This resource will provide an overview of various digital tools and apps, across different platforms that can support students who struggle with reading and writing. Educators will be able to explore and develop ideas by going through the modules, and bring their learning back to their classrooms. It is important to note that this resource should be used in tandem with other forms of literacy; text-based, visual literacy and performing arts to name a few. By incorporating a variety of forms of literacy, educators can meet the needs of their learners in their classrooms (Gipe, 2014) consistent with Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Technology is a tool to support students and your students’ needs are always changing – one tool may work now with one student, but may not work next year.
Module 1: Reading
The following digital reading resources have been consolidated to accommodate the wide range of abilities and talents found in today’s classrooms. Educators should choose the best tool that will meet the needs of their students.
Voice Dream Reader:
Text to speech reader. Approx cost: $20.99
Bill Holton describes this app as “a Swiss Army knife for opening and reading aloud a wide variety of file formats, ranging from PDF files to PowerPoint presentations. It also does an excellent job organizing and voicing Microsoft WordDOC and DOCX files, web articles, and various e-book formats, including works from Project Gutenberg and Bookshare.” http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pubnew.asp?DocID=aw140805
The App can:
- Pause, rewind, and change speed
- Change font, size, spacing, color for optimal readability.
- Highlight and take notes.
- Speed-read and Finger Read.
- Set a sleep timer. Or put on your headphones, lock the screen and go for a walk.
- Read just about anything that contains text.
- Load from just about anywhere.
Immersive Reader is a Microsoft Learning Tool available for use with several Microsoft products including OneNote, Word, Outlook, Edge and Office Lens for iOS.
Immersive Reader dictates text and offers several options for personalization.
- Change font size, text spacing, and background colour
- Split up words into syllables
- Highlight verbs, nouns, adjectives and sub-clauses
- Choose between two fonts optimised to help with reading
- Read out text aloud, and change the speed of reading
- Use labels to color-code words by parts of speech
- Turn on the dictionary option to select words and view drawings representing the meanings.
- Click on any word in your reading material to listen to the pronunciation
- Use the line focus feature to highlight only small portions of text.
This product is especially helpful for ESL/ELL students and students needing additional help with reading. Use the language options for students to hear and view text in their native language. Use Immersive Reader to help students with Dyslexia to decode and focus on the text by using the options included. Upload classroom materials for students to use for help in understanding difficult text. (Taken from: https://www.teachersfirst.com)
Google Extensions to help with reading:
- Read & Write by texthelp is a toolbar which inserts into Google Docs and provides an array of supports for reading.
- Chrome Extensions to Support Literacy – a SET-BC Resource
- Literacy Support Using Read & Write for Google Chrome – a SET-BC Resource
- Snapverter™ from texthelp quickly transforms classroom papers, images, and Bookshare eBooks into accessible, Google Drive-friendly files.
- CopyFish™ is a Free OCR (Optical Character Recognition) extension that will pull text from an image, video or PDF
- Snap&Read Universal Extension for Chrome™ reads both accessible and inaccessible text aloud from websites, Flash websites, images, Google Docs, eBook Readers, Kindle Cloud Reader, email, PDFs, web-based tests, and more. It also translates text into 90 different languages.
- Screencastify is a way to record your screen, edit and share videos
- Mercury Reader– Removes ads and distractions from websites, making it easier for students to read.
- Beeline Reader – Beeline’s color gradient makes reading easier and faster.
- Visor acts as a screen dimmer to aid in concentration and comprehension of reading materials on the web.
- Chrome Extensions that Support Struggling Readers and Writers – a SET-BC Resource
Websites and iOS:
Newsela is the best way for students to master nonfiction in any subject. It presents current news stories with 5 different reading levels, in
topics such as arts, astronomy, economics, geopolitics, music, sports and zoology. It is available online and for iOS.
- Epic! High quality books for your students. Available free for educators on the Web and iPad:
- Rewordify is a web based tool that simplifies difficult words in text for faster comprehension. It also teaches words to build vocabulary
- Reader View is built into the Safari browser on the iPad and it declutters webpages and makes it easier to read.
- Popey – Provincial Outreach Program for the Early Years, BC Ministry of Education
- Assistive Technology for Struggling Readers – https://home.edweb.net/webinar/assistive-technology-struggling-readers/
- Why Reading Is Like Driving a Car: Automaticity is Critical: https://home.edweb.net/webinar/readers20180918/
- Reading and the Brain: https://home.edweb.net/webinar/prek3tech20180809/
- Best Practices to Empower Learners to Be Lifelong Readers: https://home.edweb.net/webinar/readingk820180212/
- Empowering Readers with Tech Tools: https://home.edweb.net/webinar/readingk820171025/
The following SET-BC Task cards will support the exploration of recommended Google extensions
- BeeLine Reader Chrome Extension Task Card
- Mercury Reader Chrome Extension Task Card
- Reader View Task Card
- Rewordify Web Based Task Card
- Screencastify Chrome Extension Task Card
- Visor Chrome Extension Task Card
The following SET-BC tutorials will guide you to set up accessibility features on your PC:
- Adding Speak to the Quick Access Tool Bar in MS Office
- Immersive Reader with Word Online in Office 365
- Open Dyslexic and Change of Colour in Office 2013
- ReadWrite for Window v12 PDF Reader
- Screen Mask Tool on a Google Doc
- Using Google Read&Write to Read an Accessible PDF
- Using ssOverlay with Databases, Websites, e-Text or Computer Programs
- iPad Accessibility Features– a SET-BC Resource
- iPad Apps for Literacy 1 – a SET-BC Resource
- iPad Apps for Literacy 2 – a SET-BC Resource
- A Teacher Guide: Strategies for Struggling Readers
- Addressing Reading Difficulties; CALL Scotland
Module 2: Writing
Reading and writing should be connected and taught at the same time. To be a good writer, one needs to be a good reader as they complement each other (Parodi, 2013). To make the process of writing more manageable, struggling writers often benefit from explicit instruction, step-by-step feedback, and the use of an appropriate keyboard (Dunn, 2015). There are so many “Write” ways to do it!
- Writing Strategies for the Reluctant Writer (Including Dysgraphia) – Center on Technology and Disability (CTD)
- Personal Whiteboards – UDLresource.ca
- Expression – UDLresource.ca
- Representation – UDLresource.ca
- Digital Tools to Support Literacy
Web and iOS Apps
- iBooks Author is a free app for MAC, iPad and iPhone for creating and publishing books
- BookCreator is used both on the web and as an iOS App
- Clicker 7 Apps – apps that enable students of all abilities to significantly develop their reading and writing skills – a SET-BC Resource
- Comic Life App – an app designed to engage reluctant writers
The following websites offer support with writing ideas, suggested strategies and activities, and examples of student use.
- Engaging Education, the WEBLOG of Nancy Blair Black
- iPads for Teaching, Kathy Schrock (updated 2018)
- Popey – Provincial Outreach Program for the Early Years, BC Ministry of Education
The following apps, extensions and websites are useful tools to integrate into your teaching. These SET-BC Task Cards will support their use.
- Story and Comics Creator
- Choosing the Best Cognitive Supports to Assist Students in Literacy – a SET-BC Resource
- Comparison of iOS apps that Support Writing – a SET-BC Resource
- Writing Next – Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High School – PDF (Graham and Perin, 2007)
- Write in the Middle Best Practices in Teaching Writing – PDF (Dr. Charles Whittaker, Ph.D.)
- Supporting Writing Difficulties – PDF; CALL Scotland
- Digital Storytelling Classroom Ideas – Digital Wish
- Explain Everything
- Book Creator
- Using Book Creator – PDF; CALL Scotland (Oct 2017)
- An Original Story – YouTube video: Book Creator, Student Example
- Top 10 Tips for Using Book Creator – from iPadeducators.com
- Book Creator Lesson Plans – Detailed Lessons from Common Sense Education (commonsense.org)
- 4 Compelling ideas for using Book Creator in the Classroom– from Book Creator
- Make Comics with Book Creator – from Book Creator
- Creating a Book of Poetry with Book Creator – from Book Creator
- 50 Ways to Use Book Creator in Your Classroom – from Book Creator
- Coker, D. L. (2013). Writing instruction in preschool and kindergarten. In S. Graham, C. A. MacArthur & J. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Best practices in writing instruction (pp. 667-1125) (Kindle app).
- Gipe, Joan P. (2014). Multiple Paths to Literacy: Assessment and Differentiated Instruction for Diverse Learners, K-12 (8th Edition). Boston, Pearson.
- Parodi, G. (2013). Reading-writing connections: Discourse-oriented research. In D. E. Alvermann, N. J. Unrau, & R. B. Ruddell (Eds.), Theoretical models and processes of reading (Kindle app) (pp. 26523-27119). Newark, DE: International Reading Association