ELL/ESL Aids: CommonLit and Widget Online

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CommonLit

CommonLit is “a nonprofit education technology organization dedicated to ensuring that all students, especially students in Title I schools, graduate with the reading, writing, communication, and problem-solving skills they need to be successful in college and beyond.”

Free to use and designed by teachers for teachers, CommonLit.org offers hundreds of fiction and nonfiction reading passages for students in grades 3 through 12. Many of the texts are available in Spanish. You can browse passages by book title, genre, literary device, or theme. Every passage includes three different question sets — some have related videos — and you can download the texts and questions as PDF files.

You can digitally assign reading passages and questions to students. Online reading comes with helpful features such as guided reading mode, useful for struggling readers, which includes a read-aloud feature, translated text, and highlighted words and phrases.

Once students start responding to questions online, teachers can immediately see the results. After students have completed the assignment, a detailed data report is available to identify skills to review and students who need extra support. Cumulative data reports are also available as multiple assignments are completed.
To sign up for a free account, go to commonlit.org.

Widget Online

Widget Online (widgetonline.com) is an amazing tool for communicating with students who would benefit from viewing pictures, such as ELL students and students on the spectrum. When you type a word, Widget Online automatically translates that word into a symbol which appears above it. If desired, you can replace a default symbol with one of your own.

A text-to-speech feature reads any text written, and Widget Online also uses the built-in speech recognition feature of your web browser to allow users to speak to write.

Widget Online flashcards

In addition to a regular document format, Widget Online provides templates for flashcards, timetables/planners, labels, and certificates, and offers a button to print to PDF. These features are free.

Widget Online also offers a Dual Language Feature Pack add-on which translates the text into one of 80 languages and displays two languages at once. The price for this ranges anywhere from $22 to $475, depending upon whether it is for an individual user or a large school. Other add-ons include a free iPad app, pre-made flashcards for home and school vocabulary, seasonal activities, support for spelling, and a choices-and-planning toolkit to encourage self-advocacy.

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