Make the Future
Summit 2022
Creative Constructor
Lab Virtual
Leadership Exchange
at ISTELive 21
Edtech Advocacy &
Policy Summit

Literacy Tech for All: Using Universal Design for Learning with CommonLit

Explore and create
Pre-registration required

Explore and create : BYOD

Tuesday, June 25, 4:15–5:15 pm
Location: 115A

Rob Fleisher  
Align your literacy instruction to Universal Design for Learning principles by learning how to use CommonLit’s digital library. Provide differentiated texts, text-to-speech, translation and vocabulary support for all readers while holding them accountable to rigorous standards.

Audience: Coaches, Curriculum/district specialists, Teachers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials: Attendees are encouraged to create a free educator account on before attending the session.
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Online tools, apps and resources
Grade level: 6-12
Subject area: Language arts, Social studies
ISTE Standards: For Coaches:
Digital Age Learning Environments
  • Maintain and manage a variety of digital tools and resources for teacher and student use in technology-rich learning environments.
For Educators:
  • Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.
  • Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

In this interactive demonstration, educators will learn how to create engaging lessons for ELA, science, and social studies using the free OER literacy platform, They will learn how to find a reading passage from CommonLit’s extensive library of over 1,500 texts using Universal Design for Learning principles to differentiate for diverse learners. Rob Fleisher, CommonLit’s Director of School Partnerships, will discuss how to leverage CommonLit’s data and metrics to drive instruction.

Educational or infrastructure challenge/situation:
The challenge for teachers of literacy, particularly those in under-resourced areas, is providing materials that engage their students while fostering growth. By providing an OER literacy product to educators for free, CommonLit eliminates barriers to edtech access. With printable options, the platform is truly accessible to all students, regardless of their access to technology.

Technology interventions:
CommonLit provides quality resources with the necessary supports for diverse students.
- Student Accessibility Toolbar:
- Text-to-speech
- Translation
- Digital Dictionary
- Highlighter
- Guided Reading Mode:
- Scaffolded comprehension questions
- Interactive text-chunking for students
- Instantaneous results for real-time student feedback
- Related Media:
- Engaging materials for auditory and visual learners
- Paired Texts:
- Rigorous extension activities for gifted learners
- Discussion Questions:
- Critical thinking inquiry-based learning

Evidence of success:
Nationally, CommonLit makes a large impact and there are now CommonLit users in over 40,000 secondary schools in the United States. Seventy three percent of CommonLit schools qualify as Title I. AdHoc Analytics, a third party reviewer, found that student performance significantly increases over time on standards-aligned assessments on CommonLit’s digital platform.

After this presentation, educators will be able to:
- Navigate and find targeted lessons for their students from the CommonLit library
- Identify and use the specific UDL aligned tools to support struggling readers
- Share the free literacy digital platform with their local educator communities
- Engage in an ongoing dialogue with a collaborative of teachers and CommonLit product designers to give input on best practices for the literacy platform


1. Introduction to Rob from CommonLit (2 min)
2. Universal Design: Rob will introduce the concept of Universal
Design and how it can be applied using CommonLit (3 min)
3. CommonLit Site Tour: How to Navigate the Library for Specific Texts and Genres (15 min)
4. Model Lesson: Using one of the texts from the website, Rob will demonstrate how to differentiate using CommonLit’s reading tools (10 min-Device Based Activity)
a. Guided Reading Mode Demonstration
b. Student Accessibility Toolbar Demonstration
5. Guided Practice: Educators will use texts from CommonLit to practice differentiation by encountering several realistic teaching scenarios (10 min-Device Based Activity)
6. Participant Practice: Educators will have an opportunity to select a text for an upcoming lesson or unit (10 min-Peer-to-Peer Interaction)
7. Live Survey and Collaborative: Educators will participate in a live survey to give feedback to the CommonLit product team and can opt into a collaborative to continue their dialogue (5 min-device-based activity)
8. Conclusion: Sharing successes, takeaways, and next steps that educators can use for the 2018-19 SY

Supporting research

Universal Design will serve as the pedagogical basis for the lesson-planning skills in this presentation:
“As we continue to see the power of Universal Design for Learning in practice and support UDL in policy, we can build on the successful foundation and improve educational opportunities for students with disabilities” (Hehir, 2009).

CommonLit is a 100% research-based website, developed by a staff with over 76 combined years of teaching experience:
“The key to adolescent literacy is differentiated instruction”
CommonLit Design and Approach: Research-Based Practices (Brown, 2015)
“We noticed that a teacher who implemented the intervention with high fidelity (defined in terms of frequency of use) tended to have higher mean engagement changes than other teachers.”
Investigating the Effects of CommonLit on Student Engagement in Middle School Reading Classrooms (Brown, 2014)

Adhoc Analytics, a third party reviewer of CommonLit, found that student performance significantly improves over time on standards-aligned assessments.

Wendy Kopp, CEO & founder of Teach for All and founder of Teach for America says “CommonLit is a brilliant, teacher-led innovation to make rigorous curricular material available for free.”

More [+]


Rob Fleisher, CommonLit

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