Using Technology to Enhance Reading: Innovative Approaches to Literacy Instruction

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Enhance students' reading abilities with technology. Discover how technological resources can improve the effectiveness and breadth of reading instruction to build student knowledge. Read real-world accounts from literacy experts, and learn how their methods can be adapted for your classroom. Explore how to foster improvement in student learning using a variety of tools, including interactive whiteboards, tablets, and social media applications.

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PART I Reading Foundations

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PART I

Reading Foundations

To build a strong, enduring structure, you need a solid foundation. Similarly, students must have a solid reading foundation to become proficient, thoughtful, and lifelong readers. Part I deals with developing that reading foundation in two different ways.

First, foundation refers to the principles that should guide the application of technology in the teaching and assessment of early reading. Teachers and school administrators must be aware of these principles, developed through scholarly inquiry, which will lead to the most effective use of technology.

Second, foundation can also be interpreted in terms of the specific literacy competencies that make up the building blocks for future success in reading. The Common Core State Standards, very likely to be the guiding force for literacy instruction in the United States for the foreseeable future, have identified foundational literacy competencies that must be mastered early in students’ reading lives and that are necessary to help students move to proficient college- and career-ready reading. These foundational competencies include phonemic awareness, word recognition or phonics, and ultimately sight word development. (Reading fluency is also identified as a foundational skill. It is addressed specifically in part II of the book.) Phonemic awareness refers to students’ ability to perceive discrete speech sounds (phonemes) and manipulate those sounds in various ways (segment spoken words into individual sounds, blend sounds into words, and so on). Phonics, of course, refers to the ability to translate written symbols (letters and letter combinations) into their corresponding sounds and words. Sight word recognition refers to the ability of proficient readers to recognize words in print automatically and effortlessly on sight. Clearly, these are skills required for any type of conventional reading.

 

PART II Reading Fluency

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PART II

Reading Fluency

Despite research that identifies reading fluency as critical for student success in reading (Rasinski, Reutzel, Chard, & Linan-Thompson, 2011), reading scholars consider it a topic that is “not hot” (Cassidy & Grote-Garcia, 2013, p. 11). We feel that this lack of enthusiasm is due to the way many commercial curricular programs and approaches have addressed reading fluency. Because fluency is often measured by oral reading rate or speed, fluency instruction in these approaches becomes a matter of having students read orally with the primary goal of improving their reading rate or speed. We think this is a corruption of the notion of fluency.

In our opinion, fluency should be a hot topic, and that is why we have included it in the book. Fluency comprises two separate constructs. The first is automaticity in word recognition. Fluent readers are able to decode and understand words in text so easily, effortlessly, and efficiently that they can devote most of their finite cognitive resources to the critical goal in reading—comprehension. Students who are not sufficiently fluent use an excessive amount of their cognitive resources for word recognition (these are readers who read slowly and laboriously) and thus have reduced cognitive capacity for making meaning from the text. The second construct of fluency is prosody or expression. Fluent readers are able to read orally with appropriate expression that reflects the meaning of the text. In a sense, fluency is a bridge between word-recognition mastery and reading comprehension. Research has demonstrated that readers who are automatic in their word recognition and expressive in their oral reading tend to have the highest levels of comprehension in silent and oral reading (Rasinski et al., 2011). However, as students exhibit decreases in their fluency, their comprehension similarly declines.

 

PART III Reading Vocabulary

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PART III

Reading Vocabulary

It’s not enough for readers to be able to sound out the words they encounter in print. They also need to know what the words mean. Meaning cannot be accessed if readers do not have understanding of the individual words in the passage. Knowledge of word meanings, or vocabulary, has long been recognized as essential for success in reading.

Despite recognition of the importance of vocabulary, developing students’ vocabularies has continually been a challenge for teachers. One reason is that the English language contains more words than nearly any other language. Moreover, new words are constantly being added to English—often words that are related to various academic areas. This means that teachers not only have a lot of words to teach, they also need to be selective in the words they choose. To complicate matters even more, words in English can have more than one meaning, including nuanced or implied meanings, and multiple words can have the same or very similar meanings. Clearly, because of these and other factors, teaching and learning the meaning of English words is no small task.

 

PART IV Comprehension of Informational Texts

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PART IV

Comprehension of Informational Texts

There has been a growing conversation among reading scholars and educational policymakers about the importance of informational texts. As teachers consider the ways to make informational texts a more integral part of their classroom instruction, it is worth exploring how technology can aid and support students’ comprehension of such material.

Across grade bands, researchers and educators agree that students can benefit from explicit comprehension strategy instruction (Beers, 2003; Kamil et al., 2008). Kylene Beers (2003) notes that while we spend ample time assessing comprehension, we do not always teach students how to comprehend. Yet researchers agree that explicit instruction can develop students’ reading comprehension (Beers, 2003; Kamil et al., 2008).

The gradual release of responsibility model (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983) is an evidence-based approach for introducing students to a new learning task. This model can be particularly useful when teaching students strategies for comprehending informational texts. Teachers begin by explaining the purpose of the strategy and how it will assist readers. During this time, teachers actually implement and model the specific strategy while, at the same time, discussing with students the features of the strategy that can aid comprehension as well as features of the text that may make the reading comprehension difficult or challenging. Next, students should have many opportunities to practice the strategy under the guidance and support of the teacher and classmates. Finally, students use the strategy independently in their reading.

 

PART V Comprehension of Literary Texts

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PART V

Comprehension of Literary Texts

Narrative or literary texts are a staple of many literacy classrooms. Many educators have relied on Louise Rosenblatt’s transactional theory to best understand how readers make meaning from the texts they encounter. Based on John Dewey’s theory of experience as transaction, Rosenblatt (1995) proposes that readers have different ways of entering a text based on personal experiences. Instead of reacting or even interacting with texts, readers transact or engage in a continual to-and-fro process while experiencing the text. Rosenblatt (1995) contends that “the teacher’s job is to foster fruitful interactions or, more precisely, transactions between individual readers and individual literary texts” (p. 26). As teachers guide students through the transactional process of meaning-making, it is important to consider the instructional approaches we might employ during instruction.

One way to aid students in their comprehension of literary text is through strategy instruction. According to Diane Lapp, Douglas Fisher, and Kelly Johnson (2010), in order to comprehend a story, students must be able to “infer, co-construct, and analyze what the author intended” (p. 423). True comprehension requires students to independently apply specific approaches when reading and to know when certain approaches will work best. Teachers can model specific strategies or can conference with students to better understand the challenges each student faces during reading. One-on-one conferences can serve as a way for teachers to share strategies that address an individual student’s needs. It is critical that students understand the purpose of the strategy and that the teacher models how to apply and adapt the strategy to meet students’ needs as readers.

 

PART VI Reading Across Disciplines

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PART VI

Reading Across Disciplines

Disciplinary literacy refers to the application of specific literacy practices in the texts of particular fields or disciplines (Fang & Schleppegrell, 2010; Moje, 2008; Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008). According to Elizabeth Birr Moje (2008), disciplinary literacy requires the interplay of three competencies. First, students must learn the discourses and practices particular to the field. Second, students must have opportunities to enact the identity of disciplinary experts. Finally, students must acquire the knowledge necessary to engage in disciplinary learning.

Instructional approaches for disciplinary literacy assist students in gaining specialized knowledge in order to understand how to read, write, and think in subject-specific ways. Additionally, students learn the particular nuances of literacy practices associated with the discipline. This allows students to be close readers of complex content area texts as they learn the particular genres, conventions, and terminology the discipline values.

 

PART VII Motivation for Reading

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PART VII

Motivation for Reading

Motivation and engagement are critical for developing students as lifelong readers. Motivation refers to the “desire, reason, or predisposition to become involved in a task or activity, [and] engagement refers to the degree to which a student processes text deeply through the use of active strategies and thought processes and prior knowledge” (Kamil et al., 2008, p. 26). Motivation and engagement are incredibly important for reading instruction and students’ literacy achievement (Gambrell, 2011a; Kamil et al., 2008). If students are motivated to read, they will read more, and more reading leads to higher levels of reading achievement. However, research notes that students’ motivation to read declines as they move from elementary school through middle and high school (Kamil et al., 2008). As researchers and educators work to better understand this phenomenon, they have identified specific factors associated with motivation and engagement.

 

PART VIII Reading Assessment

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PART VIII

Reading Assessment

Assessment in reading may not be the most glamorous of topics. Few people are fond of taking or administering tests or analyzing test results. In fact, for many years, schools did not take advantage of the data they had accumulated through student assessment. Since the early 2000s, however, we have learned the importance of assessment and the fruits of analyzing data for insights into how to improve instruction. Assessment, in our opinion, is best employed in formative ways. We can use assessment to diagnose the source of reading difficulties that some students may experience. We can also use assessment to monitor students’ progress in reading. We cannot know if our instruction is having the desired effects unless we periodically assess the gains students made in the various reading competencies described in previous parts. Granted, we tend to assess our students too much and too often. However, targeted assessment used sparingly, intentionally, and wisely can definitely improve reading outcomes for our students.

 

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