Update from ILA on COVID-19: We are committed to keeping you informed of all the latest developments, including the impact on the ILA 2020 Conference in Columbus, OH, and how ILA is helping educators during this period. Let us know what support you need and stay engaged using these free resources.

Literacy Now

Digital Literacies
Making a Case for Reading Joy
ILA 2019 Replay
Making a Case for Reading Joy
ILA 2019 Replay
  • Teachers are meant to ensure student growth and this growth is expected to be documented and demonstrated through student work.
    • Blog Posts
    • App a Day

    Share Student Portfolios with Ease

    by Lindsey Fuller
     | Sep 03, 2014

    Teachers juggle so many important jobs in the classroom.  They play the role of mentor, mediator, and facilitator.  Often, they take on the job of confidante, parent, entertainer, and so much more.  But above all else, teachers are meant to ensure student growth and this growth is expected to be documented and demonstrated through student work.

    In recent years, digital technologies have been flooding into the classroom environment and altering everything imaginable, even to the most basic of classroom procedures. Keeping portfolios of student work is by no means a new idea.  My own memories of school include construction paper folders tucked away in a corner of the classroom, bursting with homework papers and art projects. As time and technology have progressed, student portfolios have begun to evolve into something a little more sophisticated—and a lot more convenient.

    As student work progressively includes more media-based formats, it makes sense that educators should find ways to electronically curate these examples of learning.  Aside from being able to store student work in its original form, digital portfolios have the advantage of taking up less physical space and can be easily shared with parents and colleagues, as well as giving the student the ability to safely keep their work as long as they may choose.  And let's face it, creating and storing an audio recording that demonstrates fluency or uploading and sharing a video a student created as a book report is a lot more impressive than a folder full of worksheets and test papers.

    There are many options for digital portfolios.  Student blogs, Google Drive, and wikis are all possibilities, depending on the needs of the student and teacher and the technology available.  In addition, several mobile apps have been developed offering some advantages over these website-based artifact storage options.

    Three Ring allows teachers to organize artifacts by student, class, or keyword tag.  Photos, videos, audio recordings, and text notes can all be added and stored within the app with no data limit.  Notes can also be added to media artifacts to record the purpose of a project, a performance assessment, the standard addressed, or anything else the teacher or student wishes to document.  Portfolios are not only accessible within the app, but also online, and sharing with parents is simple. The app is designed to be used by both students and teachers, which is a nice feature.

    School Binder can be used by either teachers or students.  For teachers, a tab can be created for each student and artifacts can easily be organized and stored.  For students, the app can function as an organizer, with a built-in calendar and note-taking feature, or it can be used as a traditional portfolio to save presentations, photos, and documents.  The app has sharing options as well.

    Teacher's Wire is designed for teacher use only.  Teachers can organize students into classes and document student work via notes and photos, though other media does not appear to be supported at this time.  This app also provides a place to store contact information for each student, as well as grades and behavior notes.  This information can be relayed to parents via email. The grade book and behavior options make this a nice multi-purpose app for teachers.

    Easy Portfolio is perhaps the most impressive and well-executed of the portfolio apps currently available.  In addition to being able to upload audio recordings, photos, videos, documents, and notes, live urls can be added to link to outside sources, which would be extremely useful for student blogs and other online projects that are difficult to document within an app.  Student work is shared via email, or entire portfolios can be exported to Dropbox or Google Drive.  This is an excellent feature for allowing students to keep a copy of their own work.  The developers of Easy Portfolio appear to be continually working on more features, so this looks like an app that will stand the test of time.

    As teachers and students increasingly utilize technology to demonstrate learning in the classroom, student portfolios need to keep pace and evolve as well.  These apps allow both teachers and students to document and share the incredible growth that is taking place in digital format, and give students, parents, and teachers the ability to save these artifacts for years to come.

    Lindsey Fuller is a sixth grade teacher in Decatur, IL. Her interests are classroom technology integration, literacy instruction, and Common Core curriculum development and implementation. You can read more from Lindsey on these topics at her blog, Tales of a 6th Grade Classroom.

     
    Read More
  • When graphic novels are paired with digital readers or other mobile devices, it is a truly irresistible combination.  Although interactive graphic novel apps have been a bit slow to take off, there are some available. 
    • Blog Posts
    • App a Day

    Graphic Novels for the Digital Classroom

    by Lindsey Fuller
     | Aug 13, 2014

    At school and at home, one of the most difficult challenges I face is in engaging reluctant readers.  My son, who is a very capable reader, doesn't enjoy reading for pleasure.  He tells me so every time I put a book in his hands—a conversation we have often. Every year, I have students who walk into my classroom already in the mindset that they don't like to read and never will.  As an avid reader, my heart aches a little each time a child tells me they don't love books.  As a teacher, I know that the best way for a student to be a really strong reader is to read—a lot! 

    Of all the components of my job, helping kids find a love of reading is among the most important.  So what can be done when a child just doesn't want to read?  Finding just the right book or topic to suit a child's interests is the key.  I have also found that graphic novels are excellent choices for reluctant readers.  The text is broken up into more manageable pieces, the pictures appeal to visual learners and can aid in comprehension for struggling readers, and graphic novels have a “cool factor” that makes them in demand in both school and classroom libraries.  There is no doubt that kids love comics and graphic novels, and we should be using that love to our advantage when it comes to getting kids to read.

    Kids also love technology. When graphic novels are paired with digital readers or other mobile devices, it is a truly irresistible combination.  Although interactive graphic novel apps have been a bit slow to take off, there are some available.  One of the currently available interactive graphic novels is Lego Ultra Agents.  This app combines a comic book reading experience with a classic game app to create an enhanced reading experience.  Marvel's Avengers: Iron Man—Mark VII is another app with a similar set-up.  It includes an interactive comic book enhanced by requiring the user to solve puzzles in order to unlock the next piece of the story as they read.  These apps are really engaging and fun to use.  They are great for helping kids feel that reading doesn't have to be a chore.

    There are also quite a few other options for the use of digital graphic novels in the classroom. Many of the graphic novels available in digital formats are not interactive, but kids will still love being able to view them on their reader or tablet screen.  Favorite series such as Percy Jackson & the Olympians, The Kane Chronicles, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Artemis Fowl can all be found as digital format graphic novels.  For some reluctant readers, the novelty of reading on a mobile device may tempt them into giving reading for pleasure another chance and a selection of graphic novels on those devices may help students realize that engaging with a book can be an entertaining experience.

    In addition, middle- and high-school students can also find their favorite book series as digital graphic novels.  Beautiful Creatures and Maximum Ride, among others, have been released in Manga versions and digital formats.  Even better, older students may also be interested in exploring the new, updated graphic novel versions of classic stories such as Macbeth and The Odyssey.  These novels often have the original text, but have been adapted to a graphic novel format.

    Aside from well-known books adapted to graphic novel format, there are a variety of apps that offer other comic and graphic novel options. Campfire Graphic Novels is an app offering a selection of comics based on people and events from history, which would be an excellent addition to a digital classroom library.  Middle School Confidential is a set of graphic novels aimed at the upper elementary and middle school age group.  The books are designed to help kids deal appropriately with tough situations and to reduce bullying, The Middle School Confidential website also offers a free teaching guide to allow for these books to be used with a whole class as a character education lesson.

    The ways graphic novels can be utilized in the classroom are endless, from independent, self-selected reading to whole group lessons.  The variety of stories available in the graphic novel format is continuing to expand, as parents and teachers see that kids like to read and engage with these books, even when they are hesitant to read traditional books.  By combining the appeal of the graphic novel genre with the innovations found in new technologies, kids of all ages benefit and can find love and joy in engaging with literature.

    Lindsey Fuller is a sixth grade teacher in Decatur, IL. Her interests are classroom technology integration, literacy instruction, and Common Core curriculum development and implementation. You can read more from Lindsey on these topics at her blog, Tales of a 6th Grade Classroom.

     
    Read More
  • For many teachers, planning the new year now includes making decisions about how technology will be integrated into the classroom. As mobile devices become more prevalent in the school setting, this can be an overwhelming task.
    • Blog Posts
    • App a Day

    Must-Have Language Arts Apps for Back to School

    by Lindsey Fuller
     | Aug 06, 2014

    Every June, I feel as though the warm weeks of summer will never end. And without fail, every August I feel as though the final weeks of summer break have snuck up on me and I'm not yet prepared to go back to the classroom. Ready or not, the time has come once again to get ready to welcome new students to my classroom and plan out our year together.

    For many teachers, planning the new year now includes making decisions about how technology will be integrated into the classroom. As mobile devices become more prevalent in the school setting, this can be an overwhelming task. In the last few weeks, I've had teachers ask me which apps I would recommend for starting the school year. Here are a few of my favorites:

    Subtext is by far one of my favorite apps to use with my language arts classes. It allows my students and me to conduct close readings and annotate text together as a class. Students can also use it to make notes during independent reading and work collaboratively on pieces of text. The app can be used with purchased books, downloaded books, PDFs, text or articles found on the web, or even with suggested articles found within the app. Subtext is a free app and offers students the opportunity to read and interact with text digitally, allowing them the chance to develop necessary skills.

    Trading Cards is an app from ReadWriteThink.org that is always a big hit with my students. Users are able to create a digital trading card that depicts a person, place, object, event, or vocabulary word. The student answers a series of questions about the topic, allowing for comprehension practice as well as the opportunity to do research as necessary. Students are able to customize their cards for color and style, and add a picture to finish off the project. My students love creating these cards and presenting them to the class when finished, or printing them for display in our classroom. The cards are a fantastic way to integrate research into your language arts classes or as a final project when wrapping up a unit topic.

    Strip Designer is an app that makes story creation and publishing a little more fun. Students use their device to take pictures depicting their story, and then use those pictures in the comic strip template of their choice. Text bubbles and other fun elements can be added to enhance the effect. This app is a great choice for encouraging students to use creativity in their writing, and the graphic novel format is especially appealing for the upper elementary and middle school age groups.

    While the supply of apps for students seems endless, there are also a great number of apps created specifically for teachers. Read With Me Fluency is a tool for educators that is designed to streamline the process of collecting fluency and running record assessment data. Student reading sessions can be recorded and saved for parent conferences or to be scored later, the app will store class data and generate reports, and specific options are available for comprehension questions and time limits. This app has the potential to be a major timesaver in the classroom.

    Another fantastic app created with teachers in mind is the Scholastic Book Wizard Mobile. The app is an extension of the Book Wizard at scholastic.com, except that the mobile app allows users to scan the bar code on the book instead of manually entering search information—which saves a lot of frustration and effort! Once the book has been scanned, the app will display the cover, title, author, interest level, and reading level. This is a handy, timesaving tool for any teacher in the midst of organizing a classroom library or adding books to one that is already leveled.

    These apps are the ones that stand the test of time because they are tools that extend or facilitate learning, rather than being full of content that becomes stale after a month. Apps such as these will enrich your classroom throughout the year to come, and provide both you and your students with the means to make this school year an incredible learning experience for everyone involved.

    Lindsey Fuller is a sixth grade teacher in Decatur, Illinois. Her interests are classroom technology integration, literacy instruction, and Common Core curriculum development and implementation. You can read more from Lindsey on these topics at her blog, Tales of a 6th Grade Classroom.

     
    Read More
  • Various free and inexpensive websites and apps can be used strategically to augment print resources, including with primary-aged learners. Sites designed for young learners require minimal technology skills beyond clicking a mouse.
    • Blog Posts
    • App a Day

    A Wealth of Digital Aids for Early Readers

    by Dawn Poole and Whitney Donnelly
     | Jul 16, 2014

    A Wealth of Digital Aids for Early ReadersThe Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts note robust expectations with regard to students’ reading skills. While CCSS do not specifically suggest technology can play a role in helping students develop these skills, the increased access to computers and handheld devices in schools provides teachers with opportunities to tap into the array of digital resources focused on reading. Various free and inexpensive websites and apps can be used strategically to augment print resources, including with primary-aged learners. Sites designed for young learners require minimal technology skills beyond clicking a mouse.

    Narrated Digital Text Sites

    Students can access on hardware both at school and at home websites featuring digital text provide teachers with instructional resources at multiple reading levels. Several resources highlight text as words are narrated by a reader, a useful strategy for helping emerging readers. Narration allows students to access text at higher levels than they are able to read independently. Listed resources provide students with good models of fluent readers, especially since students can listen to the tone, pitch, and expression of the reader. The capacity to start, stop, and repeat passages provides differential support as needed for individual students, as do the visual cues provided at several of the sites.

    • Storyline Online: Actors and actresses read a variety of stories. Click close captioning (CC) to display words as stories are read. Questions about story content are available.
    • Reading is Fundamental: Informational stories and some fairy tales are included.
    • Between the Lions: Fables and folktales with audio and illustrations are available by clicking “Stories.” Be sure closed captioning (CC) is on. The site includes other early-reading activities.
    • Children’s Storybooks Online: Some books only have text with illustrations while others include audio narration. Click the link to books for young children. The site also includes links to phonics activities.
    • Mama Lisa’s World: Children’s songs and poems, some with audio and video, are available. Many of the Mother Goose rhymes include narration.
    • Clifford Interactive Storybook: Narrated interactive stories allow students to choose words to complete displayed sentences. The site also includes phonics-based activity options.

    In addition to the sites above, Storia is an e-reader that includes five free books with a complimentary Scholastic account. Additional books can be downloaded, costing between $1.99 and $7.99 each. Storia allows teachers to create a bookshelf for each child containing read-to-me and activities options based on the lexile level of each title. The PC version of Storia can be downloaded at the Scholastic website, and an iPad version can be downloaded at iTunes.

    For informational texts, search for e-books at sites such as iTunes and Amazon by typing keywords related to content—such as “caterpillar.” Some books are free for download, while others are minimally priced. Many e-books include features such as font size adjustment, link to a dictionary, and note taking options. Students can stop and replay e-book content as needed, and they can access the text with visual and audio scaffolds that help them develop phonological awareness, phonics and word recognition, fluency, and comprehension. English learners may especially benefit from using eBooks.  

    Text-Only Sites

    While narration and visual cues can help students read text, there are times when the lack of such features may contribute to reading skill development. For example, assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards sometimes ask students to highlight evidence from the text. Available digitized text allows them to practice this task under teacher direction. After copying and pasting text from a site, students can be prompted to change words in sentences in ways that evoke a different meaning, an activity that requires them to carefully analyze the content. They could also be asked to highlight all of the words that rhyme with one named by the teacher, or even search for words as they ponder key ideas and details about the passage. Such tasks help to develop skills in using a word processor as well as build reading skills.

    • Project Gutenburg: The children’s bookshelf contains a variety of content suited for beginning readers. Versions of stories suitable for web browsers and other e-readers are available. The reading level of content varies widely.
    • Stories to Grow By with Whootie Owl: The stories are linked to various world cultures. The site includes text and some illustrations submitted by children.
    • Fable Library: Simple illustrated stories and comics are available.
    • Bedtime Stories: Some images accompany the text.

    Apps

    Apps, programs for handheld devices such as iPads or iPods, can be downloaded from iTunes and other sites. Even a limited number of hardware can be used effectively as part of rotations through learning centers or as timers prompt students to deliver the device to the next student on a list. Different apps can be loaded on each device, providing students with activities based on their specific needs and learning levels. Many apps focus on comprehension more than other reading skills, so they complement the resources noted above nicely. Several of the resources provide the learner with immediate feedback and several track student progress, providing teachers with useful assessment information. The table below notes titles available for download worth exploring at iTunes.

    There are many useful literary and informational online resources that teachers can implement effectively to develop skilled readers. In fact, suggesting some of the resources to parents can extend learning opportunities outside of the classroom, providing students with rich practice opportunities at home. The sites offer students materials that are interesting and interactive, keeping students engaged in the learning process at levels consistent with their personal needs. With a little creativity, even teachers with limited classroom technology can engage their students using web resources and apps, contributing to broad reading skill development.

    Dawn Poole is a Professor of Educational Technology at California State University Stanislaus.





    Whitney Donnelly is an Associate Professor of Teacher Education at California State University Stanislaus.

     
    Read More
  • My personal favorite of the Read Write Think app collection, RWT Timeline, has been recognized as a 2014 Best App for Teaching and Learning by the American Association of School Librarians. This is a well-deserved honor for an organization that has done so much to finally bring language arts instruction for the intermediate and middle school grades into the digital age.
    • Blog Posts
    • App a Day

    Building Timelines in the Digital Classroom

    by Lindsey Fuller
     | Jul 09, 2014

    In my December post (Language Arts Apps Save the Day), I wrote about the incredible apps being produced by the team at ReadWriteThink.org. I cannot say enough good things about these apps—they are a staple in my classroom and have allowed my language arts classes to become interactive and paperless to an extent that I was unable to achieve before discovering these amazing tools.

    Recently, my personal favorite of the RWT app collection, RWT Timeline, has been recognized as a 2014 Best App for Teaching and Learning by the American Association of School Librarians, which is part of the American Library Association. This is a well-deserved honor for an organization that has done so much to finally bring language arts instruction for the intermediate and middle school grades into the digital age. Although I have written an overview of all the RWT apps in the past, this award is an opportunity to put the spotlight solely on RWT Timeline.

    As a sixth grade teacher in Illinois, teaching students how to read and use timelines was explicitly required under the Illinois Learning Standards. In the first few years of my career, I taught this skill because it was a required part of our curriculum. As time passes, though, and the age of Common Core descends, I continue to teach this skill for its value to my students.

    I work with a high percentage of students who are reading below grade level, as well as a fair amount with special needs. I was completely flummoxed the first time I realized I had students—quite a few students, in fact—who were unable to sequence a simple story. As my students and I have made the journey from strict curriculum to project- and inquiry-based learning, from paper and pencil to digital tools, from reading textbooks to researching online, I have seen the varied ways in which timelines can be applied, for both simple and complex tasks.

    We use timelines to highlight important events in a historical time period, such as the Civil Rights Movement. This helps my students not only learn the history, but to discern between major and minor details. We create timelines for the lives of people we study, such as Robert Ballard, and events we want to understand better, such as the sinking and discovery of the Titanic. We create and use timelines to plan our research and presentation projects, so every person in my classroom has to think about the processes and tasks involved in accomplishing their goals and set their own reasonable deadlines, an important skill my sixth graders have had few prior opportunities to develop. We use timelines to lay out the events of a story, both to facilitate comprehension and practice a skill that is lacking for some, as well as dissecting plot development and author's craft.

    I'll be honest—pre-iPad timelines weren't always my favorite thing. They took up a lot of space, ended up a scribbled mess due to the inevitable errors along the way, and if we used pictures or pre-printed events, they were a sticky mess. Contrary to popular opinion, most sixth graders aren't much better with glue than kindergarteners. But this is the beauty of RWT Timeline. My students create their timelines on their iPads, reducing the clutter. They can save and edit, allowing for the timelines to be an ongoing project—as they should be. The app is simple enough in design to be very easy to use, but functionally complex enough to be appropriate for intermediate and middle grades. There are no hidden catches or "in-app purchases," students can create any number of timelines with as many entries as they need. Students can add pictures to their entries which, according to my kids, is always the best part of the project. And my favorite part, finished timelines can be emailed—even if an email account is not set up on the iPad. The app itself has email capability and sends the finished product to me for evaluation or printing. Multiple projects can be saved to the app, so more than one student can use the same iPad to work on their own projects, without having to delete other in-progress pieces of work.

    I am so impressed with the RWT Timeline app and all the possibilities it opens within my classroom. It is thrilling to see an organization recognized for producing quality language arts apps, which is still one of the areas of greatest need in the classroom. Take the time to download and try these apps and give them your support. Use them, talk about them, and share them on social media, so we can continue to see language arts treated as an important focus for digital instruction design.

    Lindsey Fuller is a sixth grade teacher in Decatur, Illinois. Her interests are classroom technology integration, literacy instruction, and Common Core curriculum development and implementation. You can read more from Lindsey on these topics at her blog, Tales of a 6th Grade Classroom and follow her on Twitter at @linlin8.

    Read More
Back to Top

Categories

Recent Posts

Archives