Achieve3000 is a remarkable resource for supporting our students’ literacy. The ability of the software to differentiate reading levels for each student and track their progress for leveling up is undeniably powerful. But, what about answering your standards? Math? Engineering? Art? Social studies? Never fear. A little creativity can take Achieve3000’s power and channel it into connected activities that spark students’ achievement, collaboration, and exploration. Read the nine strategies below to see how!
It’s . . .
Time to Argue!
Each Achieve3000 article carries a reading poll, taken before and after the reading. Use it to generate a debate. Find an article that meets your content standards, ask students to read it only for the poll questions, and then structure a verbal debate with rules of your choosing (Check this out for guidance on classroom debates.). The focus here is on students engaging with controversial issues through critical reasoning. This activity is best done with an article of the teacher’s choosing, assigned as the article of the day.
For example, you could debate the impact of technology through the article “To Text or to Talk?” The reading poll asks students whether they agree with the statement “The benefits of technology outweigh the drawbacks.” The article’s story of teen texters and their refusal to speak could lead to a larger debate.
Time to Surf!
After reading an article at their own reading level, ask a student to stretch themselves with other articles on the same issue from adult news services, like the New York Times or BBC. This could lead to an assignment where students discuss an issue from multiple sources or contrast the approaches of different authors. Importantly, students will ground themselves in the issue at their reading level before stretching themselves on the wide Internet. This activity could be done with either teacher-chosen or student-chosen articles.
For example, with the same article above, “To Text or to Talk?” students could search other web services for similar articles. Once they find “Texting May Be Taking a Toll” in the New York Times and “Steering Teen Drivers out of Harm’s Way” on CNN, they could discuss the impact of texting on teens with the support of multiple sources.
Time to Connect!
Once students have read an article that you have assigned them, ask them to find other articles in Achieve3000 that explore issues in the same general category. If, for instance, you just assigned an article that explored an endangered species, you could ask them to find other Achieve3000 articles that explore issues related to existing species. Then, the student could write about or discuss the general issue with examples from multiple sources. This could also be adapted for student-chosen work.
For example, if you assigned students to read “It Pays to Play,” an article about the benefits of sports for young people, they could search Achieve3000 for other articles addressing young people and sports. They may find “Counting on Safer Sports” and “High School Sports: Getting Safer,” both of which explore sports injuries and the efforts to minimize them.
Time to Write!
Achieve3000 offers a couple of different exercises to develop writing skills. The basic approach is the Thought Question. You can use that to develop students’ abilities to write in response to a prompt. If doing that, consider asking students to skip other tasks and get to the Thought Question immediately after reading. Achieve3000 also offers more detailed writing projects in the Writing Center (found in the “Resources” drop-down menu). You can choose from a variety of modes, like descriptive or persuasive. All writing assignments address Achieve3000 articles.
For example, the writing project entitled “Lady Gaga and Starvin’ Marvin” asks students to write a compare and contrast essay about two popular entertainers. If students began with the articles on these entertainers in Achieve3000, they could expand with research outside.
Time to Support!
The advanced search tool in Achieve3000 allows you to search for articles based on standards. So, if you wanted to assign an article that supported a content standard from your class, use the advanced search to find relevant articles. You can also use the topic selection tools to find articles that fit the same requirements. By using these advanced search tools, you can easily find articles that you could use to support and extend content standards you have already planned to cover.
For example, if a math or engineering teacher was teaching a unit on the mathematics and design of bridges, she might assign the article “Keeping Bridges Safe,” which discusses sensors that detect strain on bridges to reduce the risk of collapse. Reading this article can add depth to the study of bridges and connect the discussion to the real world.
See this strategy in action in this Teacher Showcase!
Time to Test!
Each article is followed by eight standardized test-style questions, and each of those focuses on a standard in English language arts. So, this may not apply to non-ELA classes, but ELA teachers can use the test questions to prepare students for similar styles of questions on assessments like state tests, ACT’s, or SAT’s. Good test-taking skills are often good critical reading skills, so take some time train students in the strategies of reading questions, assessing answers, and succeeding.
This strategy is even better when considering Achieve3000’s bonus lessons. At the end of each month, Achieve offers eight bonus lessons. These lessons present the same multi-text approach students will see on next generation state assessments. So, when a student takes the lesson, they will read two articles or an article paired with a chart, diagram, primary source, or video. The activity questions are technologically enhanced, just like the questions on those NGA’s. If you want to use these resources for test prep, you could complete them occasionally, or move them together into a test prep unit closer to the state tests. Check out “Privacy in the Digital Age” as an excellent example.It matches an article to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 and the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.
Time to Present!
Try organizing your class into groups focused on different articles. Two to three students should do. After the group reads and discusses the article, ask them to develop a presentation on the issue discussed in the article and relate it to a content standard. You can select the articles yourself or ask students to exercise search skills in finding articles relevant to a content standard.
Time to Share!
This strategy is a bit of a flip of the previous one. Use the same process to select articles, either you selecting them or the students selecting them according to criteria. Then, gather students into collaborative groups to share the article, but make sure each student has read a different article. This can lead to whole-class sharing where you ask a group member to explain to the class the article one of their peers shared in small group session. Both this strategy and the previous one can evolve into whole-class discussion with some provocative questioning on your part.
Time to Explore!
Ask students to find their own articles and explore them for any purpose you wish, perhaps leading to “Time to Share” or just leading to reflection on various topics in your discipline. If students have come to class reading these articles it can lead to a rich and multi-faceted discussion exploring the content in your classroom. Remember that differentiation is excellent, but when you add student choice to the mix, you add personalization. And that makes the exploration of words and ideas so much the better!
Do you have your own ideas? Post a comment below or send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.