Tag Archives: ActivelyLearn

4 Ways to Personalize Reading for All Learners

This post was written for ISTE’s Blog on 4/17/2018.

To be successful learners, students need to be proficient readers. Our classrooms are filled with a broad spectrum of readers: some are advanced, some struggle, some are English language learners and others are reluctant readers. And there may be other types of readers you can identify in your classroom.

As a result, teaching is not “one size fits most.” We need a variety of approaches — and for a variety of mediums. Teachers must not only address functional literacy, which includes reading of visual, print and digital text, but also encourage students to be critical consumers of information and effectively communicate their thinking about these texts.

Technology has allowed teachers to diversify their teaching and provides leverage for all students to succeed. More important than the technology tools you use, however, is that you create meaningful classroom experiences to promote reading, critical thinking and digital literacy.

Here are four strategies and digital tools to curate personalized learning and reading experiences that expand student knowledge and promote critical thinking, digital citizenship and the literacy skills of proficient readers:

HyperDocs and playlists. Similar to a Google Doc, these digital documents allow you to pull together learning resources in one place. The document contains hyperlinks to all aspects of the inquiry unit — videos, slideshows, images and activities for students to complete and gain understanding. Students have multi-modal opportunities for learning, and there is less teacher lecturing at the front of the class.

HyperDocs allow students to work at their own pace and offer a road map for student learning. Depending on the HyperDoc the teacher makes, differentiated activities and technology-rich assignments can help students learn and show their understanding while completing the activities included on the HyperDoc. Teachers might have students complete only a certain number activities on the HyperDoc or require students to do them all.

Differentiated choice boards. These can range from no-tech to high-tech and are another way to provide students with individualized learning by providing choices or options based on their readiness, interests and learning preferences (think multiple intelligences). As education author Carol Ann Tomlinson explains, differentiation is a way of “tailoring instruction to meet individual needs. Differentiation can be based on content, process, products or the learning environment.”

Through differentiation and choice, you can provide alternative ways for students to learn and show what they know. Choice menu boards are a great way to do this and, once again, technology can help.

You can create choice activities for before, during and after reading to highlight reading strategies, content understanding and multiple intelligences. Whether in the form of a Bingo board or a Think-Tac-Toe, choice in the classroom empowers students, while at the same time adheres to learning goals. When students are able to select choices that most appeal to them and that they’re comfortable completing, they can master the activity and move on to more challenging activities.

Quest-based learning adventures (and gamification). This approach to learning connects game mechanics with content objectives to promote learning and deepen student understanding. Through gamification, you can transform literacy instruction into a game with creativity, collaboration and play while still meeting Common Core State Standards and ISTE Standards for Students.

Exactly how you bring games and game playing into the classroom is really a matter of thinking creatively and playfully about what you already do. For example, you could tie assignments to point values and badges that students could then use to unlock privileges, such as a homework pass or preferential seating.

As with choice menus, students would choose which assignments to complete and when, but with the aim of collecting as many points as possible or a “literacy champion” selection of badges. Alternately, you could organize an overarching mission in which assignments are like a sequence of game levels. Students would need to successfully complete each assignment in order to “rank up” to the next and eventually complete all the required material.

Digital reading platforms. Actively Learn and Newsela are just two platforms that offer accessible text that you can use to build comprehension and conversations in the classroom. Both are available free for teachers and students, or you can upgrade to the subscription-based pro versions. In both versions, teachers can embed quizzes, annotations and writing prompts with every reading. The pro edition adds such features as the ability to view individual student progress, track student progress against the Common Core State Standards, and for students and teachers to see each other’s article annotations.

Actively Learn allows teachers to upload their own material to the platform. Customizing assignments with a digital platform leads to more effective and independent instruction that targets students’ strengths and weaknesses by giving support to students who need it, while omitting it for those who don’t. You can use Actively Learn, Newsela and other reading platforms in a variety of ways to support diverse readers and build content knowledge with jigsaws, do nows and flipped learning.

The readers in our classrooms are individuals with unique needs and preferences. Technology allows teachers to offer learning experiences to support these diverse student learners. As Alabama Principal Danny Steele commented on Twitter, “It is good to know content. It is great to know pedagogy. It’s imperative to know the kids.”

Once teachers get to know their students, they can incorporate meaningful and thoughtful learning experiences for all learners.

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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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Technology to Aid the Struggling Reader:

ISTE, Capstone, Amplify & School Library Journal are collaborating and hosting a webinar on how to leverage technology to help new and struggling readers.

I am honored to be part of this panel discussion along with

K.C. Boyd, Lead Librarian, East St.Louis (IL) School District

Cynthia Merrill, Literacy Consultant

and Moderator, Kathy Ishizuka, Executive Editor, School Library Journal

During the webinar I will be sharing strategies and technology tools to aid struggling readers.

Technology tools that I use in my classroom to help support the diverse readers in my classroom include the reading platform Actively Learn. Actively Learn is an online tool with a library of thousands of texts and Common Core-aligned lessons that both teachers and students can interact with in real-time. In the reading platform, teachers assign pre-existing Actively Learn materials to students or upload their own content, then track student responses and activity using data tools within the platform. Students can interact with a text by digitally highlighting and annotating, responding to embedded questions and content, and leaving feedback and comments for peers. Students can translate the text in their home language and define unknown words within the platform. Students can mark their confusion within the text and the teacher is able to annotate the text with additional links for clarity and deeper meaning to support student reading. In my classroom I utilize Actively Learn weekly for Articles of the Week in order for students to make connections across texts and address current events.

Audio books are another tool beneficial to struggling readers. I love my Audible App on my phone and listen to books every chance I have including my commute to work and home. Listening to a text while reading can help students visualize and comprehend complex text. Students are using different skills when they are listening versus reading but research shows that students have a higher listening comprehension than reading comprehension. In addition, podcasts are great texts for students to listen to explore concepts and ideas. My favorite include NPR’s Radiolab podcasts and any podcast from author of Tools of Titans (2016), Tim Ferriss. Check out Tim’s Podcast with YA author Soman Chainani.

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Two great resources with more about technology tools and strategies to engage diverse student learners include  Jules Csillag‘s  Differentiated Reading Instruction and Robert Furman‘s Technology, Reading & Digital Literacy: Strategies to Engage the Reluctant Reader.
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Adventure Quests: Learning About Current Events & the World

An Adventure Quest is a mission with an objective. A quest is a long and arduous search for something.

Currently, my students are working on an investigative journalism unit, so I created an Adventure Quest based on current events addressed in the news each week.

With the use of ActivelyLearn.com, Twitter, and Google Forms I created a series of Trivia type questions. Each week one question is posted on my Teacher Website and students submit their answers on a Google Form. Each question is worth 50 XP or Experience Points. Additional GP or Gold Points points could be earned by the die- hard fans by going onto Twitter and searching the hashtag #RMS8RQuest to find more Adventure Quest Questions. The student with the most points at the end of the Adventure Quest, earns an additional 1,500 XP Classcraft Points PLUS a Treasure (a gift card).

Each week students log on to Actively Learn and read an Article of the Week. Both the Article of the Week and this Adventure Quest are optional homework.  I do not give homework in my class but encourage students to read to build their reading skills and knowledge about the world.

Actively Learn is a digital reading platform that contains books, articles, poems, and speeches. Students join a “classroom” created by their teacher to read assigned digital texts and complete assignments within the workspace. Actively Learn offers teacher designed assignments with ready made questions or teachers can design their own questions and prompts.

The articles that students have read read for the Adventure Quest include

Anthony Cuthbertson’s Newsweek Article “APPLE CEO TIM COOK REJECTS ORDER TO UNLOCK SAN BERNARDINO GUNMAN’S IPHONE”

NPR’s RadioLab Podcast on the Galapagos

Mark Jeffries article on Why We Don’t Wipe Mosquitoes Off the Face of the Earth”

To address International Women’s Day Ann A. Simmon’s article “Women Around the World Still Have a Long Way to Go”

The Twitter quests are not based on readings but events happening in the news that specific day, hence they are worth less points. Twitter questions have included Who did President Obama nominate for Supreme Court? and What Lego mini figure was unveiled this week?

Many of my students have been excited and enthusiastic to participate in the Adventure Quest. It is completely optional and has brought about healthy competition among many of my students.  I have a Leaderboard  or score board posted in my classroom for students to see who is on top.

I am going to have to create a really difficult question to break the quadruple tie that is happening right now!

Adventure Quests are fun side activities for motivated or motivating students to learn about a specific topic. The Adventure Quest that I planned fit seamlessly into my classroom since the trivia questions evolved based on what was happening in current events. Students were reading more and paid attention to what was happening in the news and the world around them.

Adventure Quests can be adapted to any content area. Students are in charge of their own learning and it helps them engage with content material in a new way.

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