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Tammy Dunbar: Enhancing Reading With Technology!


by Tammy Dunbar
Expert Educator Columnist, USA

teachergeekIn a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

My husband and I used to read to our two children every night until they were almost out of high school.  There is nothing quite like reading out loud to a child.  You can model how to read out loud, how to interpret characters, how to create memorable voices (my husband did a mean Gollum,), how to predict/summarize, how to reread if you don’t understand something, and how to fall in love with reading.

It’s a practice I enjoy continuing in my classroom.  But there’s no technology involved, right?

There doesn’t have to be, of course.  But technology can absolutely be used to enhance the experience.

Occasionally, I like hooking my Surface Pro up to the projector and using my Kindle app (Nook or iBooks – if you’re an Apple person – works also) to read a story out loud to my students.  That way, they can follow along with the reading and enjoy any illustrations along the way.  I invite one student to be my “page turner,” which is always a coveted spot. If I only have a hard copy of the book I’m reading, I’ll use the document reader to project it up on the screen.

tammy-right-nowRight now, we’re reading Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary. I’ve created a OneNote with worksheets for each section we’re reading out loud so after I read, my students can go online, copy the worksheet from the teacher tab, copy it into their own folder and start working on their answers. When they get their new Panasonic 3E devices, they’ll even be able to illustrate their favorite section of the reading using the tethered stylus and touch screen capabilities of OneNote. Another plus with their new devices is access to a Windows 8 app called Free Books, which offers more than 23,000 classic books for free!

When we read a book like Treasure Hunters by James Patterson – which has a myriad of humanities and cultural references – it is both fun and beneficial to create a Treasure Hunters Pinterest page pointing to resources that introduce and enhance knowledge of those references. You can create it yourself, invite students to add to it, and then open it up to others to explore!

When we’re done with a book, I enjoy showing the movie made from the book (if one exists) so students can compare and contrast the book and the movie, judging whether or not the changes made were effective. We’ve also done book trailers – so popular with authors today – where students create a video review of the book. It can be as simple as a student filming their review (looking directly into the camera), or it can be a full-blown video using an App like ArcSoft ShowBiz or an online site like Sway or Animoto.

tammy-what-i-alsoWhat I also like doing at the end of a book is going to the author’s website to find out more, ask questions and extend the learning experience and enjoyment of the book.  Some authors feature quizzes to check for understanding and comprehension (Shel Silverstein has some great games based on his poetry), others showcase videos which give step-by-step instructions on how to draw a character (Thank you, Jeff Kinney!), and some offer downloads that are attractive to anyone who has read the book. Neil Gaiman’s website for Coraline allows students to upload their own picture and put button eyes on themselves, just like the Other Mother character in the book.

As Dr. Seuss once observed:

“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild – To pick up a book and read to a child.”


Here are some great author websites to try AFTER reading the book!

tammy-mouse-circus-Where the Sidewalk Ends (or any book) by Shel Silverstein

-Matilda (or any book) by Roald Dahl

-Flat Stanley (or any book) by Jeff Brown

-The Cat in the Hat (or any book) by Dr. Seuss

-A Series of Unfortunate Events (or any book) by Lemony Snicket

-Coraline (or any book) by Neil Gaiman

-Diary of a Wimpy Kid (or any book) by Jeff Kinney

tammy2Tammy Brecht Dunbar, M.Ed., S.T.E.M. teaches 5th grade in Manteca Unified School District and Pre-Service Technology at Teachers College of San Joaquin (Stockton, CA). She will be presenting at ISTE 2015, CUE 2015 and CTA Good Teaching North 2015.  Tammy has presented for CTA Good Teaching North (2014), Cap CUE (2014), all three California Subject Matters Project Conferences, Capitol Area Science Education Leaders, and several San Joaquin County Office of Education events as well as others. She won the 2010 eInstruction $75,000 Classroom Makeover Video Contest, wrote a successful Enhancing Education Through Technology grant for Manteca Unified School District in 2008, and was Teacher of the Year in MUSD in 2006. She is on the MUSD Superintendent’s Technology Committee as the district embarks on their “Going Digital 2015” project.

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