Integrating technology into instruction became second nature during the Covid-19 pandemic, and although we are back in physical classrooms now, that doesn’t have to end. Project-based learning with technology can transform a monotonous activity into an exciting challenge.
In my classroom, I’ve seen an awakening of my reluctant readers by incorporating technology into our reading routines. I started by simply using technology to teach fluency. Students recorded themselves reading and listened to their own recordings to develop self-monitoring skills and self-reflection to read with prosody and expression. After witnessing my students’ increased engagement with this small activity, I decided to capitalize on their excitement and develop larger reading projects integrating technology.
I found authentic ways to embed technology into core instruction and reach learning targets in a more engaging way. Here are three ways that I integrated technology into reading instruction in the classroom with both fiction and nonfiction texts.
1. Retelling with Coding Robots
After reading a fiction story, my second graders outlined a five-finger retell of the important information from the text. They completed a planning sheet to outline the beginning (including characters and setting), rising action, climax, resolution, and theme of the story. The students recorded themselves reading each part of their retell as an individual voice recording.
Then, they used Dot and Dash robots (my colleagues and I obtained them by applying for a grant from our district for technology integration) to code their robot to move along a story plotline and play the voice recordings at the designated position. Students had to debug their coding when they noticed an event out of order or in the wrong position on the story map. After their coding (and debugging), the robot could complete the entire retell of the story independently.
Although the core objectives of the lesson remained the same, the engagement and impact of the teaching drastically improved. The students understood the purpose of writing their retell (in order) and solidified their understanding of a story plot map with a visual representation of their robot moving along the designated path. This activity turned retelling into an engaging challenge where students practiced reading skills and visualized the plot map of fiction stories.
2. Inferencing with ChatterPix
While reading a novel, my reading strategy group was studying character inferencing and supporting ideas with evidence. I noticed that students were enjoying reading the novel but were not motivated to stop and think deeper about the text. To promote deeper thinking, I asked students to use ChatterPix to present their findings on character inferencing. Each student drew a picture of their selected character representing the external traits to show what the character looked like. Then students used ChatterPix to add speech bubbles and voice recordings of inferences they made about their characters to demonstrate the internal traits of their characters.
This project prompted students to stop and jot down ideas, reflect about what they were reading, and create meaningful inferences about their characters. It allowed for a clear representation of external versus internal character traits. The students also loved using silly character voices when sharing their evidence from the text. This project promoted constructive conversations in our reading group and a deeper understanding of how inferencing is crucial to understanding more about characters when reading.
3. Summarizing Nonfiction Texts with PuppetPals
While studying the structure for writing a summary, I noticed that my students were having difficulty understanding which key details were important to include in a summary and which were unnecessary. After writing a few summaries of nonfiction texts, students developed a better understanding of the structure but then started to get bored with the repetition of the task, so I integrated project-based learning to bring summary writing to life.
While reading a biography of a famous American, students collected important information to include in their written summaries. To present their summaries, students used the Puppet Pals app to create their famous American and record themselves sharing their information in first person. The app had a time limit for how long the “puppet show” could be, and this constraint forced students to think critically about what to include in their summary. The students worked in partner pairs to synthesize the information and discuss the importance of each detail for whether it should be included in their project.
Not only did this increase motivation for collecting and summarizing information, but it allowed students to authentically develop an understanding of key details and the purpose of summarizing to share key information with others. An added benefit of this type of project was that it allowed students to learn about a variety of famous Americans in a short time by using a jigsaw strategy. After students completed their puppet shows, we had a gallery walk where students watched each other’s presentations and learned key details about other famous Americans they hadn’t studied yet.
Simple Lessons Can Be Meaningful Experiences
However you choose to integrate project-based learning in your classroom, it will create a meaningful experience for your students. We now live in a world where our students are constantly surrounded by technology, and we can capitalize on their natural interest in our classrooms.
Each of these activities began with thinking about a simple reading skill and transformed it into authentic literacy learning with project-based learning. I hope these ideas will inspire you to ask yourself this: How can I integrate technology in my classroom to promote meaningful and motivated reading?