Hey tech-savvy teacher, here are some cool tools for improving literacy skills.
GUEST COLUMN | by Rita Platt
Most teachers would agree that increasing both differentiation and integration of content is the key to maximizing learning. For the tech-savvy teacher, both goals are becoming more attainable. Below is a list of my favorite literacy and reading websites that offer either differentiated reading materials or computer adaptive online instruction platforms for students. In addition, our district utilizes two excellent resources that have quality professional learning to meet our teachers’ needs. Together, these resources have helped our school earn a “significantly exceeds expectations” mark from the Department of Public Instruction in our state.
These resources have helped our school earn a ‘significantly exceeds expectations’ mark from the Department of Public Instruction in our state.
Let Them Read!
There are many wonderful ways to find differentiated texts for students. Here are some of my favorites:
- EPIC! – I wrote about this great resource in my last best-of list. EPIC! is an online library of high-quality children’s books with more than 10,000 first-rate books from major publishers. If your students are reading about a topic, you can find books to differentiate for most reading levels. The best part? EPIC! is free for educators.
- Reading A to Z – Reading A to Z is a subscription service that costs about $100 per year. With a membership, teachers gain access to thousands of texts at a kindergarten through fifth grade reading level that can be downloaded, printed, and folded into books. There are many titles that have the same cover and information but are written at multiple levels so teachers can gear texts to students’ individual reading levels.
- NewsELA– NewsELA is a free website where teachers can create an online classroom and assign informational articles to students. Each text can be modified by Lexile (reading level), ranging from fourth to twelfth grade, by clicking on a slider. Many of the articles offered contain a short test, which is aligned to the new Common Core State Standards-based tests.
- ReadWorks – This website has hundreds of free short texts and fiction stories. That just-right text can easily be found using the sorting tools at the top of the resource page. Teachers can select for grade, Lexile level, subject, genre, skill, or strategy. Each reading passage comes with a carefully crafted question set.
- Renaissance Accelerated Reader – While Renaissance Accelerated Reader doesn’t have texts in and of itself, the program helps motivate and monitor students’ reading habits. Students read books and take short quizzes on them. They set goals and actually see their own progress using the program’s analytics. A sister product, Renaissance Accelerated Reader 360, offers the above plus short online informational articles.
- Tumble Book/Storyline Online – This subscription site has thousands of books for students to listen to online or using an iPad app. It is costly ($599 per school per year) but if your school has the funds, it is well worth it!
Help Me Teach!
Here is how I provide online learning environments for my students:
- LearnZillion – LearnZillion is a free resource with a wealth of standards-based video lessons. Students can watch videos on everything from writing a personal narrative to determining an author’s message.
- MobyMax Reading– MobyMax is a kindergarten through eighth grade online learning platform that allows users to sign up for free to use a portion of its offerings. Students take an online, computer adaptive test to determine their reading level and then work their way through instructional modules.
Help Me Learn!
Check out these two suggestions to brush-up on your professional knowledge in literacy:
- MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)
If you have ever wanted to take a course from a master professor out of Harvard, Stanford, or Yale but didn’t think it was possible, you were wrong! Not only is it possible, it is FREE. Many universities are offering online courses or learning modules free to teachers. They mostly consist of videos, readings, and online discussions. While credit is not always available, with a MOOC you can participate in the parts you are interested in and ignore the parts that don’t seem to pertain to your learning needs. Try Coursera or EdX.
With dozens of online courses on literacy teaching, PDI is a long-time favorite for practical teachers. The total cost for three graduate credits from the University of California, San Diego is approximately $375!
Rita Platt (@ritaplatt) is a Nationally Board Certified teacher. Her experience includes teaching learners of all levels from kindergarten to graduate student. She currently is a Library Media Specialist for the St. Croix Falls School District in Wisconsin and consults with other local school districts. Find Rita at 3C’s Educational Consulting.