Teaching Screenagers

Teaching Screenagers
My life in the fastlane

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fundamental Changes take time... but not as long as I thought

It is important to note that when I began this project I had little to no experience with iPods or apps or even downloading music. What I now know to be true is that it doesn't matter, our kids do.  This has been an incredible adventure. My students use these tools as if they had been in our classroom always. I continually find new ways to enhance instruction using these tools. For example, when we were reading an article on Ancient Egypt, students stopped, pulled up their iPods looked up areas of Egypt on Google maps. Suddenly, those pyramids of long ago were alive and well in the palm of our hands.
When students need to know the meaning of a word as they read, they pull out their iPods and use dictionary.com to look it up then and there. They are tools, not toys and enhance rather than replace what is going on in our instruction. I didn't realize they would be entrenched in our work so quickly.

As I sit here on a Sunday night to plan, my iPod sits beside me so I can test an app, look up something the way my students might, and plan differently, with the goal of bringing technology into the lessons. For example, this next week my honors students are writing for a debate. Tomorrow not only will they read articles and structure their support for cell phone use on campus, they will use the iPods to look up research both for and against cell phones on campus to enhance the work that has already been done in their outlines. It will be quick, and will lead to the next discussion, which is what is credible evidence and how do you know? One important discussion will have to be how to evaluate articles and "facts" we find on the web.

Another cool thing to note, we took our Chapter 6 test in English this past week, and all classes improved in reading comprehension yet again. My classes used to range from 20 percent to 75 percent in this area, and last week the the range went from 68 to 100 percent. I think we are beginning to gather the data that supports students recording themselves and listening and scoring their prosody on a rubric. It seems to be making a significant difference both in their confidence as readers and their comprehension.

Is everything wonderful in iPodland? That would be a "nope". We still have difficulty downloading the student voices, a few students have discovered the camera and have saved pictures that need to be deleted and we still can't get videos on the iPods without some serious tech support intervention, but I am confident by the end of February that will be solved.

Looking forward to creating Egypt mini reports using Storybooklite and to continue to record our voices reading text, this time with a focus on non-fiction. Stay tuned to what will happen next!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

iPods: Making a Difference in Reading Comprehension

The use of iPods has become somewhat routine in our classroom now. Students use the iPods routinely, at least 3 to 4 times per week. We use them as responders by writing our answers on the iPod and sharing with the group. A favorite app is dictionary.com that we use at least twice a week to work on vocabulary development. We have just started creating flashcards using the free app iFlashcards to review key vocabulary and content in history. Just last week, we began to use video. Students partnered up and took a video of each other reading their goal sentences. We read and excerpt from David Pink's book Drive called "What's your sentence?". Students then developed their own sentence defining their goal for a decade from now. We plan on combining this work into an iMovie in our afterschool computer writing group, "Writing for Change." The motivation and innovation continues six weeks into this project.

One of my key questions for this year is "Will increased prosody "fluency" improve student reading comprehension?" Rather than leveling the fluency reading practice to individualized reading levels and completing a quick daily fluency practice, we are looking at something a little different. Students are exposed to the grade level material at least twice through the iPod during the week we explore a text. Here are some notes from the past two selections in Holt Chapter 6, grade level 6.

In two of our periods, students use the iPods to listen to the class story once, then the second time, read along with the iPod to improve their prosody. Students reported that it was helpful to read along with the story, and with everyone wearing headphones, there wasn't any stigma as students explored intonation and pacing or volume. I was able to walk around and take notes on my target kids or pull a student or two to record their voice using the voice recorder. Students have also reported that they like the opportunity to pause the story and repeat a section to clarify something or highlight and answer from the text.

Students then record a selection from the story, this week from the realistic fiction piece Eleven by Sandra Cisneros. They read a short passage from the story and scored it on our Prosody scoring guide to reflect on strengths and weaknesses. I will then pull the student recordings and the student scored guide and give me own feedback. 

Students take a selection test at the end of each story. Students do not use the iPod for this test, as we want to measure what students will do independently. Here is something interesting I am tracking, and that is the reading comprehension scores on these tests.

In one period, most students in the class tested FBB or BB on the STAR assessment last Spring. Students have been using grade level curriculum with support strategies including repeated reading and choral reading. In the past two assessments, students in the class went from a class average of 66 % before iPods to our most recent score of 85.7 percent. A growth of over 20 percent!

In another period, all students scored Advanced on the STAR assessment last Spring. Since using the iPods in class, we have noticed students continue to average 90 percent or better on selection tests.

In my third period, students range from Basic to Proficient on their STAR assessment last Spring. In the past two assessment, students in this class went from a class average of 75 percent to 86 percent, again significant growth of 10 percent.

It will be interesting to study how students will perform on the Chapter tests given every 4 to 6 weeks. We have used iPods this entire chapter so I am hopeful that this progress will cross into that assessment as well.