Engaged Online Reading

It was spring, and my family was faced with a dilemma. If my husband kept working at his current job, he was going to lose his mind, but we couldn’t make it on my income alone.

He had been working for the same private school for three years, tasked with teaching science to students from third to twelfth grade, many with special needs or severe autism. Small class sizes but with difficult kids and almost impossible curricular demands had started to compound his stress this last year.  He had to make a change, and he wanted a chance to actually use that Masters in Geology.

As he applied to everywhere he could to find a new job, I started looking to supplement our income in the meantime, too. I didn’t want to give up my high school teaching job, but maybe I could find a summer job until an opportunity came up for my husband.

Enter Curriculet. It is a free reading platform that provides engaging and interactive reading experiences for students and provides teachers a powerful tool for creating, managing, and tracking literacy curriculum. I had first heard of them via Twitter, from Kate Baker, an awesome, tech-savvy English teacher in my Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter. Curriculet has two awesome features for teachers who want to use technology to support independent student learning.

The first feature I tried was importing my own pdf. In the past, I had photocopied a chapter of Stephen King’s On Writing (less than 10% of the entire novel, and so okay for educational use) to show students the difference between revision and editing. I really love this chapter excerpt, but students sometimes struggled with going back and forth between the printed reading and the worksheet.  That year, I decided to try the assignment on Curriculet.

Wonderful success! Students could find the information more easily since it was embedded directly into the digital text! Also, I could tell from a teacher dashboard who had completed the assignment and how long they had spent on it. I could identify which questions gave students trouble and address those specifically.

The second feature I loved was using Curriculet’s precreated questions, quizzes and annotations. We always read Julius Caesar in my Advanced English 10 class, and in the past I had tried using an online version of the text, with a separate worksheet that asked questions about different lines of the play. Well, students struggled, because depending on the versions, the line count can be slightly different. Curriculet not only had the play for free, there was an entire  Common Core State Standards aligned layer of questions, quizzes, and annotations already developed by a master teacher.

Using Curriculet’s Julius Caesar,  I got data on which standards were hard for my students, as well as how long students were on the platform and whether or not they got the answers right, all without much grading on my part. The majority of the questions were multiple choice, with several short answer sprinkled within. I modified the “curriculet” to suit what I wanted my students to focus on.  Feedback from my students suggested that it was easier to read the play on Curriculet then it was using the paper annotations.

Back to my family’s potential financial woes. On Twitter, I saw that Curriculet was hiring Curriculet writers. A job that I could do on my couch, at my own pace, that I already sort of knew how to do? Awesome!

In addition to the application, I had to write a detailed, Common Core aligned curriculet for a short story. I agonized over it, seeing it as a way to free my husband from having to work at the private school. Imagine my pleasure when I got hired! That summer, Upward Bound also hired me to work for six weeks, providing a grammar and writing class and a Spanish class for local students.

It was a long summer. During the day, I taught classes. In the afternoon and the evening, I basically ignored my family, grading papers and writing curriculets. Along the way, I wrote curriculets for books I have long loved, like The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman, as well as books I have always wanted to read, like 1001 Arabian Nights.

Curriculet provided us with some awesome Common Core aligned videos, which were short but well done, and suggestions as to how to implement the standards. Editors previewed my work, giving valuable feedback to help me improve my writing. And I got paid for reading books–best job ever!

If you’re curious, I still work part time for Curriculet. And my husband? He’s working part time at a local community college, finally using his degree.

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