Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based on your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.
Have you ever wanted to find free reading passages that included assessment tools AND have it all be completely FREE?
Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: CommonLit
First, the basics:
Cost: FREE (No paid features)
Problem this tool solves: Free reading passages geared toward grades 3-12. Question sets can be assigned online or printed, and passages can be downloaded as PDFs. Tools for struggling readers, such as guided reading, translate, and read aloud are available. Score assignments and give feedback easily.
This Fluco Toolbox post is mostly for my English and History/Social Studies folks, but teachers of other subject areas may also find it helpful. CommonLit is a free website for teachers where text, passages, and short stories can be found. Please note that this website does not modify the reading level of passages, unlike other similar sites.
Teachers are always looking for free texts and passages to use with students. Many sites provide options, but often they are paid choices, and not in the budget for the average teacher. Enter CommonLit. This website is free for all teachers and students and not only provides passages, but assessments, and the tools to assess student progress over time. While it may not provide as large of a variety of text, the content it does provide is rich in resources.
Create an account on CommonLit. When signing up, you’ll need to fill out a sign-up form, but after the account has been created, CommonLit allows sign-in via Google and Clever. After sign-up, you’ll be taken to your dashboard. G Suite teachers are at an advantage because they can import their classes from Google Classroom, but other teachers will need to create their rosters from scratch. Creating a class allows teachers to assign articles and stories to students to complete.
Next, teachers should search the library. Find articles by book, genre, grade level, literary device, text set, and theme. CommonLit provides texts for students in 3-12. However, the majority of text available is for grades 7-10. These age ranges have over 700 articles combined, whereas the other groups hover around 200 on average.
After an article has been selected, there are many tools to preview before assigning it to students. As stated before, tools for reading aloud and translate are available. There is also a highlighter tool for note-taking. Teachers can preview the questions used in guided reading mode, as well as the questions used as part of the assessment.
While many of the tools are self-explanatory, guided reading is one that is not. This tool is perfect for students who need text in smaller chunks, or even as part of a small group setting. Guided reading only shows the text up to the point where a guided reading question is asked. This question only checks for textual understanding, and will not reveal more text until a student has answered correctly. However, a student can try to answer the question more than once. Correct answers will reveal the next chunk of text.
After reviewing the text, the tools, and the assessment questions, assign the text to students. The text can be assigned to a whole class, or to individual students. Again, this allows the teacher to differentiate the text for a classroom.
Students are now ready to begin reading and taking assessments on CommonLit. Students will need to go to the CommonLit webpage and choose to sign-in with Google. They’ll need to connect their account. CommonLit will ask them to create a password. Have them use the same password that they use for their email accounts.
After students have taken assessments, the next step is to analyze student progress. This can be done on your dashboard by selecting “Student Progress” in the drop-down menu. At a glance, you’ll see the comparison of informational to literary text, students who are top performers, bottom performers, and assignment averages.
Remember, CommonLit is a completely free reading website, and while it doesn’t have the same variety of articles or the ability to adjust the reading levels of a text, it is very robust for a FREE website. It’s worth taking a look at!