Free resources for differentiated reading

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by Becky Palmer-Scott
Editor, SpecialEdTech.net

Matching reading level with student is an important task that all teachers must perform, especially in classrooms where special education students are mixed in with the general student population. At a recent MCEC (Michigan Council for Exceptional Chidlren) conference, Dr. Michelle Baker-Herring, principal at Southgate Anderson High School in Michgan, named several helpful websites.

ReadWorks.org is a good place to start if you would like to find reading material based on reading level (K-6), unit type, and skill/strategy. It’s free and is designed to help you build lesson plans.

CommonLit.org has a free collection of news articles, poems, short stories, and historical documents for grades 5-12. You can assign text-dependent questions to students, and analyze student performance on key reading and writing skills.

newselaNewsela,com performs literary magic by changing the reading level of the articles it publishes, depending upon the Lexile level you select. Every Newsela article is written at 5 different Lexile reading levels: 540L, 810L, 1060L, 1220L, and Max (college level). This enables all the students in your class to read the same content and discuss as a class. Content is nonfiction aand includes current events, history, book reviews, and more. Each level comes with writing prompts and quizzes. When you assign an article to your class, each student will see the article in his or her own level. It’s free.

newseumNewseum.org is a free website sponsored by the Newseum Institute in Washington, D.C.. Check out the EDTools page for hundreds of standards-aligned lesson plans, artifacts, case studies, and more. You can filter material by type of tool (EDCollection, unit, lesson, activity, freedom question (a type of quiz), case study, artifact, timeline, map, or quiz) as well as by topic, theme, century, state, grade/reading level, and format (online, in the classroom, and at the Newseum). Newseum.org offers some terrific interactive and thought-provoking discussion starters regarding freedom of speech and media literacy.

Lexile.com is another tool to find books based on Lexile level and topic of interest. Once a book is selected, a report is displayed which includes a plot summary and up to 10 challenging vocabulary words that are important for the reader to know. You can also enter a reader’s Lexile level to see a tailored vocabulary list. To get copies of books, the site includes links to WorldCat, showing where the books can be found in nearby libraries, as well as links to stores where you can buy the book online.

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