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Freebee Friday: From Hogwarts to Your School

Harry potterNothing lightens up a reading lesson more than J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series and the author will be hosting a virtual classroom on October 11 at noon, eastern time, to inaugurate the online Harry Potter Reading Club. Sponsored by Scholastic, the corporate parent of Tech Tools, the site will provide all that’s needed to set up a Harry Potter reading club at your school or classroom, including discussion guides and lesson plans. The Webcast is free, but you’ll need to register, and the first 10,000 teachers to register will get a package of sticker, bookmarks and other items.


Word Games

Noodle wordsLooking for a way to teach the power of words without a single handout word list? Noodle Words can do the trick with an iOS-based app that works just as well with iPads as iPhones or iPod Touch models. Aimed at 4-to-6 year olds, there are 18 action words that are animated in a way to to reinforce retention. For instance, the word Spin actually spins and rotates. There are tips that can help teachers and parents to get the most out of the program. It costs $3 at the online App store.

Freeebee Friday: Just One More …

One mroe storyIf your kids are getting bored with the same old read-along stories, the One More Story site can help with dozens of recorded books for students to listen to when they feel like it. With titles that range from “Rattletrap Car” to “Bear in a Square,” there’s something for every early reader. While a voice reads the book, the words are highlighted and the site includes the book’s artwork. Oddly, they’re not arranged by reading level, which is intended to foster serendipity. It costs $44 a year for an individual, but as little as $1.30 per student with a school-based license.



Freebee Friday: School’s in for Summer

3Osz5LGSphXhoyJDdKwoOg-temp-upload.gxvtgzbc.320x480-75Why let two months of summer vacation undo 10 months of learning? Scholastic’s Reading Timer app can help track how much reading they’ve done over the summer. The free app works with an iPhone, iPad or an Android device. In fact, try and get your kids to sign up to participate in the Summer Challenge where kids will team up to break the record for summer reading. In the fall, the class can compare their reading results.


Listen Up for Reading Help

LA-AudioApp3Dyslexia not only is frustrating for students, but for teachers who lack the resources to guide these students to fluent reading. Listening is a great technique. Listening to books being read on an iPhone, iPod or iPad, that is. Nonprofit organization Learning Ally can help with a new version of its Audio reading program.  Learning Ally now allows direct downloading of content and the software has bookmarking (both for memorable and hard to follow passages), the ability to return to the last-read place. My favorite is that the software can speed up and slow down the reading so that the student can get the most out of it. The organization has a library of 70,000 volumes and teaching resources. Learning Ally is free for those with version 1.0 and 1.1 of the app and it costs $20 for others. The service costs $99 a year.

Reading on the Web

RA Screen 01What’s better than a reading program that can run on PCs or Macs? How about one that is distributed over the Web so that it runs on every computer that a school owns, from a notebook to an Android tablet. The latest version of Scientific Learning’s Reading Assistant lets students log on and practice reading to develop their comprehension by reading passages into the service’s speech recognition engine, which provides feedback.

Freebee Friday: Software Plus Books

Storia aScholastic, the corporate parent of Tech Tools, is getting into the eBook market with its Storia software. The program includes access to more than 1,000 books already published and many more on the way, including such classics as “Clifford the Big Red Dog." The software runs on PCs and an iPad version is in the works. Storia can not only read and highlight passages to the student, but also comes with interactive elements, quizzes and a visual way to organize a schoolroom worth of virtual books. Storia downloads come with 5 free books.


Freebee Friday: The Reader

MacfreepicSometimes all a struggling reader needs is to have a passage read to him before he gives it a try on his own. That’s exactly what NaturalReader does by turning text on the screen into a natural sounding voice. It works with PCs and Macs and can has a handy tool bar for speeding it up or slowing it down. The software can read an entire book or just a paragraph or sentence and has the choice of different voices. The trial version is free.


Check out That eBook

Ebook rentalRather than buying ebooks for students and teachers to use as needed, eBook Fling lets your school buy a subscription, allowing readers to take out as many as 12 for $20 as compared to between $10 and $15 each. There are books, magazines and newspapers available, and can be read on a variety of devices.



FETC 2012: Read Along

Reading assistantIf putting early reader books in front of children and hoping for the best isn’t working, Scientific Learning’s Reading Assistant takes this to a new level by highlighting the word while it reads the passage to the student before she tries it herself. After silently reading the passage, the student records a reading as the program corrects any words that are misspoken. Finally, the student takes a content quiz, and the program compiles the class’s scores.





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