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Literacy support in Google Apps for Education (GAFE)

New technologies we can provide students with flexible and personalised literacy supports that remove barriers to learning. These are especially critical as students move up the school levels where the impact of a reading or writing difficulty can limit access to content and the ability of a student to show what they know.


By providing a range of options for every student to use when they want to, individuals are not singled out for special treatment. Instead, students can learn and show what they know rather than being continually defined by their current literacy skills.


As each student has a personal log on for Google the apps, extensions and add-ons will be linked to their profile and be available whenever they log on and are online. This allows the student to personalise the way that they use Google to suit their own needs and preferences.


The following are a selection of my favourite Apps, Extensions, Add Ons and tools that provide literacy support in the Google Chrome and Google Apps for Education (GAFE) environment. All are free except where specified. If you are not familiar with these types of tools see:


ReadWrite for Google ReadWrite icon Google Chrome  extension

ReadWrite toolbar Google Chrome  extension

This toolbar is designed to support struggling readers and writers and provides a number of literacy support features when you are online. Although the premium version is an expensive option the free version (which remains after the 30 day trial) includes text-to-speech and translation.

The text to speech tool reads text aloud in Google Docs and on web pages. This is an excellent support for any student who want to access text above their current reading age. It can also support comprehension, editing and multitasking (you can listen as you write, take notes, cook or walk).

Once installed it is easy to use and works well. Installation note: On some devices you cannot access the “accept” box for permissions (it gets hidden under your taskbar). If this happens use your tab button to scroll through clickable points and when it reaches the blue accept button press enter.

Voice typing in Google Doc’s (tools menu) Voice typing GDoc tool

Voice typing allows you to type in Google Doc’s by speaking. It is excellent support for those who find writing with a pen or keyboard difficult and for those who have difficulty with spelling. The accuracy of this tool is impressive compared with other options and it offers a NZ accent option.


Although it is only available in Google Doc’s there are plans to add this feature to other apps including Google Slides. I love the way Google has made this option one of it’s everyday tools.


Research Toolbar (tools menu) Research toolbar Gdoc and Gslides

The research toolbar offers many of Google’s great search tools directly in Google Doc’s and Slides. It allows you to locate content and pictures and drag them onto your writing page. Even more impressive, it automatically links and references sources. For more information see Research Tools (Youtube).

The research toolbar makes it much easier to insert images into documents. The dictionary option offers word definitions and synonyms that can be used to develop vocabulary.



SAS Writing Reviser - doc’s grammar add on  SAS Writing Reviser Gdoc add on

This comprehensive Add On opens a sidebar in Google Docs and can be used to review writing. Many of the tools would be appropriate for quite sophisticated users but it also includes simple tools like identifying repeated words or verbs.


It identifies items by highlighting them on your page or listing them in the sidebar. The tool includes:

  • sentence economy - wordiness, prepositional phrases, passive voice, relative clauses, repeated words

  • sentence variety - simple sentences, fragments, run-on, subject-verb openings, prep phrase openings, subordinate clause openings, transitions

  • sentence power - all verbs, weak & hidden verbs, verb tenses

  • sentence clarity - cliches and jargon, vague words, pronoun case, pronouns/antecedents, dangling modifiers, misplaced modifiers, parallelism.


Texthelp study skills doc’s highlight and group add on

Texthelp Study Skills GDoc add on

This tool allows you to select text on the page (by highlighting it with a variety of colours) and then create a completely new document with the highlighted text. In the new document, the highlighted text can be created in the original order or grouped by colour. This tool is also one of the premium options on the ReadWrite for Google toolbar (see above).


Open dyslexic font extension Open Dyslexic Google Chrome font extension

The Open Dyslexia font extension works on web pages and Google Drive. Unfortunately it does not give you an option to type in doc’s using the font.







Word Cloud wordlists extension Word Cloud GAFE Extension

The lovely little extension makes word clouds from web pages. This is an excellent and efficient way to create word lists. Word lists can support vocabulary development and spelling.





Announcify - extension to declutter and read web pages

Announcify GAFE extension

Announcify simplifies web pages and reads the text aloud. While reading it masks (blurs) the paragraphs before and after so students can track the current text.


Visor screen masking extension

Visor Google Chrome extension

This extension masks some of the screen, supporting those who find it difficult to track down the page. The colour of the masking can be changed to red, green or blue and the contrast is adjustable. Unfortunately the contrast always leaves the visible text quite shaded (it does not go completely clear).


Fokus screen masking extension Focus Google Chrome  extension

Focus allows you to focus on one part of the page by masking everything but the window you selected. It also can highlight the text within the window as you read it.




BeeLine Reader sentence colour extension

Beeline Reader GAFE extension

Beeline is an unusual extension that colours the words within eachsentence to give students clues about the start and end of each sentence.



WordQ for Chrome ($18.99) - word prediction app WordQ Extension

This app supports writing by offering word prediction, text to speech and topic lists (including the ability to add and use Māori topic dictionaries). It operates as a separate window (not a toolbar or add-on) and has a very simple clean format. Usage examples of predicted words are available and everything can be read aloud with a choice of high quality voices.


Documents made in the app automatically save in google doc format into google drive. It works online and offline. The word prediction is comparable to the other versions of WordQ.

Lastly a few notes

  • when you have many extensions you may need an easy way to turn them on and off. I use this SimpleExtManager to quickly enable and disable my extensions
  • please be aware that the apps, extension and add ons change all the time - some that were in the store yesterday may not be there tomorrow.

This is a small selection of the vast number of options available - I would love to hear about your favourites so please add your favourites below :)


Lynne Silcock



  • Ra Ellingham

    Thanks Lynne for an excellent list. I'm keen to see what is added and will be back once I've collated the team's ideas. 

  • Lynne Silcock

    Thanks Ra - I hope your students find some of them useful


  • traceycringle

    This is an amazing list of APPS to help students with literacy. Thank you - I shall be trialling several of these in the New Year.

    I have been doing some research on how digital technologies can engage students in literacy learning. For students who have difficulties these tools can be an absolute game-changer. I can see how the screening tool 'Fokus' can help students with visual issues. A student from last year would certainly benefit from this, and I will seek her out during form time to share this with her. The Open Dyslexia page also looks promising, and I am keen to trial 'Beehive Reader' which highlights complete sentences. This will be of immense value to my struggling readers. 

    The research all suggests that student engagement results in improved performance. I will be trying to use many more digital tools this year to support and engage my readers.

  • Lynne Silcock

    Hi Tracey

    I agree - when students have the right tools the job becomes easier and more enjoyable - this provides both success and encouragement - as you say a "game-changer"



Assistive Technology

Assistive Technology

Using technology to support students with disabilities and special learning needs.