Saturday, March 14, 2015

Increased Readability

Getting students to read in the classroom always poses a challenge. Here is the typical scenario, the teacher assigns a reading complete with appropriate "pre, during, and post" reading strategies that are creative and engaging to hopefully increase student participation. Most students will do the work, but may not truly grasp all the information. Here is the typical student reaction to the reading;
They flip to the first page, stare at it for a few minutes, maybe read a sentence or two. Then they get distracted by something for a few minutes, go back to the reading and realize they don't know what they just read so they go back to the beginning. Then they are frustrated with having to start over, so they start to look how much they have to read. They then bend the book back and physically hold the chunk of the pages they need to read, and stare at it with a look of defeat and wonder how they will ever get through it all. Then, they start again, only to go through this whole process again before asking if they can go to the bathroom.  

 It is clear they are simply reading for the sake of getting through the assignment they aren't really getting much from it, despite the efforts you put forth with the reading strategies. Here is my super secret process for getting students to focus on the content and not the amount.

Super Secret Tips

  1. Choose current, relevant topics that are short, sweet, and right to the point. Some of my favorite science places to obtain good articles are:
      1. NPR Science
      2. BBC Science
      3. Smithsonian TweenTribune
      4. Student Science
  2. If I need to use other readings from a book or text book, obtain digital copies, and again use recent publications. My textbooks from 1992 are really just good for a weight or building material for some lab activities. They make really good holders for Popsicle stick bridges, great walls for Lego Robot courses, awesome supports for ramps when doing acceleration and velocity experiments, they also work really well to hold down the end of a board for pendulum demonstrations. 
  3.  This is super important for this final trick...Use a digital formats. This will allow you to use various reader tools to adjust how much text will show on a single page. 
Now, the moment you've been reading on for, the final trick!

Use an appropriate reader tool to make the font huge, and limit the amount of text that appears on a page. You need the digital format to work in your favor, meaning that you want the format to keep your students engaged and feel as though they are making progress. Essentially, you are taking away the "chunk of pages" they want as visual cue to the finish line.The trick is to make the text as big as possible, and adjust the formatting to squeeze two to three paragraphs on a single page. It feels like you are cruising through the reading, and there is not an overwhelming amount of text on a page to throw you for a loop. 

I will use one of these two methods.

My first option, if I already have an epub, or mobi in the correct format is to use a online  tool for chrome called Read &Write for Google. What this does is allow me to upload my epub, mobi, azw3, pdf...etc to Google drive, share the document with students, and let them open the edoc. The app provides a nice online viewer that has the described format of a large font and limited text per page. 

Or, I use Issuu to share documents with my students for reading purposes. Issuu does a fantastic job making the digital format feel like a physical book. To obtain this trick I have students choose the single page mode, and zoom way into the document.  This requires students manually adjusting the settings, it may not be quite as effective. 

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