4 Strategies to Empower Struggling Students to Learn Independently

Written by the Kurzweil Blog Team


Helping At-Risk and Struggling Students Learn at Grade Level

Our students require access to the knowledge and skills essential to their success in school and later, in their careers. The solution is to utilize available resources to educate them, without remedial coursework. There are several strategies built into Kurzweil 3000 that provide access and support to our at risk students. Four of these strategies are; providing access to text, ability to search for context cues, access to content-specific vocabulary, and writing support aligned to standards.


1. Access to Text Through Kurzweil 3000

Textbooks can be scanned directly into Kurzweil 3000. And often, publishers will include a CD or digital file that includes the PDF text files that can be opened directly in the software. In addition, digital text resources from the web can be virtually printed and saved using the Kesi Virtual Printer, which installs with Kurzweil. Everything from MS Word to websites can be virtually printed. This enables students to easily take advantage of the reading and study skills tools within the program.


Once a document is virtually printed, text anywhere within the document is now available in spoken word. If needed, students can double click a word to hear it again. Instead of teachers having to read to students, the students have multiple opportunities to read and listen to text independently. By changing the reading rate, the mode of reading such as, by sentence or paragraph, and the character of the voice, we create the opportunity for close and careful reading and enable students to focus on the content, instead of decoding.

Reference features within the technology work to deepen student comprehension of content. They can simply click on a word and the definition pops up using the built-in American Heritage Dictionary, Wigit Picture Dictionary. Words and full passages can also be translated with a simple click into 70+ Google-supported languages.

Sometimes students need additional background information. This may require searching the web or exploring additional text resources. By using the Online menu in Kurzweil 3000, students have access to online resources and support materials that enable them to have any text read out loud using read-the-web tools. Using the ImageReader or the Kesi Virtual Printer imports text directly into the software, allowing students to engage with text and practice close reading strategies. You can even copy and paste text into Kurzweil 3000. Now, there truly is a way to access almost any text source.

2. Ability to Easily Search for Context Cues

                     In the classroom, students are encouraged to ask and answer questions that are text dependent. To accomplish this, students need strategies for going back through the text to find specific content. One simple strategy is to use the Bookmark tool to bookmark the questions at the end of the chapter. By giving the student the ability to easily toggle back and forth from text to the question, the student has real time, quick access to the key points targeted by the questions. In addition, the Find (control+F) function, allows students to quickly locate words in the text that match key words found in the questions at the end of the chapter.

There are several ways to use the Extract tool in Kurzweil 3000 to help students focus on key context cues. For example, using the highlighter tool; select yellow to highlight the main idea, use green for the supporting idea, and blue for additional concepts. Next, from the File tabís drop-down menu, select Extract Notes and Highlights. The highlighted information can be extracted into column notes, or a separate study guide. The same strategies can be applied to focus on character and character traits, topic and key ideas, elaborations and evidence examples, facts and opinions, causes and effects, KWL and many more content related categories.

3. Access to Content-specific Vocabulary

Prior to beginning the writing process, teachers remind students to integrate the vocabulary from the text with the Tier II Academic Vocabulary.

Kurzweil 3000 makes this task easy with the Word List feature. The program ships with a Tier II word list that includes definitions. In addition, the powerful Word List feature allows users to extract the vocabulary from selected text and create a custom word list. Before the student begins the writing process, these new vocabulary words can be highlighted in the text and added to the word prediction list. They can even be highlighted in the word list as they are being used to help students remember to add the academic vocabulary.


4. Writing Support Aligned to Standards

                     Students are often asked to determine a theme or central idea of a story and analyze, in detail, its development over the course of the story including, how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details. This can be a daunting task to at risk students. Students are also asked to provide an objective summary of the text. The strategy is to use the highlighters to focus on the theme and then extract the highlighted text. The text can be extracted into column notes, then additional thoughts can be added. Next, students click a button to convert these notes into a brainstorm map or an outline and using a split screen, use the notes to begin creating a draft.

To help align the writing process to standards, Kurzweil 3000 includes 32 brainstorming and outlining templates. These templates provide the structure for gathering thoughts and ideas and begin the writing process. The templates also provide organization and notes that explain the key concepts for note taking. Some of the template themes are; Compare and Contrast, Cause and Effect and as shown, Problem and Solution.

The Power of Independent Learning

Supporting at risk students is essential for them to become academically prepared for post secondary education and successful career building. The integration of strategies that empower learners to become more independent, serves them inside the classroom as well as, in their leisure endeavors. Once students are provided the resources and take advantage of these strategies and tools, they understand the power of independent learning and the many options and opportunities it provides.


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