Thursday, 23 March 2017

No Problem, There’s a Tool for That!

5 Tips for Using Technology to Improve Reading

As we head into Spring Break season, its a great time to take a pause and think about how to get the most from the final push of the school year.

As publishers of technology tools, we often make the mistake of thinking about our products as the solution to the struggling reader problem.  The reality is that learning is a very complex, living process that involves human beings. As much as we take pride in the tools that we develop to assist in the process, they are just that tools.

With that in mind, here are my top five tips for using technology tools with struggling readers, gleaned from the awesome teachers who do the inspiring and complicated work everyday in the classroom.

  1.  Keep it interesting: Provide a lot of variety and use different media to engage students. Reinforce reading with video, audio and images that reinforce key concepts. Combine self-paced work with small group instructional time to go over those concepts and remediate any areas of difficulty.
  2. Reward early and often: Students who struggle with reading find it very difficult and discouraging. Teachers acknowledging the hard work their students are doing to improve their reading provides important extrinsic motivation. Set goals and make them achievable. For example, let the class suggest targets for weekly reading time and reward students who consistently hit them. Programs that include collecting and redeeming points for completed work can also help to motivate students to read. Involve parents to provide recognition beyond the classroom.
  3. Give extra credits: Struggling readers need more time to practice reading and improve their skills. Use early drop-off and after-school programs to get as much reading time into the school day as possible. Reward students (see #2) for getting extra reading time at home or after class. Reading time can be used to earn extra credits for class assignments. Some teachers hold rewards days for special prizes and recognition in front of the class and school.
  4. Make it age-appropriate: Research consistently shows that the best way to improve reading proficiency is to work with on-level text. This makes a lot of sense when you consider the deficits students need to make up when they are behind their peers in reading. Nothing is more demotivating than being treated differently from your friends. Try to find reading material that is engaging and high-interest rather than using easier material designed for younger students. Use tools that also give students the chance to increase their knowledge and confidence with grade-level standards and question types from high stakes tests.
  5. Use technology: OK, I started this blog by saying technology isn’t the solution. But it can be a powerful assistant in the learning process by complementing instruction when it’s difficult to give individual attention to every child. Technology programs that measure every keystroke and response provides data to zero in on problem areas for remediation. Technology can also take the fear factor out of reading and help to build both confidence and reading skills.

    Video can increase interest and reinforce understanding of a text.

    Got a tip for working with struggling readers? Share your ideas here or on our Facebook page.

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