This is an important topic that I can’t believe hadn’t been its own thing before! So kudos whoever recommended it be covered or to Polly for addressing it.
I spend a lot of time hovering over students and staff as they keep up to date on information and it’s a lesson in news literacy every time I see what they’re accessing and talk to them about what they’re taking away, but when I saw some of the tools on simplifying text as well as News ELA that I had started using recently after being shown it by one of our Reading teachers at a professional development session. I get the delivery of the news each day and like being able to recommend it to other teachers. Right now, differentiation is a fairly substantial portion of what administrators are looking for when observing classes.
Then I played around with Rewordify and Readability Score, both based on a project I recently worked on with a teacher. Students could choose a topic related to social justice (or injustice for that matter) that connected with a text they were reading and also made real-world connections. Not shocking, students chose issues like the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality, among drug trafficking and sexual slavery both here and abroad. But with the specific teacher I was working with, accessing the databases with her students was too complicated, so we decided to deliver a choice of articles about their topics to have them focus on the information and note-taking. Yet even with some of the “leveled” articles in the databases I was using, the vocabulary was still too high and left students unfocused and disinterested. Reading the articles helped, but only because it created a dialogue to ask what words they didn’t know. Having News ELA, Rewordify, and Readability Score could help, though Rewordify does limit the words and seems to provide a lot of information AROUND the text you select like providing word banks, cloze reading activities, and vocabulary lists with and without definitions. But the actual site itself leaves a lot to be desired visually. Readability Score seems more “with it” but still provides an overwhelming amount of information, breaking down the grade level reading equivalent of the text and counts related to syllables and words per sentence. I like that this one can include both URL, straight text, or uploaded files to complete the readability score.
Obviously all are needed to be used with common sense as well, but both can be extremely useful tools that I will use in the future to guide teachers to differentiation.