I Have Digital Texts…Now What?

Students will need to develop a more extensive array of literacy skills, strategies, and practices to be successful using these new texts and resources in the new millennium.  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          ~Frank Serafini in Reading Workshop 2.0

As we  incorporate more technology into our reading workshop, we begin to think about what that means for our students as digital readers.  Reading digitally adds a different skill set than reading traditional text.  I don’t know about you, but I find it very easy to get lost in clicking links. Before I know it, I’m on a completely different site on a completely different topic, wondering how I got there.  There were many times I found my students in the same predicament.  Franki Sibberson and Bill Bass remind us in Digital Reading: What’s Essential in Grades 3 – 8 that just because our students have grown up in a world where there are numerous digital tools at their fingertips, we can’t assume that they know how and when to use these tools in a purposeful way. It is important to teach them these skills just like we do any other literacy skill.

Recently a first grade teacher and I were talking about what her students were reading during reading workshop. She wanted to give her students more choice by incorporating some digital texts.  I was reminded of this Padlet where a variety of digital texts have been gathered.  (Be sure to check it out if you haven’t done so already).  It occurred to me that she needed more though.  If we want our students to be reading purposefully and choosing appropriately, then we need to teach them how, just like we do with traditional texts.  So, what do we want to teach our students?  Some lessons immediately come to mind:

  • How to choose a digital text:  What is my purpose?  What am I interested in?  Have others recommended this resource to me?  Do I understand what I’m reading?  I’ve learned that it is important to include digital texts into my read aloud repertoire.  Just like I do book talks with traditional print, I also do “digital book talks” to introduce my students to different resources that are out there.  One of my favorite websites to begin with is Wonderopolis, but feel free to explore any of the resources listed in the Padlet above.  
  • How to navigate a digital text:  What does a website look like? What is the purpose of tabs at the top?  Where do they take me? How do they help me?
  • How to pay attention to distractions:  When is it appropriate to clink on hyperlinks?  What kind of information do those links give me?  Is this information I want to get or does it distract me by taking me to a game or ad?  How do I monitor for comprehension and make sure I understand what I’m reading?
  • How to evaluate a website or other digital text:  How do I make sure that what I’m reading is accurate?  With everything that is out there about fake news, these lessons become more and more important.  See this link about how Newsela incorporates 6 questions to help students distinguish between fake news and the real thing.  
  • How to annotate on a digital text:  How can I keep track of my thinking?  What apps allow me to annotate what I am reading?  How do I share my thinking with others?

This list only scratches at the surface.  Some of my favorite resources to help me think through next steps with my students are:

Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K – 6 Classroom by Katie Muhartis and Kristen Ziemke

Connecting Comprehension and Technology by Stephaie Harvey, Ann Goudvis, Katie Muhartis, and Kristen Ziemke

Digital Reading: What’s Essential in Grades 3 – 8 by William Bass II and Franki Sibberson

If you are interested in looking through these books, check with your literacy coach or one of the iPad pioneers in your building.

This is an exciting time to be in education.  Opportunities abound for conversations around how our reading  and writing instruction is changing as we add more and more digital resources to our classrooms.  However, even among all these changes, some things stay the same.  We are teachers of readers and writers. We determine what our students need and we embed those lessons into our daily literacy workshops in meaningful and authentic ways.  Our goal continues to be to help students find their love of reading and writing regardless of the medium.