Effective Edtech - 5 Literacy Options


I am nearing the end of my seventh year as a Tennessee teacher, and it is incredible to think of how much the technology landscape has changed in such a short time.  Sometimes we get so wrapped up in other topics, the integration can feel seamless.  Other times, we can feel smacked in the face with second order changes like 1:1 devices and online assessments.  No one would argue, though, that the tools teachers have today dramatically increase the variety of learning experiences students can have.  In my school, our math and ELA teachers are buying in big time to this transition.

Here are 5 literacy websites and programs our teachers are loving right now:

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  • Common Lit – Intended for grades 5-12, one of the downsides to CommonLit is its lack of integration with Google Classroom.  That’s not a big deal if your district doesn’t use GAFE, but if you’re a regular Classroom user you might find the sign up process a bit of a hassle.  Don’t let that deter you though, because CommonLit is a great resource for all core subject areas.  Selecting a text is as simple as searching or browsing by theme or text sets.  Once a text is selected, a Lexile level is provided and the teacher can assign assessment and discussion questions for the class to respond to.

Bonus Points: The gorgeous PDF downloads of the articles.  They’re almost better when printed

Try This: Duck & Cover: School Drills During the Cold War by Jessica McBirney

  • NewsELA – Am I the only one that thinks NewsELA and CommonLit serve the same purpose and the same community?  If that’s the case, the best way to describe NewsELA is to compare it to the other program.  CommonLit is fantastic, but really it is a great program that is fantastic because it is free.  NewsELA is Ah-ma-zing, but to utilize all of the features that make it one of the best products on the edtech market, you have to “go Pro”, and going pro isn’t cheap.  Is it worth it though?  Absolutely.  NewsELA offers content from grades 2-12 and best of all, integrates nicely with Google Classroom.  You should find a way to use it, this week.

Bonus Points: NewsELA’s app allows you to adjust the Lexile level by dragging your fingers up or down the article.  It is much more fun than my words can explain.

Try This: Who is Allah? Understanding God in Islam.  Have your students read it in every Lexile level, then compare the versions and changes in tone or bias

  •  Read Theory – Read Theory is a favorite reading comprehension program of our teachers, particularly teachers of students with exceptional needs.  Read Theory is a K-12 program that any student can use.  Another great feature of Read Theory is its research base that allows the data that students generate to be norm and criterion referenced.  A solid product that is underutilized in the daily classroom, but I use it more often this year in Tier II RTI interventions.  Not integrated with Classroom, unfortunately.

Bonus Points: Extremely detailed explanations for each correct and incorrect response extends the lessons to a reflective level

Try This: The Yoga “Trend”

  • iXL – I’ll start with the bad: iXL isn’t integrated with Google Classroom.  That’s it.  There’s so much to love about iXL, not only as an intervention program, but as an instructional support and independent practice tool.  Teachers can assign content to students very easily, because iXL has broken down concepts by skill as well as grade level.  iXL doesn’t believe in the concept of a screener, since continuous time spent using the program is always refining a student’s needs and recommendations.  Speaking of recommendations, that’s where the money is at.  Each student has a “recommendations” page that evolves as the program collects more data to show a student’s deficit areas.  Very intuitive.

Bonus Points: When a student is working on a difficult question, (s)he can scroll down and find the skills that build up to that question, hover over them and see a sample question.  The student can keep tracing back until the point is identified where the remediation is needed.

Try This: It’s fully aligned to Tennessee standards.  What more could you want?  Get this now!

  • Tennessee Electronic Library (TEL) – The wildcard of the bunch, TEL is one of those resources we forget about because there’s no one to remind us all the time.  If you are at the high school level, the TEL is exactly what students need as they experience a rigorous education that prepares them for a post-secondary full of choices.  There is a test-prep section, career readiness tools, and a research database as well.  Most importantly, all of these tools are free and will remain that way.

Bonus Points: The TEL’em Toolkit is a rich bank of resources available to everyone who has access to the TEL.  There are so many supports in place for Tennessee students.

Try This: Try it all!  Really, as educators one of our responsibilities is to curate and expose our students to tools that improve their learning outcomes.  If your students aren’t aware of the TEL, take a few minutes and find a way to build it into a lesson this week.

Do the teachers at your school have any favorite programs I didn’t list?  Keep the conversation going by posting in the comments below.