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New Features from Literacy Tool Continue to Help Struggling Readers Manage Difficult Text

CommonLit, a first-of-its-kind literacy tool developed by a former teacher on a mission to provide equitable access of resources to all school districts, has announced new features designed to further help students of all abilities improve their reading skills.

As a whole, CommonLit offers users access to a digital library that contains "over 450 lessons that include authentic published works from National Public Radio, Science News for Students, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Digital Public Library of America, and more. Each lesson includes a standards-aligned question set, a discussion guide, linked to related multimedia, and a guide to engage parents and promote literacy development at home," said the company in a statement.

CommonLit has received a lot of positive attention since its inception; in October, the Department of Education awarded it with a $3.89 million grant as part of an initiative to promote non-profits with innovative approaches to literacy.

Now, it's building on that momentum by announcing a group of text sets based on a variety of historical periods. Each text set includes 5-20 individual lesson resources to connect students to topics relevant to the given time period. Examples of historical periods covered include Ancient Rome, Slavery in America and the Vietnam War.

True to all of the materials CommonLit offers, the text sets can be assigned to classes or individual students; students then answer questions based on the text and teachers are provided with data analytics based on student progress.

"Each text also comes with a discussion guide, recommended paired passages, related media, and a parent guide. Schools with limited technology can download a printable version of the resources," said CommonLit's press team in a statement.

Education World talked with CommonLit's CEO Michelle Brown in October. Brown spoke about her mission to close the "digital divide," a mission she embarked on after teaching in a rural and underserved school district in Mississippi.

"Everyone deserves the chance be challenged in school and discuss big ideas with their peers. My vision was to build a literacy product that doesn't lower the expectations for struggling readers by artificially lowering the level of an authentic text, for example," Brown said at the time.

Brown spoke about continuing to improve what CommonLit has to offer students while never charging users a fee for access.

"...my goal was to help teachers support struggling readers so that those students can still participate in the same discussions, read the same novels, and answer the same essential questions as their peers. It's important to me that CommonLit remains free so that even teachers in high-poverty schools can adopt it," she said.

In addition to the text sets, CommonLit has introduced a guided reading mode that focuses on ensuring that students of all reading levels are able to follow along with and comprehend complex texts. More information about that feature can be seen in the video below.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

1/20/2017

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