This week I welcome Dr. Stephanie Affinito, who is sharing some important ideas about literacy. Over the next several weeks I hope to have a number of guests talking about important literacy issues. ENJOY!
Using Tech to Boost Reading Community and Engagement
By Stephanie Affinito
Digital tools and technology has transformed the way the world works, including the ways readers read, connect together and share their thinking. Today’s students have grown up in a time where digital tools and technology are the norm and expect to use them in their everyday lives, both at home and at school. If we want our classroom reading community to reflect the kind of readerly life we ultimately want our students to have, then we must harness the power of technology to cultivate authentic reading connections in our classrooms and boost engagement for reading. Here are three powerful practices that use technology to harness student’s authentic reading lives:
Increase Access to Text
Technology can increase access to almost anything: to people, to information, to places and locations and yes, to books. A simple connection to the Internet connects students with infinite possibilities for texts: online articles, ebooks, digital texts and even read alouds and interactive media. In addition to heading to the classroom library, students can head to online websites to access books, texts and other media they would not otherwise have access to. Here are a few of my favorite sites:
Wonderopolis: A site that ignites students curiosity and imagination through daily wonders that promote exploration and discovery.
Get Epic: A digital library of over 35,000 digital books free for teachers and their students.
Unite for Literacy: Digital books focused on social studies and science content for our youngest readers.
CommonLit: Free reading passages and instructional materials for grades 3 – 12.
Beyond simply providing access to books and other reading materials, technology can provide access to content, topics and genres that students might have otherwise overlooked to broaden their reading lives as well. Sites like Bookopolis and Biblionasium provide safe spaces for students to share their own book recommendations and explore new titles read by their peers. Sites like A Mighty Girl offers a diverse selection of texts for courageous readers, DOGO Books offers books reviews for kids by kids and the Spaghetti Book Club offers readers reviews not only written by students, but illustrated too!
Social media can also broaden teachers’ selection of books for inclusion in our classroom libraries. By following hashtags dedicated to promoting current and diverse literature for our classrooms, we can boost our book knowledge to then share with their students. Here are a few hashtags to explore:
Share Our Reading Lives
Reading texts may make us readers, but sharing our reading with others is what builds a reading community. Digital tools can not only build those connections within the classroom, they can connect our students with others beyond the school walls as well. Traditionally, students share the books they are reading on reading logs that only the teacher sees or in impersonal book summaries or book reports posted on the classroom wall. But digital tools and technology can help readers share their reading lives in ways that matter. Padlet and Flipgrid are two such tools that you could easily try tomorrow.
Padlet can invite students to share the books they are reading in multiple ways: by adding the title and author to a tile, by linking to the cover of a book, by audio or video recording short booktalks or even creating a short screencast. Teachers can even create personalized reading walls to showcase titles read by students throughout the year.
Flipgrid offers students a safe space to talk about the books they are reading and recommend them to others. Students can view the book talks and respond accordingly. Teachers can even share their book talk grids with other classrooms so students can see what others are reading around the world. Take a look at this example where authors book-talk their own books as added inspiration for your students.
Regardless of the method you choose, celebrating reading, rather than documenting it, can change culture for reading in our classroom communities and technology can help us do just that.
Authentic Response to Reading
So, what do you do when you are finished with a book? Chances are you do not write a summary, take a quiz or answer comprehension questions. Instead, we might talk about the book with others, recommend it to a friend, journal our private thinking or simply be still with our own thoughts. As adults, we have the privilege of authentically responding to texts based on our reaction to it….or not even responding at all. Digital tools can help bring that same authenticity to our students. Although they don’t respond to specific comprehension questions, students clearly demonstrate their understanding of the book in more authentic ways that personalize the experience to the reader and their interaction with the text. Here are two of my favorites:
Create an emoticon chart! If we want students to be engaged and motivated readers, we need to give them opportunities to connect with their feelings as they read and how they change. What better way to do that than with an emoticon chart? Build on students’ love of emojis and encourage them to chart their thinking and feelings as they read. They can draw their own emojis on a chart in their reader’s notebook or insert digital images into an online document. Take a look at the example below:
Compile a playlist! What better way to capture the main ideas, themes, and lessons from a book than connecting to the main ideas, themes, and lessons in popular songs? After students finish a book, challenge them to think of songs that best capture the ideas presented and the ways they responded to the book. Lyrics.com is a huge collection of song lyrics that can help them not only think of songs, but also read and analyze them to see how they connect to the book, adding even more critical-thinking skills to the experience. Students can compile their songs into a playlist or simply list them with an explanation of why they fit the ideas in the book. Take a look at the playlist Ruth Behar compiled for her book Lucky Broken Girl as a model for your students.
So, which idea will you try in your classroom? Here’s a bit of advice to guide your thinking: Choose one of the ideas and try it in your own reading first. For example, you might start by reading books online or finding book reviews for your students. Or, you might create a reading wall for yourself and add tiles showcasing the texts you are reading to ultimately present as a model for your students. If you are ready for a little more creativity, create a digital emoticon chart or playlist using your class read aloud to show students some new possibilities for reading response. Regardless of what you choose, your willingness to explore technology and try new ways of connecting and engaging your readers is sure to inspire your students.
A special thank you to Dr. Affinito for this post. This post will also appear in the upcoming edition of the Missouri Reader, a peer-reviewed professional journal that comes out three times a year. To find out more about Dr. Affinito’s ideas go to her website and have a look at her new book.
Copyright 2019 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of myself and the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.
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