Today’s text-to-speech voices are excellent. Monotonic, robotic voices are history. But getting it to read something you want to listen to is not always easy.Voice Dream Reader can load and extract text from many sources and file formats. After extraction, Voice Dream performs additional processing to optimize the text for text-to-speech. Ads on web pages are stripped out, page numbers go away and strange characters are removed, so you can focus on what matters: the content. The text is stored on your device so you can listen to it anytime, even when you’re not connected. FIND OUT MORE

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Inventing Infographics: Visual Literacy Meets Written Content

I’ll admit it. In my early years as a teacher, I thought that encouraging students to improve their writing invariably involved encouraging greater depth, adding more detail, crafting more complex sentences. In short, I implied to my students that the most valuable revisions involved adding to our work and that writing better equaled writing longer.

Enter the infographic, the twenty-first century text/structure/genre/design that blows my earlier beliefs about “better = longer” right out of the water.

As texts compete for attention with soundbites, scrolling headlines, tweets, and vines, writers and readers alike are seeing the value of text that uses visual design features to organize ideas, provide background, and emphasize key facts in ways that make it easier for readers to engage a topic thoughtfully. I have always encouraged my student writers to “swim deeply” when they read and write, moving beyond the basics, braving the imposing waters at the “deep end of the pool.” Reading and writing infographics is like cannonballing into ten feet of water — you splash in deeper and more quickly.

I knew that this year I wanted to have students experiment in creating their own infographics, so I made an early decision to build infographics into our Article of the Week routine (inspired by Kelly Gallagher). I occasionally substituted an infographic or two instead of the news articles or essays they were accustomed to reading. Of course, the reaction was positive. The first thing students noticed was the substantial time savings in reading an infographic or two versus a traditional article. It was like asking them to readAnimal Farm after completing Great Expectations — there was an immediate “can do” reaction. Continue reading


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It only took one year and an accordion player to redeem the rapiest song that ever became a massive worldwide hit. I never thought I’d be saying, “Thank you, Robin Thicke, for giving us ‘Blurred Lines,’” but now I do. Because were it not for “Blurred Lines,” we’d never have the Weird Al parody, “Word Crimes.”

“Weird Al” Yankovic has been releasing a new video for his latest album, “Mandatory Fun,” each day this week. But with more videos still to go, he may have hit the apex on Tuesday with his epic grammar rant. Frankly, the whole thing would have been worth it for the “Weird Al has a big dic…tionary” gag alone.

For a man who’s distinguished himself for spending the past 30 years in funny shirts and big hair, writing songs that involve doughnuts, Yankovic has also always made it clear he’s a really bright bulb. His videos are meticulous homages to their originals, and his commitment to honoring the distinction between “less” and “fewer” is already YouTube legend. But in “Word Crimes,” he takes on everything that makes being part of modern Internet culture such a goddamn ordeal for frustrated liberal arts grads and assorted pedants everywhere. Oh, Weird Al, you had me at “conjugate.” Continue reading


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WhytoRead Booklists

“We’re here to create inspirational and innovative booklists for people who love to find new books to read, but who struggle to find the best books using conventional  means.”

3 reasons why our booklists will inspire you:

1 –  They will inspire you with the best books that you hadn’t heard of before

2 – They will introduce you to top books that you never realised were interesting,

3 – or by bringing a classic book to your attention that is simply essential reading.

There are 5 brand new lists published every week so ensure that you subscribe so we can send you them as soon as they are published. This way you can start enjoying your newly discovered book and finish it before we send you more.

Subscribing to and receiving the daily emails from WhytoRead.com is absolutely FREE. Your emails will not be shared with anyone outside of WhytoRead.com and we will not send you any other emails except for the booklists.


This project illustrates all the important aspects of learning – literacy, evaluation, critical thinking/reading, numeracy, all through investigating and presenting data with fairness and accuracy.

See Telling a Story on Langwitches

6th graders, under the facilitation of their Math teacher, Laurel Janewicz, have learned to take data, analyze the data and tell a story with it. They are demonstrating their understanding of Math concepts, data graphs, misleading graphs and communication skills.

Laurel chose to give authentic, relevant and meaningful data (not invented data) to her students to analyze from the results of a Challenge Success survey taken the previous school year at the school. The survey compiled data about the school’s extra curricular activities, homework habits, parent involvement, student engagement, sleep patterns etc.

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Close reading of Poem from Read Write Talk

The Perfect Poem to Close Read! 27 10 2013

Great site – visit READ WRITE TALK for more great ideas.

We did a close reading of the poem, Abandoned Farmhouse by Ted Kooser last week. I read the poem aloud, then had the students read it again individually and then hold their thinking and note their observations, thoughts, questions etc..
Then we brok the poem down and looked at the tone of the poem. We found words that stuck out to us that showed the tone (broken, something went wrong,money scarce, winters cold). I had the students wrote the mood down and then find specific lines that supported the mood. We noted how each stanza talked about a different person: a man, woman and child. I had the students go back to the poem and find out specific things we knew about the people in the poem, and list them (the man was tall, the woman liked lilacs, the child played with a tractor etc..). We looked at repetition, figurative language and we discussed specific word choices that the author made.

Click here to check out the poem

Although we did a close reading of this poem, the students really did a nice job. They noticed a lot of really interesting things.   I liked this poem because we could discuss all of the things I mentioned above and the students were able to understand the poem. They didn’t feel like the content, topic or language was above their heads. It was a manageable length to close read, and  It didn’t scare them.

After we read the poem I had my students write a journal prompt about a place where they live, or have things. What would their room, house, or objects say about them. I also showed them this image. I felt this image really went well with the poem. They shared their writing and we all enjoyed a close reading and a writing session.

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Create a collage of words and customise text, colour and layout.


This app allows you to draw a line or choose a created line and the add text to the line.



Type the text you wish to use and customise font, size and colour and then draw on the device and the words appear.


With this app you can take a photo or use one from the gallery, type in a set of words and the app will apply the words to the image. There are a few styles to choose from and colour schemes. The effects look great.

Art and critical thinking

How art can help you analyze


Can art save lives? Not exactly, but our most prized professionals (doctors, nurses, police officers) can learn real world skills through art analysis. Studying art like René Magritte’s Time Transfixed can enhance communication and analytical skills, with an emphasis on both the seen and unseen. Amy E. Herman explains why art historical training can prepare you for real world investigation.

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How Picasso Helps to Solve a Murder Case

Want to see an academic exercise in dissecting a painting? Watch this TED-Ed Lesson: The scene of the three wise men offering gifts to a newborn Jesus was widely painted during the Renaissance era, so how did painter Sandro Botticelli create a version that’s still well known today? James Earle describes who and what set Botticelli’s Adoration of the Magi apart in the annals of art history.



Critical Literacy Across the Curriculum

How can an English teacher help to develop critical literacy across the curriculum? What follows is a guest post from NMHS teachers who have been collaborating with English teacher Joanna Westbrook to create authentic literacy tasks in each of their disciplines.  You will hear from a science teacher, a social studies teacher, and an art teacher as each provides her take on how the Common Core and 21st Century learning goals affect what goes on in the classroom. 

Image credit: http://allthingslearning.wordpress.com/tag/critical-literacy/

A Biology Teacher’s Thoughts on Critical Literacy by Lynne Torpie

Science teachers can tend to be myopic, focusing on acquiring content detail and teaching the steps of the scientific method instead of fostering the investigative, critical thinking and written communication skills that embody real-world scientific endeavors.  As science teachers for the 21st century, we are tasked with producing, at the bare minimum, citizens who are conversant with the language of science, and who can read, make sense of and make decisions about scientific issues.  Optimally, we inspire our students to pursue a career in which they will be posing relevant questions, and using research and inquiry to answer those questions to contribute to humanity’s general body of knowledge or, through technology and engineering, solve problems. Literacy skills are the foundation upon which these outcomes are built.

But we as science teachers can be daunted by the mandate to incorporate English language skills into the curriculum.  We have neither the training to assess such skills nor the language to develop such assessments.  We are concerned about our students’ weak explanatory writing skills and would like to see those skills improve. But we need help.  While we can develop assessments that approximate authentic science writing tasks, we need help identifying the literacy elements we should be assessing. We need guidance in phrasing a rubric so it is clear to both students and teachers what we are looking for when assessing literacy in science.  Even more importantly, we need to partner with English teachers to provide the scaffolding necessary for our students to write informational text with increasing clarity.

Continue reading


SocialBook: a beautifully designed annotation tool for text, audio and video

You can:

• Read by yourself or check in with other readers

• Invite friends to read with you; a book club not constrained by time or place

• When students collaborate in the margin they are more engaged with the text and in the classroom

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