Ready to get your kids to love reading? Zinc Learning Labs is passionate about creating a world where all students love to read and have the skills to do so successfully. Their online tools are making this mission a reality.
Zinc Learning Labs is unique in that it was created only for middle and high school aged students. Their content targets their unique reading needs and interests. You can assign your students/children reading, vocabulary sets and close reading exercises or allow free choice. With free choice, kids can pick the content that they’re excited about, which means they’re more likely to put in the effort to complete a challenging task.
Zinc Learning Labs addresses the literacy needs of all middle and high school students, from reluctant readers to high achievers. First, a quick diagnostic will test your student and establish independent reading levels. Then Zinc Learning Labs will teach students close reading strategies and new vocabulary. With these new skills and words, students can then train their reading abilities with a wide selection of leveled, authentic texts. After each reading, students take a short assessment, which generates robust data to help you, as the parent, target instruction and monitor progress.
The great thing about Zinc Learning Labs is that it has three key components: articles with quizzes, vocabulary, and close reading instructions
Their “Articles” are about 90%nonfiction and 10% fiction excerpts and poetry. All texts are authentic because they curate the best texts from around the web. You can filter by interests (ex. sports, technology, science, etc.), by reading level (from 4th grade reading level up to college level), by reading standards, reading skills, and length. You can also search for article sets that complement common novels/plays, like The Great Gatsby and Romeo and Juliet. Each article is accompanied by a short, standards-aligned, self-grading quiz.
My favorite part of their platform is Vocabulary. They have sets by grade level, for test prep (ACT, SAT, AP, etc.), to go with common texts (ex. The Scarlet Letter), and to go with each piece of text on their site. What I really love is that parents can also create their own custom sets quickly and easily. My high schooler is prepping for his SAT and we’ve been using the vocabulary section of their site a lot. I can tell you it works! Interestingly, their vocabulary instruction is unique because they use spaced repetition. Students see each word six times over two months before they consider it mastered. To make sure that students fully understand new words’ meanings, they have them interact with four modes of game play: image, sentence, definition and synonym.
And third, they have close reading experiences. Research shows that adolescents need explicit reading instruction to be able to comprehend complex secondary-school and college level texts. Our instructors go through excerpts of diverse texts line by line, sometimes word by word to teach the key skills for close reading.
If you have a high school student at home, you know how hard it is to find curriculum and resources geared specifically for middle & high school students. It seems like everything is geared towards the lower grades. That’s why I was so excited to review this program and use it with my kids. Finding something like this, tailored to their age range and skill level made a huge difference in our homeschooling.
In addition to what Zinc Learning Labs offers above, they have a placement test that you can give up to three times a year to monitor progress.For some extra motivation, they have points and leaderboards (gamification is so huge with my kids).
Here are a few of the things I love most about this program:
- It’s tailored to Middle & High School students but if your child is behind or ahead, their materials cover 3rd grade through College.
- The close reading experiences are like mini tutoring sessions and help students how to dissect and comprehend complex texts across levels. Even students on or above grade level can improve using these techniques.
- They support Spanish speaking/ ELL students
- Individualized reports on each student so that you can understand where they may be struggling or where they are advancing. Such a great tool and I don’t have to grade anything!
- One aspect of Zinc I really like is that I can plug virtually any text into the program and create my own vocabulary list to go with the article.
- Their test prep links are amazing.
- The gamefication of the program works well because students can earn points for growth & it gets them motivated!
- With Zinc’s library of diverse texts, I could find a variety of relevant and engaging readings with built in assessments, including both multiple choice questions and writing prompts for my son.
- I can easily monitor and assess his progress via their online platform.
- My son can choose texts based on length, reading level, genre, or subject. To top if all off, each article comes with a set of vocabulary games to help students learn the vocabulary they will need to understand the text.
If you’re interested in learning more, you can watch a ~2 min. overview video here or sample an excerpt of their interactive close reading lessons here. You can also browse though their authentic texts, which they update every week, here and you can try their vocabulary games here.
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