Thursday, November 3, 2016

Every Reader Should Have One of these: The Read Next List

I’d like to offer this challenge out to schools and school folks who are interested in improving students’ reading: every student in your building or class has a Read Next List.

What is a Read Next List?
It is exactly what it sounds like. It is a list (at the back of a notebook, on a Google doc, posted on the walls of classrooms, etc.) that contains titles of books each student would like to eventually read. The idea is that  having a list will support and encourage the reading habit by
  • ensuring that readers have a plan...what will they do after they finish an engaging book and don't know where to get the next book, or are reluctant to start a new book?
  • allowing students to experience a width and breadth of many kids get stuck in one genre or on one author because they don't know where to read next?
  • getting students more quickly to the next book, independently.
  • allowing us to differentiate for our readers by interest and ability...perhaps by way of a well-directed suggestion of a particular book for a particular reader
  • Allowing students to experience and contribute to the reading culture in their schools by providing them a way to plan their reading experiences and a way  to share their reading experiences.  

There is power in having a plan for what you will be reading next, of course.  But the real power of the read next list is that it requires students to be exposed to enough  books so that they actually have something to put on their Read Next lists. And if we know one thing: what makes a good reader, is a good book!

The Book Talk is a quick, easy way to expose students to enough different and engaging books  that they will (hopefully) find something to put on their Read Next list. A book talk is a brief (2-5 minute) talk about a book. Book talk essentials, according to Penny Kittle, are:
  • Hold the book - so kids can see the cover and the size
  • Know the book - Speak about the book...maybe talk about the plot, why it appealed to you, or what you have heard about the book. A brief summary and some identification of its appeal factors (its fast paced, it’s funny, if you like this author, you’ll like this book…)
  • Read a short Passage - read something from the book that is interesting...a brief passage read well, can be very persuasive for readers
  • Keep Records - Keep a list somewhere in the classroom of all the books that you have book talked in class.
  • Accept Help - allow teachers, librarians, online book trailers, and, eventually, your students to book talk for you.
  • Remember How Important You Are - your passion is what drives the action in your class...and it works the same when you are selling a book.

If you think this might be a challenge that you want to take on, here are some resources to help with book talks :

Now, just think: If every kid had a Read Next list in your class, then next list they could make might be the Books I Have Read List.

I’d love to hear about your Read Next Lists….



Monday, October 17, 2016

Reading: More than One Way to Measure It!

In the wake of the STAR reading assessments that have just recently taken place in our district, I wondered if there were some other measures of reading that might be interesting to think about at the same time. In no particular order, here are some questions to consider:

- How do students feel about reading?

The Survey of Adolescent Reading Attitude (SARA) is a tool to measure exactly that. It is an easy 18 question survey that will provide insight into the reading attitudes of your students--definitely something worth measuring and targeting for improvement!

- How many books do your students read each year? 

Reading quantity is an interesting measure, particularly if you are trying to target improved reading and sustained reading ability. I have previously written about literacy goals that track number of books read here.

- How much of your budget is dedicated to buying books for students to read at your school?

Without being too direct here....there is probably some correlation between where you invest money and the goals you have. A related consideration  is  How are the books your school buys selected? 

- How much time do students spend reading and talking about reading at school? 

Time on task, practice,  and reflection on practice contribute to stronger skills. How is reading time prioritized?

Food for thought. Feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts.

Using Text-to-Speech With Scanned PDF Documents


Do you have a PDF file that you want to have students access using text-to-speech?

Using Read Write 4 Google:

1. Open the PDF in the drive. 
2. Click on the RW4G puzzle piece in your browser.
3. Click the Screen Shot 2016-09-09 at 8.44.39 AM.pngbutton to activate the screenshot reader. Use it to draw a box around any text that normally cannot be highlighted, such as in images and some PDFs. The text will be converted to audio.  

As a note, you can also use Read Write for Google with PDF files to have kids WRITE/TYPE on the file and then have the file save with the student's writing on the PDF file. I recommend this document to EIPS folks who want a simple tutorial of how to use all the features in RW4G. Thanks to Jon Thomas who helps  keep this document current!

Another Cool Option:

If you have information in a PDF document, you can use the above to get RW4G to access it as is....but sometimes those PDF documents aren't exactly formatted the correct way. In that case, try this: 

This YouTube video tutorial shows how you can take text from a scanned image and convert it to text you can manipulate using Microsoft One Note...which I think it PRETTY, SUPER AWESOME. If you convert the PDF to text, you could then just cut and paste the text into a google doc, or word doc and the then you could use RW4G with that text, as described above.  The video is about  2 minutes long and is worth a watch. 

Levelled Online Texts for Secondary Students

Do you have any websites where I I can find READING material that looks like it is at secondary level but is really written at a much lower reading level?

I have received this question in several forms over the last little while, so I thought it might be useful to share some of my responses. I am going to list my favourite 6 resources here... as a place to start this conversation. I would love to hear about other sites you use! Please leave a comment or send me an email and I will keep this post updated.

  1. is a FREE online program that allows teachers to create classes online. Students log in, take a placement test and then read and answer questions based on their placement scores. Several teachers in the district LOVE this site. It is FREE and they say it will remain free; they sell print booklets to sustain the business model. You can read about the service in the FAQs.  
  2. writes on their site that “ CommonLit delivers high-quality, free instructional materials to support literacy development for students in grades 5-12. Our resources are: Flexible; Research-Based; Aligned to the Common Core State Standards; Created by teachers, for teachers. We believe in the transformative power of a great text, and a great question. That’s why we are committed to keeping CommonLit completely free, forever.” Teachers can create classes and assign texts. Read more on their FAQ page.
  3. Newela is a cool little site that offers news articles at different reading levels. For example, it will provide 5 levelled versions of the same news articles. There are also online quizzes (and the accompanying progress monitoring) available. Some of you may recall the NEWELA paper copies that schools used to be able to purchase….this site is the next iteration of that service. It is a PAID site, but the content  is engaging and available on a variety of devices. Here is a link to their promo video. Cost roughly $14/student.
  4. Strathcona County and Fort Saskatchewan Public libraries have a ton of online material that is FREE for students (who live within their service areas). One of the online book services is called Hoopla, which has over 165 online ebooks. This file (which you can access with your email) is a list of Hoopla titles with their corresponding lexile levels. (It is possible to have lexile scores added to the STAR reports.) As always, when dealing with lexiles, realize it is an imperfect measure and teacher/reader discretion is still necessary.
  5. The Online Reference Centre has many levelled resources. Specifically, you could check out the following databases for their levelled resources for reluctant/striving readers. The articles are tagged as Hi, Med, and  Low. I have previously written about using the ORC as a source for differentiation material here.
    1. Power Knowledge Science databases (there are three databases)
    2. Britannica School
    3. National Geographic database - great stuff for building vocab and background knowledge, engaging, etc  (young-ish, but it's NG, so it is awesome)
    4. - provided lexile and qualitative levelling of novels for teachers. I have written about this before here.
  6. Actively Learn  is probably my favourite in this list. It is an amazing online tools to help group students and provide levelled online reading experiences that are also social. Lots of room in the program to adapt to your class--you can upload your content or use their content, create quizzes and reading groups, provide opportunities for annotation and discussion. It also integrated well with Google Classroom. It is NOT free, however. Although the trial to view or to use infrequently or with a few students is free. If you want to have the power of the system for a whole class you will need to pay. Starts at $18/month per class. Might be worthwhile to try with ONE class to see if the tools are useful for developing reading skills with your kiddos. The videos on this page are worth a watch.

These six site should give you a place to start, if you are looking for online reading to match individual reading levels. I’d LOVE to hear if you are using other tools.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

(FREE) New Digital Resourcesfor Secondary Classes to Support Differentiation

Here are some of the NEW FREE DIGITAL Resources that are available to you. These resources have been matched to Alberta curriculum, are high quality, and are free for any Alberta student or teacher. Although these resources are excellent in any context, consider using them especially if you:

  • are looking for differentiated curriculum content
  • want easy to use content for with assistive technology accommodations like Read Write for Google.
  • are teaching student who are bringing their own personal devices
  • want to incorporate more technology into your class
  • want content to post in your Google Classroom or on your eteacher sites
  • are looking for a replacement for Discovery Education videos (EIPS is no longer paying for a district license, although you may still have a school license).  

Curriculum Video On Demand (Grades 7-12).
  • Access over 17 000 full length curriculum videos
  • Searchable database
  • Create playlists, clips and video mash-ups using the video segments and sharing tools embedded in the resource.
  • Full transcripts with real aloud and text translation features included for every video.

ScienceFLIX, (Grades 4-9)
  • Every article includes three adjustable reading levels to support differentiation
  • every article provides introductory videos to build/activate background knowledge and embedded read aloud support.
  • Multiple text types
  • hands-on projects,
  • science news with study guides and educator lessons plans
  • Topics Include: Earth Science, Life Science, Physical Science, Space Science, Health and Human Body, as well as Tech, Math and Engineering.  

Britannica School, Grades K-12  
  • 141 000 encyclopedia articles
  • educational videos, images, magazine articles and learning games.
  • two to three adjustable reading levels for each article enables differentiated access
  • read-aloud features (with highlighting text) and text translation (50 languages)
  • Canada In Focus is a section devoted to articles about significant Canadian people, places, and history.
  • Britannica ImageQuest with  over 3 000 000 copyright friendly images covering every subject area in one easy click.

These resoruces are available via --> Online Reference Centre. You will need the district ID and Password to  enter. I'm not allowed to post those credentials online, but I can  email them to you. Your school library will also have them.

The resources above will be available as of Thursday, Sept 15, 2016. There are several other resources available. Thanks to Jamie Davis, ORC Coordinator, for providing information on the ORC updates.

Please leave comments below.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

EIPS Read In Week 2016

  One World, Many Voices
The goal of Read In Week is to encourage a life-long love of reading and enhance literacy awareness involving students, staff, parents, and community members in reading. This year we will celebrate Read In Week on October 3rd to 7th with the theme One World, Many Voices. We share one world and fill it with many voices. Through reading, we learn from other people's lives and stories. Reading can inspire us to raise our own voices to tell our own stories. We look forward to seeing how this year’s Read In Week is celebrated throughout EIPS and encourage you to share your school's highlights using the hashtag #eipsreads.

A few ideas for the week could be…

How will you keep your literacy focus for the entire year?  Although Read In Week is a wonderful week of celebrating reading, let’s do it all year long! Below are some ideas to consider.

Share with us what other great ideas your school is doing to promote literacy during Read In Week and all year long and tweet about it using the hashtag #eipsreads.

Thanks to Shawna Jenkins who co-wrote this post with me!