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10 Classroom Tools to Personalize Reading Instruction

10 Classroom Tools to Personalize Reading Instruction

By Wesley Matlock

Whether it’s for study, classroom prep, or simply pleasure, summertime means summer reading. And if you or your students plan on doing so digitally, then there are definitely some things to keep an eye out for. Check out these tools that’ll not only personalize your reading experience but also help you and your students get more out of your reading.

1. F.lux

While this is not technically a reading tool, I cannot stress enough how helpful this has been. F.lux is a plugin that allows you to view your screens in soothing colors that reduce eye strain, giving you a more comfortable online reading experience. If you really want to try something fun, use the darkroom setting for late night binge reading.

2. Noisli

While many people use Noisli as a simple text editor, it is so much more and has helped improve my reading comprehension and retention. Basically, the internet is full of distractions, and Noisli calms everything down. We know that we’re all susceptible to notifications and checking our email—and our students just as much (or more so, let’s face it).

Let them know about this site as a way to escape the temptations of the internet in order to focus on their reading. Simply, paste the text you want to read into Noisli, set your preferred white-noise track, engage full-screen reading mode, and enjoy reading with calming sounds and no tabs and popups competing for your attention.

3. Word Clouds

Many of us are familiar with these colorful, stylish word collages. Yes, they’re quite pretty to look at, but they actually can serve as valuable reading tools. Most of the free word cloud generators operate in the same way, and one of their basic functions is to increase the size of words and phrases based on their frequency. So, the bigger the word is, the more it appears in the text.

I love to copy-paste an essay, a chapter, or any other thing I may be reading into this tool in order to get a big word cloud of the text. This shows which keywords to look for, giving you valuable context before you get into the actual reading. For students, sometimes texts can be daunting to approach when there’s no context. Let them use this tool to know what keywords to look for to help better prepare them for whatever needs reading.

4. Spritz

I sometimes get overwhelmed by how many things I want (and, honestly, feel like I have) to read. I know I’m not alone here, and I bet your students will feel this crunch come August.

When this happens to me, I find it’s often easier to just get the gist of whatever text or article I’m looking at rather than reading them in depth. That’s where Spritz comes in. It’s a browser extension that will flash individual words of text, in order, from whatever screen you’re reading. Basically, it’ll speed read the website for you! Yes, it’s overwhelming at first, but you’ll be surprised at just how much knowledge you retain.

I’d be a little careful with this one for students though—you’ll definitely want to make it clear which texts this tool would be most useful for. The longer and denser the work, the less value Spritzlet offers, but for shorter, less complicated texts, this is very helpful.

5. Hemingway App

While this tool is primarily targeted at writing, it is very useful for teachers, students, and general readers to assess the complexity of texts. Unsure about the reading level? Want to know at a glance where the text gets extra complicated? Just copy-paste in what you want to read and the Hemingway App will identify these items for you in colorful highlights. Also, teachers, why not toss your students’ papers in there for some extra information, like repeated phrases, unnecessary adverbs, and more!

6. Story Toolz

Similar to the Hemingway App, Story Toolz is another way to get more data out of the texts you want to read or write. Where it really excels is around readability statistics. This is crucial for students, and we all know that readability scores are important for educators as well.

story toolz

7. Hypothes.is

It’s possible that you’ve heard of Genius.com, a website for lyrics, news, and texts that features an annotation platform. Well, hypothes.is is similar, but it’s solely a browser-based plugin that provides annotation tools for you on any site you’re viewing. (Note that Genius does this too, but that’s a review for another time.)

Hypothes.is lets you create highlights, add notes, and save these important details for later. What’s more, it allows for collaboration, which can be helpful for working together to understand more difficult pieces. Keep this plugin in mind for those students who love to keep digital notes and annotate their work on the go.

hypothesis

8. My Book Cave

Now that we’ve looked at several tools that help with reading comprehension, let’s dive into some websites that offer texts and great information supporting them. My Book Cave’s mission is to not only provide users with lists of free or cheap books, but also they provide valuable content notices on language, nudity, and violence so readers know exactly what they’re getting into. Sign up for their notifications, but don’t worry—it’s not spammy.

9. Lit2Go

Lit2Go is full of public domain texts, recorded readings of the texts, publication information, reading levels, keywords, and more. The aesthetic is clean and navigation is simple. It doesn’t provide as easy a reading experience as an e-reader might—for example, you can’t change the typeface size or style nor the color—and it doesn’t offer the option to create annotations or highlights.

However, it is a free resource for accessing texts and valuable information from literature in the public domain, or those works that are out of copyright. And let’s not forgot those free audio recordings—they’re definitely helpful for “reading” on the go.

lit2go

10. Owl Eyes

If you’re looking for free texts, annotation software, and an e-reader, then this is the site for you. Owl Eyes boasts a library of nearly a thousand texts from the public domain with new books added every week. Not only can you add your own annotations, notes, and questions, the writing team is constantly adding public annotations to these texts, providing interesting insights into themes, character analysis, and historical context.

What’s more, you can use this tool as a way to discuss texts and annotate with your students through a group reading option. What do you need to get started? Just create an account—which is free and only requires an email address—and get reading.

owl eyes

BONUS: Whooo’s Reading

This bonus tool is a personalization, assessment and social tool—all wrapped in one. Not only can you set personal goals for single students or groups, you can also assess individual student progress through the user-friendly teacher dashboard.

Students perform assessments based on the book they’re reading, so you can use the tool even for personal reading, encouraging students to find the texts they love most. You can also assign personalized practice activities, helping students work on the areas they struggle with most.

Whooo's Reading personalized student goals

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10 Classroom Tools to Personalize Reading Instruction

 

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