Making Connections – Bonus!

internet_note_takingI love hearing and seeing what other educators do.  I am constantly reading others blogs and sites and saving ideas or forwarding them, but I never comment.   I’ve looked at many of the blogs that participants have done this winter and it has often inspired me to look further into the topic. This topic is forcing me to to take a more active role within the online community.  I tried commenting on a few sights by signing in with my WordPress account with no luck.  I switched to my Google account and was finally successful.  I still haven’t figured out what the problem was.

I viewed  Library Crazy, and thought she had some good insights.  I liked the entry about Mapping and Geolocation because I had done that topic too.  I like hearing how others use the same tools.    Bri’s Cool Tools Blog was interesting and I especially took note of her curation tools entry.  The Infographics info on Tech For Your Classroom gave me a quick insight into the topic without doing the whole thing.  I did play with Canva.com but I haven’t decided whether I will pursue  the topic further.  I checked out Teaching and Learning in a High School Library and I think I would like to try Adobe Slate with my students.

I am sure I will continue to scour the internet for new and innovative ideas for my classroom.  I don’t know that I have converted to commenting on everything I see, but maybe by occasionally sharing my thoughts I will develop a more useful and satisfying network.

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Reading Levels and TTS – Thing 7 DIY

I often give my students assignments to read for class.  They are grade level appropriate.  The problem is not all of my students read on grade level.  This is nothing new and has always a problem for teachers.  Many times I resort to rewriting the assignment myself but it is a time consuming task.  With all that is a available on the internet I decided to investigate technology that would make assignments accessible to all of my students.

I discovered rewordify.com and liked how I could paste in a text and rewordify would make the text easier to read.  I could then print it out and give it to students as an alternate text.  It would make differentiation easier.  I found I needed to read through and edit the rewordified document, though, since it sometimes created awkward phrasing  in its attempt to make the passage more accessible.  In addition, it had a vocabulary teaching component that could be used directly related to the text.  I also liked how you could put a website in the text pane then it would take you to to the website and reword it.  It continued to each page of the site as well as links to other sites I clicked as I read.  I could certainly see this being helpful to students as they do research.  Too often they end up on sites that are written above their reading level.

One of the sites I already use is Reading A-Z as a source for content area reading.  I can assign a book and if it is above a student’s reading level it has an audio component so the book can be used by all of my students.  It is a subscription service and has a limited number of books so I started searching for text to speech services offered for free.  I found a few online with NaturalReader being the best of the bunch since it would read a variety of different types of documents.  The sample pane and reader worked well and reviews online sounded promising.  I ran into a problem when my Mac’s system wasn’t up to date enough to download the software.  I will try it on my school computer but will need a tech administrator to approve and download it.  If it works like I anticipate I will then need the administrator to download it onto student computers on our laptop carts.  It may take a while before it is up and running.  In the meantime I can at least use Readability-Score.com to assess the reading level of web pages.  It used a variety of readability formulas to obtain an average grade equivalent.

Because I do end up rewriting assignments and passages I found a helpful tool built right into Microsoft word in my search.  After writing a document one can use the spelling and grammar check tool to also analyze the document and give a Flesch readability score and a Flesch-Kincaid grade level equivalent.  I had no idea that was built into Word!  To set it up click options when in the spelling and grammar check then click show readability statistics (make sure it also has grammar with spelling checked).  The statistics will show after the spelling and grammar check is complete. The document can also be pasted into Online Utility to be analyzed.  In addition to giving readability scores, it also gives suggestions on what to change in a document to improve the readability.

None of these tools by itself is the answer but each one can be used to make differentiation and accessibility easier in the classroom.