Literacy

Using Tech Tools to Build Fluency

Fluency and comprehension go hand in hand.

2014-04-07_1422

Students who have the ability to read fluently are more likely to comprehend due to the diminished need to labor and decode each word.  In order for students to achieve reading fluency, they must read, and read a lot. So how can we get our students to read?

These four steps, implemented along with technology tools, can foster motivation and build literacy skills.

1. Model– Teachers must model fluent reading to students on a daily basis. For younger students, echo reading is beneficial. Allow students to repeat a short phrase after hearing the teacher read it. Simple recording tools on your classroom mobile device can  provide opportunities for echo reading. Using your tablet’s recording feature, simply record a passage for students to play and echo. Try a Digital Storytelling site such as Storybird. Write stories with your students and read them aloud. Invite a local author or storyteller to read to your class via a Skype session, or even invite older students to read to younger classes through Skype.

Vocaroo is an online voice recording tool that allows the user to record and share audio content via the web.

2. Practice– Allow students ample time to read and reread passages. Using recording tools such as Vocaroo, or Voki, students can record themselves reading a passage and play the audio back to determine errors and words read per minute. Voki allows students to choose an avatar and give it a voice through a simple recording feature. The participatory nature of blogging promotes both reading and writing practice. Students enjoy reading their peers’ posts and providing feedback. Kidblog is an ideal blogging platform for the classroom setting.

3. Help– Teachers must foster self-correction and self-questioning skills by constantly monitoring student reading. Listening to children read should be done in a small group setting, or ideally on a one to one basis. A classroom set of mobile devices allow students to send the teacher audio clips of short read alouds.

4. Motivation– Perhaps the most important component of reading instruction is motivation. Student motivation can be nurtured by allowing opportunities to read material of interest, and listen and read to others. Technology tools can tailor reading instruction to meet individual learning needs and create much needed motivation in the classroom.

  • Use the internet to find specific reading passages. ReadWorks.org is an ideal hub for high interest, leveled reading passages.
  • Use audio and video tools to enable students to read to others and hear themselves read. Voki, Vocaroo, Fotobabble, Blabberize, or Voicethread are easy to use multimedia platforms that can enhance reading instruction.

How To Blog with your Students

2013-11-24_0049

Students love to communicate. Allowing students to share what they are passionate about, reflecting on what they have learned, and what sparks their curiosity  benefits their learning on many levels. Students have come a long way from journaling in a spiral bound notebook or a lock and key diary.

If you are searching for an implementation of technology in your classroom, blogging should be at the top of your list.  Aside from being cross curricular, blogging facilitates meaningful learning and provides students with an authentic audience.

Why should your students be blogging?

  • They can write about what the want to write about. Consider adults in the “real world” who blog and blog successfully. They are not given writing prompts or topics, but simply write from personal inspiration.
  • They develop their writing voice. Many students do not know what strong voice sounds like and often student writing lacks voice. Not only can blog writing develop voice, reading blogs can allow students experience in identifying personality and emotion.
  • Blogging promotes reflection. Students should have the time to reflect on what they have learned. Reflective thinking is critical thinking.
  • With blogging, learning is archived. Blogging over a school year(or longer) allows students to see growth and change in their learning.
  • Blogging allows students to develop a positive digital footprint. Stress the importance developing a positive internet presence.
  • Blogging creates engagement. Students enjoy using this non traditional writing format.

Blogging tips:

  • Determine your district policy on blogging.  Keep in mind that there are blogging platforms that are secure, private, and specifically for classroom use.
  • Allow students ample time to read and comment on blogs. A large part of blogging is being participatory.
  •  Whether it be from classmates, parents, or teachers, students need regular feedback on their posts.
  • Stress the importance of a polished entry. Proofread, proofread, and proofread again.
  • Consider starting with one classroom blog where students can contribute. Allowing each student their own blog from the beginning will prove overwhelming.
  • Utilize safe, secure blogging platforms such as Kidblog or Edublogs.

For younger students:

  • Start a class blog in your k-3 classroom and make it a collaborative effort. Solicit content from your students and write a weekly blog post.
  • Invite older students or parents as guest bloggers on your blog.
  • Blog posts with younger children  should include visuals. The post can be based on a visual accompanied by smaller amounts of text.
  • Promote commenting. Younger students can be guided through the commenting process.

If you are considering implementing blogs in your classroom, there are a host of resources and tools to ensure it is a smooth process. Kidblog offers students an excellent platform to begin the blogging process while allowing them a secure writing environment.  Launching blogging lessons in the classrooms will motivate students to write while fostering authentic learning experiences.

ReadWorks.org

read_works

In the spirit of  ReadWorks.org, I am sharing the love of this site. ReadWorks.org provides research based, common core aligned lessons, units, and reading material, aimed at developing reading comprehension. Passages include lexile levels, and guided questioning to develop multiple reading skills and strategies.

ReadWorks.org is truly comprehensive, offering  k-8 reading curriculum that can supplement your core curriculum. Lessons and passages are authentic and engaging with added coaching components for educators.  Simply said, this website will help you immensely.

Video Learning With a Boy and His Robot

moby

From mitosis to semicolons, explanations can be tricky for even the most veteran educator; especially if you are introducing a concept in an early grade. There are plenty of sites that can bring video learning into the classroom to assist educators with introducing topics, or simply providing students another way of processing information.  One of my favorites sites is BrainPOP.  Each video is led by Tim and Moby, an odd duo consisting of a boy and his robot.  Tim and Moby have a unique flair for delivering information to students in both a simple and engaging way.

Created by an immunologist and pediatrician, Avraham Kadar, M.D., Brain pop was initially used to explain difficult concepts to young patients. Currently, BrainPOP is used by educators as an effective 21st century tool to enhance curriculum content.In addition to offering animated videos relating to all content areas, BrainPOP is Common Core aligned, offers an ELL portal for English language learners, and Brain POP jr. for k-3 students.

With capabilities that reach far beyond an extensive video library, BrainPOP boasts an online educational setting that bolsters student achievement and supports professional development. “My BrainPOP” allow teachers progress monitoring, and individualized assessment creation.  Students can access games, quizzes, and other standards aligned activities. BrainPOP supports multiple learning styles and digital learning by delivering content using a wide variety of media types Completely compatible with most classroom devices, BrainPOP is an ideal integration of technology into the classroom.Most importantly, after just a few uses, Tim and Moby will surely become classroom favorites.

Storybird: Where Art Meets Literacy

2013-11-13_1350

Sometimes a simple story makes the most impact on a child. Storybird remains a favorite Web 2.0 tool for the classroom. With a complete library of beautiful digital artwork, Storybird allows the student to author their own book and publish it for public or private viewing.  Storybird is a creative platform for educators to cultivate a variety of literacy skills. Educators can manage student accounts, leave instant feedback, and make assignments that hone in on meaningful themes. Publishing choices include sharing via email with a URL, embedding, or downloading.

Storybird fosters active communication and collaboration as students can read and comment on their peer’s work in a secure online environment. My experiences with Storybird have been positive with grade levels spanning from kindergarten through eighth. Unique illustrations have inspired students to draw out themes and become engaged in the creative process.

Blogging: Giving Students a Voice in the Digital Age

2013-11-24_0049

I admit, this is a topic I am especially passionate about. Simply stated, writing is important. It allows the writer expression, and most importantly, a voice. It empowers one to contribute to the greater good, to connect with an audience, and to advance change. For me, some of the most memorable writing has been writing that I have connected with, forming experiences that have been both comforting and inspiring.

As a classroom teacher, writing has always been crucial. It was through writing assignments that I learned the most about my students and felt simple joy when a student would go beyond writing because they had to, and created a true expression of themselves.

The fifth grade classroom revealed every self-induced writing anxiety. “I am a horrible writer”, or “I don’t know what to write”, or “people will laugh at my writing”. Every writing assignment resulted in 25 students suddenly stricken with writers block.

I faced these challenges by reading good writing by others their age, writing with them, and writing for a purpose. It became clear that without motivation, good writing was going to be a difficult goal. In order for writing skills to progress, students must write, and write a lot.

The good news is that writing can be improved, motivation can be developed, and students can actually publish to an authentic audience. Blogging has become an art. It is a familiar, open forum platform for students where ideas can be shared. Blogging is an invaluable tool. Not only can students easily publish work, feedback becomes an essential part of the writing process.

A simple blogging space offers students a channel to improve their writing while propelling them into the blogosphere where writers are interconnected and ideas are not only accessible but inspirational.