Teachers should find it pretty easy to create groups, select and assign books for students to read, and then check up on their progress. Teachers can create smaller literature circles/book clubs or assign texts to a whole class. Literal allows teachers to add a selection of texts that students can choose from, so teachers can offer up the platform for students' silent reading time and let them make a choice from a subset of books.
While the primary benefit of Literal is as a reading platform, it's also a great library. It's not free, but with a subscription, your students will have access to a huge number of books on their phones or other devices. Freeing up students to read for pleasure, as well as to create custom casts for books and to share with the class, could be a cool way to let students take ownership over their reading time. Teachers should also encourage budding writers to use Literal as a publishing platform, editing and sharing their written work and opening it up to an authentic audience.Continue reading Show less
Literal is a reading platform (on the web and through iOS and Android apps) that offers a large library of books ranging from classic literature (think Jane Austen and William Shakespeare) to modern popular fiction. The twist is that all of the books are formatted like social media chats. Dialogue, narration, and even set direction become small bubbles of text in a chat. Readers can scroll through the chat or set it to play automatically at a comfortable reading speed. Alongside the text bubbles are character or cast images. These are core to the Literal reading experience. Each book features custom casts that use modern, relatable images (think Othello with tattoos or the cast of a CW TV show). Each book has its own reinvented/rethemed cast, but readers can also choose to create their own casts, offering their own spin on a retelling of Alice in Wonderland, for instance. Built-in reading tools like a dictionary and a translation tool make it easier for students to tackle challenging texts.
For teachers, Literal offers a teacher dashboard to add and assign readings to students and track their progress. Literal also integrates with Google Classroom.
For avid readers, seeing a great work of fiction transformed into text messages may seem sacrilegious, but it's surprisingly easy and pleasant to read. Most importantly, for reluctant readers Literal could be transformative. Though more device use -- especially for reading time -- might not be your dream come true, getting students to read great literature could be a worthy trade-off. Each text is broken up into easy chunks and clearly shows when each character (or narrator) is speaking. Students can also quickly and easily look up and translate words, making beautiful -- but sometimes challenging -- writing more accessible to students.
Plus, the ability for all students to see themselves in great works of literature can't be underestimated. Some of the great books we teach in our classes seem alien to our students -- especially for those who aren't big reading fans. But creating custom casts for books, and tuning these casts to various themes, settings, cultures, and/or identities, has a surprisingly powerful impact. And for students -- particularly students of color -- choosing and seeing characters who look like them can foster connections to literature. Interestingly, when you create a custom cast, you truly start to feel ownership over the book, rethinking and reinventing it. Readers can also become actual writers -- with an actual audience -- on Literal. Students can publish work on the platform to share with other users, using the same format (like text messages) and choosing images for each of their characters.
There's some room for growth, though. The formatting of texts can be a bit strange. For instance, quotation marks will appear in characters' own text messages (as if they were quoting themselves). The group functionality also needs some refinement. It'd be nice if groups could be easily deleted, and if teachers could have a whole-class group (with a set of texts for free time) that could then be broken down into reading groups as needed. This way students could just join one group and get reassigned to different reading groups. As it stands, teachers must create separate groups for the whole class and each reading group, vs. having one master group with subgroups nested within it. It's a small gripe, but that would match better with other learning management systems teachers are used to using. Support -- beyond live chat -- is also a bit thin, and there aren't any learning extensions.
Key Standards Supported
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).
Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.
Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.
Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment (e.g., Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts” and Breughel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus).
(Not applicable to literature)
Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work (e.g., how Shakespeare treats a theme or topic from Ovid or the Bible or how a later author draws on a play by Shakespeare).
By the end of grade 9, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 9–10 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.
Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors.)
Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.
Analyze a case in which grasping a point of view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant (e.g., satire, sarcasm, irony, or understatement).
Analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem (e.g., recorded or live production of a play or recorded novel or poetry), evaluating how each version interprets the source text. (Include at least one play by Shakespeare and one play by an American dramatist.)
(Not applicable to literature)
Demonstrate knowledge of eighteenth-, nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century foundational works of American literature, including how two or more texts from the same period treat similar themes or topics.
By the end of grade 11, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 11–CCR text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
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