No Problem, There’s a Tool for That!
5 Tips for Using Technology to Improve Reading
As we head into Spring Break season, it’s 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.