What is CommonLit and How Does It Work? Best Tips and Tricks

(Image credit: CommonLit)

CommonLit is an online-based literacy resource that offers standards-based training and assessments for students.

Created for students of a wide range, from grade 3 up to grade 12, it covers a lot of reading progression. As such, there is a broad selection of levelled texts of varying types that are available for free.

Built to common-core standards, this can be a useful resource for teachers to add to their current tools. It can also provide a way for students to learn at their own pace outside of the classroom.

Thanks to a clear and easy layout, which is filled with rich content, this is a very appealing way to engage students with reading.

So is CommonLit for you?

What is CommonLit?

CommonLit is a digital resource for teaching and learning literacy skills. That means it offers a wide selection of common-core standards-aligned reading as well as assessment tools.


(Image credit: CommonLit)

CommonLit is web-based and can be accessed from most devices. Everything is helpfully categorized and presented in an intuitive way that makes searching and browsing very easy, even for younger students.

Texts range from news articles and short stories to poems and historical documents. A selection of curated texts is also available, which organizes information by literary or historical periods, making it all very helpful as teaching resources. 

A selection of languages is available, plus speech-to-text, all of which help to make the various texts more widely available to a broad range of students.

How does CommonLit work?

CommonLit allows you to browse by category, with a specific Themes section, but also to filter by features such as grades, genders, lexile range, and more. Or simply type in a specific title to search.


(Image credit: CommonLit)

Once you've found what you want to read, select the title to be brought into the lander page. Here you have the option to begin reading right away, to select to have it read aloud, or to translate to another language. You can also download the written content as a PDF if you want to read offline or save it for later. 

Tabs across the top provide extra resources, including a Teacher Guide, Parent Guide, Related Media, and Paired Texts. You can adjust font size to suit and favorite to come back to later. The option to share is also available, ideal for teachers who want to distribute specific titles to the class, groups, or individual students. 

Texts also usually feature images either in-line or to the side, which are a fixed size and generally don't require a fast internet connection or a lot of data to access.

What are the best CommonLit features?

CommonLit translates texts into more than 13 languages for access immediately, including Spanish, Arabic, and Russian. Each passage usefully comes with annotations that allow students to define words at the click of a button. But you can also make your own annotations -- which is super helpful if you want to leave guidance or instructions for students. 


(Image credit: CommonLit)

CommonLit also offers assessments alongside the texts with varying levels, including guidance and discussion. From multiple choice questions to short answers, there are various types of assessment questions that help provide an idea of student understanding. Guiding questions are also available, which can be turned on or off and that students must answer correctly to progress. 

The offering of extension texts and related content make for a great way to continue to learn around a subject and also to offer reading for students to continue at home.

Integration tools such as Google Classroom and Clever help to make the process of signing in students easier. Lots of features are in the paid-for premium versions though. More on that next. 

How much does CommonLit cost?

CommonLit comes in various forms with a free option as well as paid-for premium tiers. 

The Free account includes the CommonLit Digital Library plus the CommonLit 360 Curriculum. 

The Essentials plan, at $2,000 per school, gets you the above plus introductory webinars, priority customer support, ClassLink and Clever rostering integrations, and on-demand professional development.

The Essential Pro tier, at $3,250 per school, gets you all the above plus the CommonLit Assessment Series, Canvas integration, and administrator data.

Go for the Essential Pro Plus package, at $5,500 per school, and you get all the above plus quarterly virtual 360 PD and consulting, and 360 unit skills assessments. 

CommonLit best tips and tricks

Use the themes
Work through a theme in a lesson or across a week to explore things such as Family, America, Prejudice and Discrimination, Resilience, and more.

Use Text Set
Select the Text Set feature for 50 options in order of historical period, literary movements, or more, to lay out tasks for the class.

Have students use the annotation tool to provide feedback and highlight questions that are needed for you to look at in class so you can help.

Luke Edwards is a freelance writer and editor with more than two decades of experience covering tech, science, and health. He writes for many publications covering health tech, software and apps, digital teaching tools, VPNs, TV, audio, smart home, antivirus, broadband, smartphones, cars and much more.