4 Interactive Tools to Help Learners Build Reading Skills

Classrooms are made up of diverse readers, all with different abilities. As teachers, we need to be aware of our students’ strengths and weaknesses and create interactive lessons that meet the needs of all the learners in our classroom. Through differentiation and scaffolding, teachers can personalize learning while simultaneously building reading skills.

There are dozens of tools out there to help teach literacy skills and show students how to be, as described in the ISTE Standards for Students, Knowledge Constructors and Empowered Learners. The challenge for teachers is finding the right tools to help personalize lessons specific to their grade level and content area, while at the same time supporting the diverse learners in their classrooms.

Here are four of my favorite platforms for creating personalized, interactive reading lessons:

1.  Actively Learn

This digital reading platform offers a catalog of articles and texts suitable for elementary and secondary students. You can assign texts for your students to read as well as embed questions, polls and writing assessments throughout the reading. You can also embed media and hyperlinks in the text to help guide student reading and thinking.

Another benefit of Actively Learn is that it offers not only pre-made reading lessons with questions aligned to cited Common Core State Standards, but also the ability to upload your own text and create customized reading assignments for students. If a student doesn’t know the meaning of a word, right-clicking on the word brings up a menu where the student can choose to see a definition, translate the word or hear the word read aloud.

Because Actively Learn lets students translate the text into different languages or hear it read aloud, ELL students can read in their native languages and struggling students get help with text comprehension.

Customizing assignments with a digital platform like Actively Learn leads to more effective and independent instruction that targets students’ strengths and weaknesses by giving support to students that need it, while omitting it for those who don’t.

2.  Newsela

With a focus on nonfiction articles, this reading platform offers content on an array of subjects (current events, history, science, literature and more) and at multiple Lexile reading levels. Newsela enables you to search thousands of articles and text sets that are collections of articles on a common topic, theme or reading standard. To make it easier for you to share the same article with the variety of learners in your classroom, Newsela adapts its articles to several Lexile levels, so you can assign the same article to your whole class and still offer personalized reading.

No matter what their reading proficiency, students can all work on the same article and be contributing members of the classroom, but each can work at his or her prescribed level without being frustrated or bored. Newsela embeds quizzes, annotations and writing prompts with every reading. The text sets are excellent for jigsaw activities and examining multiple perspectives.

3.  Nearpod

This interactive presentation tool allows teachers to incorporate reading, questioning, viewing, polls, drawing and even virtual reality. It offers a library of interactive lessons on topics across content areas and grade levels. You can use Nearpod as a presentation tool for an entire class or personalize a lesson or strategy session for individual and small groups of students.

Using a platform like Nearpod allows students to work at their own pace and demonstrate their learning and understanding. With the different types of interactive response tools, teachers can support different learning preferences.

4. Buncee

While Nearpod offers both teacher-created lessons and the ability for teachers to design their own lessons, Buncee offers templates and blank slides for teachers to customize to design an interactive and engaging lesson. Using the graphics, video, audio and texts, teachers (and even students) can create engaging blended learning experiences. The premium version allows for quizzing in Buncee assignments and 360 images.

This post was written for ISTE’s Blog on 3/30/18 and you can read the complete article here.

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