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[Series] Active Reading Skills #2: Becoming a Resourceful Reader

Using Digital Tools to Promote Literacy

It’s March into Literacy Month! To celebrate, we’re exploring what it means to be an active, engaged reader, and the literacy skills students need to develop active reading habits. To help you celebrate March into Literacy Month in your classroom, we’re also highlighting some free digital tools from the SRA FLEX Literacy blended learning solution. Each one of these videos makes practicing a different active reading skill engaging and fun — just like literacy should be! Last week, we started by exploring how students can gain a holistic understanding of a text. Now, we’re going to take a look active reading through the lens of resourcefulness, and think about how students can take ownership of literacy development by becoming a resourceful reader.

Active reading puts a heavy emphasis on engagement — interacting with the text, marking it up and taking notes, exploring its implications and functionality — but it also implies a definitive learner ownership. Active readers are also proactive in their relationship with a text: when a word is unfamiliar, they don’t just skip over it, or raise a hand to ask a teacher. They refer to their literacy toolbox, and employ their resourcefulness skills to fill in the gaps in understanding. But we can’t expect them to develop that toolbox on their own. That’s where purposeful literacy instruction comes in: we can empower our students by helping them to identify available resources, and teaching them how to effectively make use of those resources. The cartoon videos below make teaching literacy resourcefulness fun and tangible — incorporate them into your lesson to celebrate March into Literacy Month (and check out the fun games and posters we found to accompany the videos!) We’ve broken them down into three of the most important reading resources that active readers should have in their toolbox:

  1. Digital Dictionaries

Dictionaries have always been the number one resource for active readers — but digital learning makes dictionaries even more dynamic and accessible. Make sure your students know how to find a reliable site, and have a solid understanding on how to navigate a page when they look up a word. Most importantly, establish a classroom environment where turning to a digital dictionary isn’t something that students have to be reminded to do, but that’s a deeply ingrained habit. The earlier readers learn to reach for resources and take ownership of their learning, the better they’ll perform in research projects and complex reading assignments in college. Here are a few games and activities from our Pinterest page to help your student get familiar with dictionaries:

Then, join characters Jeremy and Josh in learning about dictionaries:

2. Context Clues

Students should also know what to do when a dictionary isn’t available — or, better yet, how to draw from their own skills in order to not reach for a dictionary every time they encounter an unknown word. The ability to use context clues within a text to better understand vocabulary is a vital skill to becoming an active reader. Using context clues fully engages students in a text, requires them to think critically, and to fully take ownership of their learning. Once students master this skill, it can do wonders for their confidence in their reading abilities, and give them the courage to pick up a more advanced free-read, or tackle a challenging section of a textbook in another subject. Look to Jeremy and Josh for a fun introduction to using context clues:

Here’s a context clue strategy that literacy specialist Alison Ryan, from Learning at the Primary Pond, gives her students:

“1. Look for clues in the words and pictures to help you think of a synonym for the new word.

2. Reread the sentence, but replace the new word with your synonym.

3. Ask yourself, “Does that make sense?”

3. Digital Thesaurus

Beyond using resources to decode texts, and discover the meaning of unknown vocabulary, active readers should also be familiar with synonyms and antonyms — in part because they can draw from this knowledge when they encounter unfamiliar words in a text, and in part because it will help them to become more advanced writers themselves. Active reading and ownership of learning can eventually translate to giving kids the confidence and skills to write eloquently, which will empower them to perform well academically and share their ideas with a larger community. To help students first understand the concept of synonyms and antonyms, and then to become resourceful readers, introduce them to a reliable digital thesaurus. You can also provide your students with some quick, fun resources that will address some of the more common or pressing needs for synonyms and antonyms you’ve noticed in their reading and writing assignments. For inspiration, we’ve gathered some synonym/antonym sheets and posters from Pinterest:

Look to Jeremy and Josh for an introduction to the concept of synonyms and antonyms:

Alison Ryan is a literacy specialist in the Chicago suburbs. She has worked in schools for over 11 years, including 5 years as a classroom teacher in Pre-K through 2nd grade. Alison has worked extensively with bilingual and dual language students, and she enjoys making literacy come to life for young learners. For more balanced literacy inspiration, visit her blog, Learning at the Primary Pond.

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Resources, ideas, and stories for PreK-12 educators. We focus on educational equity, social and emotional learning, and evidence-based teaching strategies. Be sure to check out The Art of Teaching Project, our guest blogging platform for all educators.

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