A fair number of my more motivated students — English Language Learners and mainstream — take advantage of the resources on our class blogs and my student website while they’re at home. They generally just do it on their own based on their experiences with what we try in class.

Others, who are facing many challenges, need a little more encouragement and support.

I thought readers might find it useful to hear one way I work with some of these students, their families, and other instructional support staff at our school (many students with learning challenges have a period during the day working with a teacher in classes designed to help them with work from other classes).

After developing a relationship with the student, and getting a sense of their interests and desires, I develop a simple plan they can apply to using a computer — ideally at home (if their family is lucky enough to be able to afford a computer and Internet access — and/or sometimes when they are in their support class. I then create a blog post on our class blog that is “masked” — in other words, it’s easy for them to find, but it’s not explicitly labeled so other students can see it. That just helps to reduce their feelings of having their challenges announced to the world.

Here’s an edited way I introduced the idea to one student (I’ve included addition explanation for blog readers):

Go To Sports Illustrated. Use paper labeled “Reading Log” to show reading strategies you use reading any of the materials on the Sports Illustrated site (explanation: this is a scaffolded sheet with sentence starters like “This makes me remember….”). Please do not watch videos there.

Click on “Raz Kids” and click on the “ear” below “American Sports Legends.” Read it while listening, and complete the test. Tell me if you like that site. If you do, I’ll set you up for an account. (explanation: This is their free samples page)

Click on “Into the Book”. Sign-in (explanation: You have to register, but it takes five seconds. I helped him created his password) and explore the site.

Watch the movies on Brainpop (explanation: this is their free sample page). Please be sure to click on “CC” under the movie so you can see the words as they are spoken. Then take the tests. Let me know if you like that site. If you do, I’ll set you up for an account.

If, and when, this student gets comfortable with using the computer, the next tools I’ll introduce him to include Newscred, which lets him create his own personalized newspaper focusing on what he is interested in; Virtual Grammar Lab; Webklipper, where he can demonstrate reading strategies online using virtual post its; and Bookr, where he will be able to create easy slideshows that require him to write text, too.

Students also receive extra credit for doing these activities.

I create a separate plan for each student, but most include several of these sites.

What do you think? Are there other sites that are equally as simple that I should consider including? Are there other ideas you have about how I can improve this system?