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September 17, 2013 How Technology Can Support and Enhance Your Reading Workshop By Erin Klein
Grades 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    I'm a firm believer that technology integration should not be something done in isolation. In fact, even referring to integrating technology indicates that the curriculum has some sort of special ingredient added. My hope is that one day the resources we use to support and enhance student learning will no longer be labeled with special buzz words.

    From my observations, when a lesson goes really well, the teacher cannot identify one specific program that made this happen. More often than not, teachers describe a blend of resources, strategies, and methodologies that they were able to pull from their personal toolbox.  

    As I teach reading, I find that my students make the most gains when they have the opportunity to sit with a book and read. Of course, I do word study lessons; strategy mini-lessons; skill-based small groups; host individual, partner, and table conferences; shared reading; molded read alouds; and more. However, when children find a cozy nook, sit with a treasured book, and begin laughing out loud in their own world, that is when I know that the objectives for reading are being met. Connections are being made. Predictions are occurring. Students are talking back to the text. It makes me smile. However, one aspect of my reading workshop was in need of fine tuning.

    The Problem:

    Students would get so wrapped up in their books, they had to share the funny parts, ask questions for clarification, and tell me about each and every connection they were making. At first, I allowed these mini-interruptions to occur, seeing them as readers wanting to discuss their books. What I didn't see was that students were becoming dependent on me. They each developed a need to let me know what was happening in their books, questions they had, and connections they were making. While I loved their excitement, one child became two and soon lines were forming to chat with me and fewer children were spending time on task actually reading. What had happened to my reading workshop?

    I chatted with colleagues on my grade level team, discussed strategies with teachers above and below my grade level, asked questions from my Personal Learning Network (PLN), turned to my social networking and resource sites, and dug into my collection of professional books from favorite authors. I found that my students were hungry for an authentic audience. They didn't want to disrupt their friends who were reading, but they had the need to share amazing parts of their stories or ask essential questions to clarify their thinking. They needed an authentic means to hold their thinking and receive feedback. It was my responsibility to provide them with a menu of options that might satisfy their needs.  

    The Question:

    As with most of my planning, I started with the end in mind. I thought to myself, "What if students could jot their thinking down, in real time, and receive feedback without interrupting the workshop?" Even if they didn't receive feedback in the moment, could they at least jot their notes down to share at a more appropriate time? This is when I started using our reading notebooks in a more meaningful manner. I began to model "during reading" responses instead of only "after reading" responses. We began to use our notebooks in a more authentic way. After workshop, we would have rich, shared discussions.

    However, for everyone to have the opportunity to share would have taken too long. So, instead of having one child share at a time, I started utilizing partnership and small group sharing. This worked well, but not every child had the chance to grow from the group's thinking. I wished there was a way that each child had a chance to share their thinking with the whole group. This way, the odds of receiving specific feedback that would be most beneficial would be enhanced. The more minds working together, the better.  

    After exploring an array of resources, I found a few tools that had the potential to support our reading workshop. We already had one great tool, our reading notebooks. Now, I could introduce a few more tools that would allow students to share their thinking with the entire group and receive feedback when needed.  

    The Solution:

    Since using my iPad in the classroom, students are able to utilize certain online resources to share their thinking and receive feedback. Additionally, allowing students to use the desktop computer in our room helped to support our reading workshop in a creative way. Below are a few of my favorite applications and websites to use for reading workshop. I tend to gravitate towards tools that are free, fun, and fantastic!


    Padlet is a collaborative, virtual corkboard that allows users to pin sticky notes. If you have multiple computers in your room, students can all enter their thinking at the same time and see the sticky notes automatically pop up on the whiteboard or screen. Now, everyone’s voices are heard without taking up any additional time.  Imagine the potential for classroom discussions!

    As a reading and writing workshop teacher, I often take "a status of my class" before sending them off to work. Padlet makes this easy. After my mini-lesson, I can put a QR code of the Padlet link on the SMART Board, have the students scan it, and be taken directly to the Wall. Then, they can post where they were with their process.

    After the students have posted to the space, I can drag their comments around to organize them by stages. Stated differently, I can pull all of the kids that need a conference together. Those that are revising can be grouped together by simply touching their comment and dragging it closer to the other students who are revising and so on.

    If you want a space where your students' work can be public, Padlet is the place for you! There are so many sharing features and options as seen below. However, there are also several privacy features that allow you to adjust your settings just the way you'd like. You can also save your boards and share them as well.  

    Answer Pad:

    The Answer Pad is a free way to use the iPad as an interactive response tool. The teacher uses the web interface to set up their class and get instant real-time results. Plus, everything The Answer Pad does is aligned to state standards.

    They released an update with Go Interactive; this basically turns your iPad into a "clicker system.” It allows students to answer any question the teacher asks, and they use their iPad to respond, either tap on Y/N, T/F, thumbs up/down, fill in the blank, or draw their answer.

    I love the whole drawing/typing feature. A student who is afraid to ask a question out loud can now type it and the teacher gets it. The teacher can choose to display his or her screen or keep it private. A teacher can track which student responses. The drawing feature is especially great for those jotting down their thinking. Students can jot notes or draw a visual representation. The responses are sent directly to the teacher’s device as soon as the student pushes submit. Imagine being able to privately and immediately respond to each student as they submit a virtual sticky note response.


    As I was reading a book to my students, I found that I would stop and discuss certain parts in a more meaningful manner. I would also elaborate on other concepts that would enhance the lesson. What if I added my thinking to the book in an augmented way so that the information would always be available even if I wasn't?  

    I decided to do just that. I videotaped myself sharing information about certain pages within the book. I slapped a sticky note on that page with an "A" so that the kids would know that page was augmented (now we put a shiny foil star on pages and items to indicate they’re augmented). Then, I put the book with an iPad in our center so they could experiment with this activity independently.  

    My kids loved watching my Auras, but couldn't wait to create their own!

    Anything I can put into my students' hands will only benefit their understanding and level of engagement. That is why I try to think of ways to put the apps and devices into their hands. It's my goal to get them to do the creating, collaborating, and sharing.  

    Second graders LOVE making things into augmented reality. There is a level of excitement about learning that Aurasma brought to our classroom this year that has been a pure joy to watch and be a part of. 

    One of the first Auras created by a student in our class was when she noticed an onomatopoeia in the book Roller Coaster. She was so motivated to extend her own learning to the level where she could teach a concept. What a way to develop a young child’s craft as a reader and writer! 

    She turned to the page in the book, snapped a photo of the page, and put the video she made as the overlay. When the Aura played, viewers could see and hear her explain how she noticed the literary element and how it added to the enjoyment and understanding of her reading. She then gave examples of how her peers could use this in their own stories and encouraged them to incorporate onomatopoeias in their writing. I was impressed to say the least.

    We are going to augment our classroom library so that students can include book reviews, highlight their favorite parts, and share connections they’ve made to the characters.  


    My two children, Riley and Jacob, love playing around with technology. When Jacob came home last year with a project for school, he wanted to use the iPad. He uses the iPad for everything.  

    Because Jacob was four when the assignment was given, I was expected to scribe his answers. The directions were for us to help Jacob do the research and assist him in learning about the animal of his choice. He loves birds, so it was no surprise he wanted to do his report on parrots.  

    To research birds, we turned to the Internet. We watched an Animal Planet video about parrots and visited a Birds Guide blog, The Wild World of Zoobooks blogand the National Georgraphic website. Jacob loved the bright colors of parrots and the beautiful sounds they made. He was able to bring in a picture to show how vibrant the colors were, but he really wanted to be able to let his friends hear the chirping noises the birds made. So, I turned to Livescribe to let Jacob record his bird's voice. Click here to see how Jacob used the LiveScribe Sound Stickers in junior kindergarten so that his class could hear more about his animal report.

    In reading workshop, my students can place a sound sticker on any page of their book or notebook to share their thinking. For others to hear the playback, they simply use the LiveScribe Pen and tap the sticker. The student’s voice can now be heard by anyone!  

    By using these tools for learning, students became excited to share with their peers again. They no longer need to wait for my feedback. Their audience is available when they are ready to share. It is a wonderful solution for our classroom to bring in these web tools, applications, and devices. Now, students can remain in their cozy spots with their books during the entire reading time. They love having more time to enjoy their wonderful stories without the constant need to share immediately what is on their mind since they've stored their thinking in a meaningful way that can be shared with all of their friends.


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