I am always looking for ways to scaffold instruction or make learning more accessible for my students. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with many students whose reading and/or writing levels have ranged from well below grade level to well above. Often with learners performing below grade level, listening comprehension is higher, and by giving opportunities to read along with another reader, opportunities to show comprehension of the text are also acquired. In addition, I found that my lowest readers have great things to say and by giving them ways to scaffold their writing skills, you give them a voice.
By giving students who struggle choices for how their needs and accommodations are met, ways to find and use supports independently, and control over the frequency and availability of those scaffolds, you have the ability to empower those learners to advocate for themselves. These are tools students could be using in college and beyond, should they need the support. It also has the ability to eliminate some of the stigma students (especially older students, in my experience) seem to feel when they need to ask to have something read or need help manually writing (ie. scribe). These struggles do not signify and inability to create or lack of intelligence, but instead and obstacle, to be overcome. I would like to share some of the tools available to help your students show what they know! With all of the tools, I will try to identify free tools (free is my FAVORITE price!) as often as possible.
You can use text-to-speech software to have typed text read out loud.
- Text-to-Speech Reader
- A free online service accessible via the internet. It even works on a smartphone. If you can copy and paste from a website or document, you can have this website read it aloud. There are several languages to choose from, but is not a translator. You can change the accent of the voice that is reading and vary the speed read. As the voice reads, the text is highlighted sentence by sentence. The computerized voice is slightly robotic, but easily understood. No login is required and no information is stored by the company. You can also download it as an app in the Chrome Web Store. (FREE)
- A free Chrome extension available in the Chrome Web Store and as an Android app. This tool can read web pages. The computerized voice is moderately robotic, but understandable. As a bonus, this website takes away many of the distracting ads in the margins and focuses on the text of the article. (FREE)
You can use speech-to-text software to have what you say typed out.
- Read&Write for Google Chrome
- A literacy extension that lets those with reading limitations access text by hearing it read aloud and using the dictionary (including the picture dictionary). You can also use your voice to type, so for students who need scribe, it is an excellent resource. For those with writing limitations, it offers predictive writing. (FREE for teachers)
- Voice Typing in Google Docs
- You can use a microphone (the one built into your computer or in a plug in headset works fine) to type with your voice. The voice tool can be found in the tools section in any Google Doc. To access it, below the title of your document, choose “Tools” then “Voice Typing.” Follow the directions on the screen to turn the feature on and off by clicking the large microphone icon.
- Charlie at Open Source Marketer created a great overview YouTube video of this feature. (FREE)
Hopefully, you will find these tools as helpful as I have in meeting the needs of your learners! Please comment below if you have used, will use, or are using these features. I would love to hear about them!