literacy

Fluco Toolbox: CommonLit

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:

Name: CommonLit
URL: http://www.commonlit.org
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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Resources

5 Ways Literacy is Used in Minecraft

Minecraft isn’t just a game where kids explore locations, kill mobs, and build random objects – It’s so much more than that! The game can spark much creativity and release imaginations. It has made its way into classrooms across the country, and there are lesson plans and worlds being designed for teachers all of the time. Literacy is just one topic that is embedded into Minecraft. It is a key skill for children, especially when they are very young. Here are 5 ways that literacy is used in Minecraft:

Logical Inferencing: Players have to figure out the mechanics of the game, and how things work. They must learn how to create new objects from collected items and how those objects go together. For example, they must take gathered wood, turn it into sticks, and then combine it with more wood, stone, iron, or diamond to create picks, hoes, swords, and axes. They must learn the vocabulary of the game, and how to navigate the world. Players must figure this out on their own, as no tutorial or directions come with the game.

Storytelling (Oral and Written): There is no set story for Minecraft so players create their own. Stories come about whether students are exploring or simply building. Younger children share their stories about their world orally with family and friends, while older children may both write and speak of their work. Creating a new Minecraft world starts children with a blank slate, so stories can build up over time.

Research (Tutorials & How-to Guides): Minecraft does not come with game instructions. Instead, players start the game right in the thick of things. The only directions they are given is how to move and how to jump. Players must learn to play on their own. This usually leads to searching for YouTube videos, wiki guides online, and how-to books in stores. Many written materials are written for levels beyond elementary, but players are motivated to push forward and learn. Players will also seek out friends who can help with new ideas, tips, and tricks for the game.

Analyzing: Players must analyze situations and react appropriately, whether it’s a plan of attack, how to make a machine work, or how to add detail to a build. Some players learn to code or modify the game to suit their needs and ideas. A lack of instructions often forces players to seek solutions and rework their methods until things work correctly. Again, players will seek answers from a variety of sources. They will also create new objects or contraptions to share with others.

Creation of New Media: Players jump on the bandwagon with their own creations: they showcase their work via videos, write discussion posts online and create user guides, or they simply create audio podcasts. Many want to emulate their favorite media stars. For example, a 12 year old wrote a Minecraft Recipes for Dummies book! Players also create their own fictional pieces based on ideas from the game. Players who create and share are adding to the multitude of resources available about the game.

So the next time your child logs into Minecraft to play, sit down with them and talk to them about what’s going on in their game. Teach a younger child how to play the game, or, better yet, learn how to play the game yourself! You’ll be surprised at what you can do with Minecraft!