Tech Tools for Reading

As our schools delves into how to address reading strategies with our students, we thought we would add a few suggestions of Tech tools and tips that may be useful to achieve this goal!  There are many websites, apps, and add-ons that help engage and support students in reading. Here are four that we think are useful:

 

  1. Immersive Reader in Word 

What is it?   Feature already available in online or desktop Word. Many other tools also include text-to-speech features.

What does it do? Reads aloud text that students have typed or that a teacher has prepared in a Word document. Useful to understand handouts and proofread during peer review.

How does it help with reading? “Text-to-speech tools helps students access content that’s difficult for them,” says Emily S. This means you can maintain rigor when the content requires reading. But text-to-speech “will not actually improve a student’s reading skills,” so be intentional about how you have students use this tool.

How do you access it? Go to the View tab > Immersive Reader in online or desktop Word.

 

 2. Insert Learning

What is it?   Chrome extension

What does it do? Lets you transform a webpage to support instruction by adding annotations, questions, discussion questions, videos, and more.

How does it help with reading? The variety of ways that Insert Learning transforms a webpage lets you scaffold website reading without having to print a huge number of different handouts and version of your classroom materials. The comprehension questions you can add promote analysis and critical thinking about the reading.

How do you access it? Install the extension from the Chrome Web Store or go to https://insertlearning.com/

 

 3. Rewordify

What is it?   A text-modification website

What does it do? It allows teachers to simplify a paragraph with easier vocabulary.

How does it help with reading? It increases the accessibility of a piece of text.

How do you access it? Copy-paste the text you need to adapt into the website https://rewordify.com/index.php

 

4. Britannica Schools

What is it?   Website Database available from Canvas or

What does it do? Students can use it to look up any information, just like a traditional encyclopedia. However, they can select which level they would like to read at and switch back and forth between languages.

How does it help with reading? It helps students to understand complex subjects and build content knowledge by reading it in both languages.  It is great for research projects or for students to strengthen their understanding of a topic.

Pro Tip: Encourage students to read it in English first to get the big ideas. Then switch to Chinese to understand more fully. Finally, switch back to English again to build academic language.  Some students may also prefer to read both in English and Chinese side by side.

How do you access it? Students and teachers can access Brittanica School directly from your Canvas account or they can go to https://school.eb.com/ . If they are on the school network, they will be logged in automatically.

 

Read Aloud Any Text in Mac!

Have you ever wonder what is the use of the “Speech” function in Preview? Well, literally, it can read you the selected text of the document.

 

Why should I listen to a text?

It may because you are tired of reading after a whole day’s work or you just want to try something new. Listen to a text activates a different part of your brain for decoding and comprehension. Listening to something also requires you to be focused in a different way than reading.

Why should my students listen to a text?

Although the computer-generated voice may not be the ideal choice for mimicking, students can adjust the speed, volume, gender and many more features of the sound so that they can follow along.  Also, if you ever have encountered a situation that after a whole unit of study on a certain topic, students still can’t say the key vocabulary out loud – it is reminding you to create more listening and speaking practice opportunities. The Speech function is easy and quick – when switched on from the system setting, the computer can read any selected text in Word, Preview, Browser, etc. It allows students to figure out the pronunciation by themselves in a very short time. Not even necessary to copy, open a dictionary app, paste, click for reading aloud. The keyboard shortcut can make it possible in a second.

How can I enable Speech function?

Step 1: In System Preferences, search Speech

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 2: Click on Speech, then enable the function by selecting the box. The default shortcut is Option+Esc, which I personally feel very easy to use. You can change to your preferred combination by clicking on the Change Key button.

Step 3: Select your preferred voice feature. Gender, region, speaking speed are all changeable.

Now, select any text on this page and try it out! Once you press the shortcut to speaking, you can switch to a different app/page and the text does not need to remain selected.

Endnote: If you have a student who struggles to speak any English, show him/her this feature and encourage him/her to use it outside the class. Language production requires a massive amount of input.

Happy reading/listening!

Teach with Real-time Captions in Powerpoint!

If you use Microsoft Powerpoint Online to teach, you NEED to try this feature. What you say in class will be automatically captured and shown on the screen. A good tool to use if you know some students are struggling to understand English instructions.

To use this function,  you have to save your Powerpoint slides in your OneDrive or Sharepoint.

You will then need to change the settings for the slide show:

 

Choose English for both the Spoken language and the Subtitle Language.

You can choose Chinese as well! Just remember to select Chinese for both Spoken and Subtitle language.

Then choose where you want the subtitle to be – below slides works perfectly.

 

 

 

When you present the slides, click the subtitle button down in the left corner:

A confirmation page will show up the first time you use this function. Now anything you say will be transcribed on the screen!

 

Pros:

Scaffold Listening

If you have students who may shut-down for verbal instructions but do just fine with readings, this function may help them to process and decode spoken English.

Student Engagement

The time when Palacios and I accidentally switched it on, the students were amazed by being able to “see” what they hear. They paid close attention to what we said and were definitely cross-referencing that with the captions on the screen.

Easy Set-up

Since every teacher at NCPA has an Office 365 account, this function is ready to use. No need of registering /authorizing/linking your account with another website!

Go Wherever You Need

You may think you will have to stand right next to the computer so that it can pick up your words. However, real-use in the classroom has shown that the computer is able to detect utterance from the other side of the classroom (AQ1). Depending on your own setting, the situation may be slightly different – be flexible.

Cons:

Possible Longer Processing Time

Bilingual students process language in different ways – seeing English words may trigger Chinese translation on their minds. It is possible to cause some students a longer time to fully understand the whole situation because of the bi-sensory circumstance.

Only on Office 365

If you are not a fan of Microsoft Office, or if you prefer to use the app version of Powerpoint, you can’t use this function.

One Mic

You need to make sure you are the only person talking otherwise the subtitle will not make sense. Your computer is very sensitive to noise. It also means that if a student answers a question in English, Powerpoint can help to transcribe it.

 

Give it a try to see if it works for your class!

 

Acknowledge:

Thanks to @Palacios to notice this Powerpoint feature!

Resources:

Present with real-time, automatic captions or subtitles in PowerPoint

 

Cellphone Games for English Learning

The traditional Cross-and-down has envolved to the next level – check out the following three English related games which provide a unique perspective of learning the language and having fun at the same time.

 

1. Alphabear I & II

Fun, easy game to start noticing spelling techniques and the rules make up a word. Simply put the letters in the field to form a word and collect the bears.

 

2. Typeshift

Powered by the whole dictionary of Merrian-Webster, this game requires its player a good knowledge of morphemes. It may be difficult to identify all the possible combinations of the listed letters, but that is why it is addictive!

 

3. Dear Reader

Read a classic novel by putting the keywords in the appropriate place to form correct sentences. Long text is chunked into short, manageable paragraphs for easy access. Recommended!

 

 

Getting Started With Newsela

All NCPA teachers have a PRO account to use Newsela with their students. But why would you want to use Newsela?

One reason is that the 6,000+ articles are at five different reading levels, allowing you to differentiate and customize assignments depending on student needs. Newsela is a powerful digital reading experience within an instructional content platform. The company’s mission is to improve literacy skills of 21st Century students. So what exactly does Newsela do?

Newsela is already integrated within Canvas, it is easy to make assignments and view student activity. Highlighting, annotating, and submitting written responses to discussion questions are all part of what Newsela offers teachers and students. Using Newsela allows for real time assessment of students’ reading and works by having a whole class engaged with the same text, but allowing each student to access that text at their individual reading level. Teachers can customize the articles and assignments to fit class needs.

Newsela is searchable by keywords, content areas, and text sets. Articles are in two main categories – News, which includes current events and opinion essays or Library, which includes all other nonfiction articles. Categories are further broken down into content areas, or specialized areas such as primary sources, biographies, issue spotlight, and careers, to name just a few. Articles are added daily from sources such as The Washington Post, Scientific American, the Los Angeles Times, and The Associate Press. Newsela uses adaptive text technology, with the original text being at the highest reading level. And no matter what content you teach, there are Newsela articles that fit your standards.

Are you ready to get started using Newsela? The teacher support section has numerous articles, tutorials, and discussion groups to help troubleshoot any problems you might have. In addition to the online support, several NCPA teachers already use Newsela in their classes and can offer help on an as-needed basis. Stop by the NCPA Library, speak with Rebecca, and get ready to change the way your students experience digital reading!