Category: Reading

reading

5 Tech Tools to Inspire Reading

readingReading is defined as “the action or skill of absorbing written or printed matter silently or aloud.” Sounds dry, maybe even boring, but once a child learns to read, they get much more than an understanding of words, sentences, paragraphs, grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. They get an escape from reality, exercise for their brains, a closeness to like-minded souls, answers to problems–and reading can even predict success in school. It alleviates boredom in the bits of free time that pop up between soccer and dinner and it can be done alone or in a group.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends…”
― Charles William Eliot

Teachers and parents know all this and still, the Literacy Company reports that most teachers in classes of twenty+ students spend only five minutes a day reading, and 46% of American adults cannot understand the label on their prescription medicine. Not a surprise, Statistic Brain says 80% of adults did not buy a single book in the past year (Pew reports it as 77%).

I am constantly on the hunt for good tech reading tools. There are hundreds–thousands–of them, but I’m picky. Here’s what I look for:

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online reading

5 Tech Tools That Motivate Every Reader

digital readingI love having guest posts on Ask a Tech Teacher because I always learn a lot. In this case, efriend and fellow educator, Jessica Sanders from WhooosReading.org, shares her favorite tools for kick-starting readers. I think you’ll like her choices:

Not every student is motivated to read—as you, as an educator, know better than anyone else. Luckily, technology not only comes as second nature to the digital citizens in your classroom, but engages readers of every level, motivating them to read.

These five tech tools do exactly that, and can be used in almost any classroom environment or to encourage independent reading at home. Harness the power of peer-to-peer book recommendations and gamification to motivate your students to read more every day.

Bookopolis

Nothing inspires students to read more than recommendations from their friends. Bookopolis harnesses that power by offering students a social reading community, where they can share book recommendations, write book reviews, and more.

Students can sign up alone, or with the help of their parent or teacher. Through the platform, students have a chance to uncover more of what they love or discover the kind of books they want to start reading.

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digital citizenship

3 Organizational Apps to Start the School Year

Whether you teach science or PE, there are hundreds of apps to help you do it better. The response to this tidal wave of information has been confusion. As each teacher downloads their favorites, students spend as much time learning the app as applying it academically.

There’s a move afoot to pick five that are cross-curricular, train faculty, and then use them throughout the school year. This is the way it used to be when MS Office ruled the computer and everyone understood it. If this is your school, here are three apps to start the school year:

goodreaderGoodReader

When looking for an app to curate classroom reading, consider these requirements:

  • works well with your current LMS
  • includes a wide variety of reading formats
  • displays books quickly, allowing you to open multiple books, add annotations, and take notes
  • displays class textbooks

Lots of apps do the first three; none the last. Why? Many class texts use formats that only display on the publisher website. What became apparent as I researched was that GoodReader was one of several considered Best in Class because of its broad-based ability to read, manage, organize, access, and annotate a wide variety of file formats. Where it has long been considered a leader in reading and annotating PDFs, new releases accommodate almost any type of file including .docx, mp3, jpeg, ppt, xlx, audio, and videos. With its tabbed interface, users can open multiple documents and click through them as needed.

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reading

3 Digital Tools to Encourage Close Reading

‘Close reading’ entered the teacher’s lexicon with this Common Core literacy anchor standard:

Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

Dr. Doug Fischer defines close reading this way:

Close reading is a careful and purposeful re-reading of the text.

If you’re looking for a longer definition, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) defines it this way:

Close, analytic reading stresses engaging with a text of sufficient complexity directly and examining meaning thoroughly and methodically, encouraging students to read and reread deliberately. Directing student attention on the text itself empowers students to understand the central ideas and key supporting details. It also enables students to reflect on the meanings of individual words and sentences; the order in which sentences unfold; and the development of ideas over the course of the text, which ultimately leads students to arrive at an understanding of the text as a whole. (PARCC, 2011, p. 7)

…and explains its importance:

A significant body of research links the close reading of complex text—whether the student is a struggling reader or advanced—to significant gains in reading proficiency and finds close reading to be a key component of college and career readiness. (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, 2011, p. 7)

It’s not just getting kids to read that’s important; it’s getting them to read with understanding and memory that matters. This is not instinctual. Students need to be taught how to read complex texts.

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3 Apps That Encourage Students to Read

readingReading is defined as “the action or skill of absorbing written or printed matter silently or aloud.” Sounds dry, maybe even boring, but once a child learns to read, they get much more than an understanding of words, sentences, paragraphs, grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. It has been credited with providing an escape from reality, exercising the mind, saving lives, bringing people together, answering problems, and predicting success in school. It alleviates boredom in the bits of free time that pop up between soccer and dinner and it can be done alone or in a group.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends…”
― Charles William Eliot

According to Early Moments, reading is associated with the following traits:

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reading

Read Across America Day

stone-figure-10542_640Many people in the United States, particularly students, parents and teachers, join forces on Read Across America Day, annually held on March 2. This nationwide observance coincides with the birthday of Dr Seuss.

Here are some great reading websites for students K-5:

  1. Aesop Fables—no ads
  2. Aesop’s Fables
  3. Audio stories
  4. Childhood Stories
  5. Classic Fairy Tales
  6. Edutainment games and stories
  7. Fables—Aesop—nicely done
  8. Fairy Tales and Fables
  9. Interactive storybook collection
  10. Listen/read–Free non-fic audio books
  11. Magic Keys–stories for youngers
  12. Mighty Book
  13. Open Library
  14. PBS Stories–Between the Lions
  15. RAZ Kids–wide variety of reading levels, age groups, with teacher dashboards
  16. Signed stories
  17. Starfall
  18. Stories read by actors
  19. Stories to read
  20. Stories to read for youngsters
  21. Stories to read from PBS kids
  22. Stories to read–II
  23. Stories to read—International Library
  24. Stories—MeeGenius—read/to me
  25. Stories—non-text
  26. Story Scramble
  27. Story time–visual
  28. Storytime for me
  29. Teach your monster to read (free)
  30. Tumblebooks (fee)
  31. Ziggity Zoom Stories

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8 Web Tools To Add Pizazz to the End of School

There is no end to the number of online tools available. I get inundated with them by friends (My child wants to use this website. What do you think?), fellow teachers (Would you check this web tool–does it work for literacy?), parents (My child loves this tool. Is it appropriate?). I am always thrilled because introductions through friends and colleagues are much more authentic than through online advertising or an ezine.

When I review a website or app, I take 15-30 minutes to test it out, try to see it through the eyes of the age group that will use it. Here’s what I look for:smore

  • Does it have advertising? If so, it needs to be nominal and G-rated. I don’t want them to be overbearing or distracting. Worse is if they are inappropriate. I’ve seen great websites and online tools ruined by objectionable ads.
  • Is it intuitive? Students want to be able to figure the program out without being taught. An intuitive website and/or app 1) has an easy-to-understand start-up screen that clearly identifies how to use the tool, 2) the process for using the tool is similar to others the students is familiar with, and 3) the student can independently launch and operate the web tool or app without requiring an adult.
  • is it user-friendly? Does its design and layout make students want to accomplish the goals of the program? Are students engaged in the activity, motivated to use the web tool? Is it functional? Is it visually stimulating? Does it require only a nominal amount of reading?
  • Does the web tool differentiate for types of students and their unique needs? Sure, there are lots of good web tools appropriate for a certain standard classification of student. What I want is the web tool that can adapt to varying needs.
  • Is the tool challenging? Does it require sufficient critical thinking to keep the student engaged or do they get bored quickly?
  • Is the web tool compatible with most browsers, most computers? I don’t want it so old it won’t play well with the type of computer commonly used by students. I also don’t want it so specialized that students must buy extra equipment to use it.
  • Is the web tool free? That’s preferable. There are lots of good web tools that are free to a certain point and charge a fee after that. Depending upon what ‘point’ that kicks in, I’m OK with that
  • Does the web tool encourage higher-order thinking–creativity, evaluation, critical thinking, problem solving?
  • Is the web tool or app error-free? This means not only that it’s free of spelling and grammar errors, but that it doesn’t freeze, stall, shut down, or crash.
  • Does the web tool have educational applications? When students are at school, I want to focus on academic endeavors, leaving those more focused on ‘play’ to the home environment. So many fun programs are also educational, this isn’t a high hurdle.

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minecraft

How Minecraft Teaches Reading, Writing and Problem Solving

Image credit: Paulo OrdovezaLast month, Scientific American declared “…“not only is Minecraft immersive and creative, but it is an excellent platform for making almost any subject area more engaging.” A nod from a top science magazine to the game many parents wish their kids had never heard of. This, following Common Sense Media’s seal of approval.  On the surface, it’s not so surprising. Something like 80% of five-to-eight year-olds play games and 97% of teens. Early simulations like Reader Rabbit are still used in classrooms to drill reading and math skills.

But Minecraft, a blocky retro role-playing simulation that’s more Lego than svelte hi-tech wizardry, isn’t just the game du jour. Kids would skip dinner to play it if parents allowed. Minecraft is role playing and so much more.

Let me back up a moment. Most simulation games–where players role-play life in a pretend world–aren’t so much Make Your Own Adventure as See If You Survive Ours. Players are a passenger in a hero’s journey, solving riddles, advancing through levels and unlocking prizes. That’s not Minecraft. Here, they create the world. Nothing happens without their decision–not surroundings or characters or buildings rising or holes being dug. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. There’s merely what You decide and where those decisions land You. Players have one goal: To survive. Prevail. They solve problems or cease to exist. If the teacher wants to use games to learn history, Minecraft won’t throw students into a fully fleshed simulation of the American Revolution. It’ll start with a plot of land and students will write the story, cast the characters, create the entire 1776 world. Again, think Legos.

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