Educational technology tips for teachers, librarians and schools.

3 Literacy Tools You Need (And 2 That You Don’t!)

3 Literacy Tools You Need (And 2 That You Don’t!)

By Jessica Sanders

There are so many apps, tools and websites available to educators now, it’s hard to separate the ones that will help you and the ones that will just distract, or fall short of what you need.

This is especially true with literacy tools, where you’ll find a seemingly endless amount of reading games and apps, covering everything from phonics to sight words.

Often times in education technology, however, less is more, so we compiled a list of just three tools that would be beneficial in a number of classrooms, with a wide array of different students.

We also share a few tools we don’t think are necessary—getting rid of tools like these will allow you to declutter your digital teaching portfolio.

Literacy Tools You Need

These tools have two important things in common: They engage students, while giving them power of choice—this empowers students to take control of their own learning.

Whooo’s Reading

Whooo’s Reading is an online reading log that motivates all students to read and pushes them to think critically about what they’ve read. After logging their read students write responses to open-ended critical thinking questions, which are aligned with Common-Core standards.

Based on the amount of minutes they read and how good their answer is, students are awarded Wisdom Coins that can be used to “buy” accessories from the Owl Store for their Owlvatar.

“After using Whooo’s Reading for 6 months, weak readers were choosing books that were, on average, 2 to 3 Lexile Levels higher than the books they chose at the start.”

This gamification has proven to be an effective method for improving reading skills and confidence: After using this tool for 6 months, weak readers were choosing books that were, on average, 2 to 3 Lexile Levels higher than the books they chose at the start.

As a teacher, you can watch these improvements in your students, via Lexile Level, Reading Recovery, DRA and more.You can see data for both individual students and the class as a whole and give personalized feedback to responses so that their reading comprehension and writing spiral upwards.


You can find Storybird in more than 300,000 classrooms worldwide—a surefire sign of its value to teachers. With this web platform, aimed at helping students discover, write, share and read the books they’ll remember forever, students can read various leveled content, build their own stories and find new books and authors that they love.

You, as a teacher, can tie assignments to your lesson plans and Common Core requirements, making it a perfect fit for everyone.


This app makes writing and creating stories fun and engaging, while still being educational. “Toontastic leads students through the story-arc while giving them a wide variety of settings and characters to play with—students can even draw and animate their own characters,” says Katie Chirhart, National Board Certified Teacher.

Use it when teaching students the different parts of a story, allowing them to take the elements they learned and create a story of their own.

Literacy Tools You Don’t Need

Now that you know what you should use, here are two tools that don’t serve as great a purpose. These tools do not engage students and are often seen as “boring.”

Accelerated Reader

While many schools have adapted this expensive program (helpful add-ons make it even pricier) within their school over the last decade, a variety of new literacy-focused apps and tools have come to market that offer the same features and more, for a much lower cost, often times even free.

One of the biggest complaints about the program is their multiple-choice quizzes, which do little for truly testing comprehension and engaging students. Programs like Whooo’s Reading, which offers open-ended questions that promote higher-level thinking, allows students to focus on reading the books they love, while giving the teacher a clear picture of what each student understood.

Flashcard Apps

There are dozens of flashcard apps available to teachers, helping students improve their vocabulary and reading skills. While these may seem convenient—say goodbye to giant stacks of flashcards—students retain material more when they write it because this process increases the attention given to a piece of information.

Having students write the definition (without having them copy it verbatim) is also beneficial, as this forces them to recall the concept and then write it in their own words, increasing the chance that they’ll remember it.

Tech tools provide teachers with an opportunity to engage students and bring learning into the 21st century. However, not every tool, app or website will be a good fit for your classroom. Instead of trying to use a lot of tools, focus on the ones that are most beneficial. When choosing them, just remember, a little goes a long way.

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3 Literacy Tools You Need (and 2 you don't!)

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