Student Engagement Through Authentic Texts

I recently attend the FETC conference in Orlando where many exhibitors were ed-tech startups looking to provide curricula for schools/teachers.   As an advocate for providing students with high-interest, engaging, high-quality reading materials in instruction, I was surprised how many companies still rely on “synthetic,” self-created reading content.

I was in the classroom for nearly 25 years, teaching grades 1-12. In my experience, whenever a curriculum product was written for the sake of accomplishing an academic goal like learning to recognize and write a topic sentence in a paragraph or learning a specific set of vocabulary, neither my students nor I ever fully engaged with this sort of contrived text. It just wasn’t relatable. It was too predictable and instead of being story-driven, it was product-driven, and readers can tell.

Whenever I was asked to teach canned content, I would spend hours trying to find supplemental texts with authentic voices in order to resonate with my students.  EdTech products seeking teacher buy-in need to recognize that by relying on teachers to supply engaging content detracts from their product and lowers teacher satisfaction.

And it’s not just my personal opinion.  According to Scholastic, “Authentic text is real, living language written to engage readers and draw them in; it may entertain, inform, or persuade. It invites active reading, robust problem-solving, and deep analysis because it comprises conceptually rich, compelling ideas and language from life.”

Further, according to EdReports: “When teachers don’t have access to great materials, they hunt for them online— often leading to inconsistent quality that impacts low-income students of marginalized groups the most. Teachers spend 7-12 hours per week searching for and creating instructional resources… drawing from a variety of sources, many of them unvetted.”

What I enjoy about my role at Copyright Clearance Center is being able to offer EdTech companies an easy path to including high-quality, high-interest materials for students and teachers.  The CCC Annual Copyright License for Curriculum & Instruction makes licensing authentic, high-quality content easier for intermediaries like ed-tech companies and curriculum developers.

Easy access to authentic texts is an invaluable service, especially when the classrooms are filled with students navigating so many social & emotional issues, they need teachers to focus on human connections and not on finding quality content. They want to be able to rely on ed tech and curriculum providers for that.  

About Samantha Kalman

Samantha Kalman is a Business Development Specialist at CCC. Prior to her role with CCC, Samantha taught English at Masconomet Regional High School in Boxford, Massachusetts, where she served as English Department Head. She also taught K-6 at Harborlight Montessori in Beverly, Massachusetts, where she also held the position of Director of Communications. Sam’s experience in the classroom and her understanding of curriculum development and use gives her insight into the day-to-day needs and challenges of educators.