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Scaffolding Student Access to Printed and Digital Text

Page history last edited by Mallory Burton 12 years, 6 months ago


Provide Both Scaffolding and Continued Reading Instruction

Printed text is a curriculum barrier for many students.  There are very few modifications you can make to a printed textbook.  The same textbook in digital form is much more flexible.  However, the digital text may create difficulties of its own.

There are many ways to scaffold access to printed text, but this scaffolding does not eliminate the need for continued reading instruction, even in the higher grades.  The best scaffolds are ones that also continue to teach reading skills.


In the Joe's Non-Netbook video, a screenager (Don Tapscott's term)  struggles with the foreign technology of a printed textbook.  Is exposure to screens and digital media already changing the brains of our digital learners?

The HIAT UDL Toolfinder provides solutions for common problems with student access to printed text.

Create the "printed book" section of this chart on poster paper and post it in your staff room. Over the next two weeks, see how many reading challenges and solutions you can collect.


This downloadable handout shows how Kurzweil features can be used to address the potential Curriculum Barrrier: Printed Text.

A brief on reading from the Access Centre website summarizes several strategies that can be used to differentiate reading instruction.  The Access Centre also provides self-guided modules (ppt presentation and handouts) for teaching or learning about successful reading interventions.  Lots of practical strategies!


Student is Reluctant to Read


Provide a genuine audience for readers.  Students can read to seniors, to buddies, to younger siblings, or create oral recordings to be used by nonreaders.  Last year the UDL team in Prince George established a buddy reading relationship over Skype with a classroom in the southern US.  The team reported that the students used every spare moment they could find to practice their reading.  This was a great support for reading fluency.

Flickr CC photo by dkaz

  Use the students' own experiences to create paper or electronic books they will enjoy reading.  The Fishing Trip was based on the experiences of its reader.  It's very easy to create accessible books in PPT or in Clicker5 software.  Everybody seems to have a fish story, a dream story, and a joke to tell.  This is a great place to incorporate phonemic awareness and vocabulary development.

Give students a choice of reading materials, such as magazines on a favourite hobby.  Manga are also very popular.  Song lyrics are motivating reading material.  (Just a caution...many of the song lyrics websites try to sell you ring tones.)

The Literature Circles approach focuses on common strategies and concepts but groups of students read books of their choice. 


Sting like a butterfly, float like a bee!  In year 1 of the project, Beth used Karaoke to motivate her reluctant readers.  She used Mohammed Ali's colourful language (shown in a youtube video) as the starting point for a unit on Metaphor and Simile and students worked with the Karaoke version of the theme song from the movie.  Mohammed Ali wikipedia photo

Students who don't like to read printed texts may not realize they are reading when they are looking at screens. 

Research indicates that turning on the closed captioning while children are viewing television can improve their reading.  (National Captioning Insititute, 2004 and Feinberg, 2003)


Closed Captioning Flickr CC photo by kawaface (actually says "physically conservative" instead of "fiscally conservative"

  Reading a book while listening to it on an mp3 player may be motivating for some students.  You can download books from ARC-BC in mp3 format, audio books from LibriVox in mp3 format, or create your own mp3 from any text in Kurzweil.  On my iPod Touch I was able to download a free copy of a Sherlock Holmes story using an app called Free Books.  Then I downloaded a copy of the same story from Librivox as an mp3 file.  Since you can listen to music (mp3s) while browsing on your iPod Touch I was able to play the audio book and read the etext at the same time.


Student has perceptual or physical access issues (Talk to your SET-BC consultant...it's what we do!)



Research shows that all students make more errors on smaller than larger text (Hughes and Wilkins, 2000).  Another study showed that using large print texts resulted in improvement in word recognition, comprehension, and fluency. (Lowe, 2003). 

Provide a digital text in a format suitable for the student.  Many ARC-BC materials are available in .pdf, .kes, and mp3 format.  Here is an explanation of the file types found on the ARC-BC website.  These materials are available to BC teachers only.


SET-BC has just produced a new guide to reading solutions for students with visual impairments.  The solutions were grouped into 3 categories:  paper, etext, and auditory.  All decisions regarding a student with a visual impairment should be made in consultation with the vision teacher. 


Kurzweil 1000 is designed for students who have visual impairments and may be a better choice for some students.

  SET-BC has a large collection of Accessible Books in colour, read by human voices.  These are ideal for students who have difficulty turning pages in printed books.  These materials are available to BC teachers only.
  CurriculumSET contains a large selection of Clicker5 and Classroom Suite books, many of which have been designed to provide alternate access to curriculum topics for students who have physical and/or cognitive impairments.  The books are free and downloadable but you need the software to read them.

The Tar Heel Readers are free online books with excellent accessibility options.
Some students have great difficulty with digital computer voices.  Volunteers at Librivox have produced human voice recordings of many of the classic literature titles in the public domain.  These are available for free download.  You can also create or purchase audio recordings of books that are not in the public domain.


Student has trouble focusing or is easily distracted

Applications such as TidyRead and Readability allow you to remove clutter from a web page which can then be imported to Kurzweil.
  If student is bothered by background noise, use electronic text with the student wearing headphones.



Student can comprehend but can't decode at grade level.


Teachers sometimes read entire books aloud with their class in order to scaffold access to printed text.  Books are also read by teaching assistants or peer tutors.  Text-to-Speech tools can read to students, allowing them to work INDEPENDENTLY.  The computer voice is obviously not able to capture all the nuances of the human voice and pronunciation and phrasing problems will occur.  However, for some students the computer voice provides enough assistance.


Listening is not the same as reading...whether it's a human or a machine reading.  However, there are many anecdotal reports of reading levels improving if students are also watching the words in the printed book or on the screen as they are listening.  Students can listen to an mp3 of a novel on an ipod while following along in the printed book.  Or they can watch the words being tracked on a screen as the text-to-speech tool reads the text.


Provide a digital text in a format suitable for the student.  Many ARC-BC materials are available in .pdf, .kes, and mp3 format.  Here is an explanation of the file types found on the ARC-BC website.  Most recommended novels and textbooks are available.  These materials are available to BC teachers only and you will need to receive copyright training and a password from your district ARC contact.

Many publishers are beginning to make their textbooks available in digital form.  This Pearson html text is designed according to UDL Guidelines and provides many options for perceptual and physical access.

If your district has purchased the BC Science 8 textbook, your students can access the etext version and related resources.

You could spend the rest of your life on Librarian Chick's wiki, browsing her list of books/audiobooks.
In the project, we have been using Kurzweil for reading.  The free Adobe Reader has a built-in speech reader that will read its .pdf documents. (It's the last item under the View Menu.) On the Windows platform, try WordTalk for MS Word or Natural Reader.  On the Mac platform try the built-in text-to-speech reader, Natural Reader, or Ghost Reader.  Paul Hamilton provides information about several other free text-to-speech tools on his udl4all wiki.
Here's an interesting blog post from someone who really knows her way around a Kindle.  Ray Kurzweil will be introducing the free Blio reader later this year.  This software will run on a laptop or iPhone and come with a million free books.

Support this student with continued instruction in phonemic awareness and word recognition.   Simon Sounds it Out is an excellent beginning phonics program.  Classroom Suite contains many phonemic awareness activities.  For older students, you can continue to teach phonics and phonemics awareness in conjunction with vocabulary study.



Student is overwhelmed by or doesn't have time to read large amounts of text

Sparks Notes, Cliff's Notes, and Wiki Summaries all provide summaries of important literary works.

Simple English Wikipedia, intended for children and adults learning English, provides simpler entries.
Graphic novels are extremely popular.  Julie reports success with the graphic novel versions of Shakespeare which provide a simpler, shorter version of the original. 



 Student needs metacognitive strategies for approaching text (including digital text!)

Thinkalouds, in which the teacher models reading strategies, are helpful for students who don't know how to approach text.  Projecting a digital text on the SB provides many opportunities for analyzing text and modeling different reading strategies through "thinkalouds".  It also eliminates the problem of trying to get students to find and focus on the same page at the same time in their individual texts.

Some students may need specific instruction in understanding how to use particular features of text such as the table of contents, glossaries, or chapter sub-headings.  In this BC UDL LOR lesson, the teacher and class use the Bookmarking Feature in Kurzweil to identify important sections of an article.  They then use the bookmarks to quickly locate answers to study questions.


In the online meeting, Rae shared the THIEVES strategy  that her team uses for looking at features of text before reading.

There is an excellent chapter on "E-Book Reading Strategies" in the ISTE publication The Digital Reader:  Using E-books in K-12 Education.  These include using electronic highlighting, text notes, and bookmarks to employ  traditional pre-reading and active reading strategies.  I have ordered copies of this book for all of the teams and these will be couriered out on March 22.
  Cambium Learning has put together a great downloadable pdf on how to use Kurzweil for SQ3R (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review).


Student needs support for vocabulary

Pre-teaching vocabulary enhances comprehension.  Use the  PWIM poster method to "shake" vocabulary out of a strong visual and then use the vocabulary in a number of categorization activities; on the SMARTBoard just project the picture and add the words in text boxes...something to use on Monday.

The SEEC Toolkit on the CAST website contains practical suggestions and downloadables for teaching vocabulary and comprehension using UDL strategies at the grade 8-12 level.  CAST does a particularly good job of showing the difference between tier 1,2, and 3 types of vocabulary and why tier 2 words should be targeted for instruction.
  Use dictionaries in Word or Kurzweil or online to look up words.  Here is a link to my Diigo list of dictionaries.



Student needs support in using active reading comprehension strategies

  Into the Book comes highly recommended by the Birchland Elementary team.  At this K-4 site students use 8 different reading strategies in extremely engaging and educational activities.  The teacher section provides many useful hints for teaching that strategy and a video of a skilled teacher presenting that strategy to the class.  The Pirate Handbook summarizing activity is brilliant!
The Reciprocal Teaching Method uses peer coaches to teach reading comprehension strategies.  At this site, you can download scripts for the peer coaches and printable bookmarks which remind students to use 5 comprehension strategies.  The Thinking Reader Series was modeled on the Reciprocal Teaching Method.
The Literature Circles approach focuses on common strategies and concepts but groups of students read different books.  In this collaborative learning strategy, students take on roles such as Discussion Director, Vocabulary Enricher, Literary Luminary, and Checker,

In MS Word documents, supports can be added using font styles and headings, highlightingText Comments, Voice Comments, and hyperlinks.

In Kurzweil, supports can be added using Text Notes, Sticky Notes, Voice Notes, Bubble Notes, and Bookmarks.

Many perceptual and cognitive supports have been embedded in the Thinking Reader Series.  Here's an interview with two teachers who used the Thinking Reader Series successfully in their classrooms.
CAST UDL Editions are a set of free public domain texts that have been engineered with embedded supports. 

Educators have created a number of free downloadable texts using the CAST Bookbuilder.  Options include the ability to add avatars to guide student reading.


Student cannot comprehend text at grade level


Provide information at different reading levels such as a collection of different printed text on the same topic for research.  Websites such as the Naturescapes site offer multi-level readings on the same research topic.
Don Johnson's Start to Finish Series includes classic books and non-fiction books written at an easier level and presented in printed, audio, and digital form.  Your SET-BC consultant will likely have copies of these for you to preview.
Use materials which convey the same information in a different form.  This BC Science 8 site gives links to websites which provide additional or alternative sources of information for their science text by page number.

Pictures can be embedded in text to provide support.  In Clicker5 just type in the words and pictures or symbols appear above the words. 

Attainment has created a literacy-based math curriculum and science curriculum with picture supports that conforms to US curriculum standards.







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