Some students struggle with reading comprehension
The reasons students struggle to be able to comprehend text are many and varied. They might have a print disability such as dyslexia, an
intellectual disability or it may be that the text they want to read is just too advanced for their current reading level.
When students are researching and enter the topic name into a search engine, the results can be overwhelming and some results can be very scholarly in nature.
I do not mean to suggest that the curriculum be made easier, that poor reading skills be excused or ignored for mainstream students or that students should be allowed to take the lazy way of doing things.
Sometimes, for one reason or another, it is of benefit for children (and adults) to be able to access clutter-free, simplified reading material.
Four ways you can provide that material and teach students to modify their methods for research and reading.
1. Google search tools
When the results of a Google search are displayed on your screen, click on Search tools, then on All results and then on Reading level.
You will see a graph which displays the percentage of results considered to be at a Basic Reading Level, an Intermediate and an Advanced Level. Choose Basic and the results displayed for the search will only be those at a Basic Reading Level.
2. Wikipedia simple text
For better or for worse, Wikipedia is the “go to” website for most school age students beginning research. Once you have a Wikipedia article open, scroll down the page until you see Simple English listed under languages in the left sidebar. Click and, lo and behold, you have a simplified version of the article.
Rewordify.com is a free website into which you can paste text or a url for a website.
The site then substitutes words it judges to be difficult with a simpler word or phrase. It does come up with some strange substitutions, e.g. Bakery Hill became (shop that sells cakes, pies, etc.) Hill and the flow is often interrupted when a phrase is substituted for a single word. Single words can also be pasted in to get their meaning and there are other features which provide activities for learning vocabulary. More features are available if you register but it is not necessary to register if you just want to paste and substitute.
Readability.com is a free web and mobile app which doesn’t actually simplify text but which declutters the web page to remove distractions which can be very…well…distracting for some students. Once you have installed the Readability bookmarklets, an icon will appear on your browser toolbar. When the page you want to read is in front of you, click on the armchair icon, and choose Read Now.
You will then be presented with a “clean” version of the page. There are other features in Readability which allow you to mark articles on your reading list to read later and to send articles to your Kindle.
The Readability.com option obviously needs a bit of setting up so it’s harder to use when you’re away from your own computer. The other options can be easily used on any computer.
Has anyone used these programs or found any others which do the same sort of thing?