CommonLit Secondary Classrooms How a CommonLit Teacher Ambassador Empowers all Students

Leigh Pafford teaches special education as well as English as a Second Language (ESL) in New York City, and she was also one of CommonLit’s founding Teacher Ambassadors for the 22-23 school year.

CommonLit asked Leigh to write a guest blog post to explain how she is using CommonLit 360 to support the success of all of her learners.

Share a bit about yourself!

Hello! My name is Leigh Pafford and I’m a special education and ESL teacher in NYC. Over my decade of classroom experience, I’ve taught every grade level in high school and been a member of every department except science. This year I will be focusing on working with the 9th grade humanities classes in an integrated co-teaching (ICT) role. I’m super excited to continue to build on the scaffolds that we set up last year when using the CommonLit 360 curriculum and to increase the rigor to ensure the students have a challenging and successful 2023-2024 school year!

What CommonLit tools/resources have been helpful to you and your students?

Being a special education teacher requires me to assess students on learning goals that are specific to their Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and keep track of all this data to monitor their progress on Common Core standards. For me, using the assessments CommonLit provides has been invaluable with regard to student data. I’m able to track student success by standards which allows me to provide them with actionable plans to improve. Additionally, once I have data, I can use CommonLit Target Lessons as interventions to help them build their skills. Students have found it helpful that the Target Lessons can be done asynchronously as an independent activity, or they can be done as a small group activity guided with me in a pull-out setting.

Another feature I love is guided reading mode which embeds comprehension questions in the text itself. Students then have to answer the questions in order to move on in their reading. While I don’t assign this feature to the full class, for my students who tend to rush through an assignment, this feature is key because they cannot proceed with the reading until they get the question right!

Another helpful feature for my ESL students is that they’re able to translate readings to confirm what they read in English.This is extraordinarily helpful when I’m using the readings as a basis for a writing activity.

Finally, all the students love the slide decks that come with the lessons. It’s so helpful for multimodal learners to have something to follow along with as you teach.

Do you use CommonLit to track student success? If so, how?

After my students finish CommonLit assessments, I send them their scores and ask them to tell me which standards they would like to work on. My students have found this to be very empowering as it allows them to hold the keys to their own success. I find that focusing on one skill at a time really helps them build their confidence, and it helps me support them in reaching their language and reading goals.

Do you feel that CommonLit can be used to meet the needs of a classroom with diverse learners? If so, how?

CommonLit is definitely designed to meet the needs of all the learners in your class. It can do things that you as a classroom teacher just cannot do in the time and with the resources you’re given. The CommonLit 360 units have aligned assessments throughout the unit so that you can track your students and then follow up with any interventions that are needed.

What are your tips for a teacher interested in using CommonLit 360, but they’re not sure where to begin?

I’ve found that getting teachers to use units from CommonLit 360 and other lessons from the platform is an easy sell because CommonLit is created by teachers and tested by teachers. Then I point out all the amazing features in CommonLit 360 like:

  • Vertically and horizontally aligned lessons
  • Customizable slide decks, complete unit plans, assessments, texts, vocabulary lessons, and other resources
  • Assessment tracking for simplified monitoring of student progress

What would you say to a teacher considering CommonLit 360?

We teachers are asked each year to do more and more, yet we still only have 24 hours in a day. CommonLit 360 provides engaging, standards-based lessons that hit on different learning modalities. It’s an incredible tool to use to provide enriching skills-based curriculum to your students.