Thursday, December 3, 2015


Interactive Texts - Actively Learn

There's this idea that learning starts and stops at my door
My boyfriend is moving into his own house and I got him this awesome rug. He commented that with the rug "it felt like home." It was a silly comment, but I get it. I often feel like when my students cross the rug into my classroom they "feel like learning." But then, when they leave the classroom, they feel like the learning stops, and I don't want that.

For example, my students tend to be low readers. I like to read in class because we can annotate together. I can ask questions at pivotal points to be sure students understand (before moving on). I like to take polls to see what students think will happen next. I like to explain background if there's an allusion or other reference my students won't understand. If I just assign them reading on their own... they don't get that full experience, and often won't bother reading at all.

So when possible, we try to read in class. Here's the problem, I can't do it. There just isn't enough time. As much as I would love to do all of the reading in class, that would mean all activities would turn into homework, and I don't like that idea either.

On a similar note, since my school has gone 1:1 a lot of my reading has gone online. We still have books but we also have e-books, articles, etc. Sometimes we read directly from the website in question; other times they are moved into a different site...maybe a school LMS, or a discussion board.

There are quite a few options out there. Today's blog talks about ActivelyLearn.


This is a site with an assortment of already created texts. Some of these texts are just the texts (A Christmas Carol) whereas others have assignments build in (The Gift of the Magi). The ones with assignments include multiple choice questions, polls, helpful annotations and short answer questions. All questions are  aligned with Common Core standards.

Like so many education websites out there this is a free site with free articles, but you can pay for some texts and other premium services they offer.

Most of the texts I've been interested in have been free, but the ones that charge cost per student for a period of time. For example, Sarah Plain and Tall is $0.99 per student for 3 months.

In addition to texts that are already set up for you, a free account lets you import up to 3 internet articles, PDFs, or Google Documents each month. I like using Google Documents. If you use a pdf you can only ask questions at the end of each page instead of throughout.

Once you've uploaded or selected a text you can edit the questions and annotations or add your own.

When students read the text, it is like I am there with them! They can see my annotations (or watch videos I've annotated with more information). Plus, they can add their own annotations and comment on the annotations others have left! It is like having a conversation without being in the same room.

In fact, I can pop in and respond as well. This especially works well over the break when they have assignments I can pop in and check on throughout a period of time. I love that the text becomes a discussion board they can look at later when rereading.

It also helps build a culture of students helping students and really learning from one another (instead of just looking for the answers from me).

When they get to a question or poll they have to answer before they can move on. This is great! Recently I was at a conference that mentioned one of the best things to do to help students read at a level that is higher than what they are used to is to chunk the text.  Having them stop to answer questions does just that!

Once they've answered they can see if they got it right or wrong, and how other people in the class answered. We all know immediate feedback is key. Plus, this way they can be better prepared to continue reading.

Short answer questions don't get graded until the teacher goes through and grades them as incomplete, basic, proficient, or excellent. However, they can see the answers other students gave after they have given their own. They can also comment on the answers other students left (or just "like" them to show support).

OK, regardless of the annotations and the help from friends you're stuck. You don't understand a word. There's help!

Students just click on the unknown word. They can hear the word, see a definition or have it translated into Spanish (more languages soon!).

If those steps don't help, or they are still stuck they can click, "I don't understand!" and it alerts the teachers.

To review

Pros for students
  • Like I've discussed this is great for lower readers because it chunks the text
  • Students can check their understanding as they go
  • Great for the culture of the classroom (students helping students)
  • Unknown words are easily looked up   
  • This does require the Internet. Students won't be able to read if they can't connect.
  • Some teachers / parents / students have issues with screen time and this can add to it
Pros for Teachers
  • Read with the students even if you aren't there
  • Automatic grading (except for short answers)
  • Built in gradebook that labels each assignment and an overall grade.
  • None really... I love it! 
  • There is an adjustment period, for some students who are used to all reading being done in class. However, I think that's great for student accountability.
Have you ever used ActivelyLearn? Any questions I can answer, or suggestions? Blog posts to come on GoFormative, Cirriculet, and more options!
Disclosure: I received the rug exchange for review from Giveaway Service website. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. Reference ID: e9e0e7a5b3b1


  1. Wow I just got amazed by this website "ActivelyLearn" it would improve the quality of the learning process enormously. now every teachers can upload books for students to read and make it as a homework so they can focus on more thing in class wow this would safe a lot of time and increases the value of the class. the most important question is your students interacting with it?

    1. Sorry for the delay Ahmed! Yes, my students do. Now, there are some students who do MUCH more than others. This semester, I plan on incorporating their digital participation into their participation grade. Similar to class, some students participate and some prefer not to participate. This gives them an extra venue to comment, share, etc.

  2. THANK YOU!!!! I will be trying this!


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