The trend in recent years has been toward mixed-ability classrooms, meaning it’s up to teachers to adapt material to meet the needs of students at many different reading levels. Nowhere has this been more apparent to me than in my Intensive Reading classes, where a single class may include 8th graders whose reading level ranges from roughly grade 2 to grade 8. If you’re reading this post, no doubt you know how challenging it is to differentiate for such a range of ability-levels, and you’re looking for a viable solution (translation: a method that does not consume all your personal time and mental energy).
Good news: There are several ways you can modify texts, or find modified texts, to make them accessible to all students. In the next two posts, I’ll describe the ones I use often and with success.
(By the way, these are FREE RESOURCES because…well, I’m a teacher, too.)
This resource contains thousands of informational articles, each written at 5 different reading levels. Along with each article are vocabulary exercises (Power Words), writing prompts, and standards-based questions to measure reading comprehension. The program automatically assigns the reading level that most closely matches their grade, but students can adjust it up or down to suit them. That said, teachers can assign an article at a specific reading level. Students must complete the article and activities at that level before they can access it at a different level. If you have students who get text-to-speech as an accommodation, you’ll need to use the Newsela app or a browser plug-in to deliver it.
PROS: Easy to set up accounts and classes using Google, Microsoft, or Clever. Articles are available and assignable on multiple reading levels. There are even Spanish language versions of articles.
CONS: Nonfiction articles only. Assignment level customizable only by class, not by student.
Both literature (fiction and poetry) and nonfiction are available on this free site for teachers. There are hundreds of articles available for grades K-12, searchable by topic, genre, and Lexile level. Though most articles are only available at one Lexile level, Readworks is developing “Step Reads” which offer an additional level of readability. Articles include a text-to-speech function; however most use a computer-generated voice. Check out the eBooks, though, for engaging graphics and human-voice reading. Each article includes vocabulary and text-based questions.
PROS: Includes fiction and poetry as well as nonfiction, text-to-speech for articles and activities. Easy to create classes, assign and track student progress on assignments.
CONS: Limited supply of differentiated texts.
TWEEN TRIBUNE (tweentribune.com)
Offers many high-interest and topical news articles, each on four different reading levels. It’s free to teachers and students with simple account/class setup. New articles are added every day, and many include simple multiple-choice questions. It includes an optional “student comments” feature you could use to encourage text-based writing.
PROS: Engaging articles and graphics, all with a range of reading levels. Includes lesson plans that can be adapted for different grade levels.
CONS: Nonfiction news articles only; quizzes test simple recall rather than deeper comprehension; broken links made navigation frustrating at times.
In my next post, I’ll share tools you can use to simplify any text with a quick cut and paste!