Posts Tagged ‘reading’

February 2 Webinar – Strategies for Reading Digital Text

February 1st, 2012 1 comment

As we discussed in our webinar on January 5, many schools in Maine are beginning to study and unpack the Common Core State Standards and are taking preliminary steps to align their curriculum. The English Language Arts standards are of particular interest to most teachers because they include literacy standards for other content areas. In the January 5 webinar we began a discussion of the reading standards, how the CCSS defines text complexity, and the prevalence of digital text in our MLTI classrooms where much of the reading students do is from a screen. We then explored ways teachers can find and evaluate online reading material and collect it into digital anthologies that will give students experiences with close reading of both literary and informational text. If you missed this webinar, you can find links to the recordings of the 3:15 and 7:15 sessions on our Webcasts Archives page.

a laptop computer held sideways to look like a book

CC BY-NC 2.0 by Ken-ichi (Flickr)

In this week’s webinar, we will begin to look at the CCSS for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects, Grades 6-12. We will start with the reading standards and take a close look at how our technology supports students in achieving those standards, and we will investigate some strategies students can use in close reading of digital text. We will explore and demonstrate how software tools on the MLTI devices and online tools can be used before, during, and after reading to help students connect with, interpret, and use the text they are reading. Some tools we will look at include online surveys for anticipation guides, markup tools in Preview and NoteShare for annotating text, OmniGraffle for creating graphic organizers, and much more.

I hope you can join us on Thursday, February 2 at 3:15 or 7:15. Please click on the Webcasts tab to register. We have upgraded to a new registration system, allowing you to register directly in Adobe Connect, making the whole webinar process smoother and easier! If you have any questions, please contact Juanita Dickson. Click on the time you wish to participate in and you will be directed to an online registration form.  Please type your email address carefully as all information will be sent to that address. After registering you will receive a confirmation email with a log in link – please use that link to log into the webinar prior to the start time.

Categories: Common Core Tags: , , ,

January 5 Webinar – Finding and Collecting Digital Text

January 3rd, 2012 Comments off
Open book with flash drive

CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Beppie K

If you are an ELA teacher, you have probably already begun to study the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts. You may also have suggested that your colleagues in other content areas check out the standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. In the coming months, we’ll be offering a series of webinars where we will take a close look at the CCSS for ELA 6-12 and discuss how our MLTI devices can support our students as they strive to meet those standards.

We will begin by looking at the reading standards for literature and informational text. In our January 5 webinar, we will discuss text complexity as outlined in Appendix A of the CCSS for ELA and share ideas for finding and collecting text on the internet that can provide the resources for reading experiences that our students must have in order to meet the standards. Many middle and high school teachers are finding that their reading programs include a lot of literature but not enough informational text. Fortunately we have the tools we need to collect text that we have determined is appropriately complex for our students. This text can be gathered into digital anthologies that are customized for our students, unlike the expensive, one-size-fits-all print text books that we used in the past.

Join us on Thursday, January 5th at 3:15 pm. or 7:15 pm. and learn how to create reading anthologies for your students. To register, click on the Webcasts tab above to view our winter-spring webinar calendar and find links to the registration pages. Please note that we have a new registration process that is required for entering our webinar rooms.

Free eCollection of 9/11 Resources

August 30th, 2011 Comments off

The 9/11 Searchable Information Center, an open access collection of e-books and resources related to 9/11 will be made available at no cost throughout the month of September by ebrary, a member of the ProQuest family of companies.

Knowing that school, public and academic libraries may face numerous requests for information and resources as the anniversary of 9/11 approaches, ebrary developed a collection of 15 full text e-books. The collection is available at This site is fully functional and also provides free access to ebrary’s research tools for the month.

Libraries are welcome to include this link on their homepages and to assist patrons with Internet access to download and read the titles at no cost anytime during the month of September. Titles included are Reclaiming the Sky: 9/11 and The Untold Story of the Men and Women Who Kept America Flying, by Tom Murphy; The Shock of the News: Media Coverage and the Making of 9/11 by Brian Monahan; Tower Stories: An Oral History of 9/11, by Damon DiMarco and Thomas Kean; and We Are All Suspects Now: Untold Stories from Immigrant Communities after 9/11, by Tram Nguyen.

March 31 Webinar Notes: Vocabulary

April 2nd, 2011 1 comment
Scrabble game

CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by dangerismycat

I hope everyone who attended Thursday’s webinars learned one or two new things about vocabulary instruction and can try out some of those ideas with students. Special thanks to Jill Spencer for adding her expertise to the sessions. Don’t forget to check out Jill’s two books, Everyone’s Invited and Teaming Rocks! Both books are published by the National Middle School Association and each has a chapter about vocabulary.

In the first part of the webinar, we talked about books, articles, and research Jill and I have read on the subject of vocabulary instruction and shared some of the practices we gleaned from that reading. Perhaps the most important idea is that the way we traditionally have taught vocabulary just doesn’t work. Students need more than dictionary definitions and memorization to learn new words. We also learned that wide and varied reading helps students expand their vocabularies but it’s not enough. Explicit instruction is necessary including these elements:

  • Making connections
  • Constructed definitions
  • Word Analysis
  • Repeated exposure and use
  • Discussions
  • Nonlinguistic representations
  • Word play

We looked at ways the applications on the MLTI MacBook as well as some online resources and tools can support vocabulary instruction. Please visit the recorded archives (mouse over the Webcasts tab above and click on Archives) to view these demonstrations and to download a copy of the slides with all the linked resources and the Bento template for creating a database for word study. If you use that template with your students, let us know how it goes and share any ideas you have for revising and improving it.

The chat pod was very busy, especially in the evening session, and participants shared a lot of great ideas for vocabulary study. I’ll list some of them here, but be sure to check out the recordings for more details:

  • will send the word of the day to your email.
  • Use wikis to collect words and images related to a unit.
  • Have students use text-to-speech when they come upon an unfamiliar word, combined with control-command-D for the pop up dictionary.
  • Becca’s “War of the Words” game where students compete to “own” the most words.
  • Word Ladder Wednesday with Tim Rasinski’s books
  • Have students create symbols, graphics, or pictures for new words.
  • Ask questions in book conferences that incorporate new words
  • Have students keep a running list of words they encounter that have the root or affix that is being studied.
  • Team members support each other and agree on root words to teach in all content areas.
  • Math word of the week and “Big Dog Word of the Day”
  • Use Frayer model for big concept words (sometimes with interactive white board)
  • Vocab words on exit slips
  • Two online tools for stickies: and
  • The “I have… Who has…” activity based on this math activity
  • Vocaroo for voice recordings

Some books that Jill and I have read and referred to in this session include:

  • Allen, J. (2007). Inside words: Tools for teaching academic vocabulary, grades 4-12. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.
  • Allen, J. (1999). Words, words, words: Teaching vocabulary in grades 4-12. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.
  • Beck, I., McKeown, M., & Kucan, L. (2002). Robust vocabulary instruction: Bringing words to life. NY: Guilford Press.
  • Benjamin, A., & Crow, J. T. (2009). Vocabulary at the Center. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.
  • Graves, M. (Ed.) (2009). Essential readings on vocabulary instruction. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
  • Marzano, R. J. (2004). Building background knowledge for academic achievement: Research on what works in schools. Alexandra, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

And finally, Tim Hart sent me some additional sites for word play and word games that your students will enjoy. Thanks, Tim!

March 31 Webinar – Vocabulary: There’s a Word for That!

March 29th, 2011 4 comments
dictionary page with magnifying glass

CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by chrisjohnbeckett

Every teacher, at any grade level or in any content area, faces the challenge of teaching vocabulary. The traditional practice of having students look up the word, copy the dictionary definition, use the word in a sentence, and then memorize it for a test has been proven ineffective. How can we help our students truly expand both their receptive and productive vocabularies?

In this webinar we will examine some of the research on best practices for vocabulary instruction as we explore how we can use some applications on the MLTI MacBook as well as some online resources to help our students learn new words, make strong connections, and retain the vocabulary they need for academic success.

My special guest for this webinar is Jill Spencer, author of Everyone’s Invited and Teaming Rocks! Jill is a veteran middle level educator, consultant, and presenter with extensive knowledge of literacy instruction and issues. We’ll be discussing some of her experiences and creative ideas for teaching vocabulary.

Please join us Thursday at 3:15 PM or 7:15 PM. To register, click on the Webcasts tab at the top of this page.

WatchMECreate Challenge #2 – WatchMERead

January 17th, 2011 Comments off

Several years ago I did some tutoring for Literacy Volunteers of Maine. The student assigned to me was a man in his 30s who had dropped out of school in 9th grade and had limited reading and writing skills. He asked for a tutor because he was involved in litigation and could not read the legal papers his attorney was sending him. As I worked with him for the next few years, I was struck by how intelligent he was but how his low literacy level limited his choices in life. He had never had a checking account because he did not know how to read or write number words. He was trying to start an auto repair business but he had difficulty reading the repair manuals and writing invoices. He could not get a job working for someone else because he could not fill out an application or write a resume. One of his goals was to get his motorcycle license, but he was afraid of the written test and did not want to request a reader as he had done to get his driver’s license. Over the course of our time together he gained some basic skills and he did open a checking account, create a resume, and get a job in a garage, but I couldn’t help wondering how his life would have been different if he had learned to read earlier.

NASA Technicians Reading

NASA photo: Technicians read a manual on the Payload Ground-Handling Mechanism hook instrumentation unit.

As educators we are well aware of the importance of reading in all aspects of our lives, but how aware are our students? The current challenge at WatchMeCreate is designed to inspire students to investigate the importance of reading in our society and answer this question: “What would it take so that everyone, when asked, ‘Are you a reader?’ would say, ‘Of course I am…’?”  Student teams will, as with the earlier challenge, produce a short video (no longer than two minutes) that presents their response to this question. The deadline for submission to the WatchMERead challenge is February 18.

Almost every school in Maine has some kind of literacy initiative in place where teachers ask themselves this same question – “What will it take?” Maybe now it’s time to ask the students.

Here are some resources that you can share with your students to get them started.

November 18 Webinar: Using Technology to Enhance Literacy (TPCK/SAMR In Action)

November 16th, 2010 2 comments

Achieving high levels of student literacy stands out as a top concern for schools throughout the state of Maine. We will see how coupling 21st-Century approaches to literacy to the TPCK/SAMR models used by the MLTI, and to the tools on the laptops, provides us with a uniquely powerful recipe for success. As part of this webinar, we will look at concrete examples that teachers can use in their classrooms right away.

This webinar will be of special relevance to Language Arts teachers; however, since literacy is a concern that transcends disciplinary boundaries, we also recommend it for all other subject areas.

eBooks or Print Books?

girl reading

Image by the Real Estreya. licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license

This week, several other members of the MLTI team and I attended the Diverse 2010 Conference in Portland. This was a small, international conference where the Americans were in the minority and the World Cup was a major topic of conversation, but the keynotes, sessions, and workshops were all about teaching and learning with video. One session I attended was about Vooks and iPads. It caused me to turn my attention from video to text, and to think again about reading and books and my personal reading preferences.

I wrote about this a few years ago when the Kindle first came out and I was trying to understand why I was so resistant to reading from a screen. I recently got my hands on an iPad and I began thinking about it again. The iPad makes eBooks look great and, because the text is digital, older readers with aging eyes (like me) can customize the appearance of the page to make reading more comfortable. I think I may be ready to try reading a whole book on my iPad, but I know I’m not ready to give up my print books. My challenge now is to determine how much of my reluctance to read from the screen is cultural and age-related and whether today’s middle and high school students can read as effectively from the screen as they can from the printed page. According to a story on NPR’s All Tech Considered, reading on a Kindle, iPad, or PC takes slightly longer than reading from a printed page. Should this be a concern?

I spoke to Jim Wells about this today and he reminded me of a quote from Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In a piece he wrote for the Sunday Times in 1999, he discussed our attitudes toward new technologies:

1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal; 2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it; 3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.

My husband has a similar theory about music. He contends that the music you truly love throughout your lifetime is the music you embraced in your teens and twenties. You may develop an appreciation for other music as you age, but it’s not as dear to you as the music you grew up with.

I think this may explain how I feel about books. I grew up with them and, while I may develop an appreciation for eBooks, I continue to prefer the print books that I can hold in my hand and see on my shelves. But our students are, according to Alan November, screenagers. They’ve grown up with digital text and may not have the same biases we do. We can’t assume that they will be more or less successful as readers if they prefer to read from a screen. We have to let the choice be theirs.

By the way, I still listen to vinyl records too.

Categories: Leadership Tags: , , , , ,