Picture your classroom full of students. Now, realize that, on average, one out of every five of them has some form of reading disorder.
Now, imagine being one of those students. You need help, but you probably don't want to be stigmatized by a special needs aide sitting by your side. (That assumes, of course, that there's a special needs aide available.)
As teachers, we want to support those students. It impacts how they learn in our class. But, more importantly, it helps them to feel successful and confident in their learning.
Thankfully, there's a FREE solution to help them that's non-stigmatizing.
Meet Immersive Reader
Immersive Reader is a tool that helps students to read by ...
- dictating speech
- blocking out everything but one line to help students focus
- identifying parts of speech on the screen
- spacing fonts and lines to avoid "visual crowding"
- breaking words into syllables
- translating text into 60+ languages (40+ read aloud)
- changing the color, size and font of text to make it more legible
- using the picture dictionary to see visual definitions
How your students can use it
We talked about that stigma. Many students need support but don't want to be ostracized by their peers for getting it.
Picture this ...
Students are working on an activity. Part of it involves reading on a screen on their laptop or Chromebook.
A student realizes that they need some help.
They grab headphones out of their pocket or backpack.
They pull up Immersive Reader in a program or app that supports it. Immediately ...
- They can hear the passage dictated.
- It can be translated into a language they're more confident using.
- They eliminate distractions, break up syllables and make the text easier to use.
How much teacher support does it take for the student to do this? Zero. (After the student knows how to access it.
How much attention does it call to the student that they need help? Zero.
How much does it empower the student and help them to self-support their struggles? A ton.
3 ways to support students with Immersive Reader
If you can see the possibilities and the impact this tool can have on students, this might be your next question ...
Where can I get it?
Oh, and is it free?
The good news: Yes, it's free. And yes, you can get it.
Here are three ways to get Immersive Reader in the hands of your students:
1. By using free Microsoft Office apps
Good news #1: Immersive Reader is available through Microsoft Word, OneNote, Teams, Forms, and more.
Good news #2: Microsoft offers those tools and all of Office 365 -- Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and more -- to schools for FREE.
- Teachers and students can sign up for free Office 365 access individually (at office.com/teachers and office.com/students).
- Students and teachers can access Office 365 with their Google accounts.
You can get access to 22 free Office apps. When students get free access to these tools, they can copy text into Word or OneNote and use Immersive Reader on it.
As long as they can get text into one of those apps, they can use Immersive Reader to read it easier.
2. By using other apps that support Immersive Reader
The list of apps that use Immersive Reader (or a version of it) is growing. It includes:
- Flipgrid (flipgrid.com)
- Canvas (instructure.com/canvas)
- Merge (mergevr.com)
- Wonderopolis (wonderopolis.org)
- Minecraft Education Edition
- Buncee (buncee.com)
- Wakelet (wakelet.com)
- PowerSchool (powerschool.com)
- ThingLink (thinglink.com)
- Nearpod (nearpod.com)
The Microsoft Edge web browser supports the read aloud feature that's similar to the Immersive Reader experience. Click the three dots menu button on the Edge browser -- or long-tap or right-click anywhere -- and choose "Read Aloud".
There's also the Immersive Reader Offline Extension, which lets a Windows device use Immersive Reader even when there isn't an active Internet connection.
3. By using the (unofficial) Immersive Reader Chrome extension
Do your students use the Google Chrome web browser on Chromebooks or other devices? They can use the unofficial Immersive Reader extension to help them read text on any web page.
- Use the link above to add the extension to Google Chrome.
- Highlight some text on the screen.
- Right-click (or two-finger tap, or long-press) that text and select "Help me read this" from the menu.
It gives you access to all of the Immersive Reader features, including picture dictionary, background color change, focus view and more.
Things to know about this app:
- It was created by a developer in the education space on his own time, so there's no affiliation to any company.
- It doesn't save any user data and doesn't require permissions.
- It's not endorsed by Microsoft, but it does run using the Immersive Reader API.
How have you used Immersive Reader? What are your best tips and suggestions for using it? Share them in a comment below!