Teaching English with Technology

As a 17-year veteran English teacher, I have seen many improvements and changes in the way that technology is incorporated into the classroom.  Gone are the days of using the overhead projector, of rolling an outdated television set into the classroom, and of feverishly rewinding an old video cassette.   Surprisingly, the days of grading papers with red ink, of ordering class sets of novels, and of using a textbook are all gone as well.  Two years ago, the school that I teach at became a 1:1 school where each student is given a laptop during registration.
New teachers jumped headfirst into the incorporation of this newfound technological freedom, but some of the veteran teachers, who have amassed file cabinets full of old worksheets and notes, found it a bit harder to acclimate.  Despite the varying levels of comfort with the new technology, the teachers have come together to find the very best and most useful websites and online programs for English teachers.  Many of the following websites have revolutionized our classrooms, and they create an opportunity for differentiation, collaboration, and organization for students.
Here are the top resources (in no particular order):
ActivelyLearn.com: This website can be used for free (with limited options) or a premium plan can be purchased by the school.  This website provides content, assessment, and differentiation.  Most of the short stories, poetry, and plays that are already being taught in our classrooms are available as digital copies on this website.  Any stories, articles, or other content that is not already available can be added to the site via a google doc or as a PDF file.  There is premium content available (such as novels) for a nominal fee.  As students read the text, there are questions that are embedded within it; once they reach a question, they must answer it before moving on in the text.
These websites create an opportunity for differentiation, collaboration, and organization Click To Tweet
Most titles come with pre-made questions, but the teacher can alter the questions, remove questions, or add questions as well.  The teacher can also provide notes on the side of the text to help students.  Students can easily annotate the text and make comments that their classmates can react to as well.  There is a function that changes the text for dyslexic readers, a function that allows the text to be read to the students out loud, a dictionary function, and a function that changes the text to various languages.  Extra help can be offered to struggling students or students on an IEP, 504, or ELP plan as well.  Finally, this website has an independent reading component where students can choose what they want to read, write a review/leave a recommendation, and fill out a log that is easy to see and grade.
Commonlit.org: This website only has a free version, and it is maintained by current and former English teachers.  If you are struggling to teach new standards, or if you’re trying to prepare your students for any kind of standardized test, this is the website for you.  On the site, you can search for texts based on grade level, Lexile level, theme, and/or reading standard.  This website includes informational text as well as fictional text.  All texts can be read in one sitting, and the texts are similar to those that can be found on most standardized tests.  The texts have approximately four multiple choice questions based on the standards chosen, and they also have two or more short answer questions where the students are expected to give an extended response.  Finally, there are also discussion questions that are great for further exploring the text.
Turnitin.com: This is a website that requires a school-level or district-level license, but it is well worth the money! The main benefit of turnitin.com is that is checks all students’ papers for plagiarism.  Our students are required to turn in every major essay on this website.  It not only checks their essays to material on the Internet, but it also checks their papers against any other paper that has ever been turned in to turnitin.com.  A student can even be caught plagiarizing his/her own essay!  Other great features of this website include the ability for students to turn in a draft of their essay, and then essays are randomly assigned to other students in the class for peer editing.  Teachers can set the parameters and requirements for the peer editing.  Teachers can also create or upload their own rubrics to turnitin.com and grade the essays entirely online.  There is the ability to make comments right on the papers, and the teacher can see when a student has viewed his/her paper after it’s graded.
Noredink.com: This website has both a free and a paid version. The free version is quite limited, but it still is useful for practicing some basic grammar lessons with the students.  Each student can personalize his/her account so that each lesson includes his/her favorite television show, actor/actress, singer, friend, or even pet in each sentence.  It includes practice with commas, semicolons, colons, MLA format, capitalization, dashes, and many other common grammar lessons taught in class.  Students get immediate feedback and tips when they get questions wrong as well.
In short, these are just a few of the most dynamic websites out there for English teachers, and as we become more in touch with our world of technology, there are bound to be even more new and improved websites for us to use!

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