Today's tech tip isn't really a tip but a shout out for a great website. As a former English teacher, I hate to recommend sites like Spark Notes since I know the importance of reading a work in its original form. But as a librarian, I see kids struggle on a daily basis with unfamiliar language. I would rather these students have a working knowledge of what they are reading. So enter Shmoop!
I tell kids Shmoop is Spark Notes on steriods!! Not only does the site include plot summaries, they have thematic information, character analysis and questions to think about. So the student is getting more than just a brief "this is what happened." When a student is really struggling to understand a work, I've seen how this site can help.
Lots of classic novels are included in the site with levels from middle school to high school. The entries are usually written by PhD students from places like Harvard so we aren't talking Wikipedia quality here. The best part is the entries are written in "kidspeak" so they are easy to understand.
Not only does the site have literature help, but also has sites for US History and biology to name a few. For a subscription cost, schools can also access PSAT, and SAT prep. I'm not sure of the cost but I am sure Shmoop would have good quality stuff!
Next time you see a student struggling to get through a classic like Beowulf, make sure he knows about Shmoop. It would be a shame to miss out on one of the greatest epics in literature with its timeless themes of good vs. evil all because of the hard to understand language!