Review by Cresta Kowalski, Common Sense Education | Updated December 2017
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Read&Write

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Useful text-to-speech app and extension unlocks the written word

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration

Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • English Language Learning
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
K-12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)

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Pros: Available on most platforms.

Cons: Costly if you're buying a single license for a classroom computer station.

Bottom Line: A valuable tool to make classroom use of websites and digital documents more accessible to all students.

Although Read&Write is marketed for students with literacy needs, all students can benefit from its features. The text-to-speech options can be used for students to listen to longer passages instead of reading them -- improving listening comprehension and allowing students to engage both auditory and visual senses. Talk&Type would allow students in a science lab to take notes and record observations orally, freeing up their hands to work on an experiment. The highlighter options can be used to support note-taking in any classroom; students can use the Read&Write toolbar to underline passages they find important on website or while using iPad apps, or record voice notes as they browse. To develop their writing skills, students can build sentences using Read&Write's word prediction tool, and then work in groups to make highly-developed sentences or a paragraph on a given topic.

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Read&Write is a literacy support tool available as software, an app, and even a browser extension. It's suite of 10 features were developed to encourage readers and writers -- especially those with special language or literacy needs (ELL, dyslexia) -- to access texts and improve their skills. With Read&Write installed, students can listen to any passage (documents and web pages) with a line by line text-to-speech option or with a screenshot reader; or if they want to listen later, they can make an MP3 of the passage using the Audiomaker feature. To support understanding and comprehension users can decode words in a passage using either a dictionary or picture dictionary. There is a translator option to support understanding of foreign language words as well as vocabulary builders. As students read a passage they can use four different highlighters to note important information. The highlights can then be collected and gathered onto another document for safekeeping and reading by the text software. Students can practice reading aloud by highlighting a passage and then tapping the practice reading aloud button. This prompts them to record themselves reading the text and use other features to improve fluency.

If writing is students' focus but they struggle with motor skills or have other issues, Read&Write offers a Talk&Type feature. With this feature, students can dictate their writing. In addition to composing paragraphs or essays, students can create a voice note for later review. A prediction feature helps students along while they're writing, offering suggested words. 

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Read&Write lifts many barriers that impede student learning. This software offers a nice toolbox for teachers to choose from when supporting students' development of reading and writing skills, especially students with learning disabilities or language learners. There's a nice mix of features that increase accessibility and aid student productivity. It should be noted, however, that this tool is all function; there are no bells and whistles to keep students highly engaged, but at its core Read&Write does what it intends to well. And by enabling students to develop their skills in ways more in sync with their abilities and across all of the web, students will likely feel empowered. Read&Write, for instance, provides an easy way for students to hear passages as well as dictate passages, lifting the barriers of reading fluency and writing for students with learning or language challenges. Since many students have higher listening comprehension than reading comprehension, Read&Write allows students to engage with higher level texts than their typical independent reading level. This is an increasingly big benefit to both teachers and students since textbooks are increasingly digital. The Practice Reading Aloud feature can be an excellent tool for students to independently improve their reading fluency. Beyond reading, Read&Write also enables students to use creative thinking and write at a level that's beyond their independent ability through dictation and predictive text. Moreover, the recordings they create can also be used as proof of their new skills. Overall, this extension and app -- while costly and designed mainly for function over form -- could be a great addition to just about any classroom.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

While it's not designed for engagement, students will still enjoy and feel empowered by how the features unlock the web and digital documents.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Supports equitable development of phonics, comprehension, and fluency skills alongside writing. Useful, flexible options -- like a standard dictionary and picture dictionary -- offer help to students of any ability.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

This is a tool built for support with a host of useful features that increase accessibility. Tech support is available through a help/support site and on a Google+ community through the developer's website.  


Common Sense Reviewer
Cresta Kowalski Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 1 reviews) (1 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Fanny P. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
'"THE" solution for ALL teachers to "differentiate" and for students to be "self-differentiate"

I believe this tool really make all teachers empowered because they can differentiate better, promote personalized learning and encourage students to be more responsible, to make choices and therefore to be more empowered and true agent of their learning. The teachers and students can be creative, they can come up with really great ideas to use this tool beyond using it for support. I love the vocabulary building option when you highlight several words and it automatically creates a googledog with images, definitions and a places to take notes, really powerful for language learning!
I also love the multi-modalities: voice, pictures, word prediction, highlighters. Every learner NEEDS multi-modality, not only learners that are said to be "visual learner", "auditory learner", "kinestetic learner"...
Finally, the tool support self-directed learning, students can truly use it to continue their learning independently, get feedback and seek feedback from their peers or teachers. This improves their confidence in particular if they are struggling readers or just "sky" students (this gives an opportunity for them to speak safely by recording their voice and the teacher can then listen to it).

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