Recently I came across an article that made me think about how children are learning to read in 21st Century classrooms. The article was entitled “How Reading Should Be Taught in the Digital Era”. The article made me think about one of my favorite little guys, who at age 3, could get into my iPhone and help himself to a Mickey Mouse video on YouTube before I realized it. This little guy will be starting to school in a couple of years. How will he learn to read? How will he acquire phonemic awareness, phonics skills, build his vocabulary and fluency skills and comprehend the text he has read?
Lately, I have completed several observations in schools. Last week I was in 20 classrooms. Each morning I observed students engaged in Literacy instruction in Kindergarten through Third Grade. Teachers were not necessarily using traditional methods to work on Phonemic Awareness. In one Kindergarten classroom, the teacher had a song with letters and their sounds on a SMART Board. Students were moving and singing along with the letter/sound songs. The teacher did not have to ask students to pay attention. She did not have to ask them to wait their turn to identify and say the sound that corresponded to the particular letter of the alphabet. All were engaged in the activity.
In another classroom, first grade students were using a Smart Board to work on their phonics skills. Students were interacting with written letters and spoken sounds. For example, the teacher had “mat” on the board. She asked, “How would I change this word to “map”? The students would answer and then she would check it on the interactive white board to see if they were correct. Again, students were very engaged in the activity.
Another classroom strategy I saw this week was a teacher working on building fluency in the students’ reading skills. She had two students working together. One read their story or reading passage aloud while another student videoed it. Then they watched and listened to the story together. The students would collaborate to mark the reading errors in the passage. The skills to mark the errors had been taught by the classroom teacher and practiced by the students for several months. The students were able to see their errors, mark, and correct them. Then the student marked the number of correct words on a graph. They compared the number of words correct from a previous reading to the number of words correct from that day’s reading to see if their reading fluency of the passage had improved.
The more I am in classrooms, the more I hope to see teachers using print and digital literacy in reading instruction. In my opinion, we should never give up entirely on print. However, there is so much more teachers could do in their classrooms to build literacy skills with digital literacy tools. My little guy who will be going to school in two years will arrive at school understanding how to use technology. I hope while he is learning phonemic awareness, phonics skills, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension skills, it will happen in a dynamic learning environment using both print and digital literacy strategies.