Read All About It

from Technology & Learning

Motivate your students with these exercises.

from Technology & Learning

Educators at elementary, middle, and high school levels will find that integrating digital tools and resources — many commonly used by students in their "out of school" lives — can be a springboard to creativity and new skills. Following are ideas for how word processors, presentation software and hardware, mind-mapping applications, search tools, and visual literacy Web sites can contribute.


1. Students can practice their reading strategy of sequencing by looking at four or more pictures in a sequence from Flickr. Next, they look at the word processing document that their teacher prepared in which the sentences are not in the correct sequence. The students rearrange the sentences to depict the actual sequence from the pictures by moving the sentences around in the word processing document. In a future activity, they do the sequencing without the visual prompt.

2. Teachers can show students a Flickr or Google picture that focuses on a topic and have each student list all the topical vocabulary in the picture. Students look at a restaurant picture and list all the words about food. In groups of two or three, the students share their lists to increase the reading vocabulary of all the students. They organize their words into categories such as food, adjectives describing foods, and what is used to serve or eat food. The teachers then give them a passage about a restaurant to read.

3. Elementary teachers might prepare their students to answer the questions words (who, what, where, and when) by showing them an Internet picture on the whiteboard. The students circle the visual clue on the whiteboard that answers each of the questions. A student circles the clock and writes when next to it. The teacher verifies that all students can answer these question words for the picture. Then the students look at a written passage and circle the words that answer the four question words for that passage.

4. To help students focus on details in their reading, teachers may find a Google or Flickr picture and then write statements about it. Some of the statements are true and some are false. The students look at the picture and then read the statements. If the students indicate that a statement is false, they circle the part of the statement that is incorrect. A variation is for the teacher to write a passage based on a specific picture. The teacher takes four slightly different pictures of a city corner, such as pictures taken one minute apart. The students read the passage and then look at four similar pictures to pick the one being described. Often the students will have to reread the passage to find the details to be able to identify the correct picture.

5. Students can overcome the difficulty of finding the answer to a question about a passage. They go up to the passage being displayed on the whiteboard, underline the critical words in the question, and then underline the same words found in the text. A student underlines the critical words in the question, "Where did Bob study for the test?" and then searches for the same words in the passage. She finds "Bob studied for the test in the kitchen before he ate supper," and so she under lines the critical words Bob, studied, and test. She easily answers the "where" part of the question. Students see how words in a question can literally be in the passage or the words can be inferred through other words.

6. Another exercise is to have students from two distant classes demonstrate their read ing comprehension by using videoconferencing. Students read the same story and then groups of students create a literary frieze. In a frieze, students position their bodies and use facial expressions to show what is happening in a scene and the emotions in the scene; there is no movement and no talk ing. As the group from one school does a frieze, the other school tries to identify the part of the story, what characters are in the part, and what emotions are being shown. The frieze students verify if the other class is correct. Then the other class presents a frieze about another part of the story.

Middle School

7. Students may increase their reading vocabulary drastically by learning root words through the teachers' interactive PowerPoint. The teachers show several words that have the same root such as astronomy, astrophysics, and astronaut and ask the students to discover the common root. Once the students have identified the root word, they hear or see the meaning of it. Next, they see more words with astro in it, and they write down the meaning of each word.

8. Teachers can give a baseline reading speed and comprehen sion passage and then demonstrate how to read in phases through PowerPoint or whiteboard demonstrations. The teacher has students read phrases from a screen such as, "The old men," "moved slowly," and "toward the counter." Students take turns marking off phrases on the whiteboard. Then they read a digital text and mark the text into phrases by inserting slashes. Students move from word-by-word to phrase reading and comprehension.

9. Teachers can give students a computer file that has a list of two vocabulary opposites (such as freezing and roasting) and then each student word processes all the words in between the two extremes. Next, the students compare their lists in small groups. Individually, students read a passage in their word processor, highlight all the words in the text that present the author's tone such as happy or angry, and then change each word's font color from black to red. The students share all these red words and discuss how these words contribute to the passage's tone.

10. Television is one tool that can improve students' ability to read quickly. The teacher turns off the television's sound and turns on the television's captioning feature. Students have to be able to read the text quickly; they do not have time to reread a word before it goes off the screen. The teacher has each student read aloud the text on the screen in a round robin fashion so that each student has an opportunity to read. The student reads whatever he or she can from the screen before it changes.

High School

11. Teachers can download the text of a piece of literature from Gutenberg ( Then they insert essential questions or critical questions into the text to help the students in their thinking process as the students read the text. After the teacher downloads Don Quixote, he or she inserts the question, "How does reality interfere with one's dream?" at the beginning and at the end of the windmill chapter, digitally distrib utes the revised text to the students, and asks them to answer the essential question after they have read the chapter.

12. Reading the same story in newspapers from different locations is one way students can improve their analytical skills. Students download an article on a nation's election from that country, from the United States, and from that nation's neighbor from an online newspaper source. They analyze the bias that each article presents by highlighting and bolding words or phrases within the word processing document. Then they summarize the bias of each article with examples from the article.

13. To help students see the commonality of themes across literature, teachers might create a blog about a common literary theme. Students reading Of Mice and Men, Toning the Sweep, and Romeo and Juliet can provide examples to demonstrate how the theme of discrimination is a focal point in each of their readings. They can then compare discrimination among their various pieces of literature.

Harry Grover Tuttle is an educator-in-residence at Syracuse University.