Category Archives: Reading

More from Sara on The Book Trailer

What a treat! I was sinking as I thought more about the damage high-stakes testing is doing to our schools so it was so uplifting to read Sara Kajder’s article, The Book Trailer: Engaging Teens Through Technologies in this month’s issue of Educational Leadership.

It tells the story of students creating a two-minute video using still images, transitions and special effects (generated with MovieMaker or iMovie software), voiceovers, and a soundtrack. Students present the central characters, themes, or issues of the book visually and through written and voiceover narration. All trailers have to include the title of the book, the author’s name, and a presentation that is both authentic to the text and that works to “hook” readers. I also require students to submit their trailers with a piece of writing that explores the choices they made, with an analysis of the book that shows that they made decisions on the basis of the text, and not just by using the aspects of technology that would best captivate an audience.

Sara goes on to say that….

But technology is not the goal. Student writers and readers are at the center of our instruction. And we, as mindful teachers, must thoughtfully and deliberately prepare all of our students for success by critically exploring the new technological tools and then using the ones that can help us and our students to powerfully convey what we think and know.

I can’t think of a more exciting time to teach, as we’re immersed in new possibilities for working with words and with one another. When we teach creatively with emergent tools in mind, we stand a better chance of engaging reluctant students by giving what we teach real meaning. Each day is an invitation to examine, play, invent, reinvent, and join in the conversation.

Read the whole article. I’ve posted previously about Sara here and here.

Instructing students in the new literacies of online reading comprehension


I had the pleasure to meet Jill Castek and Lisa Zawilinski at TRLD this year. They gave an excellent presentation entitled “Instructing Students in the New Literacies of Online Reading Comprehension.” Both of these ladies are members of the New Literacies Research Team at the University of Connecticut. Their excellent handout is on the TRLD site. They went into a lot of detail talking about ‘Internet Reciprocal Teaching’ which is an instructional model being developed to instruct students in online reading comprehension in classroom settings. Their research is done in a very participatory way. They actively partner with teachers in order to develop these skills and strategies with them in the classroom environment. They believe this is a flexible way to look at pedagogy. It is not a series of step-by-step concrete lessons. They look at a wide variety of content areas – reading, writing, listening, speaking, and content areas. There are three phases

  • Teacher led stage – teacher models strategies and the discussion process
  • Collaborative stage- teachers and students interact to support strategy development
  • Reciprocal & Inquiry stage – students apply strategies by facilitating student-led discusssion during authentic reading events based on student -direct inquiry projects.

View video clips showing student-led Internet Reciprocal Teaching groups.

Check out the blogs they have built with the students:

Wildcat Class Blog

Wildcat Student Blogs

Idea Exchange

Nierlich Students

Also, take note of the wiki they have built with their students:

Nierlich Class

The pictures below will show some of their slides and you can see how they used instant messaging to clarify assignments with the kids through the process. They said this really worked great with the quiet students. They ranked sites as to their relevancy and the students were really active in this process. They have to scaffold within each stage- a scaffolding with strategies. They turn the job of introducing new strategies to students – groups of experts who will teach their peers. Again as Leu noted in his keynote, many of the weaker offline readers were quite strong online.

It was a great session led by two dynamic educator researchers. Take the time to browse through their site- lots of relevant and worthwhile information there.




TRLD Keynote – Donald Leu

Donald Leu was the keynote speaker at TRLD in San Francisco this past January. Jill Castek and Lisa Zawilinksi also presented. they are all members of The New Literacies Research Team at the University of Connecticut. Julie Coiro is also a member of this extraordinary team. Last year I had blogged about Julie’s sessions here, here, here, and here. You can see I had much to share. The same is true from this year’s conference. The keynote topic was “How Reading Copmprehension Has Changed While We Weren’t Looking.” Here is a link to his handout with contains links to some excellent resources. His link is about halfway down the page but you will also get other presenter links from some terrific sessions.

Leu made the critically important point about the new literacies of online reading comprehension and how we really have to pay attention to the kids who need our help the most because right now public policy is making it such that they are being denied the opportunity to learn how to read online.

Hear! Hear! I couldn’t agree more.

The two main questions this research team is studying are:

1. How do we read and comprehend information on the Internet?

2- How can we help teachers to teach these new skills?

Leu pointed out how these questions are much more complicated than educational research questions have been in the past. He talked about how we’re changing our reading content today from page to screen in hugely profound ways. He than began his argument for:

1. The Interent is this generation’s defining technology for reading.

2. The internet requires new literacies, additional online reading comprehension skills.

I got really excited when he made this point:

“Our weakest offline readers often surpisingly are some of our highest online readers. It is incredible but it is hidden. Most people do not look for it. They do not expect it.”

I have found this to be true and have commented to others about it over the years. I assumed in part it was because many modalities were being used and the students had some control over their own learning more. I thought about it frequently but this team is doing something about it. Their research is really honing in on this. You can read more about it and even see some samples with kids’ reading. See the links on the handout page.

He had some statistics that were interesting (from September). There’s also a link to this site that updates the statistics that will be helpful for all of us to use.

Here’s some:

  • Finland has a national professional development model for all of their teachers for literacies on the internet. They have a national training model and give every teacher 5 weeks of paid release time for professional development. finland knows that their students need to be prepared to work in the global information age.

Now I ask, why don’t we?

  • Japan has broadband 16x faster than what we are getting here. The cost is only $22 a moth. The government there knows that students read more outside school than they do inside school. they are doing everything to prpeare their children for the future.

What do we do? We block them.

Then Leu focused on the U.S and said not a single state measures a student’s ability to comprehend on the intenet. No state includes the ability to critically evaluate information that is found online. Few states permit all sutdents to use a word processor.

Then he told us about the decision The National Assessment of Educational Progress made last year. Maine made a decision that will have an effect for the next 10 years. They decided not to include online reading skills. meanwhile other nations like the UK and Australia are already measuring them.

Oh my, we have miles to go….

Next he started discussing their research on the new literacies. His team started pulling together a reading model, a model of reading information on the internet. These are the five areas that are novel skill areas and in each one there are novel reading comprehension skills.

  1. identify important questions
  2. locating information – reading search engines
  3. critical evaluation
  4. synthesizing
  5. communicating

Now I told you there was much to share from this group. I am just getting started. My next post will share more details on these components that are in this model of online reading that they are beginning to develop.

I am so thankful that this group is doing this research. it is going to make a difference. We all need to be well versed in what they are doing and how we can help make change happen!

SSR with a blogging twist!

This is such a noteworthy post! Mark Ahlness writes about  SSR – “sustained silent reading” with a 2.0 twist.  He has his kids reading blogs. He has turned them loose on blogs – to read. Mark points out that he will probably not do this every day as there is still value in cuddling up with a book. But he goes on to note that by the time they grow up their reading preferences will be worlds away from where he and his students are now.

This statement by Mark jumped out at me “So much is made of young kids creating content, that I think it’s real easy to overlook the positive aspects of young kids consuming content – created by their peers – and who knows who else?” Mark gives us  much to think about! He is doing some remarkable work with his third greaders.