Kurzweil in Middle School

I am not a reading specialist.  And I do not play one on TV.

I am, however, a middle school educator.  And I know what works.

Through several years of trial and error, research and reflection, I found the value in using Kurzweil, a text-to-read program, which I believe can transform the way students read and write.  Initially introduced to me as a special education accommodation (for which it works well), I discovered the power in using it mainstreamed across the curriculum and across all classes.

From what I have seen, good readers don't just happen.  Certainly, some students are simply gifted readers, but even the "best readers" in middle school are likely good readers because they work at it: they are avid readers, and therefore have become good readers.  The best readers have created and/or learned strategies that work for them to make them effective readers.  Weaker readers don't lack the ability to be good readers, but just lack the strategies that good readers possess either intrinsically or have adopted as second-nature, much like playing a musical instrument - after a while, seeing the music and pressing the correct key is second-nature, after practice.

What makes Kurzweil so valuable in this process of teaching readers to become stronger readers is that it creates structures that allow and encourage students to use those "strong-reader" strategies that strong readers might not even know they are using.  For example, teachers may imbed reading comprehension questions, definition requirements, multiple choice questions and other options that require students to stop, summarize, confirm their understanding, and proceed.  If used regularly, students should acquire these strategies and generalize them to anything they read, without Kurzweil.  It is the lifevest which can be gradually taken off until students are ready to swim, grow stronger, and hopefully are competing in swimming competitions - and winning!  Two other components of Kurzweil that make it worthwhile for all students includes the writing function, which provides graphic organizers that automatically transform ideas into outlines, and provides a split screen off of which students may write paragraphs.  Finally, Kurzweil allows for successful differentiation by giving the teacher (and student, if they are ready) the ability to provide various levels of scaffolding to support their reading and writing level, depending on their ability grouping.

This video, filmed by Kurzweil in my classroom over a course of two days, illustrates these benefits of Kurzweil - certainly worthwhile for a variety of classroom settings and learning styles.  Do not hesitate to contact me with questions about integration!


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