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.