One of the challenges that both school districts and parents face during this time of school closure is how to help children with special learning needs succeed in home-based or online learning.Often it is difficult to imagine how to provide the same supports that are offered in school when children are at home or learning on the computer. Many parents do not feel that they are prepared to teach their child and many teachers do not know how to transfer the support that they usually offer to an online setting. In addition, quite a few families still have both parents working and do not always have the time they need to work with their children one-one-one. So, how can we offer accommodations and adapt what we are teaching so that all students can learn? That is what I am going to discuss in a series of posts over the next few weeks. Today we will focus on reading and writing.
Reading and Writing Accessibility (Accommodations)
Many students with learning differences in reading and writing have difficulty decoding text at the level that is necessary to access assignments given by their teacher at their grade level. For this reason, they often need a way to make reading quicker and easier so that they can focus on completing the work that has been assigned to them. Apps that highlight the word and allow the student to follow along in the text while it is read aloud are most beneficial. Many read-aloud programs are very costly, but there is a great free alternative that can be used at home, the Read and Write Extension for Google Chrome. Parents and students can use this free extension to read aloud text from websites, Google Documents, and PDF documents. Students can choose whether to hear a word or the entire page. Teachers can upgrade to the premium extension for free which has text and picture dictionaries to help students understand the meaning of unfamiliar words that they hear, word prediction to help with writing, spell-check, and a personal vocabulary list where students can store words that they wish to learn. In addition, your school’s special education department may already have individual student licenses where students can use premium features.
For writing students may need dictation programs that allow you to speak aloud what you would like to write. The easiest to use free option for this is the voice-to-text feature in Google Documents. You can find this under “tools” and “voice typing”. Using this in conjunction with the free Read and Write extension mentioned above allows students to write and then proofread what they have written for errors.
Reading and Writing Instructional Needs (Modified Instruction)
Another need that students may have while learning from home is access to appropriately leveled text, lessons, or practice. Many students with special learning needs are using research-based reading programs that are not designed to be used online. Luckily, many of these programs are coming out with resources for students to use for at home practice. The Wilson Reading Program has detailed information about how to continue instruction at home including full online workbooks that students can download and use for extra practice.
There are many free or temporarily free options that allow students and parents to access leveled text. Programs on Reading A-Z allow students who are reading on a K-5 reading level to read text that is appropriately challenging in several different languages. The Razz Plus also on Learning A-Z allows students to work independently by teaching comprehension skills and reading text aloud. This program is free for a 14 day trial, but then requires a yearly subscription. Many schools have a site license that allows students to use the programs for free. Readworks is a completely free program where students can choose text based on their grade level (K-12) and interests. Then each passage, reading comprehension questions, and related vocabulary activities that accompany the text all can be read aloud. Story Mentors by the Barbara Bush Foundation offers 25 free leveled readers for young struggling readers with activities. Reading Rockets offers many reading activities but their Reading Adventure Packs are especially fantastic. Leveled by grade/reading level, students can choose a topic of interest like dinosaurs or music. The pack includes a fiction and nonfiction book suggestion, creative activity, imagination activity, real-world activity, and bookmark for grades K-3 in English and Spanish. Read, Write, Think offers free reading and writing lessons and activities for grades K-12.
Cultivating the Joy of Reading
Many students who struggle with reading and writing understandably do not enjoy it. Listening to books is a way to cultivate the joy of reading. In addition, free video read alouds may provide an educational activity that kids can participate in while parents are working. Younger children in preschool and early elementary will love Goodnight with Dolly where Dolly Parton reads a weekly children’s book. Each book has accompanying fun activities, a song, and parent guide. On Twitter @levarburton, Levar Burton from Reading Rainbow reads to kids on Mondays at 12:00 p.m. and young adults on Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. Additional ideas for read alouds are the Indianapolis Public Library which has 100 free read aloud video books and Storyline Online which offers a selection of books read by celebrities. Older students may enjoy using Audible for Kindle to select books they are interested in and follow along as they listen to the book read aloud.
I would love to hear about resources you like to use for reading and writing instruction. Please leave your comments or questions below or on our Facebook post. I hope you will join me next week on Facebook Live Wednesday at 1:30 to discuss ways to make math more accessible.
Nina Parrish, M. Ed.
Co-Owner and Director of Education
Proud mom of two adorable girls. Teacher who has developed an education business that started at a kitchen table and has grown into a thriving small business... Click here to Learn more about Nina.
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