Showing posts with label ELA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ELA. Show all posts

Friday, April 7, 2023

gotFeedback - An AI Tool for Providing Feedback on Writing

gotFeedback is a new tool for providing your students with feedback on their writing. As the title of this post stated, gotFeedback uses artificial intelligence to help you provide your students with feedback on their writing. 

To use gotFeedback you can either upload a document (PDF or Word) or paste the text of a document into gotFeedback. After uploading or entering a document you then select the element of writing that you want gotFeedback to analyze. 

gotFeedback has four default options for analyzing a document. Those options are narrative structure, details in the writing, claims in the writing, and use of evidence in the writing. You can also enter a custom aspect of the writing for gotFeedback to analyze. gotFeedback offers some guidance on how to writing a custom prompt for analyzing writing. 

After analyzing a document gotFeedback provides a written evaluation. You can copy the text of the evaluation and paste it into your own document where you can edit it to provide more personalized feedback for your students. 

Applications for Education
gotFeedback could be a huge time-saver when you have dozens of essays to grade. On the other hand, I worry about people relying solely on an AI analysis of students' writing and not actually reading students' work to give them personalized feedback. There are also the usual concerns about the accuracy of AI to consider when using a tool like gotFeedback.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Create Writing Prompts With Spinner Wheel

In reviewing my Google Analytics earlier this week I noticed that "writing prompts" was one of the most frequently searched terms on in the last month. That was the inspiration for a new video about how to create a random writing prompt generator. 

In this new video I demonstrate how to use Spinner Wheel to create random writing prompts. In the first part of the video I use Spinner Wheel to simply select a writing prompt from a list that I've given it. In the second part of the video I use Spinner Wheel to randomly select a noun, a verb, and an adjective to use in the creation of a writing prompt. 

Video - Create Writing Prompts With Spinner Wheel

Applications for Education
When it comes to creative writing assignments, the hardest step for many students is coming up with things to write about. Using a Spinner Wheel to randomly select a noun, a verb, and an adjective could give students some fun combinations of words to get them started on a creative story.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

How to Spell "No One" and Other Fun Lessons from Drawings Of...

Lillie Marshall is an English teacher, writer, and artist whose work I've seen on social media for many years. So when she reached out to me last week to tell me about her new project called Drawings Of... I was more than happy to take a look at it.

Drawings Of... is a website full of Lillie Marshall's cartoons that were drawn for the purpose of teaching English lessons. Throughout the site you will find cartoons and written lessons about a variety of topics that are commonly taught in English classes. Take a look at this list of homophone cartoons or this list of figurative language examples to get a better sense of what Drawings Of... is all about. 

Lillie Marshall also has a YouTube channel that includes a playlist of Drawings Of... videos. In those videos you can see how she creates her cartoons. Many of the videos provide helpful English lessons on their own. It was in the Drawings Of... playlist that I found this helpful video about the spelling of "no one."

Applications for Education
Drawings Of... is exactly the kind of site that can help students get a better understanding of some tricky concepts in the English language. There's also a section the site that has a set of drawing and writing prompts that can could be helpful when a student says, "I don't know what to write about."

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

SplashLearn - More Than Just Fun Math and ELA Practice

When an email about SplashLearn splash landed in my inbox last week I didn't give it much thought because I get dozens of pitches every morning and because at first glance I thought it was just another rote practice app. It turns out that I was wrong about it just being a rote practice app. 

At its core SplashLearn is a service that provides a free and ad-free environment in which students can practice their math and ELA skills. Students can use it in the web browsers on their computers or use the free SplashLearn mobile apps. 

The way that students access the SplashLearn games and other activities is through your free classroom account. As a teacher you sign-up for SplashLearn then create accounts for them. Creating accounts for your students is quick and easy. You can manually enter names (or just initials), import a spreadsheet of names, or import a Google Classroom roster. The students are given little avatars to represent themselves. Students then access SplashLearn by going to the link that you give them and then tap their avatars followed by the image that represents the class password. (See my screenshot below for details). Alternatively, students can open SplashLearn then select "student" and enter the class code. 

As you might have guessed by now, because your students access SplashLearn through the classroom account that you create, you can see their progress in your teacher dashboard. It's in your teacher dashboard that you can find standards-aligned math and ELA activities to assign to your students. To find activities to assign to your students you simply pick math or ELA then the grade level followed by the standard for which you want to find activities. Activities can be assigned to the whole class or to individual students within your class.

Applications for Education
The value of SplashLearn is found in the teacher dashboard. Specifically, the way in which you can find activities and assign them to your students as needed is where SplashLearn becomes valuable. Through that dashboard you can quickly find activities to help your students practice and strengthen their skills while also monitoring their progress.  

Monday, March 14, 2022

Readlee - Know How Your Students Read Online Assignments

Every once in a while a new edtech service comes along that as soon as I try it I know that it’s going to be a hit. That’s exactly how I felt when I tried Readlee for the first time last month.

Readlee is a new service that lets you create online reading assignments for your students to complete in your classroom or at home. That’s not what makes it great. What makes it great is found in how your students complete assignments and how you can view their assignment completion.

The Readlee Concept
The basic concept of Readlee is that you give students a reading assignment and they complete it by reading it aloud to their computers. Readlee then uses AI to analyze how well your students read the assignment. That analysis is provided for you in a short report displayed next to all of your students’ submitted assignments.

The student reading analysis that Readlee provides to you includes time spent reading, total words read, unique words read, reading speed, and how much of the assignment was read. Additionally, Readlee provides a written transcript of the words students spoke compared to the words written in the assignment. Last, but not least, you can hear a recording of your students reading aloud. The analysis, transcript, and recording is available for all assignments regardless of length, reading complexity, or content.

Watch this thirty second video to see a little bit of Readlee in action. My longer video overview is included at the end of this post.

How to Start Using Readlee
Getting started with Readlee takes just a few minutes. The first thing you need to do is sign-up for a free account. You can do that with your Google account, with your Clever account, or with an email address. After registering you’ll create a classroom within Readlee. It’s in your classroom that you’ll create assignments for your students (if you need multiple classrooms, you can create more than one).

To get your students into your Readlee classroom you have two options. The easiest option is to sync a Google Classroom or Clever roster to your Readlee account. The other option is to give your students a class invitation link that Readlee generates for you. They’ll then enter the class code to join your class. Either way that you create your Readlee classroom, students can use Readlee with or without an email address.

Once your Readlee classroom is created it’s time to create your first assignment. There are a handful of ways to create an assignment for your class. You can import a PDF, you can copy and paste a passage of text, you can import an article from the web, or you can use one of the articles, poems, or books available in Readlee’s library. There’s also an option to create an independent reading assignment in which your students can read aloud anything of their choice.

Readlee’s library of books, poems, and short stories offers a convenient way to create a reading assignment without having to source the material elsewhere. Simply select an item from the library and then choose which page(s) you want to include in your assignment.

After selecting or importing the item that you want your students to read aloud, you can then add some written instructions for your students. For example, when I created an independent reading assignment I added an instructional note that read “please read two pages from your March independent reading book.” The last step is to then give the reading assignment to the whole class or to individual students within the class.

The Student Side of Readlee
Students access their assigned reading by signing into Readlee and then selecting the assignment they would like to complete. As soon as they do that a new screen will appear with the text they need to read. Students then just click on the microphone icon at the bottom of the screen and start reading aloud. When they’re done they stop the recording and click “turn in assignment.” I should note that students can pause the recording in progress if needed and resume it to complete the assignment. In fact, I did that while testing out the student perspective because I had a little tickle in my throat and took a sip of black cherry seltzer to clear it out.

In addition to the assignment list, in their Readlee classrooms students will find a running tally of the number of words they’ve read aloud, their time spent reading, their average reading speed, and the total unique words they’ve read.

Readlee Benefits for Teachers, Students, and Parents
If you’ve made it this far in the post without clicking away to create your Readlee account, here are a few benefits of using Readlee worth noting.
  • Readlee gives you an easy way to consistently measure your students’ reading fluency and progress.
  • Readlee is a time-saver compared to manually checking reading journals or logs.
  • Readlee shows students their progress in a way that is easy for them and their parents to understand.
Try Readlee Today!
In this post I focused on the features of Readlee that are free and open to all teachers to use for as long as they like. There are additional premium features that can be purchased. I’d start out by trying the free version. Watch my tutorial video embedded below to see everything you and your students need to know to get started using Readlee today.

Disclosure: Readlee is currently an advertiser on

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Reading Progress + ReadWorks in Microsoft Teams = Awesome!

This fall I've been seeing a lot of people Tweet about how much they like the new Reading Progress feature in Microsoft Teams. Not being a regular Teams user myself, I didn't give it a good look until this week. I wish I had looked at it sooner! 

Reading Progress in Microsoft Teams gives you insight into how your students read. With Reading Progress in Microsoft Teams you can get insights into how long it takes students to read an assigned passage and the words that they struggle to pronounce. You can also gain insight into whether students struggle more or less with fiction or non-fiction reading. As you might expect, you can also use Reading Progress in Microsoft Teams to view progress in your students' reading abilities. 

How it Works
With the Reading Progress and Insights function enabled (your Microsoft IT admin can disable it), you assign an article to your students to read. The article can be something that you upload in the form of a PDF or Word Document. Alternatively, you can use the integrated access to ReadWorks to import an article for your students to read. A student then reads the article aloud and Microsoft Teams will analyze the student's reading. As the teacher you can then view analysis of the student's reading. Mike Tholfsen has a great video about Reading Progress in Teams. Jump to the 4:16 mark in Mike's video to see the student's perspective of completing a reading assignment in Microsoft Teams.

ReadWorks Integration
ReadWorks is one of my favorite free resources for language arts lessons. ReadWorks provides high-quality fiction and non-fiction articles and lesson plans for K-12 ELA teachers. Every article on ReadWorks is accompanied by a Lexile score and a suggested grade level. Any article that you select will also be accompanied by a list of key vocabulary terms and suggested questions to give to your students. The integration into Microsoft Teams makes it easy for teachers to find high-quality, reading level appropriate, articles to share with their students.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

ReadWorks Adds an Offline Mode for Students

ReadWorks is a non-profit service that I've been recommending for years. It is a free service that provides high-quality fiction and non-fiction articles and lesson plans for K-12 ELA teachers. Every article on ReadWorks is accompanied by a Lexile score and a suggested grade level. Any article that you select will also be accompanied by a list of key vocabulary terms and suggested questions to give to your students.

This week ReadWorks announced a new offline mode for students. This allows students to download articles and assignments while connected to Wi-Fi at school and then use those materials on their laptops, phones, or tablets at places where they don't have Internet access. Here's the official announcement and tutorial that ReadWorks published earlier this week. 

It's important to note that the offline mode in ReadWorks doesn't support the audio or paired videos features that are available in the online mode in ReadWorks.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Future Me - A Good End of 2020 Activity

The end of the year is near and, if my scrolls through social media are an indicator, many of people are ready to put 2020 in the rearview mirror. Before kissing 2020 goodbye consider taking a few moments to write out what you want to accomplish in 2021. Of course, you could have your students do the same. FutureMe is a service designed to get people to write down what they want to do and where they see themselves in a year, three years, or five years from now. 

FutureMe is a free service that anyone who has an email address can use to write a letter to their future selves. When you write the letter you can pick a delivery date in the future. Then on that date you’ll get an email on that date with the letter you wrote to your future self. 

Letters that you write in FutureMe can be completely private or you can choose to have them added to a gallery of public, but anonymous letters. My choice is to keep them private. 

Applications for Education
Generally speaking, 80% of New Year’s Resolutions are abandoned by the end of January. Using FutureMe could be one way to help yourself and your students stick to a New Year’s resolution goal. Since most students change teachers between spring and fall, I’d have students in my classroom now write letters to be delivered at the end of the spring.

FutureMe could easily be replicated by using the scheduled send feature that is built into Gmail/ G Suite email. That feature is demonstrated in the video below.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Actively Learn - Find & Create Engaging Reading Assignments and More

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post that I wrote for a new supporter of 

A few years ago I stumbled upon Actively Learn while walking through the ISTE conference. I was immediately impressed by what they were developing. At that time it was just getting started as a new platform through which teachers can create, distribute, and assess ELA activities. Since then Actively Learn has expanded to offer a catalog of thousands of free assignments with embedded media, standards-aligned questions, scaffolding notes, and teaching ideas for science, ELA, and social studies.

There are three key elements of Actively Learn that I really appreciate. First, it’s easy to locate interesting and engaging articles, videos, and simulations to share with your students. You can locate resources in the Actively Learn catalog by searching according to subject, topic, grade level, standard, or Lexile level. Second, unlike some other services, Actively Learn doesn’t limit you using their pre-made questions. You can easily add your own questions to the materials that you distribute to your students as assignments. Third, Actively Learn can save you time by automatically grading any multiple choice questions that you include in your assignments.

Here’s an example of how you could use Actively Learn in a science class. Open the Actively Learn catalog and find the Cells Topic page, which includes a variety of assignments related to cells. Some of the assignments are based on excerpts from textbooks, high-interest news or journal articles, videos, and PhET simulations. All of the assignments and articles have notes in the margins to describe concepts that may be challenging to students and standards-aligned embedded questions. Additionally, you can add your own notes into the margins for your students.

You can distribute an assignment to your students through Actively Learn’s classroom environment or distribute it through Google Classroom or Canvas. Throughout the assigned reading there are questions that your students should answer. You can edit or remove the pre-made questions. You can also add your own questions for students to answer. Take a look at the screenshot below to see the students’ view of an article. Watch this video for an overview of what a student sees in Actively Learn.

One of the options that I appreciate about Actively Learn’s online assignments is that students can flag sections of an article with "I don't understand" comments.

Actively Learn offers free and paid plans. The free plan includes all of the core features of Actively Learn including:

  • Locate materials according to subject, grade, standard, or Lexile level.
  • Customization of any of the instruction in Actively Learn (edit questions or notes).
  • Upload any Google doc, website, video, or PDF and turn it into an interactive assignment with your own embedded questions and notes.
  • Give feedback to students as they read and get real-time data on student reading progress.
  • Automatic grading of multiple choice questions.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

A Halloween Writing Contest for Middle School Students

A couple of weeks ago I shared a selection of Halloween-themed ELA articles available through ReadWorks. As Halloween gets closer, it's only nine days away, consider having your students participate in a Halloween writing contest that ReadWorks is hosting in collaboration with Quill.

How the Run Should End is a writing contest for middle school students. The contest asks students to write their own endings to the zombie cliffhanger series The Run. The Run is comprised of seven connected short stories. Like all stories on ReadWorks, students can read or listen to The Run. A list of key vocabulary words and reading comprehension questions are included with the stories.

To enter the contest students need to write an alternate ending for The Run. The ending should be less than 800 words. The winning entry will be published on ReadWorks. The contest is open to students in fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. Submissions are due by November 1st.

Quill and ReadWorks have published some helpful reading and writing tips along with the complete contest details right here.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Find Halloween ELA Articles on ReadWorks

Last week I shared a Halloween-themed physical education lesson and instructions on how to find and modify Kahoot games about Halloween. Those of you who are looking for Halloween-themed stories to use in ELA lessons could do well to turn to this collection on ReadWorks.

The bulk of the Halloween collection on ReadWorks features articles for a  K-8 audience with a few 9-12 articles mixed in. The articles covered topics like the history of Halloween, pumpkin farms, and the history of ghost stories. Like all ReadWorks articles, you'll find comprehension questions and vocabulary sets to accompany the articles. A read aloud feature is also available in ReadWorks.

Of course, now that ReadWorks allows students to choose their own articles to read, you could just let your students pick a Halloween article on their own.

More Halloween resources can be found in the following articles:

Friday, September 20, 2019

Fraidy Cats' Book of Courage - An eBook of Writing Prompts

Make Beliefs Comix is a creative writing platform that I have recommended for years. The core of Make Beliefs Comix is a free set of tools that students can use to create their own comics in multiple languages. Here's a video overview of how it works. In addition to the comic strip creation tools, Make Beliefs Comix hosts free ebooks that you can use online or download for free. All of ebooks are designed as fillable PDFs that your students can write in.

The latest ebook published by Make Beliefs Comix is titled Fraidy Cats' Book of Courage. The first half of the book contains comics featuring the title character talking about situations that make him scared and ideas for dealing with those feelings. The second half of Fraidy Cats' Book of Courage contains pages for students to write on in response to prompts like "people who inspire me and courage me to be braver..."

Applications for Education
Comics can make reading and writing seem less intimidating to some students. Free ebooks like Fraidy Cats' Book of Courage can be useful in generating approachable writing prompts for elementary school students.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Wonderopolis Now Includes Immersive Reader

Wonderopolis is a great site for finding interesting articles to spark your students' imaginations. I've been a fan of the site since I first discovered it more than six years ago. At its core Wonderopolis offers more than 2400 interesting articles for elementary school and middle school students. Each article covers a different topic that your students might wonder about. For example, today's article is Who Invented Friend Chicken?

Every Wonderopolis article is accompanied by a short video and some corresponding images. All of the articles are also accompanied by a short reading comprehension quiz that can be printed or taken online. A vocabulary matching exercise also accompanies the articles on Wonderopolis.

This week Wonderopolis announced that Immersive Reader has been integrated into the site. Immersive Reader is Microsoft's free program that reads pages aloud to students. Immersive Reader does more than just read aloud. It also lets students customize the display of the text and highlights each word as it is read aloud.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

A Modification to Book Trailer Projects

Over the years I've written plenty about book trailer videos and the tools that students need for making book trailer videos. For the most part, the book trailers that I've made and those that I've seen have been designed to entice the viewer to read the book featured in the video. This week I read Scott McLeod's and Julie Graber's book Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning which changed some of my thinking about book trailer projects.

In Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning McLeod and Graber share protocols and ideas for reframing some common classroom activities. One of the activities they mention is the "Pumpkin Book Report" in which students decorate pumpkins to look like characters from books they've read. Students then record videos of their pumpkins and those videos are combined by the teacher in Flipsnack. McLeod and Graber suggest that this project can be improved if teachers ask students to articulate why they chose the character, share passages from the book that represent the character's traits, and share the theme of the story.

The modification that McLeod and Graber suggest for the Pumpkin Book Report could easily be applied to book trailer videos. Rather than just highlighting key points in their chosen books, students could focus on a theme of their chosen books or on the traits of a central character.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Add Video Comments to Google Documents

e-Comments is a Google Chrome extension that offers three great ways to add comments to Google Documents. You can use e-Comments to add canned text comments, you can use it to add audio comments, and you can use it to add video comments to Google Documents. All three options are equally easy to use.

Add Text Comments With e-Comments
This option lets you pick from a menu of more than 200 canned comments to insert into Google Documents. The great thing about this option is that the comments not only provide correction, they also provide suggestions and examples for correction.

Add Audio Comments With e-Comments
To use this option you open the comment bank provided by e-Comments and then click on the audio icon. Clicking that icon will let you record a voice comment that you can save and re-use as often as you like.

Add Video Comments With e-Comments
This option is found the same way as the audio option is found. Simply open the comment bank then click on the video icon to record a video comment to save and insert into the comments of any Google Document that has been shared with you.

About the e-Comments Comment Bank
When you install and activate e-Comments you can choose the grade range that you teach (3-6, 6-9, 9-12, or college). That selection will give you slightly different comments to pick from so that they are in line with your students' current abilities and needs.

You can learn more about Google Docs, Chrome extensions, and all things G Suite in the on-demand course that I'm offering starting on September 4th. Learn more about it here!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

ReadWorks Offers a Split Screen to Help Students Complete Assignments

ReadWorks is a free service that provides high-quality articles and lesson plans for K-12 ELA teachers. Every article on ReadWorks is accompanied by a lexile score and a suggested grade level. Any article that you select will also be accompanied by a list of key vocabulary terms and suggested questions to give to your students.

ReadWorks offers you the option to create an online classroom by either importing your Google Classroom roster or by manually entering students' names. Either option will give you the ability to assign articles and questions to your students. Students then sign-in to read their assigned articles and answer questions. A relatively new-to-me option provides students with the ability to split their screens in ReadWorks in order to have the questions and articles appear side-by-side. Watch my new video to see how that works.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Make Trading Cards for Historical and Fictional Characters

Read Write Think Trading Cards is a free tool that students can use to create trading cards about people, places, and events both real and fictional. You can use it in your web browser, as an Android app, or as an iOS app. In this video I demonstrate how to use Read Write Think Trading Cards in your web browser.

Applications for Education
Some of the ways that the Read Write Think Trading Card app could be used by students is to create a set of trading cards about characters in a novel, to create a set of cards about people of historical significance, or to create cards about places that they're studying in their geography lessons.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

ReadWorks Now Offers Illustrated eBooks

ReadWorks, a fantastic free service for ELA teachers, recently added new illustrated ebooks to their library. These illustrated ebooks can be used in the same way that all other ReadWorks ebooks can be used by you and your students. That includes distributing ebooks to your students through a ReadWorks classroom and or through Google Classroom.

ReadWorks is more than just a library of free ebooks for schools. ReadWorks offers standards-aligned lesson plans that incorporate ebooks from their library. And the ebooks themselves are all labeled with a recommended grade level and a lexile score range. All articles are accompanied by lists of key vocabulary terms and suggested comprehension and or discussion questions.

Every ReadWorks ebook can be read online. Students can also listen to every ReadWorks ebook. The combination of new visuals and the read-aloud function makes ReadWorks lessons accessible to more students than ever before.

Monday, November 26, 2018

How to Create Custom Greeting Cards on Storyboard That

A few years ago Storyboard That introduced a great little feature for making greeting cards. Initially, it was only available for a few holidays, but now is available for all of the major greeting card holidays. This is a feature that anyone can use on Storyboard That. In the following video I demonstrate how to design and print a greeting card through Storyboard That.

Applications for Education
Design, printing, writing, and sending greeting cards can be a good way to engage elementary school students in writing correspondence.

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on this blog. 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Fiction vs. Non-fiction - A Canva Infographic

This morning I was browsing through Canva's gallery of free design templates looking for one to use for an upcoming course that I'm teaching. That's when I stumbled into a this Fiction vs. Non-Fiction infographic template. As you can see below, the template could be printed as used as is. Better yet, you could have students modify the template to include some of their own examples of fiction vs. non-fiction.

Applications for Education
You can get a copy of this template (in higher resolution than what I've posted) in the infographics section on Canva. I would use this template by having students make a copy to modify. In their modified copies I'd have students include examples from books to explain the differences between fiction and non-fiction books.

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