Encouraging Writing Across the Curriculum
Struggling readers and writers who exhibit developmental delays may benefit from authentic and meaningful reading and writing experiences on the web. The Internet has been denoted as a tool that encourages students to participate and interact actively with their learning. Various reading and writing disabilities include dyslexia and dysgraphia, along with difficulty with vocabulary, reading comprehension, decoding, spelling, or expression. As part of a balanced language arts program, teachers should be encouraged to teach both phonics and whole language lessons. These lessons can be infused with technology to increase student motivation. Below are examples of ways that teachers can incorporate authentic reading and writing experiences incorporating web-based applications.
Email Pen Pals
There are many different ways to get started with email Pen Pals in the classroom. One way would be to connect with another teacher who teaches approximately the same number of students. They could be local, in another city, state, or even country. Depending on your goals for connecting with Pen-Pals,
you may want students who are the same age, older, or younger. For students who are struggling with reading and writing it would be imperative that the students they are corresponding with are good writing role models for the students.
One student and teacher friendly site that helps to make school safe pen pal connections around the globe is ePals Global Community. Teachers and students can sign up for this free service to be connected with other teachers, students, and classrooms for authentic learning experiences. Classrooms can complete projects together, become email pen pals, or interact via video chat software like Skype. The students can share their experiences, lessons, and lives in a safe environment. This type of activity infuses reading, writing, and expression.
Another resource that I just found as I was browsing through the twitter-sphere is a Google Doc Spreadsheet that was created as part of a presentation at ISTE 2010. This ‘live’ document has a list of teachers who are interested in making connections this fall with other teachers and their classrooms for pen pal interactions either via email or video chat software.
My very first post on MangoMon was about encouraging students with special needs, including reading and writing deficits, to blog. This is definitely a great way to get your students to read and write. Students can create their own blogs, respond to a blog that their teacher creates, or read and comment on other blogs that interest them.
One student and teacher friendly blogging site is Edublogs. This site offers a management system for classroom to create and review your students’ blogs. This service also has extra safety features including blocking adult content. It will also be easier for students in your classes to connect with one another along with other students around the world in a safe environment.
Students can actively be involved online with reading and writing by creating and/or reading online reviews. Many sites allow users to post a review on products, books, movies, and services. For a classroom assignment, students can post online book reviews of the books they have recently read. The most popular book sites including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Borders all have sections for reading and posting reviews. Here is an example of a book review by teachers, students, and other readers of a top children’s book for 2010: Al Capone Shines my Shoes. Another way that this idea can be implemented into the classroom is to have students read reviews of a book before they decide to read it. This way the student can make an informed decision based on their preferences if they believe they will enjoy the book.
By incorporating the various online resources above in your classroom to encourage the development of reading and writing skills, the teacher will have to put on the “facilitator hat” on. However, the teacher should be actively involved in assisting the students by building the skills needed to close their learning gaps. Activities should also be infused with phonics instruction during these different activities. Strengthening phonic skills will help with overall reading and writing development.
Other Resources for Authentic Reading & Writing Online
1. Wikispaces – easy to use site that encourages online collaboration
2. Google Books – read and preview popular magazines and books
3. StoryJumper – create free online children’s stories (you can include your own pics & art too!)
4. StoryBird – create collaborate online books
-Article by Laura Ketcham