Hi! My name is Jenny, and I am a reading specialist entering my 27th year of teaching. I have spent a majority of those years helping students gain the skills and mindsets necessary to be confident and successful readers. Two major components in teaching readers to be and feel successful are fostering reading engagement and knowing what your young readers need. I have found a way to do both beautifully and easily through the use of technology. My days, my lessons, my blog, and my TpT store are dedicated to this idea.
Note: In order to meet all students’ needs teachers must first have assessment tools that accurately represent students’ reading abilities. Teachers must be collecting data effectively on students prior to implementing an effective differentiation program. Once this system is in place and reporting accurately, then teachers can begin to effectively meet the needs of ALL students.
Using some forms of technology can allow teachers to privately communicate with students. Since students are using devices independently, the content can be delivered in a discreet way, promoting confidence and engagement.
One way to differentiate lessons is to use the app Classkick. Classkick is a free app in the iTunes store and is also available in a web-based version for use on tablets, Chromebooks, laptops, and desktops. The program is FREE and is the best lesson plan delivery method I have found to date!
(This post is dedicated to various technology resources, but if you’d like to learn more about Classkick, click here, or go to my store to purchase my Classkick Tutorial here.
First, I will show an example lesson presented individually to students using the Classkick app and the Newsela app.
When two or more apps are combined to create a product or a lessson, it is called “app smashing!” App smashing can really get your creative teacher juices going! This lesson was created using the Classkick app and the Newsela app. Newsela is a fantastic resource full of current event articles for students. The best part of Newsela is that the articles can be assigned at varying levels. One article can fit a 2nd grade reading level or a 12th grade reading level. You get to choose! (Click here to learn more about Newsela app.)
This is a lesson prepared at the Lexile level 450, which is about grade 2.
Caution: Lexile levels can be deceiving. Be sure to read the article or book yourself before assigning it to your students.
The passage contains easier words and shorter sentences with less complex sentence structure suited for about a grade 2 reading level. The beauty of Newsela is that EVERYONE can read the same article, but each student can read it at a level that best fits his/her reading needs.
(Below you will see snapshots of the Classkick screen. The bold surrounded text and arrows were inserted to explain the purpose of the snapshot.)
This is the same article at Lexile level 690 or grade 4 reading level. Notice the article uses a more complex sentence structure and is longer in length. But the ideas are the same, and the lesson is consistent no matter the reading level!
Using Classkick allows teachers to differentiate by:
- scaffolding lessons catered to ANY student’s needs
- storing students’ work for data collection
- providing a visual representation of students’ learning and thinking processes
Using Newsela allows teachers to differentiate by:
- providing the same articles at appropriate levels
- scaffolding to students’ needs
The next lesson uses Classkick, as well. This lesson, however, utilizes another fantastic digital literacy resource called Epic. Epic is an online library containing over 10,000 books and videos geared to young readers. It is FREE to educators and costs $4.99/month (first month free) for home access for parents and students. You can learn more about Epic by clicking here.
I created a second robot lesson to show how versatile apps can be in providing all you need to differentiate right at your fingertips with digital resources.
(Here is a sample of a lesson using varying books about robots from Epic.)
One more way Classkick can be used to differentiate is by using its audio feature. Teachers can prepare the lesson with each student’s specific abilities in mind by pre-reading the text and locating text features or vocabulary words that might be difficult for a particular student. Then, record yourself explaining or reading the difficult portion to the student. The student simply needs to click on the play button to get assistance.
(Here is a picture of how that looks.)
Epic allows teachers to differentiate by offering levels in various forms:
- AR levels (Accelerated Reader)
- Lexile levels
- Age levels (probably most suited for parents’ reference)
- Read to Me books for beginning readers
- Audio books for all age readers
(Here’s a correlation chart of various reading levels.)
The last feature of Classkick that I will show is the ability for students to communicate with you and other students throughout the lesson. Students can click on the “hand” tool to raise their hand for assistance. (If enabled, students can assist each other, or simply leave this feature disabled for teacher support only.) Students can ask questions by using the drawing tool or the keyboard tool to send a message to the teacher. Teachers can respond using pre-made message stickers or by writing a message to the student directly on the page.
(Here are some examples of this in use. The teacher is in red. The student is in blue.)
More ways Classkick can allow teachers to differentiate are:
- providing private assistance in real time
- allowing other students to provide feedback and assistance in real time
- keeping a record of assistance needed
- keeping a record of a student’s performance
Differentiating is important to ALL teachers, no matter the grade or the subject. Teachers are responsible for planning and implementing lessons that meet EVERY student’s needs within their classroom. There are so many great digital tools available to help teachers with this daunting task.
These tools can help teachers:
- provide the exact lessons they need
- provide assistance in real time
- plan lessons for multiple abilities
- record students’ work
- create engaging lessons that make students feel successful
- plan fun activities to teach literacy skills
As a reading specialist, my job is to help students and teachers get the most out of their lessons and planning time. Using digital resources has been the answer to all of my prayers. My advice: Start with one digital tool, then move on to another. Trying to implement too many at once might be overwhelming.
There are many professional terms floating around out there. Here’s a great read to solidify the meaning of the many terms associated with differentiating: Personalized vs. Differentiated vs. Individualized Learning
Feel free to visit me at my blog, my TpT store, or on Periscope (search @Link2Teach) for more ideas on how to implement literacy tools that engage, excite, fulfill, and inspire both teachers and students. My motto… We can’t do it alone, so let’s Link2Teach!
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