Digital Tools for Pairing Literary and Informational Texts and Close Reading Skills

by Kelly Walsh on August 21, 2014

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Final Post in Series Looking at Apps and Tools for the Common Core Literacy Curriculum Reading Strand

Dr. Leslie Suter and Dr. Melissa Comer are faculty members in the College of Education’s Curriculum & Instruction Department at Tennessee Tech University. They will be co-presenting the session “Common Core Literacy Integration with App Flows” at the 2014 Teaching and Learning with the iPad Conference this November in Raleigh, NC.

Are you interested in tools to help you focus on teaching to the Common Core’s Literacy Curriculum? Will then this series of posts is for you! In Sunday’s post we looked at apps and tools for Academic Vocabulary, followed by Tuesday’s post in which we examined resources focused on Text Complexity.

Literary & Informational Texts

Pairing literary texts with informational texts is not a new concept. Many of us have been doing this very thing for quite some time. Common Core State Standards challenge us to be intentional with this pairing. Actually, a good pairing will work to reinforce specific content in all disciplines, be it science, social studies, English, or other technical subjects. The literary piece often serves as a bridge, if you will, to the informational text.

Recently, we were involved in a project where we paired The Hunger Games (Collins, 2008) with Silent Spring (Carson, 1962). The connection, though not immediately evident, became more pronounced as we delved into the environmental issues present in both texts. For more informational text titles to pair with The Hunger Games click here.

Summaries and Book Reviews

There are a number of online tools that work wonderfully for writing brief summaries and reviews of literary and informational texts. LibraryThing (https://www.librarything.com) & Shelfari (http://www.shelfari.com) are free sites that allow you to create virtual bookshelves of books that you have read or plan to read. Once you have selected the books you can add tags and reviews or summaries. Teachers can use these tools as a virtual catalog of the books in their classroom libraries; students can create them as an online portfolio of novels and informational texts they have read throughout a school year.

Another tool that you might not think of using for this purpose is Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com). The collaborative nature of using Pinterest, from pinning books on each other’s boards to writing reviews and replying to others’ comments, make it an ideal inclusion. Here’s a good example.

Graphic Organizers

These can provide scaffolding to help students process what they have read either during or after reading. These tools can also help students prepare for writing. Apps by Mobile Learning Services provide ready to use graphic organizers for individual student use or for demonstration by the teacher. These organizers can be shared electronically or printed.

Several online tools that provide excellent interactive graphic organizers include:

  • ClassTools.net (http://www.classtools.net) – Templates for Venn Diagrams, Fishbone Diagram, PostIt labeling tool (upload an image and then label it – very cool!)
  • Exploratree (http://www.exploratree.org.uk) – Categories of organizers include map your ideas, solve problems, explore, analyse, and different perspectives.

ReadWriteThink – Student Interactives (http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/student-interactives/) – There are 22 organizing and summarizing interactives that are aligned with leveled lesson plans. For example, Doodle Splash (pairs online drawing with writing prompts to encourage students to make connections between their visual designs and the text), Persuasion Map (map arguments for a persuasive essay or debate), Trading Card Creator (explore book characters, a person or place in history, or even physical objects).

Close Reading Skills

Close reading, according to Fisher (2014), is a careful and purposeful re-reading of a text. During re-reading, we are encouraged to think more deeply about the text, to consider what the author’s purpose is, what the words mean, and what the structure of the text tells us (Fisher, 2014). Close-reading skills are skills needed to accomplish a close-read. Such skills often involve text annotation (highlighting critical parts of the text), text questioning (writing questions stemming from what is read directly on the text), or text coding (marking the text with symbols that serve to assess what is read, i.e. ! when you read something that makes an impact or a ✪ when you think something is vital information).

For more examples of text codes, please see: www.heinemann.com/shared/companionResources/E03087/47_TextCodes.pdf.

Digital Tools that Address Close Reading Skills

There are a number of iPad apps that allow you to annotate text. iBooks and Kindle let you highlight & make comments on books as you read. Some apps have notetaking and annotation capabilities which allow you to mark directly on PDF documents, such as GoodNotes (https://itunes.apple.com/app/goodnotes-4-notes-pdf/id778658393?mt=8) and Notability (https://itunes.apple.com/app/notability/id360593530?mt=8). Notability also provides the option to audio record your thoughts.

Come and learn more from Leslie and Melissa and dozens of other practitioners at the original iPad focused education conference – Teaching and Learning with the iPad, November 20 – 22, in Raliegh, NC. Hope to see you there!

ipad education conference

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Technology for the Core – Apps and Tools for the Literacy Curriculum Reading Strand
June 2014 APP ED REVIEW – Rubric-Assessed Math Apps
The Annual TLIPAD Conference – “A Conference Like No Other”


REFERENCES

Carson, R. (1962). Silent spring. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Collins, S. (2008). The hunger games. New York: Scholastic.

Fisher, D., Frey, N., & Lapp, D. (2012). Text complexity is the new black. In Text Complexity (pp. 1-19). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

About 

Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer and a faculty member at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY and is the founder and author of EmergingEdTech.com. As an education technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, periodically running Flipped Class Workshops online. His latest eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book was published in September, 2013 and is available here. In his spare time Walsh also writes, records, and performs original (and cover) songs (look for "K. Walsh" on iTunes or Amazon.com or check out his original song videos on here on YouTube ).

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