiring extra help, and will adapt to each student's success or need for more assistance. Give your student the opportunity to succeed on his or her own, but be available to help if necessary.
Instruct students to speak out loud using their "Headsprout voice" when the yellow "smiley face" icon is on the screen. Headsprout uses several techniques to ensure students read out loud, but the program does not use voice recognition.
For best results, students should read all Sprout Stories. Some stories will be presented to students automatically upon completion of episodes while others will become available in the Reading Room.
Use the Sprout Cards that correspond to the block of episodes the student is working on for fluency practice. The Sprout Cards can also be used at home for extra practice.
If a student makes an error while reading a Sprout Story, ensure that the student is attending to the words rather than to the pictures. The student may need to point to the words as he or she reads them.
Student progress is saved automatically throughout program episodes. Adjust the session duration if the student is having attention-related difficulties.
Headsprout episodes don't have a formal pause button; if the student needs to leave the computer during an episode, the program stays at that point and repeats the last instruction until the student returns and makes a response. If an episode is stopped before it is completed, the program will resume at the same spot the next time the student signs in (as long as the student has reached a "checkpoint").


Print either the Headsprout Early Reading progress map PDF or the Headsprout Reading Comprehension progress map PDF to help motivate students. Students can color the map or add stickers to mark their progress throughout the program.
Celebrate success with certificates at milestones throughout the program.

If a student struggles

Headsprout's embedded feedback adapts to students' responses in the online episodes; if a student struggles, wait to see if the embedded feedback solves the problem. If necessary, try imitating or rephrasing the prompts or instructions to let the student know what he or she is being asked to do.
If a student struggles with reading comprehension questions, remind the student to read the question carefully and look back in the passage to find the answer before responding. Ask the student to point to the part of the passage with the answer and explain how what they found in the passage makes them think about the answer to the question.

Special populations

The length of episodes may be too long for some students. Modify the length by ending an episode early. There is no need to complete an entire episode in one sitting. Start with a length of time that is comfortable for your student, and gradually build the time to a full episode or other duration that works well.
If a student is having difficulty navigating the mouse , have the student point to the screen while someone else moves and clicks the mouse. It is important to ensure that the student is the one choosing the answers.
Repeat an episode or sequence of episodes as often as necessary. Students with special needs may benefit from completing some episodes more than once.


Spend 10 minutes per week reviewing Headsprout reports to track usage and episode performance data that can help you determine if a student will need intervention or additional practice. Share progress with the student to encourage and celebrate success.
Use the Assessments Report to review how many assessments the student has completed, and which assessments need to be scored.
When students receive two or more scores under 80% in a row, monitor the student more closely to see if the scores were an isolated case or if the student is struggling. Typically, one score under 80% alone is not cause for concern.