Free Professional Development

Getting Started

Big Universe is an engaging online reading and writing community that inspires students to read, write and learn.

The following are some ways that Big Universe can be used in schools:

  1. Grades – Pre-Kindergarten through 8th.
  2. Reading – Independent/guided/shared, research, assessment, summer/leisure ...
  3. Writing – Creative, reports, teacher created books, mentor text, balanced literacy ...
  4. Audience – Title 1, ELL, special needs, technology, reading specialists, gifted & talented ...
  5. Models – Independent, one-on-one, small/whole group, differentiated, RTI, blended learning ...
  6. Devices - Interactive whiteboards, desktops, laptops, tablets ...
  7. Settings – Classroom, media lab, library, home, after school program ...
To begin enjoying the benefits of our site, here are some topics you should review:
  1. Overview Videos - Watch the 4-minute quick tour and/or the more comprehensive detailed overview videos, above
  2. Account Setup - Understand how accounts work on our site by reading the Adding/Managing Users section below
  3. Notify Users - Use the letters for schools/teachers/parents, located in the Manage section
  4. Signing In - Read the Signing In section below to understand how our sign in works (particularly the Group Username)
  5. And More - Review the various help sections below but most of all, begin using the site!

New Year (Back-to-School)

Welcome back! The following are some suggested help sections to review to get setup for a new school year:

  1. Overview video – Watch a 4-minute tour video.
  2. Delete students – Read how to delete students who are no longer at your school/district in the Deleting accounts section.
  3. Advance grades – Learn how to advance grades by reading the Advancing student grade levels section.
  4. Update multiple student records (bulk) – Learn how to use a CSV file to add new students and update existing ones (e.g. grade, teacher) by reading the Importing accounts section.
  5. Moving students and teachers – Understand how to reassign teachers and schools for students by reading the Moving students and teachers section.
  6. Assign teacher-student associations – Read about how teachers can select any students in a school in the Choose Students section. Also, Learn how administrators can assign teacher student associations with an import in the Importing accounts section.
  7. Letters for parents, teachers and schools - Check out the various letters available in the Manage section.
  8. Free professional development - Let teachers know about the 4-minute overview and 30-minute in-depth training videos.

Adding/Managing Users

This section provides information on how to add, update, import, delete, and move accounts; it also provides information on advancing student grade levels.


Big Universe uses a 4-level account hierarchy; depending on your subscription, you will end up working with some or all of the following account types:

  • District Admin (typically shared by buyer and data manager)
    • School Admin (typically shared by principal, technical person at school and/or help desk)
      • Teachers
        • Students

You may add/update accounts one at a time or add/update multiple accounts by uploading a CSV file with the account information (see below); For either option:

  • You must first sign-in in order to manage sub-accounts.
  • These features are only available to top-level account holders (e.g. teachers, school/district admins).
  • Click the Manage link.
  • To add sub-accounts, click the Add/Manage Accounts link.

Adding a single account

  • To add a single account, select the Add School/Teacher/Student link.
  • Select whether you want to create a school, teacher or student account.
  • Enter the information for the new account, then press the Save button.
Manage K-8 student accounts

Importing accounts

Watch the Video Importing Accounts

To add/update multiple accounts, you need to have student, teacher and school information in separate files. The Import Accounts link has more information about the CSV file specifications and other details. To import a CSV file:

  • Select the Import Accounts link.
  • Select the correct account type (Schools, Teachers or Students).
  • Select the CSV file containing the accounts.
  • Click the Continue button.
Manage K-8 student accounts
  • On the Map page, verify that the number of records found matches how many accounts you have in the file. Make sure that the File has header row? box is checked only if your file has a header row.
  • Select the Big Universe field that matches each data column, or select (do not include this field) to ignore a column.
  • Use the Back button to return to the Upload page and make changes. Use the Review Before Submit button to review the import accounts, and any errors, before saving them; or, use the Submit button to queue the file for processing and view any errors later.
Import K-8 student accounts
  • On the Review page, verify the accounts that will be processed successfully and ones that will be skipped due to errors.
  • Use the Back button to return to the Map page and make changes, or click the Submit button to submit the import file for processing in the background.
Import K-8 student accounts
  • Once the file has been submitted for processing, you will be directed to a page where you can view the status of previously submitted imports. This page can also be accessed using the View Previous Imports link from the Import Accounts page.
  • After imports have been completed, you can view the number of accounts processed and errors found in the imports. In addition, if you specified an email address on the Map page, you will receive a notification when the import is completed.
Import history
  • After the accounts have been imported, you can view/manage them from the Manage link.
Import K-8 student accounts

Deleting accounts

Watch the Video Deleting Accounts

Using the Find Accounts link, locate the accounts you wish to delete, select the checkboxes and click the Delete button.

Delete school, teacher or student accounts

Advancing student grade levels

Watch the Video Advance Grade Level To advance students to the next grade level, you have three options (all available via Add/Manage Accounts):
  1. Bulk advance using Find Accounts - Find and select student accounts using the Find Accounts link; click the Advance Grade button (see image above)
  2. Bulk advance via Import Accounts - see the Importing accounts section above
  3. Individual accounts - see the Adding a single account section above

Moving Students and Teachers

To move student and teacher accounts from one school to another, follow these steps:

  • Select Add/Manage Accounts from Manage.
  • Find and select a student/teacher account via the Find Accounts link.
  • Change the Assigned To School and/or Teachers option (see image below).
Moving student and teacher accounts

Printing List of Accounts

To print a list of sub-accounts (e.g. schools, teachers, students), follow these steps:

  • Select Add/Manage Accounts from Manage.
  • Search for accounts via the Find Accounts link.
  • Choose your web browser's print option (typically the File|Print menu item).

NOTE: We currently do not support printing of passwords for security purposes.

Print student and teacher accounts

Signing In

  • Click the Sign In link in the menu bar
  • Enter your Username and Password.
  • Enter your Group Username if you are using a sub-account (e.g. school, teacher, student, or family member). The Group Username is always the username of the top level account (e.g. District admin, school admin, teacher); see Adding/Managing Users below for information on our account hierarchy.
  • Login screen
  • Click Remember me if you want Big Universe to remember you for future visits.
  • For lost usernames or passwords, click on Forgot your password? or Forgot your user name?

Finding Books

You can find books by browsing, searching with autocomplete or via advanced search.

To Browse For Books

  • Start by clicking the READ button in the menu bar
Read a book button
  • Click on a tab to browse by subject (social studies, science, etc.)
Read books in academic subjects social studies, math, science, and language arts for grades K-8.
  • ...or use the Browse links on the right side of the page. Click on any link to see more sub-categories.
Browse or search for books for K-8.
  • When you see a book you want, click on the cover to see more information about the book on the book detail page and to start reading the book.

To Search For Books Using "AutoComplete"

  • You must first sign-in in order to search using the "autocomplete" feature.
  • Enter the book search terms in the search box in the upper right corner
  • Browse or search for books for K-8.
  • As you type, a list of books may appear. You may click on any of the suggested books or click Search to see a list of all search results.
  • Browse or search for books for K-8.
  • If you clicked on Search, a list of all matching publisher books will be shown. You may also see any matching member-created books by clicking on the Books Created By Members tab.
  • Click on any book image to see more information and start reading the book.
  • Browse or search for books for K-8.

To Search For Books Using Advanced Search

  • You must first sign-in in order to search using the advanced search feature.
  • Select Advanced Search at the top right corner or via the READ section's right sidebar.
  • Specify the search criteria using the drop down lists, checkboxes and/or the keywords field. Once you click on Search, a list of books matching your search criteria will be shown (see above).
    Browse or search for books for K-8.

Reading Books

  • When you see a book you want anywhere on the Big Universe site, click on the cover to learn more about the book on the book detail page and start reading.
  • The detail page shows information about the book and provides you with options to assign it to students, add it to your bookshelf and take a quiz.
  • To read the book, click on the book cover or the READ Now button.
Read a book for grades K-8.
While reading a book (inside the Big Universe Reader software):
  • You can zoom in/out and even view it full screen mode
  • Use the sound icon to turn on page flipping sounds
  • Use thumbnail button to view all pages of a book
  • Jump to specific pages using the page number drop down.
Read a book for grades K-8.
  • After reading a book, you can:
    • Rate it
    • Assign it
    • Add to your bookshelf
    • Take a quiz to test comprehension
  • Books you read are automatically logged in your Reading Log (located under Manage)

Assigning Books

Watch the Video Assigning Books
    Assigning books enables Teacher accounts to assign books to Student accounts; the assigned books show up on the student's Home page. To create assignments, sign in as a Teacher, find the books that you want and click on the ASSIGN BOOK button:
    Assign a grade K-8 book to differentiate instruction.
    Then select the accounts that should be assigned this book:
    Assign a grade K-8 book to differentiate instruction.
    To see all of your assignments, select the View Assigned Books option from the Manage page.

Creating and Publishing Books

You must first sign-in in order to create or publish a book.

Creating Books

  • Click the WRITE button in the menu bar at the top.
  • Click the Create and Publish Books! button, or click the Edit/Publish Books I Created link to work with books that you have created previously.
Write a K-8 book for creating writing, expository, narrative, balance literacy, write in response.
  • Inside the authoring tool, you can:
    • Create, edit, save, and print your books
    • Create books from scratch or using existing templates
    • Print books to your printer or publish them online (see below)
    • Use our pictures or upload your own

Click here to watch short tips and tricks videos on the authoring tool.

Publishing Books

  • Once a student has created a book, it can be privately published to a teacher account.
  • A teacher can decide to share and submit a privately published book in the following ways:
    • Share a privately published book with other students belonging to the same teacher
    • Share a privately published book with all students in the school (SCHOOL/DISRICT subsriptions only)
    • Submit the book for award recognition on Big Universe


Organizing and Sharing Books

  • You must first sign-in in order to organize and share your books.
  • After reading a book, you can add it to your bookshelf.
Share books with grades K-8 students
  • To access your bookshelf, click on the HOME button in the menu bar, then click on the Bookshelf tab.
  • To remove books, go to your bookshelf and delete using the "X" icon below each book.
Share books with grades K-8 students

Assessment with Quizzes

  • You must first sign-in in order to take or review quizzes.
  • Find books with quizzes, then click the Take Quiz button
  • You can see your quiz scores and questions/answers in Manage by clicking the View Quizzes I've Taken link.
Assess K-8 students reading comprehension via quizzes
  • Teachers can view student quiz results via the View Student Quizzes option under Manage.
Assess K-8 students reading comprehension via quizzes
  • A teacher can drill all the way down to an individual student's quiz report or even view results of a specific quiz.
Assess K-8 students reading comprehension via quizzes

Managing Your Account

  • You must first sign-in in order to manage your account.
  • Click the Manage link.
  • To personalize your account, use the Settings links.
  • To view/manage your activity, use the My Stuff links.
  • To control your premium subscription, use the Membership links.
  • To view or manage sub-accounts, use the Account Management links.

Choosing Students

Watch the Video Choosing Students

Once students accounts have been created within your Big Universe school account, teachers can begin choosing their own students. This feature also enables multiple teachers (e.g. homeroom teacher, reading specialist) to work with the same students. To get started:

  • Sign In using a teacher account.
  • Select the Choose Students option from Manage.
  • Select your students then click Save.
Multiple teachers can access the same student account
School and district admins can also choose students on a teacher’s behalf via the import process (see above) or one at a time, as follows:
  • Select Add/Manage Accounts from Manage Account.
  • Find and select a teacher via the Find Accounts link.
  • Click on the Choose Students link.

Viewing Usage Data

You can view student, teacher and school level usage data such as books read, books created, number of assignments, and more.

  • Sign In as a teacher, school admin or district admin.
  • Select the View Usage Stats option from Manage.
  • Teachers can only view data for students they have chosen. School admins can view teacher and student data. District admins can view school, teacher and student data.
  • Hover the mouse pointer over each icon to see what it means.
View usage stats such as books read, books created, and more.

Common Core Standards

Big Universe is a balanced literacy platform with engaging online information and literary texts, a writing tool, and many other related features. Browse our online alignment matrixes to see how our features align to the Common Core Standards for reading, writing, language, speaking, and listening.

System Requirements

In order to use Big Universe, you must have a computer with the following:
  1. Modern operating system (e.g. Windows, Apple, iOS, Android, Linux)
  2. Web browser (e.g. Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera)
  3. High-speed Internet (bandwidth requirements vary based on number of users and usage)
  4. Adobe Flash support in browser for full functionality (see below)
For iOS and Android devices, everything on our site can be accessed via the device's browser, except the following:
  1. Writing tool and member published books
  2. Read aloud books
  3. Quiz taker