Friday, May 1, 2015

Tools for digging into Text

There are many tools out there for digging into text in the classroom.  Here are my 4 favorites for getting into text with students.

4. NewsELA - I have had some fun with NewsELA, but I feel, as a high school teacher, that this is geared toward elementary school classes.  The content is great and I like the idea that you can differentiate by allowing students to choose different levels of difficulty for articles.  This site has a class feature where teachers can create classes and students can join the class with a code, this allows teachers to assign readings to classes.

3. ThinkCerca - A great tool that has current content, class creation features, and text separated by subject.  One nice feature is the ability to choose assignments and also view them as the students will view them.  Many of the articles have 3 components that offer support for weaker readers, ELL's,  those without extensive vocabularies, and comprehension/critical thinking assessment.  The components attached to the readings gear students and classes to not only take the readings at face value, but also dig deeper and think about impacts, themes, and relationships to the article.  I really enjoy this cite, but almost wish that teachers could customize the vocabulary section.  With internet connectivity, students could find and define more difficult words.  ThinkCerca is great, but the lack of customization makes it number 3.

2. ListenCurrent - Ever hear a discussion on NPR and think, "that would be great in class." is where you find those things.  Although it does not have the assessment piece that ThinkCerca has, I like that students can listen to the stories and read them as well.  That choice marks this up as something the assists and develops language learning and bridges to the acquisition of academic language learning.  The articles and audio are great resources to catapult discussions, lead into themes discussed in literature, and relate content to current issues.  Teachers can create classes and students can join the class to receive assignments.

1. DocentEDU - Although I think this is the newest/youngest product of the 4 I am reviewing, DocentEDU does offer one thing that the others lack.  Customizability.  Each of the other products is limited to the content curated on the websites.  DocentEDU allows you to go to any source of text and turn it into an assignment.  There are so many sources of text that curating all of them is not a feasible request for any one product to do.  With DocentEDU you can go to a website and turn it into a docent (text assignment).  You can use to find articles from other areas and add discussions, questions, notes, and highlighting to the articles and assign them to the class for students to read and use.  Generate discussions in the middle of a document, highlight evidence in support of a point and ask a thought provoking question.  Highlight difficult words and define them or ask students to define them.  I have had more fun with this tool and have seen it grow so much over the last month.  If you haven't, give it a try.  One big downfall, at the moment you can only be a student or a teacher.  When I test these things out, I like to be able to be a teacher and a student to get an idea of what both see, but I have been told that may come soon.

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