Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Common Lit


Want a pretty easy-to-use, but also effective reading comprehension activity?  You need to look no further than https://www.commonlit.org/

Common Lit has thousands of reading passages with questions ready to go.  Once you set up an account, it is pretty easy for students to use.  You just give them your access code.  You can make a separate code for all of your periods to help keep that grading from getting muddled.

Fiction Passages - Unlike many other online reading comprehension sites out there (I'm looking at you, Newsela), Common Lit has fiction as well as nonfiction.  In fact, they have a lot of fiction - and from well known authors too.  The passages are from classic authors like Frost and from contemporary authors like J. K. Rowling.

The Difficulty Level - You choose how difficult you want this to be.  Passages are labeled by grade level, but the students do not see that.  My seniors are not strong readers and I usually give them passages between 8-9 grade level.  They do not know.  Sometimes I'll go as low as 4th grade and as high as 12th grade.  Whatever level I find useful for the moment.

Passage Length - How long do you want it?  Some passages are poems as short as three lines long.  Some are full length short stories going of for pages.  For my purposes, I usually find ones that are about a half to a full page in length.

Selection - You can sort passages by a variety of filters - Lexile level, grade level, genres, themes, literary devices.  You can even search by the novel you are reading in class and find supplementary texts that pair nicely with the book (they even suggest where you should be in the book before assigning the article).

The Questions - They have some that are multiple choice and some that are short answer.  You can choose to assign both or just the one or the other.  The multiple choice questions are automatically graded while you need to grade the short answer.  Students will not see the grades until you release the scores.  That way you can make sure everyone has had a chance to submit the questions before the correct answers are floating around.  You also have the option to exempt students or assign a passage to a particular student or group.

Here's How I Use It - Each Monday I assign two articles for students to work on that week.  They have until Sunday at midnight to work on them (well, that is what I tell them - it really is until Monday morning when I come into school).  On Monday morning, I go through those assignments and exempt students who haven't attempted it yet (it's an easy two click process).  This makes it so that they students will no longer have access to those articles.  Then, when I have the time, I input their grades into PowerSchool and release the score tot he students.  I also, each week, assign one optional make-up article to replace a bad or missing grade.  With this set up, if I have a sub or need to fill some time, one of my go to lesson plans is to give students time in class to knock out a Common Lit article or two.  

Oh, I may have forgotten to tell you this - IT'S ABSOLUTELY FREE!  Guys, it doesn't LOOK like a free site.  There are no ads.  They could easily - EASILY - charge school a few thousand a year for access to this tool.  But they don't.  They are EXTREME!

I'm interesting in hearing from anyone else who uses it or has another online reading comprehension tool that they use.  tell me in comments!

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Writing Wednesday - The Hemingway App

Online Proofreaders are hit and miss.  The Hemingway App is different than most.  It doesn't concern itself with  punctuation and spelling, but rather readability.  And it is super simple for your students to use and does not require an account.

Here's how it works:

Students go to http://www.hemingwayapp.com/.  There is no log in or account to set up.

Students replace the existing text with a copy of their paper (just a copy and paste job).

Immediately, the site will highlight certain things:

  • Blue - Adverbs- It gives students a certain number of adverbs to aim for. The goal number changes by how many words are in the essay.

  • Green - Passive voice verbs - Just like with adverbs, it gives an acceptable number of passive voice verbs.

  • Purple - Phrases with simpler alternatives - Students need to use this one with discernment.  It suggests some phrases that maybe should have just been worded better.

  • Yellow - Hard to Read Sentences - Again, students use with discernment.  Maybe the sentence is just overly long.  Maybe the sentence is a run-on.  

  • Red - Very hard to Read Sentences - Students are rambling here, have a run-on, or both.  Most of these will need to be addressed.

The last two are what I find to be invaluable when trying to get students to proofread their work.  The red finds some many things that would have been marked as "Awkward Wording" and helps students to eliminate confusing their readers.

Do you have a good online proofreader?  Share it in the comments!