About Julie Coiro

Empowering Struggling Readers in
Grades 4-6 with Technology

Literacy Software Support Tools

Presented by Julie Coiro
SERC, March 21, 2002

Literacy Software Support Tools 
That's A Fact 
Jack, Read!

Missing Links (or actually M-SS-NG L-NKS)

This software program was designed by Dr. Carol Chomsky for students in grades 3-8 as a language puzzle.  Students are tasked with filling in the blanks in a passage that appears with letters or words missing by making educated guesses based on their built-in word knowledge of word structure, spelling, grammar, meaning in context and sense of literary style.  As students make correct guesses, a picture is slowly revealed.  Nine difficulty levels offer a variety of puzzle formats and the program includes student and teacher reports.  Students can select text from four categories including 13 award-winning children's books; a microencyclopedia with passages about fun facts such as airplances, bicycles and ice cream; science passages on topics such as the solar system, animals, and the human body, or you can create your own passages at any  level (even emergent level) to challenge students and classmates.  It's a fun and effective way to practice cloze stories that are emphasized so much during standardized testing while building important reading strategies in using context clues.

  • During one of our laptop center activities, you'll have an opportunity to try solving one of these passages with a partner.
  • Scroll down a bit on the Technology and Learning Software review page to find another review of Missing Links.

Reading Galaxy

Reading Galaxy is one of the few software programs that specifically provide practice in reading comprehension skills and strategies. Its use can be beneficial for students with learning disabilities who often experience difficulty understanding what they read, even though they have adequate word recognition skills. Designed to build reading comprehension for ages 8-12, Reading Galaxy follows the format of a TV game show set in outer space. Students can either read independently or listen as the computer reads passages from a book. Reading Galaxy offers 30 children’s titles from which to choose. Each book is considered to be a children’s classic–from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island, and Around the World in Eighty Days to Charlotte’s Web, The Swans of Summer, and Red Cap. Older readers will enjoy such works as The Outsiders and Summer of My German Soldier, which deal with more mature themes. 

Reading Galaxy can be used to help struggling readers practice on passages of a book before attempting to tackle the entire work. Reading Galaxy could also be a good tool to engage reluctant readers. While the brief excerpts are easy to read, they include some of the most absorbing passages in the books. This format could pique the student’s curiosity enough so that he or she wants to finish reading the book to see what happens. Read more from the full review at LDOnline.  You can also read how one teacher has adapted Reading Galaxy to work with ESL students.  

That's A Fact, Jack! Read

That's A Fact, Jack! Read is an interactive game show that contains challenging questions that measure students' understanding of popular children's literature.  Literacy questions ensure comprehension, inferential questions promote understanding, hypothetical questions develop critical-thinking skills and points-of evidence questions stimulate higher-order thinking.  A built-in management tool helps assess student progress,  the game can be played individually, in small teams, or as an entire class, and writeing and discussion extensions are available.  Each disc contains the entire game show and accompanying activities for 10 popular titles.  Visit Tom Snyder's website for more information.  

Book Adventure 

Book Adventure is a new web-based management tool developed by Sylvan Learning Foundation offered online at no charge. The website provides approximately 10,000 book titles to choose from, organized into 40 interest categories.  Students can search by interest, grade level difficulty, author, or title and then locate the book to read on their own.  This online tool does not provide the actual text of the books but instead includes end-of-book quizzes individually generated from an item bank so no two quizzes are necessarily like. Read a raving review of this new resource from Education World or visit the Book Adventure website to see for yourself.  


Microsoft Powerpoint is a presentation tool that can significantly enhance the way you share information with your students. It allows you to quickly and easily create slides of images and brief amounts of text in a multimedia fashion that will catch the attention of your students in ways that a traditional blackboard or worksheet can not.  The added sound and animation features as well as easy options to reorganize and modify slides will greatly enhance the effectiveness of your discussions with students in your classroom. 

Powerpoint offers many unique features that help support the struggling reader as well.  As a teacher, you can adapt your traditional content into text that better matches a particular student's reading level.  You can easily include graphics, charts and visual images found online or scanned in from textbooks, or even digital photographs to help keep the content authentic and supportive.  You can incorporate audio into your slides by reading the text outloud or video can be integrated as well to provide easy access to clips that may boost a reader's background knowledge or provide a connection to something else.  After students get used to the program, they will be eager to create their own slide shows; adding their own text and incorporating their own images. 

During our session today, you'll be asked to explore a template about the rainforest created in Powerpoint.  You'll have an opportunity to copy and paste images from the Internet, integrate audio and input text onto each slide.  If you choose this task, you can visit Enchanted Learning's information about the rainforest to locate supportive clip art for your slide show.  

Instructional Practices Grounded in Research
Computer Supported Reading Environments
Inspiration as a Software Literacy Tool
Anticipation Guides 
Discussions with One
Classroom Computer 
Fostering Literacy Connections Online Literacy Software Support Tools Related Resources 
for Teachers