Review by Monica Encarnacion, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2016


Feature-rich literacy resource offers superb support for readers

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts
  • Social Studies
  • English-Language Learning

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Teachers say (5 Reviews)
Privacy rating (How we rate)

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Pros: Leveled texts and adaptive tools make it easy to tailor the reading experience for every student.

Cons: Students will need some help to get the most out of the toolbar.

Bottom Line: Access a hefty collection of reliable, ready-to-print, leveled passages that allow you to tailor lessons, assign online reading, and track progress.

Teachers can use the wealth of literacy resources on this site to plan engaging lessons that target student's reading needs around a wide variety of themes, with names such as America, Education, Family and Friendship, Prejudice and Discrimination, Resilience, and Growing Up, to name a few. Let's say you're learning about the civil rights movement with your class and want to find passages about the topics of freedom and equality but have kids at a variety of reading levels in your class. A quick filtered search can help you find a variety of leveled passages for your students around one common theme or topic. Teachers can provide printed copies for students to use or assign passages for online reading. In addition, teachers can rely on the provided discussion questions to hold critical in-class discussions.

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CommonLit is a free digital library of leveled texts: news articles, poems, short stories, and historical documents. You can filter collections by grade level, Lexile level, theme, genre, literary device, and even Common Core State Standards. Every passage includes footnotes with vocabulary words and essential background information. An adaptive-technology-type toolbar for online reading includes a dictionary, a highlighter, text-to-speech functionality, and translation features for 13 languages. Below the toolbar, you'll find a question set included side by side with the text: four discussion questions, five text-dependent multiple-choice questions, and one short-answer question. The text-dependent questions address Common Core standards, and each of those standards is noted right next to the question. Suggestions for paired passages and related media resources are also included, and you'll find those in the tabs along the top of each page. Multiple-choice responses and short-answer exemplars are included in the Teacher Guide tab. In addition, the Parent Guide tab comes filled with suggestions to extend learning at home.

Students and teachers can sign up for free accounts. Teacher accounts include an easy-to-navigate teacher dashboard that allows you to create multiple classes, assign reading passages to students, score responses to questions, and track progress for an entire class or an individual student. Student data is gathered and displayed in colorful, easy-to-follow visuals that include graphs, tables, and charts. At the bottom of the teacher dashboard, you'll even find a list of students who need to be challenged more and those who may need further remediation.

CommonLit's adaptive reading toolbar makes text accessible for students at a variety of reading levels and language abilities. It's perfect for English language learners and struggling readers. Every passage -- printed in PDF format or accessed online -- includes footnotes with vocabulary words and essential background information that is critical for kids to understand when reading a passage. The included discussion questions get students thinking critically about text during independent reading and beyond. Thinking about reading is further encouraged by text-dependent questions that are included with each passage.

Learning can be extended even further through the use of the suggested paired texts, related media, and useful suggestions to engage parents and extend learning at home. These resources really lend themselves well to building students' background knowledge on a specific topic. They're also a great choice for homework assignments, remediation, and extension activities around the same topic.

Overall Rating

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

Students can read passages at different levels, tailoring the experience based on individual needs and preferences. Each passage includes an image and is structured in easy-to-follow paragraphs that make it more enjoyable to read.

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

Students gain conceptual understanding and learn to think critically about authentic passages on diverse topics. They'll also build essential background knowledge through the use of footnotes, paired texts, and related media.

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 site's adaptive technology makes it accessible to students from a variety of learning, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds. Parent guides provide useful ideas for supporting learning at home.

Common Sense Reviewer
Monica Encarnacion School support staff

Teacher Reviews

(See all 5 reviews) (5 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Jessica L. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Bingham High School
South Jordan, United States
A great resource to find MORE relevant resources
I like it as a resource to help scaffold and build background knowledge on a topic. The articles are short enough to be manageable and if I wanted to I could include multiple in one class period. As a teacher, I loved that each article had suggestions for articles related to the same topic that I could explore and use as well. The sets are perfect- there was a lot of good information that WIkipedia just couldn't provide to my students and most of it was timely and relevant to them.
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Data Safety
How safe is this product?
Users can interact with trusted users and/or students.
Personal information is displayed publicly.
User-created content is not filtered for personal information before being made publicly visible.
Data Rights
What rights do I have to the data?
Users can create or upload content.
Processes to access and review user data are available.
Processes to modify inaccurate data are available.
Ads & Tracking
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Data are not shared for third-party advertising and/or marketing.
Unclear whether this product displays traditional or contextual advertisements.
Unclear whether this product displays behavioral or targeted advertising.
Continue reading about this tool's privacy practices, including data collection, sharing, and security.