Using Technology to Increase Students’ Reading Abilities
Most people agree that Reading is one of the most essential skills taught in elementary school. However, did you know that a student’s level of reading proficiency in elementary school is a predictor of that student’s successful completion of high school? The lower the student’s reading level, the more likely the student will not graduate on time, if at all. In addition, most students who drop out of high school and enter the work force are significantly unprepared to earn a livable wage. The teachers and staff of East Elementary realize the importance of our students reading on grade level when they enter middle school, if they are ultimately to be college and career ready when they graduate high school.
Mark Twain stated, “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” With this in mind, East Elementary has several programs designed to increase students’ ability to read and comprehend grade-level text, and to increase students’ love of reading.
The first of these programs, STAR 360, is a computerized assessment program. Students take a short 20-30 minute STAR progress-monitoring test five times throughout the school year. Assessing students frequently allows the teacher to address small gaps in students’ learning before they become huge problems. Following each progress monitoring assessment, the teacher receives a report that lists each of the tested standards, and which students need further instruction in one or more of those specific standards. The teacher then uses this data to plan small group reading lessons, an essential component of our comprehensive reading framework. STAR 360 also contains numerous lesson plans, organized and accessible by standard, which the teacher can use a multiple of ways – small group instruction, large group instruction, assigning the work for students to complete in centers, or any combination of these. An additional benefit of this program is it allows students, parents, and teachers to see the growth the student is making from one test to the next, which serves to motivate students to continue to work hard and strive to do their best.
Another computer program we are using this year is myON. Using the standards report from STAR 360, the teacher can type the number of a standard into the search bar, and myON will select several online books, on the student’s reading level, that include comprehension questions for the student to complete follow the reading of the book. The questions provide extra practice on the given standard. Reading a book on their computer or iPad has been very motivating for several of our students.
A final program that is new to us this year is myON News. Think of this as a Weekly Reader (remember those?) you read on the computer. The advantage to myON News is that it has three different reading levels of the same news article available – below, on, and above grade level. The teacher assigns the appropriate level to the student, so that when the student logs in, they only see the article written on the assigned reading level. All three levels of the article contain the same information, with the only difference being the difficulty of reading level. This allows even struggling readers to participate in class discussions of the article with confidence.
Famous children’s author Tomie dePaola stated, “Reading is important, because if you can read, you can learn anything about everything and everything about anything”. At East Elementary, we are confident the use of these specialized technology programs, along with the excellent instruction provided by our highly qualified teachers and paraprofessionals, will enable our students to learn about everything and anything for the rest of their lives.