The Inspired Blog

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Writing with iLit: A Teacher's Perspective

This post is written by Brooke Mackoul, teacher in Jacksonville, FL.

iLit helps students improve their writing in several ways. I really like the rubrics that are provided in the interactive reader. I have given each student a copy and also posted the rubric in my room. This way when students write on other occasions they are using the same rubric and are graded the same. Students do not realize how much they do know and how their background knowledge can help their writing. It also makes them go back to the text for support. Feedback is easy since I can pick the parts they are missing and let them know almost immediately. If they are missing text support then they know they need to go back and re-read, this helps their reading comprehension. One strategy that I use while students are prewriting or prepping for their interactive reader is, they have to write a $2 summary on each page/slide. They write 20 words (each word is .10 cents) and they must grasp the main idea of that page. This way when they get to the end and go to write they have what they need already. This gives them more time to perfect their writing instead of going back and re-reading.


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New iLit Whitepaper by author Jim Cummins!

The iLit team is happy to bring you an outstanding whitepaper written by distinguished iLit author, Jim Cummins.  Dr. Cummins is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto and has extensive experience in the areas of bilingual and multicultural education.  Through his vast number of published books and articles with extensive time spent in the field, Dr. Cummins brings a wealth of expertise to the iLit authorship team.  We are honored to share with you his most recent work.

Evidence-Based Literacy Instruction: The Central Role of Literacy Engagement, Dr. Jim Cummins

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iLit and iPads in 2017

Thank you for your continued use and dedication to iLit.  We are looking forward to an amazing 2017.  In an effort to provide the best experience and uninterrupted delivery of iLit, we ask you to review the steps below. If iPads are being used with iLit in your District/School then please review the scenarios described below and complete the needed actions.  

Note:  This only applies to iPad users.  If you use laptops, browsers, Chromebooks, Android devices or Windows devices then this email does not impact you.

Scenario 1 - iLit App was downloaded from or IPA file sent via MDM

All iLit apps that were downloaded from will need to be redownloaded.  The following are your download options.

Option 1 - Delete the current app and download from the Apple App Store via the iPad.  It is important to note that with this option you will need to first delete the current app and that no data will be lost. This download will likely require an iTunes Username and Password.  By updating through the Apple App Store, you will be notified and able to easily update the iLit app using normal iPad update process.  In order to insure that there is no interrupted experience with iLit this option will need to be completed any time prior to December 28, 2016.

Option 2 - Redownload the iLit app from  After December 28, 2016, visit from the browser on your iPad.  Click on iLit Apps and download the apps you would like to update.  This step will require you to “Trust” the iLit app on your iPad.  Please click this link if you need guidance on how to “Trust” the iLit app.

Scenario 2 - iLit App was downloaded from Apple App Store

All iLit Apps downloaded from the Apple App Store do not need any further action.

If you have any questions please contact Pearson Technical Support:  800-234-5832

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When do you send out the MOY GRADE?

This time of year, we get this question a lot.  If your iLit class started in August or September, please plan on administering the Mid-Year GRADE prior to leaving for the December holiday break.  If you started after September, please plan on sending out the assessment in January.  For iLit 45/ELL/90, the MOY GRADE can be found in Unit 3.  Even if you haven't reached Unit 3, please advance your assignments to Unit 3 and send from the Assessments Tab.  Please feel free to ask a GRADE related question in the comments below.

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Engaging Adolescent Readers

From Manga to Macbeth: Building Bridges to ELA Text

by, William G. Brozo

Contributing Author to iLit

Professor of Literacy, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia USA

In most classrooms a core textbook, such as an English anthology, is the primary source for reading and learning.  Anthologies are filled with enduring quality literature and emerging classics.  Yet, unless students are able to relate to these texts on an engaging and meaningful level, they may not take from them as much as we know they should.  Strategic teachers, therefore, recognize the value of connecting text sources from students’ everyday worlds to required course readings and topics (Hinchman et al, 2003/04).   They know alternative sources, when linked to the textbook and given legitimacy in school settings, engage students in meaningful reading and learning that can lead to elevated achievement (Bushman & Haas, 2006).

Teachers who use sources from the everyday worlds of youth as embellishment to core textbooks do so because they know that when students find reading interesting and connected to authentic purposes, their positive attitudes toward reading increases, leading to an increase in reading for information and enjoyment (Guthrie & Wigfield, 2004).  Furthermore, students’ reading comprehension has been shown to be greater with high-interest materials because interesting material maintains their attention more effectively (McDaniel, Waddill, & Finstad, 2000). 

Bridge Building Texts

With the textbook as the foundation, teachers can infuse their classrooms with a range of interesting, authentic texts.  These texts can be used as motivators for learning, to develop critical reading and thinking, and to expand students’ appreciation of ideas and information in the textbook.  Teachers who have discovered the benefits of incorporating everyday, real-world texts into their instructional practices find students are more engaged and thoughtful learners because the content is more relevant to their lives and experiences (Brozo & Simpson, 2007). 

*  Young Adult Literature The world of young adult literature is wonderfully rich, with countless high-quality books of fiction and nonfiction that cover a wide range of topics. One of the best uses of these texts is as bridge books to the literature in the anthology (Groenke & Scherff, 2010).  Current young adult books are about today’s youth, but many can be found that possess similar storylines and themes to the vaunted texts from anthologies.  For example, before and during the reading of Romeo and Juliet students might read Romiette and Julio by Sharon Draper or Across the Barricades Joan Lingard, two young adult novels with parallel plots to Shakespeare’s timeless play.

Graphic Novels and Comic Books National surveys tell us that this genre is perhaps the most popular recreational reading choice of adolescents.  Graphic novels come in a numerous genres, and this variety, along with their enormous popularity with youth, makes them an enticing and useful additional resource for teaching and learning in the English/language arts classroom (Brozo, Moorman, & Meyer, 2013).  Additionally, because the illustrations in graphic novels and comic books provide visual clues to the meaning of the written narrative, they have been shown to be an invaluable tool for motivating reluctant readers.  Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet can be found in manga, a type of Japanese-styled graphic novel widely read by teens.  Set in modern day Tokyo, this version of the play offers students an interesting contemporary compliment.

* Bestsellers Many adolescents’ skills and tastes are such that they often select bestsellers from the adult fare for their own recreational reading.  Teachers can take advantage of this interest in adult bestsellers by using them as preludes or companion texts to the poems, plays, and novels in the literature anthology.   For example, a teacher required the bestselling novel, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, as summer reading for her rising 12th graders.  The story follows a 14-year-old whose dead father haunts him while his uncle moves in and marries his widowed mother, Gertrude.  The parallels with Shakespeare’s Hamlet are numerous making this an ideal bridge book that can improve students’ understanding of and engagement in the play.

Primary Documents Primary documents are authentic original texts that when made available to youth will intrigue them and provoke thoughtful responses.  Evidence suggests that students who read primary documents on a fairly frequent basis have higher achievement scores than their peers who see these sources rarely.  So there’s something about primary sources that makes them attractive to students and promotes meaningful and long-lasting learning. Students reading To Kill a Mockingbird might use Internet sites devoted to storing primary documents to access the original 1960 Time magazine review of Harper Lee’s novel or read Southern U.S. newspaper accounts of pre-Civil Rights court trials involving accusations of inter-racial crimes. 

*   Current Newspapers and Magazines Virtually every issue that emerges from the study of stories, poems, and plays in the English/language arts textbook can be enriched and made more relevant with current newspaper and magazine articles.  There are many ways in which English/language arts teachers can routinely integrate newspapers and magazines into their instruction to help students see connections between content inside the classroom and realworld issues and events.  Students can find articles in popular magazines that deal with issues and themes related to those in stories, poems, and plays.  For example, as an accompaniment to a poem with a message about finding beauty in nature, students can locate current events’ articles about commercial development of government lands or about preserving wildlife refuges.  

Popular Media and Music Creative teachers find ways to honor youths’ outside-of-school media while bridging them to the concepts and information in textbook readings.  Scaffolding for new understandings means working with what adolescents bring to the classroom, including their interest and knowledge of popular music.  For example, this might take the form of asking students to bring in lyrics from their favorite songs to analyze for figurative and symbolic expressions and idioms.  Of course, the most pervasive popular medium in youth’s lives is the computer.  Students learning about authors’ use of allusion might be asked to find examples of this literary device in video clips of their favorite movies, musical groups, cartoons, and TV shows.  These clips can be posted to a class blog along with the students’ explanation of the allusions made in them.


Brozo, W.G., Moorman, G., & Meyer, C. (2013). Wham! Teaching with graphic novels across the curriculum. New York: Teachers College Press.

Brozo, W.G., & Simpson, M.L. (2007). Content literacy for today’s adolescents: Honoring diversity and building competence. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/ Prentice Hall. 

Bushman, J. H., & Haas, K. P. (2006). Using young adult literature in the English classroom(4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Groenke, S. L. & Scherff, L. (2010). Teaching YA Lit Through Differentiated Instruction. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Guthrie, J.T., & Humenick, N.M. (2004). Motivating students to read: Evidence for classroom practices that increase reading motivation and achievement. In P.

            McCardle & V. Chhabra (Eds.), The voice of evidence in reading research. Baltimore: Brookes Publishing.

Hinchman, K., Alvermann, D., Boyd, F., Brozo, W.G., & Vacca, R. (2003/04). Supporting older students’ in- and out-of-school literacies.

            Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 47(4), 304-310.

McDaniel, M., Waddill, P., & Finstad, K. (2000). The effects of text-based interest on attention and recall. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92(3), 492–502.

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Word Study in iLit

In iLit, students learn 1 new Word Study skill per week.  Students are assigned a practice activity each week which you can find in the Assignments list titled with the name of the Word Study skill.  After 2 weeks, and learning 2 new Word Study skills, students apply what they have learned to a Word Study Reader written by Freddy Hiebert.   At the end of the Word Study reader they are asked to complete vocabulary and comprehension questions, in addition to an oral fluency practice opportunity that scores students' words read correct per minute and expressiveness.  Find out more about why Word Study instruction is important and how the Word Study Readers were designed.

Engaging to the Core 

Elfrieda (Freddy) H. Hiebert

TextProject & University of California, Santa Cruz

The biggest problem for all but a tiny percentage of American students in grades 4 through 10 is not that they can’t recognize words.  Many students can recognize the majority of the words in texts but this recognition is very    s    l    o    w. 

Many American students simply haven’t read enough to be automatic with the majority of words in text.  The majority of the words in texts belong to 2,500 word families (groups of words with the same root word such as serve, service, servant).  This set of word families, also called the core vocabulary, accounts for approximately 90% of all of the words in texts through high school.

Students need to read more to become automatic with the core vocabulary and at least some of this reading needs to be with texts that emphasize the core vocabulary.

The Word Study Readers in iLit have been designed to provide the experience many students need with the core vocabulary.  The readers in the series have a higher than usual proportion of core vocabulary but, at the same time, pertain to topics that are engaging and also help develop the essential background knowledge that underlies proficient comprehension. 

By providing engaging content that is also accessible, the Word Study Readers help many students develop the skill they’ve been lacking—automatic reading of the majority of words in texts. 

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