I’m a big believer in online web-based curricula that can be accessed from any browser, any digital device, any location. It makes learning organic, part of life rather than something that must happen from a certain book or room. To me, the growing popularity of web-based curricula is no surprise. The problem is trying to blend them effortlessly into a class LMS or learning platform without lots of extra clicks and logins.
Kiddom’s partnership with highly-rated Open Up Resources changes that. It is now possible to deliver curricula lessons and materials directly through the Kiddom platform. This includes:
- grades 6–8 Math curriculum
- EL Education K–5 Language Arts
- Reading with Relevance
Before I get into the details of this new relationship is, let me introduce the two partners–Kiddom and Open Up Resources.
Actively Learn is a freemium online education platform that allows students to read a book (or some other document), make comments, answer questions posed by the teacher, and even collaborate with others. Quickly, it is becoming the close reading tool of choice for teachers because of its ease of use, differentiation of needs, depth of tools, and variety of resources.
What is Actively Learn
Actively Learn is a high-functioning ereader for ELA, social studies, and science students in grades 2-12. It provides reading resources either uploaded by the teacher or selected from the platform’s library of thousands of fiction and nonfiction books (some free; some through Prime plans), Common Core-aligned lesson plans, videos, or simulations. These are filtered by topic, grade, length, reading level, keyword, or standards (i.e., CCSS) and can include embedded questions, scaffolded notes, and topical media. These can be targeted to select groups, individuals, or the entire class, providing scaffolding for some and enrichment for others.
While reading the ebooks, students can take notes, highlight, jot down questions, share ideas with each other, and respond to the comments of classmates. They can look up words they don’t understand and translate the text into a long list of languages that may be their native or a secondary language they are learning.
Actively Learn is becoming recognized as an effective inclusive tool that involves all students–from gregarious to shy–in student-centered, student-led discussions.
How do you get started
Once teachers create an account, they set up their classrooms either by importing student lists from Google Classroom, Microsoft, Clever, or Edmodo, or by providing the class join code to students. Assignments are created and made available to individuals, groups, or the entire class and teachers can monitor progress, check the gradebook, respond to student questions, review student input, and view class data through their teacher dashboard.
Students, too, have their own dashboard where they access teacher-assigned materials and more. If this is the first time they’ve logged in, they can start with a quick how-to on using Actively Learn.
Surprisingly, 15-20% of the population has a language-based learning disability and over 65% of those are deficits in reading. Often, these go undiagnosed as students, parents, and teachers simply think the child is not a good reader, is lazy, or is disinterested. Thankfully, the International Dyslexia Association sponsors an annual Dyslexia Awareness Month in October aimed to expand comprehension of this little-understood language-based learning condition.
What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a condition that affects people of all ages, male and female equally, and causes them to mix up letters and words they read making what for most is a joy-filled act challenging and frustrating.
“Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, that result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia often experience difficulties with both oral and written language skills. … It is referred to as a learning disability because dyslexia can make it very difficult for a student to succeed… ”
— the International Dyslexia Foundation
There is no cure for dyslexia. Individuals with this condition must instead develop coping strategies that help them work around their condition. In education, it is not uncommon to accommodate dyslexic students with special devices, additional time, varied format approaches (such as audio or video), and others. Most prominent educational testing centers (like SAT, ACT, PARC, and SBACC) make these available for most of the tests they offer.
If you’ve heard the buzz about eSpark this summer at conferences or training sessions, you already know it’s more than “just another math and reading learning platform”. Sure, it is that but what sets it apart is eSpark’s clever blend of learning tools that encourage students to progress at their own pace in their own way, to review when needed and move ahead when they get it. Each targeted quest curates a collection of third-party apps, webtools, videos, games, and other resources that focus on particular math or reading skills identified by the teacher or from the student’s earlier work as an area of academic need.
eSpark works on all devices–desktops, Chromebooks, iPads (with the free app)–pretty much whatever digital device you use in your classroom. In fact, some students can be working on Chromebooks while others use iPads. Because students log in, the program syncs between devices, starting students where they ended on their last visit.
What is eSpark?
Let me dig deeper. eSpark is a student-centered series of self-guided, self-paced PK-5 math and reading lessons that are based on class goals, teacher input, and individual academic need Students work independently, taking the time they need. Teachers monitor individual progress, see what each student completed on their last visit as well as when that was and how long it lasted, view students’ self-described moods, assess their pre- and post-quiz scores, and view their summative synthesis videos that provide evidence of their knowledge as they teach others what they just learned.
Right now, eSpark is only available for schools, not individual sign-ups (such as homeschoolers).
Reading is defined as “the action or skill of absorbing written or printed matter silently or aloud.” Sounds dry, maybe even boring, but the ability to read has been credited with exercising the mind, saving lives, bringing people together, and predicting success in school. It alleviates boredom in the bits of free time that pop up between soccer and dinner and it can be done alone or in a group.
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends…”
― Charles William Eliot
So when I find an app that organically encourages reading, I get excited. But I’m fussy. Here’s what I look for–the red answers are how this mystery ready app sized up:
- Does it have advertising? No
- Is it intuitive? Yes
- is it user-friendly? Yes
- Does the web tool differentiate for types of students and their unique needs? Yes
- Is the web tool compatible with most browsers? Yes
- Is the web tool free? No–but it’s affordable ($1.99 at the time this was printed).
- Does the web tool encourage higher-order thinking? Yes
- Is the web tool or app error-free? Yes
- Does the web tool have educational applications? Yes
- Is the app private? Yes
Many people in the United States, particularly students, parents and teachers, join forces on Read Across America Day, annually held on March 2. This nationwide observance coincides with the birthday of Dr. Seuss. Here are some great reading websites for students K-5 (check here for an updated list):
On Feb. 1, 2019, World Read Aloud Day celebrates the pure joy of oral reading with kids of all ages. Created by LitWorld, past years have found over 1 million people in 100 countries joining together to enjoy the power and wonder of reading aloud in groups or individually, at school or home, and discovering what it means to listen to a story told through the voice of another. For many, this is a rare opportunity to hear the passion of a well-told story and fall in love with tales where hearing them reaches listeners on a level nothing else can. Think back to your experiences. You probably sat with an adult, in their lap or curled up in bed. The way they mimicked the voices in the story, built drama, and enthused with you over the story and characters made you want to read more stories like that on your own. This is a favorite activity not just for pre-readers, but beginning and accomplished readers because it’s not about reading the book; it’s about experiencing it through the eyes of a storyteller.
Somehow, as lives for both the adults and children have gotten busier, as digital devices have taken over, as parents turned to TVs or iPads to babysit kids while they do something else, we’ve gotten away from this most companionable of activities. World Read Aloud Day is an opportunity to get back to it.
Importance of reading aloud
There is no more powerful way to develop a love of reading than being read to. Hearing pronunciations, decoding words in context, experiencing the development and completion of a well-plotted story as though you were there are reason enough to read aloud but there’s more. Reading in general and reading aloud specifically is positively correlated to literacy and success in school. It builds foundational learning skills, introduces and reinforces vocabulary, and provides a joyful activity that’s mostly free, cooperative, and often collaborative. Did you know reading aloud:
For the past decade, schools have invested millions of dollars in technology. It started with a push for desktop computers which soon expanded to iPads and the wonderful apps (like art programs) that made tablets essential tools. Quickly after iPads, schools fell in love with Chromebooks and their amazing ability to allow students to collaborate and share, not to mention their ease of maintenance. Today’s focus is to give every student a digital device, much as kids used to be provided tablets and pencils.
The next game changer, according to education experts, will be digital textbooks. This is driven in large part by the affordability and portability of digital devices like Chromebooks, tablets, and laptops. Why lug around half a dozen heavy books in a backpack that too often is left behind on a sports field or at the library? Why spend a year studying information in a print textbook that doesn’t match the thinking or values of the school and its students? It’s no wonder proponents of digital books are pushing for change.
But there’s another side to the story of print vs. digital, one that is at the core of why 2015 e-book sales dropped in the United States and the UK. Let’s take a clear-eyed look at the pluses on each side of this argument. Then, when it’s time for your school to make that call, you’ll be ready.
Many people in the United States, particularly students, parents and teachers, join forces on Read Across America Day, annually held on March 2. This nationwide observance coincides with the birthday of Dr. Seuss.
- Aesop Fables—no ads
- Aesop’s Fables
- Audio stories
- Childhood Stories
- Classic Fairy Tales
- Fairy Tales and Fables
- Listen/read–Free non-fic audio books
- Stories read by actors
- Stories to read for youngsters
- Stories to read–II
- Stories—MeeGenius—read/to me
- Story Scramble
- Ziggity Zoom Stories (more…)
Orton-Gillingham started over seventy years ago as an instructional approach intended for those with difficulty reading, spelling, and writing, like what children experience in dyslexia. Sometimes, teachers recognized the special needs of a reading-challenged student, but just as often, it was blamed on disinterest or lack of effort, leaving the child to conclude s/he “just wasn’t good at reading.” When those same children were taught to read using the Orton-Gillingham (O-G) approach, many felt like that child who puts glasses on for the first time and his/her entire world comes into focus.
Since then, the Orton-Gillingham Method has enabled thousands of children to access worlds opened to them by reading, something they never thought would happen. In fact, it has been so successful, O-G is being mainstreamed into the general education classroom, as a way to unlock the power of reading for more students.