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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Increase Reading Interaction Using This One Simple Site

I cross my fingers each time I assign my students a chapter, short story, or article to read at home for our next day's discussion or close reading. Too often I'll pile on related comprehension questions or threaten a quiz just to increase the likelihood that every student will get the reading done. Annotations, summaries, probing questions, and reflections on favorite quotations fill my bag of tricks, but I've always wanted something that would more actively engage my students with the text.

Enter Curriculet.

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Curriculet is an easy-to-use site which allows you to embed annotations, definitions, questions, images, videos, and quizzes into online text passages.

According to the site, "We believe that every moment of learning begins with reading, that teaching is a craft, and that the most effective curricula begins with the inspired work of great teachers and is perfected through peer collaboration. Curriculet is revolutionizing the way kids read, and how teachers create, share, and teach with a simple yet dynamic digital reading platform."

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The site offers three options for text selections:
  • Choose from dozens of popular texts which can be "rented" for classroom use. These texts come complete with embedded features to assess structure, diction, textual evidence, point of view, central idea, summary, media, and more. You can edit, add to, or remove the embedded material, saving the new Curriculet as your own.
  • Choose from a number of free texts, which include many novels in the public domain such as Tom Sawyer and Treasure Island, poems such as "The Raven," and short stories such as Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" and Ray Bradbury's "The Pedestrian." Teachers can additionally choose from a growing number of many popular passages. These free texts typically come complete with embedded media which can be used as is, edited, deleted, or added to in the same manner as the rented texts. 
  • Upload your own text. Then embed customized questions, definitions, annotations, and media. Most Word and Google Doc format texts convert easily to reading passages, but even URLs can be converted into Curriculet form simply by using the "Add My Own Content Button" in the Library page of your teacher account. Questions can be open ended or multiple choice, tagged by skill if desired, and the text to which they refer can be highlighted for ease in student reference.
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In all cases, the multiple-choice questions and quizzes are self-scoring. If you include open-ended questions, you're given the opportunity to hand score these simply as correct or incorrect, adding comments as needed.

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If you're using novels in a whole class manner, the easy access via any mobile device plus the bonus of customized embedded content would be worth the cost. But I can also see Curriculet as being equally useful in
  • differentiating reading, either by content (assign different text selections) or skill (assign the same text across the class, with varying levels of questions and assistance via notes);
  • discussing current events, as students can answer questions focused on factual understanding, and then respond in more subjective ways via open ended responses; 
  • measuring formative grasp of any given reading skill, using short, controlled passages with just the right number of questions to gauge the the progress of individuals students or the whole class;
  • assessing comprehension of critical attributes of a genre, topic, theme, etc. using one exemplar text;
  • contextualizing vocabulary, which is too often taught in isolation from meaningful text.
The site is free to use and easy for students to join. Give it a trial run and be sure to reach out to the folks at Curriculet with your feedback. Their goal is create a quality reading experience, and I think they're on the right track!