1 | Wonderopolis
I first discovered Wonderopolis several years ago. Unfortunately, I’ve made little use of this truly great website in the past few years! It resurfaced, however, when I started thinking about how to (a) provide services digitally and (b) reduce the use of physical materials in my in-person sessions. What do I like about Wonderopolis?
1: It provides invaluable (and interesting) non-fiction texts. I have really struggled to find non-fiction texts that are presented in an interesting way in the past. Wonderopolis makes reading about scientific and historic topics more interesting by presenting them as something someone has “wondered about.”
2: Students have their own chance to wonder! The website includes a place for students to write in their own questions. When you get to a wonder page, the person who wrote in about that topic is mentioned.
3: The texts can be read or listened to as an audio file. This is helpful for our students who struggle to read fluently.
3: Unfamiliar words are highlighted throughout the text. If the words are hovered over, a brief definition will display.
4: Once the text is read, students can take the “wonder word” challenge, matching the highlighted words to their definitions.
5: Students can also take a short comprehension quiz after finishing the text. The quiz can be taken on the website or printed out.
6: Common Core Standards for the text are listed, ensuring that your activities are core-aligned.
7: Sources of information for the text are listed, presenting expansion possibilities for students to read more, compare and contrast, and mroe!
8: A few short expansion activities are listed below the text. This includes additional reading, discussion questions, and even fun, outside videos and articles that relate the topic to the real world.
9: Each video is accompanied by a short video related to the topic discussed in the text, further reinforcing the ideas presented and diversifying methods of instruction.
10: Each text ends with a “wonder what’s next” blurb that gives students a hint about the next day’s topic. Students can read the hint and make a prediction about the next article. Some clues are better than others, but because the wonders can be scrolled through at the top of the page, it’s easy to make a prediction and quickly see the answer, even if you’re not keeping up with it in real time. You could look ahead and provide additional clues too!
Wonderopolis is associated with the National Center for Families Learning, whose goal is to use education to eradicate poverty. As we know, illiteracy and poverty often go hand-in-hand, making strong reading skills (and a love of reading!) so vital. I think Wonderopolis is a fantastic resource for not only encouraging reading, but also encouraging a natural curiosity about the world around us.
2 | Epic!
Another site I discovered quite awhile ago but have neglected to use is Epic! Books. When I first starting playing with Epic!, I found it to be mostly just a library of books students could read online. Either it’s expanded in the past few years or I was quite wrong at the time! I think Epic! has the opportunity to be extremely beneficial as we go throughout this school year! Here are some things I like about Epic!:
1: You can add in your students to create a roster and divide them into groups. For example, I have my students grouped by school and whether they are in a self-contained setting or not.
2: From your student roster dashboard, you can choose to add parent emails, which could be quite beneficial for our students who will be getting therapy from their homes with parental involvement.
3: Also from the dashboard, you can create and manage assigned reading and quizzes.
4: Quizzes can be created by you for a story and assigned to your entire roster, a group, or an individual student. Some stories have quizzes already created and shared by educators.
5: You can explore books by age, grade, and even lexile level! You can also filter by whether or not a book is a comic, has a “read to me” feature, or is an audiobook. Books are also sorted by topic, such as ELA, science, and math.
6: You can also sign educational videos for students to watch. Quizzes can be created and assigned for videos as well, adding a listening comprehension component to this site.
7: You can add books and videos to your own library so that you can plan ahead for future assignments.
8: Epic! can be accessed easily on a computer or a tablet/phone.
9: Students log in to their own Epic! account using a classroom code.
Epic! provides us with a great opportunity for both group lessons and assigned homework on a digital platform. The ability to create your own quizzes within the site will allow you to target questions specific to deficit areas, going deeper than traditional comprehension questions often available in pre-made assessments.
3 | Storyberries
Storyberries is far more simplistic in nature. It doesn’t have the bells and whistles of Wonderopolis or Epic! and will thus require you to make your own accompanying activities. However, I think (and there is research that agrees!) that exposure to fairy tales is important and Storyberries allows for that! What do I like about Storyberries?
1: Storyberries provides both traditional fairy tales and allows authors to write their own variations of stories.
2: Storyberries sorts stories in several helpful ways: age, time to read, type of story (picture, chapter, comic, etc…), topic (dragons, gardening, the beach, etc…) and conversation (death and dying, friendship, jealousy, etc…).
3: At the end of each story, a few discussion questions are provided for conversations based on the conversational theme of the story. These are categorized by emotions, events, etc… and could be particularly helpful for students working on social skills.
4: Storyberries provides audio versions of many stories, as well as videos through YouTube.
Storyberries is a simple website, but it serves a purpose of exposing students to the fairy tale genre and encouraging healthy discussion on a variety of topics, using storytelling as a framework. Some research suggests that this is an important practice for stimulating healthy childhood development and can be a beneficial inclusion in our educational services.
These are just 3 of the many, many websites out there for educating students. Having a library of online resources will likely prove more vital than ever to our therapy services this year as we prepare to provide teletherapy services and reduce transmission through good hygiene practices.
Do you have any suggestions for reading websites? Share below!!