Trending Student Interests: Back-to-School 2023 Report

Find out what elementary student interests drove the most choice reading activities this August!

One of the most important parts of being a teacher is understanding each of your students on an individual level. That’s why back-to-school season is often filled with “get to know your students” activities that aim to get the whole class talking about their backgrounds and interests. The sooner you can begin forming relationships with your students, the sooner you can figure out what best motivates them to learn. That said, not every student is an open book–especially at the start of a new school year.

Enter eSpark’s newest activity, Choice Texts, which allows students to create incredible, customized reading passages about the things they care about most. Students stay engaged and challenged while they master reading skills, and teachers get a bird’s eye view into what students are most excited to read about.

Find out exactly what your students are interested in, and use the information gained to plan exciting lessons around your students’ favorite topics or characters!


What are Grade K-2 students most interested in?

Students working at a kindergarten, first, or second grade level encounter Choice Texts in their Reading Literature (RL) and Reading Informational Text (RI) lessons within eSpark. They have the ability to choose from a range of pre-selected options vetted and approved by eSpark’s team of curriculum designers.

Let’s start with students’ top choices for their RL passages! When creating a Choice Text in an RL lesson, students can choose their own story elements like settings and main characters.


Which story setting launched K-2 students into an exciting new world?

Pie chart showing "Space" as the top setting for students in grades K-2

The winner was space, chosen by over 30% of students! The jungle, chosen by 27% of students,


What kind of character do K-2 students want to build a magical story around?

Pie chart showing "Kitten Witch" as the top character for students in grades K-2

Students’ top choice was a kitten witch, with 30% selecting this as their main character. Following close behind was a dinosaur, chosen by 27% of K-2 students.

Now, what about students’ top choices for their RI passages? When creating a Choice Text in an RI lesson, students are able to make selections from a wide variety of topics and subtopics to generate their own custom article. Each article topic has been pre-vetted by eSpark’s curriculum designers to ensure accuracy, age-appropriateness, and of course, fun.


Which topics were K-2 students eager to get more information about?

Pie chart showing "Arctic Animals" as the top subtopic for students in grades K-2

In August, K-2 students couldn’t get enough of arctic animals! More than 1 out of 5 students selected this as their topic of choice. Second place was a tie between desserts and pets, while endangered animals came in third place.

It’s clear that these students love their furry friends, but which animals were their favorite? These were their top 3 article selections:

Ranking Article Name
1 Arctic Foxes
2 Dogs: The Best Pets
3 Amazing Axolotls

What are Grade 3-5 students most interested in?

Third grade is when the fun really skyrockets! Students working at a third grade level or above in eSpark still encounter Choice Texts in their Reading Literature (RL) and Reading Informational Text (RI) lessons, but in addition to choosing from pre-selected options, they can type in exactly what they want to read about. This achieves a more age-appropriate experience for learners who are becoming more independent and want to flex their creative muscles, and opens the door for an even wider variety of student interests to be explored.

Starting with students’ favorite choices for their RL passages…


Which exotic location did 3-5 students set their stories in?

Given the choice between picking from pre-selected settings and typing in their own ideas, students were split almost exactly down the middle. 51% of students in grades 3-5 chose a pre-selected option, while the remaining 49% took the opportunity to come up with a setting all their own.

Among students who chose from the pre-selected options, the winner was the jungle, with over 30% of students choosing this as the setting for their Choice Texts. In second place was space, making these the two most popular pre-selected options not just for grades 3-5, but for all students K-5 as well.

Pie chart showing "Jungle" as the top setting for students in grades 3-5, along with a percentage breakdown of related student interests.

Students who wanted to get more creative had the chance to set their story anywhere in the world. Check out the top 3 settings typed in by students:

Ranking Story Setting
1 School
2 Home
3 City

Which characters do 3-5 students want to see as the protagonist in their stories?

Students got even more creative with their character selections, with 52% of students choosing to type in their own ideas this time around. Here are the characters they typed in most often:

Ranking Character
1 Axolotl
2 Dog
3 Human

Students who chose from the pre-selected characters presented to them wanted to read about a kitten witch most often. In second place was a dinosaur, making these the top two options for all grades once again!

Pie chart showing "Kitten Witch" as the top character for students in grades 3-5, along with a percentage breakdown of related student interests.

Let’s move on to find out what 3rd-5th grade students’ top choices were for their RI passages! Like their younger counterparts, they can choose from a wide range of topics and subtopics, but the options they see are geared more towards older students’ interests to ensure that content is engaging at all levels.


Which topics were 3-5 students eager to get more information about?

Pie chart showing "Mr. Beast" as the top subtopic for students in grades 3-5, along with a breakdown of other student interests.

In August, 3rd-5th grade students overwhelmingly chose to read about YouTubers and Roblox—the peak student interests this back-to-school season. These two topics made up over 75% of the RI passages created by students! Within these topics, the most popular subtopic was the YouTuber Mr. Beast, followed by fellow YouTubers Dude Perfect and Preston Playz.

It’s safe to say that any passage about YouTube or video games is sure to be a hit with these students, but what specifically do they want to learn more about? Here are their top 3 article selections from August:

Ranking Article Name
1 Mr. Beast Burger
2 Secret Spaces in Roblox
3 Dude Perfect’s World Records


Ready to find out which student interests are motivating your class?

Teachers can get started with Choice Texts and all the other playfully-personalized activities in eSpark by clicking the “Sign Up Free” button at the top of this page.


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