Blog Post Agenda:
1. How Subtext can enrich instruction
2. Tricks I learned while using Subtext
4. End-of-blog-post bonus (Tools for reading, on Edshelf)
1. How Subtext Can Enrich Your Instruction
Subtext is a FREE collaborative reading app for the Ipad. Subtext claims that it promotes and facilitates an elevated reading experience on tablets. Subtext is a great tool to help students break down complex texts and it is perfectly suited for close reading. It allows groups to exchange ideas and interact within the pages of digital texts. Just think about the benefit of being able to leave notes or questions in the margins of a digital book and getting replies in real time from teachers and other peers as opposed to just you scribbling on a paper book, let alone the fact that you wouldn’t even be allowed to do this when using regular classroom textbooks. Subtext provides many other tools to support reading which will be discussed below. Subtext can be used with 2nd grade through high school/college students. I have used it with 2nd grade, and all the screenshots below are screenshots of one of my 2nd grade groups.
To begin, you can watch the following 1,37 min. video clip about it here. 🙂
This is why I think teachers should use this great free app:
To teach reading or any content area lesson in the past, a typical lesson scenario would involve the teacher asking a question aloud and call on a student who raised his hand (who often was the brightest student). Using Subtext, the lesson can have a completely different look as all the students have the opportunity to interact with the text at their own pace. Subtext promotes the development of a dynamic learning community where students have the opportunity to interact with each other and learn from each other. It also makes learning more personalized though its various features that allows for differentiation; what I am talking about here are the following 8 features:
a) on spot dictionary definitions available for any words in the document which are also accompanied by audio
b) the possibility to do Google searches right from within the app
c) the possibility to make quick annotations
d) the possibility to check for understanding through polls, true/false questions, or multiple choice questions right from within the app and again, tailored to each student’s reading pace
e) the possibility to embed extra tasks or resources for high flyers or those who finish early
f) the possibility to supplement reading with multimedia resources right there where is needed in the middle of the passage
g) collaboration and feedback in real time (students-teacher, students-students)
h) the motivational aspect which helps the students stay focused, engaged, and it increases reading responsibility and accountability.
2. Tricks I Learned While Using Subtext
First, you and your students need to use a Google email address (aka Gmail). In Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools students can use their Gaggle email address. Note that they don’t need to actually access their Gaggle email at all; all they need is a valid Gaggle email address. To log in to Gaggle click access this link: http://j.mp/cmsgaggle. You need to do this only if you have trouble finding out what Gaggle email ID any of your students have. Your gaggle email address is your regular CMS username followed by @cms.gaggle.net. Your students’ username/email is their first initial, their last name, and the last four digits of their student id number. Ex: firstname.lastname@example.org. Your students’ password is their birthday (YYMMDD). Ex: 010625
Teachers can use any Gmail address. Once you log in, your home screen will look similar to this:
You can see how easy you can create your groups. Note that you do not need to enter every student’s email address, because Subtext will generate a group code, and the students themselves will then use that code to join their group. You can also see above the books found in my library, and the tabs below then which say: SHARE, READ, ASSIGN, DISCUSS. Using the Share button, you can easily share your books, articles with your groups. You can use almost any eBook, articles, or PDFs you find online.
After you create your groups, when clicking on your group you’ll see something similar to the following screenshot:
The screenshot above is one of my groups. I covered the group code for security reasons, but you can see where it should be located and two other important things: the books you have shared with your group (see the tab named Library) and the members (see the tab named Members). If you want to see your group members, your screen would look like this:
While reading students can annotate their passage; they can highlight words, they can start a discussion, and they can look up words just by tapping and holding (tap and hold) on particular words. Once they tap and hold on a particular word, the dictionary definition of that word pops up and students can also play the audio to hear how the word is pronounced. This is a great feature for language learners and emergent readers, as well.
When annotating, students can either just pick different colors to highlight key words, or they can tag their highlighted notes. So, if they want to just simply highlight words or phrases using any color they want, their screen will look like this:
If they want to tag their notes, they can go to “edit” and assign a function to each color. For instance, purple= new learning, pink=new word, red= question, green=important, blue= I don’t understand. When they want to edit their notes, their screen will look like this:
Now, after they highlight particular words, they might want to write a note or a comment. They can make their comment private or share it with the whole group. Note, that it is set to “private” by default and whenever you want your students to work collaboratively, they need to make sure they share their comments before submitting them. Another trick: I noticed that you can open the comments window in 2 ways depending on whether you have previously highlighted the word:
-If you highlighted the word, you just tap the word you highlighted without holding; and then you have the choice to click on “Start a discussion” or Delete the note (if you tap those 3 lines at the top). And again, after you start a discussion don’t forget to share it first with your group, or with your teacher if you don’t want it to be private. Your screen will look like this:
– if you didn’t highlight the word, you need to tap and hold just like you did when you wanted to highlight it. In other words, you tap and hold on the highlight the word, and then you tap and hold again, to start a discussion. By doing this, you get 4 features: comment, multiple choice, true/false, or polls. Students and teachers can also decide when their answer can be seen: immediately, or after replying. This is helpful when teachers ask a question and they do not want students to see each others responses until after they have published their answers. The plus sign on the right allows students to share their comments with their group.
As you can see it is very easy to poll your class while they are reading, to check their comprehension through true/false items, multiple choice questions, or open ended questions. What you can see below is the student view. Note that it says Private. To share it with their group, students need to click on the plus sign and then select their group.
The teacher view include 2 extra features which are: Add a web link, and Add an image. The first feature is very useful, and it helps with differentiation, and well as with supplementing the digital text with multimedia. I have included external articles that students could read when they finished early, or videos they could watch. I have also included a Today’s Meet link as an entry ticket.
If you want to quickly poll your class, your screen will look like this:
There are couple of ways to upload books or articles to subtext.
a) via email- email a PDF to your email, go to your email, and open the attachment in Subtext.
b) using the Tap to Add Book or Articles tab found on the top left corner. Then you’ll have four options: Search, Find Free Web Articles, Article and Book Collections, Browse Your Public Library. The screen bellow shows you what your screen will look like when you access this feature.
The screen bellow shows you what your screen will look like when you use the Search tab at the top and not the three choices listed below it. This is very important and it might be confusing if you won’t remember it, because if you use the Search tab, you’ll get different results, most of the books that populate being Google books (Google books has free books).
Also, I’ll show you here how to use the feature Find Free Web Articles. After you click on this tab, you’ll be able to look for your article by doing a Google search, and then select the option that is listed on the top right corner, called Save to Subtext, and then Close.
All the features discussed above are available through the free plan. The paid plan offers a few more features. One of them is the Common Core State Standards Assignment Templates.
Another Premium feature is the Text to Speech feature.
Subtext also provide users with guidance and ideas you can have access to no matter if you are using the free or the Premium plan by clicking on the What You Want to Do tab, at the bottom of your home screen.
Once you click on the What You Want to Do tab, you’ll see the following guidance tabs:
I have enjoyed using Subtext with my students. I would admit that it took me a while to get the hang of it, but afterwards, I would say, it was definitely worth it. This is the reason why I am providing in this blog post more video tutorials than usual; I myself needed them to fully understand how to use its various features.
First I will point out a few places where Subtext provides useful guidance.
–Functionality– you can find I guess almost anything you need about its different features. If you need to something I haven’t explained above, this is the place where you would find your answer.
–Highlight, Highlight & Tag
–Manage Reply Visibility
I would recommend two tutorials for you to watch. If you prefer to see work in action, just check out the guide I provided above (Tricks I Learned While Using Subtext) which are screenshots of my use of Subtext with my students(work in action). They picture essential features you would need to use in Subtext.
If you would like to see video tutorials about using Subtext, check the first one below.
If you need more, you can check a second tutorial.
4. End-of-Blog-Post Bonus
Tools for Reading on Edshelf
I have talked about Edshelf before, but I will list it here again thinking that it would provide you the additional tools you might need when using Subtext. What I am thinking about is the best resources online for Reading.
Edshelf claims that it helps teachers find the right educational tools for their needs. Edshelf is a directory of websites, mobile apps, and desktop software that are rated & reviewed by educators, for educators. Edshelf seems to be a terrific place to find new apps you may not know about and it seems to help teachers be innovative, creative, change their lesson dynamic. You can search by category, subject, age, and platform.
a) TOOLS FOR READING you might need when using Subtext TOOL FOR READING
I just performed a search by subject, and I chose READING, and I came across this wonderful collection of resources that support reading (make sure you click on Show More Results, found at the bottom of the page, to see a larger variety of tools) that you can check out HERE.
b) MORE ABOUT EDSHELF
I will share more about Edshelf for those interested in this awesome website. Edshelf is definitely one of the best collections of educational technology tools for teachers and parents! Just create a free account and you can go ahead and do a key-word search and you’ll find the tech tools that meet your specific needs. You can filter your search by PRICE, AGE, SUBJECT, PLATFORM, OR CATEGORY. You can find ratings that target the Learning Curves, pedagogical effectiveness, and student engagement. You can find resources for pretty much everything from Common Core, digital storytelling, clickers, digital storybooks, foreign languages, game based learning to classroom management, learning management systems, social networking, student assessment, and wiki creators.
Trick: just make sure you browse all the tools on Edshelf found at the bottom of their homepage beside those featured on top.
Until next time get creative, be inspired, and grow! 🙂
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