Using Technology in the Literacy Block

A couple of weeks ago Kathleen Morris and I were busy preparing for a presentation we’re giving to our staff next term. The message we are trying to get across is

 

The illiterate of the 21st century will be those who can only read and write across traditional platforms.

In our classroom we integrate technology into our daily Literacy program to cater for our students. Technology is not an “add-on” and we don’t feel pressured to include one-off ICT lessons. Our lessons are designed to include technology. Our planning sessions always involve us brainstorming how technology fits into the lesson focuses.  We find websites, web 2.0 tools, apps, stories and activities that help our students achieve their individual learning goals, in both Literacy and Numeracy.

 

We are lucky to have access to some great technological devices and our students are reaping the rewards while being engaged with their learning. Here’s a snapshot of what you might see if you wandered into our classroom during the two hour Literacy Block.

 

iPod Touches

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- The iPod is the “Listen to Reading” component of our Daily 5 program. Students listen to stories (we like Story Home on iTunes) and write/draw a response.

- Students complete listening/following instructions activities, such as origami, which has proved very popular. We like How To videos on HowCast (through iTunes).

- Students test their comprehension skills by listening to a podcast or watching a video. They then complete a follow up activity, such as sequencing activities (eg. correctly sequencing the steps in a recipe). Again, HowCast has some great videos for students of all ages.

 

Classroom Computers 

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- During our Reading Groups, we have a computer group each day. This is the “Work on Writing” component of the Daily 5. Students write a blog comment on our blog, reply to a comment or write a comment on one of our blogging buddies’ blogs.

- The focus of the computer activity is that the students carefully read the post they are commenting on and respond. They need to include questions in their comments and editing their comment is crucial. We often read these comments as a class during share time.

  

Interactive Whiteboard

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- When we incorporate the interactive whiteboard into our Reading Groups, we use it as the “Word Work” component of the Daily 5. Check out this post I wrote recently for some word game ideas students enjoy.

 

iPads

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- We have two iPads in our classroom and we’re experimenting with how to best use them. We’ve used them in Reading Groups several times, taking advantage of some great free apps for young students. We’ve used word games, stories etc and the students have also watched videos/shows with a particular literacy focus.

- Recently, we’ve been focussing on having the students ask questions during whole class sessions. For example, after we watch a BTN episode, rather than asking questions myself, the students come up with questions for the class about the episode. They’ve been encouraged to do this after watching a show or episode on the iPad too. It’s a great way to tune them in, develop their metacognitive skills and keep them engaged and focussed on the task.

 

Netbooks

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- We are very fortunate to have recently received a bank of 20 netbooks in our classroom. Our students were so excited when they started using them in the last week of term! Kathleen and I are completing an “action research project” with the netbooks and we’re excited about the possibilities.

- Our new student bloggers have been using the netbooks to get started with their blogs.

- When school goes back we are going to train up a few students who will become ”techxperts”. They will help troubleshoot problems, assist students with difficulties with the netbooks etc.

- We’ve had the students use the netbooks for publishing stories, completing research and looking up definitions of words while reading.

- I set up a Livebinder which had the websites our students would need for the week. This is a good way to save sites and students can easily access them during the Literacy Block (and also for Numeracy).

- We’re also helping the students improve their typing skills. We had a session in the last week of term where the students used a few online typing activities, including Dance Mat Typing, Keyboard Climber and Type for Gold, and the room was absolutely silent! They were so engaged and keen to develop their typing skills and speed.

- We are looking forward to having our students work on projects and use a variety of web 2.0 tools on the netbooks next term. We have a great opportunity with these netbooks and we can’t wait to see what the students learn and create!

 

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This is just a brief overview of how we incorporate technology in our Literacy program. And, it goes without saying, our students read “traditional” books every day and regularly write with paper and pencils. Our priority is providing our students with a Literacy program that includes texts across all platforms. We are making them transliterate learners, that is, helping them to become literate across multiple forms of media.

We teach ICT skills explicitly and incidentally every day, and it is so rewarding to see our students’ using technology to further develop their reading and writing skills. As we often say, we’d be doing our students a disservice if we didn’t integrate technology into our program!

 

Do you have any tips for integrating technology into Literacy?

What is your favourite tech device to use with students in Literacy?

Do you have any ideas for how we can use the netbooks next term?

 

  24 comments for “Using Technology in the Literacy Block

  1. Gary Phipps
    July 12, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Your classroom sounds like one i would’ve really liked to have learnt in.

    I like how you are making use of the ipod touches and I can see why Jeff and his fellow teachers in our junior grades have put in a request for them. Just need to find the money for them now ;-)

    I would also like to post a link to your blog on our ICT links page that I distribute to our staff, if that is okay.

    My current fav tech device is my mino flip. The students love to roam around the room taking photos and videos of what they are doing and talking to each other about it.

    Although not a tech device, the two favourite utilities I use in my literacy block at the moment are Word Magnets from Triptico (love the random student selector that comes with it) and Vocab grabber.

    • Miss Kelly Jordan
      July 12, 2011 at 2:29 pm

      @ Gary,

      The iPod Touches are always a very popular activity in our Literacy Block, and the kids pick up the skills of how to use them, navigate, find the apps etc very quickly. Last year I had quite a few students who got their own iPod Touch after learning how to use them in class.

      Hopefully you can find some money in your budget to buy some iPods. Sometimes there’s grants available that you can apply for, maybe look into that? Get Jeff to investigate! :)

      Absolutely, feel free to link my blog to your ICT page!

      Oh yes, we have Flips too, I forgot about them! I love how portable and kid-friendly they are. Very handy device.

      I’d forgotten about those great Triptico resources, thanks for the reminder!

      Thanks for the comment and enjoy your holidays! :)

      Kelly

  2. Deb Pope
    July 12, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Hi Kelly

    What a great blog! Thanks for putting yourself out there and sharing the endless possibilities of using technology as a tool with the wider teaching community. It really is appreciated!

    We are just about to put a class set of iPod touches into Year 3. We have some ideas and some apps we would like to try out with the students, however, would really appreciate any suggestions you could make to us re apps and /or strategies you used with them. We are excited to begin our journey with this type of thing and you ladies look like you’ve done the hard yards and have developed some terrific ideas!

    Thanks so much
    Debbie

    • Miss Kelly Jordan
      July 12, 2011 at 5:48 pm

      @ Debbie,

      Thanks so much for your kind words, your support is appreciated!

      Wow, a class set of iPod Touches will be fantastic, your students (and teachers!) will love it. Check out Kathleen’s post about using iPod Touches.
      Using an Ipod Touch The post was written a while ago but hopefully you’ll find it useful.

      Good luck with the iPods and let me know how you go with them! :)

      Kelly

  3. Erin
    July 12, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Lovely ideas shared! Thanks. We are lucky enough to have 1:1 Netbooks in my grade 4/5 this year-but not iPods or Ipads. Some programs we use a lot in literacy are Audacity-for recording our own stories, reflections & to listening to others’ recordings of their writing/books. We have a subscription to Ziptales also, which I use for “Listen To” in our Daily 5. Like you, we also use them to access online dictionaries/Encarta Kids during “Word work”. It’s really just great to be able to offer options & choice for our students-”Paper & pen? Or Netbook?”. Look forward to watching this space! :)

    • Miss Kelly Jordan
      July 12, 2011 at 5:38 pm

      @ Erin,

      You’re lucky to have 1:1 netbooks. We have 20 between our two classes (43 students) but I’m not complaining! :)

      Your use of Audacity sounds really good, having students reflect on their own learning is very powerful.

      We’re also subscribed to Ziptales and our students enjoy the stories. The diversity is fantastic, worth the fee!

      Thanks for the comment!

      Kelly

  4. July 12, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Dear Kelly
    Just as you and Kathleen do, I try and have a seamless integration of technology into all aspects of my programme, particularly Literacy and Numeracy.
    One of the main uses I am finding for our ipod touches is for children to record themselves reading aloud (we use Evernote).
    They can listen to themselves and reflect on their fluency, and reread and improve.
    I can also sync the reading clip to my laptop to use for evidence of progress.

    I’m envious of your netbooks!

    regards
    Judy

    • Miss Kelly Jordan
      July 12, 2011 at 5:40 pm

      @ Judy,

      Seamless integration is the key to success with technology. Doing a bit here and there just isn’t enough, and that’s the message Kathleen and I are trying to get across to staff. I’m preaching to the converted with you though, you do a terrific job! :)

      Having students listen to their own reading via recordings is a powerful learning tool, I’m sure they (along with you) get a lot out of it!

      We’re pretty excited about the netbooks. Our acting principal last term arranged it for us, we’re very grateful! :)

      Kelly

  5. mrsdavey
    July 12, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Hi Kelly,
    We have 12 iPods across a team teaching environment of 42 Grade 1/2′s. I have recorded many readers onto the iPods using iTalk & taking a photo of the front cover. This way you can upload it to Garageband and add some ‘fiddling’ music while the student is getting their earphones,iPod and reader ready. I really like this approach as the child is holding a hardcover reader in their hand and following my voice on the iPod – which they love! When I record I pause, give thinking time and ask questions for the children to ponder relevant to the text. I bought a Belkin splitter so 5 earphones can plug into the 1 iPod. We have had iPods for a few years (thanks to Jenny Ashby) so they are just as common as a dotted thirds book now.
    Keep up the fab work you are both doing and we in the Jnr school at Epsom PS were really disappointed to be knocked back for a visit to Leopold. Perhaps we will try again next year.
    Regards,
    Gill Davey

    • Miss Kelly Jordan
      July 14, 2011 at 5:30 pm

      @ Gill,

      Sounds like you use the iPods extremely well at your school, you could teach us a few things! The headphone splitters are a wonderful invention!

      I love how you said that iPods are as common at your school as dotted thirds are, how terrific. That would be a dream for me! :)

      Thanks for the comment!

      Kelly

  6. Lisa
    July 12, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    Thank you for this great post! Wonderful ideas. The StoryHome site looks like such fun. Do you know of an equivalent for Middle Schoolers?
    HowCast looks like a clever piece of the curriculum. I have some questions though: How do you deal with the advertisements and with any inappropriate “How To’s”? Since the videos are so short, how do you use them as a lesson?

    • Miss Kelly Jordan
      July 14, 2011 at 5:34 pm

      @ Lisa,

      StoryHome has lots of great stories that appeal to both boys and girls, which is great. I’ve only ever taught Prep, Grade 1 and Grade 2 so I’m not too familiar with an equivalent site for middle schoolers, but I’ll let you know if I come across any.

      We use HowCast through iTunes, and we select specific videoes to upload onto the iPod. This eliminates most ads and the children can’t just browse the website independently, so we feel this filters inappropriate content. You’re right, lots of the videos are short, which is why we always have a follow up activity (sequencing, questions and answer etc). We encourage the students to watch the vidoes twice and they’re able to re-watch them to pause etc while completing the follow up activities.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Kelly

  7. July 13, 2011 at 12:49 am

    Hi Kelly,

    Thanks for another fantastic post! I love how you have made technology just another aspect of the literacy routine. For various reasons (resources, time, priorities), many classrooms still view tech as a special occasion with very prescribed activities. That’s not how it is in the real world. Outside of school, technology use is just an assumed part of everyday life. You and Kathleen are doing a great job of making the classroom mirror real world literacies!

    I’m currently researching ideas for a technology grant through my district. At the moment I’m debating between applying for two iPads or two netbooks. I love the iPad for all the apps, the iLife integration, and the good old “cool” factor but I’m thinking that netbooks might be more versatile and much better for text entry and communication (especially via blogs). Any thoughts on iPads vs. netbooks?

    -Jonah

    • Miss Kelly Jordan
      July 14, 2011 at 5:42 pm

      @ Jonah,

      Thanks for your great comment! I like how you stated that “technology is just another aspect of the literacy routine”. We’d really like to get that message across to others!

      Hmmm….tricky debate, the iPad vs. Netbook issue! I’m sure you’ve done lots of research into which way you should go, although maybe it made the decision even harder! I would say, if you want to use the extra devices for typing/blogging etc, go the netbooks. If you want to use them for learning centre activities in Numeracy or Literacy, then the huge array of apps available might be really cool. Maybe go one of each? Haha. I’ll let you know if I suddenly have a more decisive revelation!

      Kelly

  8. John
    July 13, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    Hi Kelly,

    Thanks for giving so many concrete examples of how you’ve integrated technology into your literacy block. You’re not just ‘sending a message’ to your staff but also to all of us – the many teachers and parents who read your blog.

    I can’t wait to hear how your students go with the new bank of netbooks. It’s good that they are building their keyboarding skills – an area that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. I’m looking forward to reading your students’ blogs in the months ahead. My daughters are in Prep and Year 2, and they love blogging. They especially enjoy the feedback they receive from friends and family. I think blogging would be a great use for your netbooks in the term ahead.

    John

    • Miss Kelly Jordan
      July 14, 2011 at 5:49 pm

      @ John,

      That is terrific to hear that your two daughters are involved with, and love, blogging already! I love hearing that students are exposed to blogging from an early age, it really sets up their ICT skills, and the benefits (both educationall and personally) are so great!

      We are looking forward to using the netbooks a lot this term, and no doubt they’ll be used regularly for blogging!

      Great to hear from you, Kathleen and I really appreciate your support!

      Kelly

  9. Lori
    July 15, 2011 at 2:29 am

    Good afternoon!

    I As I was researching The Daily Five, I stumbled across your excellent blog. I am currently working on my PhD in early childhood education, and am always looking for unique ways teachers put research into practice in their classrooms. I am very impressed by your integration of technology into your literacy block!

    For my dissertation research I am working with a Title I school to help increase literacy instruction effectiveness. I believe increasing the use of technology within the block would help them achieve that goal (I see this especially motivating for students).

    All teachers in the school have interactive white boards, most have a couple of computers, but that is the extent of their classroom technology. Where/how did you begin building your classroom technology inventory? Did you apply for specific grants? Did you partner with any specific organizations? I am very interested in helping the school acqire additional technological devices.

    Thank you for allowing others to take a peak inside your classroom!!! I look forward to future visits to your blog. :o)

    • Miss Kelly Jordan
      July 16, 2011 at 10:57 am

      @ Lori,

      Nice to hear from you. I definitely agree that using technology in the classroom (in both Literacy and Numeracy) is very motivating and engaging for students.

      In our double classroom (43 students) we have two interactive whiteboards and 10 classroom computers. The iPods came about a few years ago through a grant a teacher applied for, and we completed a trial with them. Just this year, more iPods were purchased for other teachers through the ICT budget. There were eight iPod Touches available and teachers had to provide an expression of interest if they wanted one. We have a large school (700 students) so it is difficult to provide devices for all classrooms!

      The ICT budget also allowed for the purchase of 3 or 4 iPads (I actually use my own personal one in the classroom).

      Kathleen and I have been very lucky to receive the 20 netbooks recently. Our (temporary) principal saw what we were doing in our classroom with technology and proposed that we have access to a bank of netbooks to integrate tech even more into our curriculum. We’re very lucky!

      Good luck with your PhD and I hope to hear from you again!

      Kelly

  10. ♥Kayla♥
    July 20, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Dear Miss Jordan,

    Do you know what?

    I went home and I went on Gloster.
    I made a post about “My Friend’s”. If you would like to see it here it is

    http://shauzhg.edu.glogster.com/things-that-i-did-in-my-holidays/

    It is very long so instead of writing it again you can read it by highlighting it, copy and paste it.

    I hope you like it! :-)

    I think that is all for now.

    Love From,
    Kayla :mrgreen:

    • Miss Kelly Jordan
      July 21, 2011 at 11:28 am

      @ Kayla,

      Wow, great job making a glog by yourself at home! I’m impressed! :)

      Great to see you’re enjoying learning these new skills!

      Your teacher,
      Miss Jordan

  11. July 22, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Kelly,

    What a fabulous overview of what today’s classroom should look like! Notice, I didn’t say a “tech” classroom. The classroom that you and Kathleen have put together models the real world. It’s outstanding!

    I love how the students read and compose a blog comment during the “Work on Writing” component of the Daily 5. This type of real-life communication really strengthens a child’s skills because it is purposeful and authentic. The kids want to make connections and get their comment published and that is a big motivator. Love it! (I have the Daily 5 on my summer reading list, thanks to you two!)

    Asking the kids to come up with follow-up questions is a great idea as well. I’ve even shown my third graders Bloom’s Taxonomy and explained to them that there are different types of questions…some are higher level and require more thinking. As always, many of them rise to the challenge and shoot for those higher level questions!

    I’m interested in the ipod touches and will research them some more. My school is looking to invest a little money in technology, and I think that is the way I’d like to go. I also like Judy’s idea of recording students as they read. I’ll have to go and reread Kathleen post about ipod touches and give it some thought.

    Thanks for opening up your classroom and leading the way!

    ~Linda

    • Miss Kelly Jordan
      July 23, 2011 at 11:12 am

      @ Linda,

      Thanks for your terrific comment! I agree, we should be including tech in our classrooms because that really does reflect real life! We can’t separate education from society, our students are part of the twenty first century and we need to equip them for that.

      One thing I really like about your classroom is that you obviously push and challenge the students, and that is part of the reason why they achieve high results and are role models for other classes around the world. Encouraging them to aim for the “higher level questions” improves their thinking skills and metacognition, which translates to their learning. It’s fantastic you set high goals! As Kathleen and I like to say: high expectations = high outcomes

      I hope you enjoy reading about the Daily 5 and CAFE!

      Kelly

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