The Storia Difference: One Teacher's Tale
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
Storia is a free e-reader app developed by Scholastic and designed to captivate kids while helping them become better readers. When I was asked to test it in my classroom shortly after its debut, I was cautiously optimistic. I had a class with varying special needs. Trying to fit in my traditional reading program was challenging enough, but I decided to try. I wasn’t sure how I should implement e-reading, so for me, the path of least resistance was to simply put iPads in the hands of a few students instead of traditional books and see what happened.
This minimal effort on my part had an immediate effect. After a few short weeks I saw enough results to make me realize that Storia was designed with challenging classes exactly like mine in mind.
The Difference I Noticed in My Classroom
Reluctant Readers Started Reading
I had three reluctant readers I was desperately trying to motivate. Interestingly enough, these students, who never seemed able to find a book that interested them, were the first ones begging to use the Storia e-reader. After demonstrating a few key features, I put it in their hands and let them go.
Here is what I noticed:
- Students eagerly ran for their Storia e-books and settled into reading immediately when IDR (Individualized Daily Reading) time was announced following a mini-lesson. Previously I would have to give several reminders to get them seated with a book.
- Reluctant readers were engaged in the text and did not abandon books as they had done previously. They asked more questions and showed more critical thinking skills in the written responses to their reading.
- All three of these previously reluctant readers completed more books in the last marking period than they did in the first three marking periods combined.
- They began expressing a greater interest in reading out of school, as evidenced by their monthly at-home reading logs. Two of their parents downloaded the app at home so their child would continue using it.
Reading Stamina Increased
One boy who was unable to sustain reading for more than six minutes by the fourth quarter moved to 18 minutes within a month of using Storia. Another student, who had an average sustained reading time of 12 minutes when Storia was first introduced was able to read all the way to the end of IDR time, even when it exceeded 35 minutes. Also, my higher readers also stayed focused on the e-reader for longer periods of time.
Comprehension Gaps Narrowed
In between fall and spring reading assessments using the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System, I give at least one more informal reading assessment and take several running records. My students showed consistent growth the first three quarters. During my end-of-the-year assessments, students who were in my lowest quartile and had used Storia for nine weeks showed greater overall growth than their classmates.
Fluency Improved for English Language Learners
Last year I had 17 different languages spoken in the homes of my 27 students. Many of these students were very high performing, however, uncommon words or phrasing would slow down their oral reading. After six weeks, fluency in this group of students showed marked improvement.
Why the Difference?
Storia Levels the Playing Field
In the 3rd grade, reading levels range from 5th grade to 1st or 2nd grade levels. During normal IDR time, lower-level students often do not want to be seen reading what they perceive as “baby” books and tend to attempt chapter books that are several levels too difficult. This can have adverse effects on their comprehension and fluency.
By using Storia on the iPad, no one could tell what anyone was reading. Level H books look the exact same as an R to an outside observer. Students were no longer hesitant to read at their “just right” level. With more practice, reading skills began to improve at a much greater rate than they had during the first three quarters.
Dictionary and Pronunciation Tools
While we teach strategies for what to do when you don’t know a word — use context clues, skip it, break it into chunks — there is no guarantee that students are sounding out those words or using context correctly.
Now, they press the unfamiliar word and a pop-up dictionary appears. Some students read the definition, but most press the speaker in the corner to hear the word. Within a second or so, they are reading again.
The pronunciation tool helps lower-level readers build their sight word vocabulary. Others, such as my ELL students, are given a boost by hearing the correct pronunciation of words that do not fit common spelling patterns. Not having to get up and ask how to say a word naturally helps improve fluency.
What My Students Have to Say
It became abundantly clear that the majority of my students favored the e-reader app. Here were a few of the reasons they gave:
- I like it because it is reading combined with technology. Lucas
- The lightning bolts (Storia’s enhanced features) help me understand the story better because I have to stop and think about what I’m reading. Jessica
- The built in games make it more fun even though it’s really just vocabulary work. Lourdes
- I like how I don’t have to guess at words anymore. I just touch them and it tells me. Aalliyah
- My mom reads on her iPad, and I like that I’m able to read the same way in school. I go home and tell her what I read. Colin
- I like having a whole bookshelf to pick from. Haris
- It’s easy to highlight things and go back to them when I have to do a reading response. Kanal
- I was always losing my sticky notes and now they are saved in my book. Megha
Of course I realize my class is a very small sample, but I am impressed enough with the results I have seen to make the Storia e-reading app an integral part of my reading instruction. If you are curious about Storia and haven't tried it yet, download the free app today. You'll get five free books you can try out. If you are already using Storia, I hope you'll share any differences you have seen in your classroom in the comment section below.