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iPad Learns to Read

Reading assistant ipad screen480x480Moving beyond the traditional Reading Assistant PC and Mac programs, Scientific Learning’s now has an iPad version. It includes everything the older apps have and kids can log on and use it wherever there’s an Internet connection for its selection of reading samples and comprehensive assessments. Teachers can tap into the program’s easy to read graphs on student progress.

Freebee Friday: Free Spring

WhooosreadingLearn2Earn’s Whooo’s Reading platform is not only a good way to keep students reading and writing, but for the time being, it’s free for three months. The full-featured trial requires at least three teachers at the school participate


Look Who’s Reading Now

Whooos reading aGetting students the daily reading and writing practice they need to become proficient can be one of the biggest battles for literacy in schools today. Learn2Earn’s Whooo’s Reading can help teachers motivate students to the work as well as get a handle on who is and isn’t reading and writing. In other words, it can get the books to open wide and the keyboards to start humming.

Aimed at students from Kindergarten through 8th grade, Whooo’s Reading provides incentives for both avid and reluctant readers. The program starts with a personalized owl avatar that follows them through their reading and writing journey. They can customize the Owlvatar with everything from choosing the owl’s eyes and hat to what the creature is holding. This yields enough combinations that it’s unlikely there will be duplicates in a class of 30. The program rewards kids with coins as they complete tasks and badges when they reach comprehension goals.

While the program doesn’t provide the actual books or reading passages needed, it does line up with popular texts and books used in today’s classroom. All the work is categorized with Lexile levels and its assessment questions are Common Core aligned.

At the moment, the service has more than 1,000 questions, but that number is rising every month. Whooo’s Reading’s Facebook page is a good place for teachers to interact, suggest techniques and share what works.

The good news is that Whooo’s Reading is Web-based and should work with just about any recent connected computer, including traditional PCs and Macs as well as Androids, iPads and Chromebooks. It also allows kids to use a school computer during the day and a home PC at night. The licensing structure allows summer use for students, making it a great way to encourage (or require) summer reading projects.

IMG_0013I used it with an iPad Pro, an 8-inch Android-based Asus Zenpad S8, a three-year old MacBook Air and a Microsoft Surface 3 tablet. The program worked well with everything from Safari and Internet Explorer to Chrome, but the browser framework (including the address bar) remains visible and might end up being a distraction. To make Whooo’s Reading look more like local software, you can set the browser to full screen mode.

The center of attention for the class is the daily Newsfeed. It’s a compilation of the highlights of the class’s comments and assignments and can end up being excellent motivation for collaboration or peer rewards.

On top of traditional assignments, such as describing a friendship in the book, the program has several that are a little off-beat, but are aimed at relating to the students. For instance, a kid might be asked to compose a FaceBook or Twitter posting about a character.

Teachers have a thorough Dashboard where they can add new students one at a time or in groups via an Excel or CSV file. The latest improvement is that the program works with Google’s Classroom for things like adding new students. The company plans to integrate Whooo’s Reading into other classroom apps.

The teacher’s view has a ribbon Nav Bar across the top for Home, Responses, Data, Upgrade and MyClasses. Each class has a list of students that have their Owlvatar alongside the student’s name. The class view shows the avatars sharing a couple of tree branches, but if you hover over each, the teacher can see their recent achievements.

Alternatively, the student view lets kids hover over their classmates to see their profiles. The class’s collective accomplishments are on the side and there’s a bar graph for where it stands versus their goals.

IMG_0014For newbies to Whooo’s Reading, one of the most important items is a checklist of things for the teacher to do and how to best use the program. After a while, I suspect that these will become second nature, but for those familiarizing themselves with Whooo’s Reading, it is an excellent overview and backstop.

The center of the Dashboard has a place for assignments, Student Roster and a place to select specific questions for the class. It’s organized by category or book. At the bottom is a convenient section for who’s meeting their Whooo’s Reading goals, but you can look at actual grades and who’s reading at grade level.

Dig down to the individual student level and you can see how many minutes of their reading goal has been met along with the number of questions they’ve answered. Below are the writing exercises they’ve completed. At any time, you can copy and paste anything from Whooo’s Reading into an email to parents. The company is working on a more direct method.  

Pricing of Whooo’s Reading has recently changed with the dropping of the free version; it had everything except the Dashboard and common core coordination. The $5 a month Premium version is the entry point for users, but teachers can get full use for $15 a month. Schools will likely end up licensing the service. It costs about $1,875 to get Whooo’s Reading for 250 students, or $7.50 a year per student. 

There’s a bonus for those short of cash and what school isn’t. Learn2Earn has an optional read-a-thon fundraiser that not only can get a school reading and writing but can raise some money for the school. The community – parents and grandparents included – pledge to back the effort. Of the total collected, Learn2Earn takes a 22 percent cut.

With the ability to not only motivate kids to read and write, but also act as a fundraiser, Whooo’s Reading is a bargain.


Whoos reading logo

Whooo’s Reading

$15/month per teacher with school and district licensing available


+ Well-paced personalized program

+ Lexile rankings with Common Core alignment

+ Teacher Dashboard

+ Fundraising potential

+ Google Classroom integration

+ Inexpensive school licensing


- Learn2Earn takes 22% cut of fundraising

- Doesn’t include actual reading passages

One-on-One Reading

Myon 3The latest release of myON pushes individualized reading instruction to the limit with new content, games, interactive elements and easy to find Lexile reading levels. Students get a reading journal, dictionary and graphic organizers, while the teacher’s dashboard has been improved with a bar graph that shows how many reading assignments each student has completed this month versus last month as well as the last one. Version 3 of myON is a free upgrade for current users of the program. All schools and district currently using myON will gain access to these new tools at no cost.


Down to Earth Reading

Screen480x480 (1)By combining interactive games, images and 54 short stories, version 1.1 of Planet Read can bring the skill of reading down to earth. The program not only can help kids sound out new words, but covers all the vowels sounds along the way.  While there’re versions of the iPhone and iPad, Planet Read isn’t available for Android tablets.



Freebee Friday: Teaching the Teachers

Better-readers-shari-robertson-ebookHaving well-trained teachers is absolutely essential today and PresenceLearning’s “6 Strategies to Build Better Readers” is a good place to start. Written by literacy expert Dr. Shari Robertson, the ebook has – as the title implies – six ideas on how to create lifelong readers by instilling a sense of fun and adventure.


Tales that Stay

Tales 2 goIf you like Tales2Go’s ability to read simple tales to a roomful of kids, you will love its latest update. The software still works on PCs, Android and iOS devices with 4,500 stories available but can now be run without a constant Web connection because the program can now cache full stories to be played over and over again. It also now includes a Lexile measure of the story’s difficulty.

The Pad Reader

Rather than desktops or even notebooks, students are more often than not reaching for tablets when it’s time to work on reading, vocabulary and comprehension. After all, using a full windows or Mac computer for this task might seem like a waste of precious resources. Enter the latest reading aids, which have the power to turn a slate into a learning machine.

DRAPearson’s second edition of its Developmental Reading Assessment is now available for iPads, making it easier to get into the hands of students; sorry, Android schools are out in the cold. The app comes with a variety of reading passages, including fiction and nonfiction ones. The software is comprehensive,  covering everything from observation and recording reading performance to evaluating any changes. It’s good for students from Kindergarten to 8th grade and is a free download, but you need to subscribe to Pearson’s content.  

PlanetreadMeanwhile, the recently updated PlanetRead! combines reading instruction with help in mastering the often impenetrable rules of spelling. It places the focus firmly on fun with interactive games, stories and images so the kids will hardly know they’re learning. Based on the notion that phonics should be used in every aspect of language arts and not memorized, the app is aimed at early learners with 54 stories that kids can go through. It tracks progress and rewards those who can master the material. Available for the iPhone and iPad, there’s no Android software available here as well. If you like, PlanetRead! Can be used over the summer break to help those lagging and so that students keep their skills sharp.

Pocket verbalSchools that use Android slates don’t despair because Pocket Verbal Ability is for you. The Android and Chromebook app can not only improve the vocabulary that kids have but the app has been built around more than 3,000 practice questions that frequently show up in the most used standardized exams. The program covers everything from idioms to antonyms and its questions have been categorized and based on level of difficulty, allowing teachers to tailor the software for an individual, class or group of students.

VocabularyWhat if you have a mix of Androids and iPads and don’t care to get involved in the war between platforms? Think about Vocabulary.com, a browser-based system that can help kids learn the right words. Just point a connected slate at vocabulary.com and the words, meanings and sentences start flowing. You can either paste-in words of interest or up to 100-pages of text from an ebook or text. The site then puts together a class-wide activity to learn the key words through a series of quizzes. There’s a fill-in dictionary box at the top and you can even set the site up to deliver a weekly word quiz to students’ email inboxes.



Freebee Friday: Word City

Screen568x568While it was designed for use with home-schoolers, Vocabulary SpellingCity can open up a world of words to young students. Available for iPads, Android tablets and over the Web via a browser window, SpellingCity has 30 word-based games including MatchIt Sentences, FlashCards and Parts of Speech. Together, they can expand a class’s vocabulary while helping their spelling. The app automatically tracks each kid’s results, can deliver reports and is free to try out. The premium edition costs $30 for five users.


ISTE UPDATE: One-by-One Reading

MyonForget about lock-step reading instruction where every student needs to read a passage from the same book out loud to the class because myON can custom tailor the curriculum to each kid’s specific style of learning and needs. The program includes unlimited access to myON’s library of over 7,000 ebooks as well as assessments and ways to identify and help struggling students.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Tech Tools are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.