A summary of Raz-Kids from Learning A-Z
Summary of Resource
Raz-Kids is a subscription website that provides children ages 4-11 with access to over 350 leveled online books. Books are leveled for different reading needs. Students can make the choice of either having books read to them or they can read them. Easier leveled book are animated to create more interest and understanding for students.
The website states that students can:
- Listen to books for modeled fluency
- Read books with pronunciation and vocabulary support
- Record their reading
Once students have finished reading the book they can take a quiz to check their comprehension. Teachers have access to quiz scores and can monitor individual scores and tests to see which concepts students may have struggled with. Additionally, teachers can have students record their reading so they can listen to students’ fluency.
As well, students can access the website at home. The program tracks usage and the amount of books read and listened to. Raz-Kids also allows parents to check what their children are reading and examine their children’s quiz scores.
Why I Selected Raz-Kids
I chose this resources because I think it allows students choice in their learning. I like that students can choose to have a book read to them or they can read it themselves. Students are placed at their reading level and this resource is available for all students to use as a support for their reading. The website gives students independence, while at the same time allows both parents and teachers the ability to monitor their progress. Teachers can adjust their instruction based on real time quiz results.
Having students listen to a good reader is important and usually teacher read out loud to the whole to model what effective readers look like and sound like. I like the idea of using Raz-Kids as an alternative to reading to the whole the class. By using headphones to have the book read to them it allows a more personalized approach and allows students to go at their own pace. I use The Daily 5 system in my classroom and using Raz-Kids fits perfectly into The Daily 5 section of “Listen to Reading”. Boushey and Moser (the authors of The Daily 5) explain the importance of listening to reading as “We hear examples of good literature and fluent reading. We learn more words, thus expanding our vocabulary and becoming better readers” (p. 11). By using Raz-Kids in the classroom, teachers can encourage students’ fluency and studnets can personalize the books to their reading level.
I also like the fact that students can record themselves reading and teachers can listen to that recording when they have time. Teachers can use the information for the recording as a form of fluency assessment. The ability of students to record their reading and teachers to listen to that recording whenever they have the time, frees up teachers from the somewhat onerous job of listening to students read.
Critique of Resource
While there are many positive reasons to use Raz-Kids in the classroom, there some things to be aware of as well. Raz-Kids is a subscription website. The choice to purchase a class subscription costs $99.95 and is good for a year. As with a lot of payment based websites there is a basic subscription and then a more costly subscription. Raz-Kids is the basic subscription. If you are looking for more books, quizzes, lesson plans and resources on reading and vocabulary instruction you have to spend more money. In fact the parent company Learning A-Z provides science, reading, writing and vocabulary sites (at an extra cost) in addition to the Raz-Kids website.
Another limitation of Raz-Kids is that all the books are nonfiction and while students should be encouraged to read nonfiction books they should also be encouraged to read a variety of different types of books. Exploring the titles offered it is easy to see that this is an American based site and as such books on heroes or history have an American focus. This does not affect literacy instruction but may alienate students who do not have an interest in these subjects.
Students may not like the sound of a computer voice and this may distract some students from understanding what the story is about and affect their quiz results. Teachers and students may also need to be conscious of the fact that when listening to books there is only one speed so some students may find that the reader is too fast or too slow.
This resource should not be the whole focus of your reading instruction but used as a supplementary resource to support different types of learning and learners. Also teachers should not overly rely on the assessments from the site but use a variety of different assessments to gauge student growth. As with any resource, it should be use as a tool to further student comprehension and literacy and not solely relied upon to provide instruction.
Decisions and Supports – What Do You Need?
Teachers, with consultation with administration, will have to decide where money will come from to purchase a subscription (There are discount for multiple classrooms and purchasing multiple products). The price however can add up and teachers need to be aware that a licence needs to be purchase for every year.
To use this resource, you will need a computer, internet connection, Adobe Flash and headset (one with a microphone works best). Teachers may ask students to bring their own headphones and decide to put headphones on the student supply list. Each student will require an individual computer so access to computers and the internet are essential. If teachers do not have enough computers for each individual student, they could rotate students through the amount of computers they do have. Since this is a program is a website, students can also be encouraged to sign-in at home.
Boushey, G. & Moser, J. (2006). The Daily 5: Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades. Portland: Stenhouse Publishers.
Learning A-Z .(n.d.) Raz-Kids. Retrieved from http://www.raz-kids.com/
LearningAZVideo. (2012, January 31). New Raz-Kids Overview. Retrieved October 8, 2012, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1gioIYERwo