Ramping Up Reading with Technology

from Technology & Learning

Fourteen tips for enhancing your reading program

Fun, interactive software can foster a love of reading in even the most reluctant students. Following: the A, B, C's of getting started.

Students can create maps of new vocubulary words by using software from Inspiration and others.


Digital Photos and Word Identification

A teacher shows a topically based picture of vocabulary items at the start of each language lesson. For example, the teacher may show a Google or Flickr picture of many fruits and have the students, in groups of two, identify each one. The teacher has the students read a list of the fruit words as they are projected on a large-screen display. This takes less than two minutes a day. Students can use a digital camera to capture their own shots of other vocabulary items for new topical vocabulary words.

Word Maps for Association

When students are given a new vocabulary word, they can create a map using Inspiration software with a definition, synonyms, antonyms, and the word used in a sentence. Students can compare each other's maps. In addition, they can create associated word maps for a given word such as "summer" or "family." They can also use the Flickr-connected program of Airtight Interactive to see various other words (or tags) associated with the initial word.

Personal Responders and Categorization

Students improve their inference skills when they identify which word in a group of words does not fit. For example, a fifth-grade teacher shows four words (such as robber, thief, villain, and crook) and students select the word that does not fit by using their personal response system clickers (see "Making it Click" on techlearning.com for a review of these systems). The class can go through many such literature-based word groups in a short amount of time.

Beginning Reading

Search and Word Families

Students can learn the sound of words if, for example, their teacher presents the "-all" word family, such as ball, tall, and wall, through PowerPoint. Teachers can search for other PowerPoint presentations such as blends by typing "blend +.ppt" in a search engine. They can download these presentations and modify them for their class.

PowerPoint and Sight Words

Jerri Washington from Porter Elementary in Syracuse, NY, helps her first-graders learn to recognize high-frequency and sight words through PowerPoint. Washington times the slides so the children have more or less time to read the words as their proficiency increases. The children practice reading the words in random order on their computers, and Washington can sort the words by level of difficulty or pull out the words used in a particular story.

The Flickr-related site Airtight Interactive creates "tags" associated with an initial vocabulary word.

Motivation and Digital Books

Students are highly motivated to learn words as they create their own digital books. They can take digital photos of things that interest them and then dictate their stories to their teacher, who types them up. The teacher combines words and pictures using any multimedia presentation tool, and the students practice reading their stories as the teacher digitally records them.

PowerPoint and Big Books

Teachers can easily create a "big book" in PowerPoint. For example, they can write, "I eat an apple," next to a picture of the apple. They duplicate the slide, change the food in the sentence to "a banana," and change the corresponding picture. Since each page of the book has the same structure, students can easily identify the written word with the picture.

Whiteboards and Storytelling

Dr. Jean Casey's California State University at Long Beach student teachers develop primary students' choral and comprehension reading through Kid Works Deluxe from Knowledge Adventure which is displayed on a SMART Board. After a student types in a few sentences of a story she wishes to tell, the entire class listens to the computer read the story, reads along chorally, and collaborates on what they will write next based on the story details already provided.

GarageBand and Pronunciation

Annette Abbatiello, a third-grade teacher at McNamara Elementary in Baldwinsville, NY, has students read a passage and records them in an MP3 file using Apple's GarageBand. While a student listens to himself reading the passage, he highlights all of his errors on a paper copy with one color. In the next class he practices reading the corrected version of the passage and again records himself reading it. The process continues for two more iterations or until he reads at or close to 100 percent accuracy.

Recording and Reading Fluency

According to Dana Horst, the principal of Elementary School South in South Daphne, AL, students have increased their reading fluency through Soliloquy Reading Assistant from Soliloquy Learning. As students read a story into a microphone, the computer guides them by correcting the pronunciation of difficult words. It highlights the words they had trouble reading, and they can re-record the passage after they have practiced the difficult words.

Higher-Level Reading Skills

Digital Movies and Comparing Story Themes

An elementary school teacher can digitally record students while they use hand or digital drawings, props, and actions to retell the critical actions in a story they have read. As the students read another story with similar themes, the teacher replays the digital movie to help them better compare the actions and themes in the two stories.

Sharing Files for Analysis

Justin Ashworth, a teacher and librarian at McNamara Elementary in Baldwinsville, NY, works with pairs of primary students to select and read a picture book. He asks them to take make as many observations and connections to the story as possible on sticky notes. They then record themselves retelling their story, which includes the commentary they created. Finally, they record their work as an audio file and it gets burned onto a CD for sharing.

Mapping for Comparison

Students can complete a T-comparison chart in which they compare two aspects of text. For example, in a middle school social studies class, students identify which parts of a "historical fiction" are factual and record them in word-processed chart form or in a mapping program like Inspiration.

Recording Reactions to Literature

Teachers can model their thinking as they read a book chapter to older students, digitally recording these ideas for review at any time. Similarly, students can digitally record their own thoughts and questions on a designated chapter.

Harry Grover Tuttle is an education consultant.

Get Your Tips Published
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