In last week’s post, I showcased three resources I use that offer the same text at multiple reading levels to help you scaffold reading tasks for less proficient readers. Sometimes, though, you don’t have the luxury of choosing your own texts for use in the classroom. Or, you may have a specific text you want to use written at a level not yet accessible to some students. In that scenario, these resources can be helpful. While you may have to register for access, all of these tools are online (no downloading or installation of apps) and they’re FREE.
This website lets you copy and paste existing text (or key it in if there’s no copy option), highlighting difficult words and substituting simpler alternatives. For example, if a text reads “A brutal cold descended on Chicago…” Rewordify translates this to, “ A violent/difficult cold move downward/originated upon Chicago…” As you can see, it’s helpful for identifying words struggling readers are likely to stumble over, and for suggesting a simpler way to say each one. Unfortunately, the resulting text still needs to be reviewed by human eyes and a brain and tweaked to produce the more readable “A terrible cold moved down into Chicago.” Frankly, I use this more to identify vocabulary words I want to teach explicitly than as a translation tool. Some teachers like to teach students to use it themselves as a vocabulary-building/support tool. Rewordify also has a library of 300 simplified classic texts.
PROS: Ease of use; identifies challenging vocabulary and suggests simpler word/phrase substitutions; automatically generates word lists and vocabulary-building activities.
CONS: Translations are often cumbersome and make it difficult to follow the passage’s train of thought.
Like Rewordify, this site allows users to input text by typing, copying and pasting, or by providing a URL. With a click of the button of your choice, the text is then simplified or summarized. I know teachers who love this tool, but my tests yielded less than stellar results. (It kept “sensing” that my English-language sample text was Italian and therefore required a premium account.)
PROS: Quickly translates a given text into simple English.
CONS: Inconsistent results; unable to “read” and translate some texts correctly.
Using a simple formula that measures how many times a key word is used in each sentence, this website condenses text into a tight summary. It doesn’t actually substitute words, but it does analyze the passage, eliminating what it perceives as unimportant details to focus readers on the main messages. It’s a time-saver for summarizing news articles (where writing tends to be more formulaic), but don’t even bother using it with narrative texts.
PROS: Helpful for summarizing, especially when teaching students to determine central idea in nonfiction.
CONS: Doesn’t work with literature. Does not reword text, just eliminates elaboration and detail.
D-I-Y TEXT MODIFICATION
If you teach Language Arts, chances are you already have strong writing skills. Plus, who knows your students–and which words they’re likely to stumble over–better than you do? If you want to modify a given text yourself, you’ll find the following tool helpful for measuring the text’s original level and checking the readability of your redrafts.
Input the text you want to analyze, click a button, and this tool tells you the Lexile range, mean sentence length, mean log word frequency, mean log word frequency, and word count.
To simplify the text use the following techniques:
- Substitute complex words for simple words (ex. “brutal cold” becomes “very cold”).
- Shorten complex sentences into two or more simple sentences.
- Delete unnecessary details (ex. “an entomologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey” becomes “a scientist”)
- Use simple Subject-Verb-Object sentence structures.
PROS: Quickly analyzes texts and reports Lexile range.
CONS: Results are reported in a 100L range rather than a specific Lexile level.
Making complicated texts accessible to those students who struggle to read on grade-level text is critical to their long-term success. Hopefully these suggestions will help reduce the burden of delivering such scaffolding, leaving you more time to focus on building relationships and creating lessons that inspire!