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It's time to get excited about literacy.

It's no secret that teaching reading and writing skills can be a challenge. Students can often become overwhelmed, frustrated, or disengaged when it comes to literacy.

That's why today I'm sharing some fun literacy tools that are sure to engage your students, and encourage them to improve their reading and writing skills.

Along with a brief description of each tool, I've included a complimentary video tutorial to walk you step-by-step through the basics. This makes it simple to see which tool might be right for your students, and helps you gets started on the right foot.

Each tool is showcased on a new page, so remember to click through to the next one each time. Your favorite tool waits for you just around the corner!

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Bring excitement to non-fiction text.

Children generally have vivid imaginations that make reading fiction fun and engaging for them. But how can you bring that same amount of excitement to non-fiction? In this 3-Minute Problem Solver, Monica Burns shares one of her favorite tools for finding informational text.

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In the brief video above, Monica outlines how Scholastic News brings informational text to life. These texts include how-to articles, directions, and other non-fiction texts. Articles are all geared towards kids and are written in a way that speaks to younger readers. There's even a “news for kids, by kids” section where students can apply to be a kid reporter. Every article focuses on high-interest topics, from the Hamilton: An American Musical, to getting to know the candidates in the upcoming election.

So what are some interactive ways you can use these texts in your classroom?

  1. Current Event Assignments – Have students choose an article that interests them and write a short response. These responses can focus on the relevance of the article and the student’s opinion.
  2. Engage in a Friendly Classroom Debate – Present an article to your class and then divide them into teams. Students can debate sides with you acting as the moderator.
  3. Use an Article as a Writing Prompt – Choose an article that will get your students' creative juices flowing. Then have them write a short story or poem inspired by that article. 

For our next tool, let's take a look at a way to help students who have horrific handwriting.

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Help students with illegible handwriting.

Penmanship shouldn't be the reason students get behind. In this 3-Minute Classroom Problem Solver, SimpleK12’s Teacher Learning Community presenter, Kim Munoz, explains how teachers can use SnapType to help students with illegible handwriting keep up with their classwork.

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To use this app, teachers simply take a picture of a worksheet on their iPhone or iPad. Students can then tap anywhere on that picture to add a text box. A keyboard will then appear for the students to type in their text on top of the worksheet.

Once your students' work is complete, they can share their worksheet as a PDF, image, or document. This feature makes it easy for teachers to collect homework and other in-class worksheets. With the free version of SnapType, students can store up to three documents at a time. There is also a paid version available that offers a whiteboard feature and stores an unlimited number of documents.

This app is a great way for teachers to help students with unclear handwriting feel confident and keep up with their classmates. This confidence empowers students to focus on the lesson at hand.

For our next fun literacy tool, let's take a look at a revolutionary way to discover information text. Click on to the next page to learn more.

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Where Can I Find Leveled Text?

There are many reasons you may be searching for leveled text to use with your students.

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In this 3-Minute Classroom Problem Solver video, SimpleK12 technology trainer Monica Burns explains how to find leveled text with Newsela.

Newsela publishes high-interest news articles daily at five levels of complexity for grades 2-12 using Newsela’s proprietary, rapid text-leveling process. Newsela develops nonfiction fluency and critical-thinking skills necessary to master the Common Core standards... - About Newsela

Newsela takes a few different articles each day from major news sources around the county, and evaluates them by their lexile level to make sure they are appropriate for students of certain ages.

As you explore the site you'll notice there are many types of articles available, and upon viewing each individual article you can scale the lexile level up or down. This is a great way to feed your students information that fits their specific needs.

For more helpful literacy tools, take a look at 10 Free Web Tools to Promote Literacy. Discover tools to help your students become better readers, as well as help you to create engaging lesson plans.

Now, join me as I showcase a story prompt tool that makes writing fun for students.

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Spice up your reading prompts.

Are you looking for ways to inspire your elementary students to write creative stories? In this brief video, Monica shares one of her favorite story telling tools, Scholastic Story Starters, for the classroom.

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Teachers know that students learn best when they are interested and engaged in the topic. To make writing fun, Scholastic Story Starters offers different themes that will catch students’ interest. Young story tellers can choose between an adventure, fantasy, sci-fi, or scrambled story line. Once they choose the theme, they can choose their grade level, K-6, which affects the complexity of the story. The individual parts of the story can be changed to fit the needs of the writer.

Examples of story starters include:

  • “Write one paragraph about taking a journey with a sincere explorer who drives a locomotive.”
  • “Describe the favorite food of a jumping space monkey who has lunch on a star.”
  • “Write a funny story about a nervous grasshopper who opens a smoothie stand.”

As you can see, the writing prompts are bound to make writing fun and challenge students’ creativity skills.

For more ideas on how to use Scholastic Story Starters in the classroom, Scholastic provides a teacher’s guide. This guide gives lesson plans for students of varying ages and different activities you can do with them during writing time. There are also classroom worksheets available.

For our next fun literacy tool, we'll explore another option for finding high-quality informational text. Click over to the next page to learn more.

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High-quality news articles for your classroom.

As a teacher, it's always nice to have a couple different options. In this video, SimpleK12 trainer Monica Burns shares another one of her favorite tools for finding informational texts.

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TIME for Kids is the young reader version of TIME Magazine. Many of the article’s subjects are the same for both versions, but TIME for Kids focuses on helping students understand important topics.

Reading topics include everything from national and world news, to sports and entertainment. Your students are sure to find something that interests them, and you can be sure that the information they're reading is top-notch. Plus, there are additional features outside of the text itself that really make this resource well worthwhile.

Other features from TIME for Kids include:

  • The TIME for Kids Homework Helper offers a variety of quizzes in addition to flashcard makers and other resources.
  • Printable worksheets and quizzes are helpful visuals for classroom use.
  • Explore Around the World where students can view facts, historical timelines, and more about a country of their choosing.
  • Photos & Videos help to further immerse students in the news to make it more personal to them.

OK, time to switch gears and look at another fun writing prompt tool. Click over to the next page and check it out!

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Writing prompts to challenge your students.

Writing can be a great way to get students to think deeply about texts they have read or experiences they have had. In this 3-Minute Problem Solver, Monica Burns, a popular SimpleK12 Teacher Learning Community presenter, shares how teachers can use CommonLit to find writing prompts that will interest and excite your students.

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In the video above, Monica shares some of the features of CommonLit, and why it is a useful resource for pushing your students as writers. The writing prompts from this resource are more concept-driven, rather than situation-based. That means that students are pushed to think critically about concepts such as friendship, identity, and social pressure. These writing prompts also give students more freedom to create stories with a larger message in mind.

To delve deeper into these topics, each concept offers example texts. The texts are based on grade level, and add perspective to each lesson. These texts are complete with thought-provoking discussion questions and similar texts to pair with your lesson. Related media, a teacher’s guide, and a parent’s guide provide additional features. The texts can be printed out and shared so your students can easily access them outside of class.

Check out this article for more ideas on how to engage students in writing assignments.

For our final fun literacy tool, we'll investigate a free tool that's proven to improve reading comprehension. Don't miss out!

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A comprehensive tool for reading comprehension.

Leveled text comes in handy when you work with students of different abilities, and want to differentiate your lessons. In this 3-Minute Classroom Problem Solver video, SimpleK12 technology trainer Monica Burns explains how to find leveled text with ReadWorks.

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ReadWorks provides research-based units, lessons, and authentic, leveled non-fiction and literary passages directly to educators online, for free, to be shared broadly. - About ReadWorks

ReadWorks provides hundreds of free texts to educators. You can easily find what you need by doing a quick search by keyword, grade level, lexile level, topic, text type, or skill. All of the material on ReadWorks is mapped to Common Core Standards, as well as the standards for each US State, which is a huge time saver if that's something you need to do for your lesson plan materials.

Many ReadWorks passages also come with questions at the end that you can use these to help quiz students on comprehension. They also recommend a list of vocabulary words, complete with definitions.

For more helpful literacy tools, take a look at 10 Free Web Tools to Promote Literacy. Discover tools to help your students become better readers, as well as help you to create engaging lesson plans.

Take a few minutes now to explore these wonderful literacy tools. What do you think? Leave your thoughts as a comment on this article.

For more fun literacy tools and tips for success throughout the school year, check out these on-demand training videos from SimpleK12's Teacher Learning Community:

10 Free Web Tools to Promote Literacy. Watch and discover tools that help your students become better readers and writers, and that help you to create engaging lessons for your classroom.

Creating Passionate Literacy Environments: Getting Students Excited About Literacy. We have the tools to help us be literacy teachers, but how do we create passionate literacy environments for our students? Join Pernille Ripp as she focuses on some of the things we can implement in our classrooms to help students become invested and excited about our literacy communities.

Inspired by Media: Creative Writing in the Digital Age. Would you like to spice up writing assignments for your students and get them energized about writing? In this training video, discover how to embed media — photography, artwork, and videos — into creative writing tasks using an online learning platform to inspire short stories, poetry, articles, historical fiction and more.

15 Free Mobile Apps to Create Digital Stories. Digital storytelling with mobile devices and applications can help your students develop and enhance creativity, information fluency, communication, and collaboration skills. Join Jenna Linskens for a fast-paced video in which she covers 15 free digital storytelling apps shares examples of how they can be used in the classroom.

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Which fun literacy tools are you most excited to try with your students? Share your thoughts in a comment on this article.

About the Author
Kimber Thompson is a Lead Moderator for SimpleK12 webinars and a Contributing Editor for SimpleK12.com. She writes frequently about education topics, and is passionate about tools and techniques that inspire young learners. You may reach her with ideas and comments at editor@simplek12.com.

2016-09-12T18:10:41-04:00

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