Blending Technology into Reading Instruction

Blending Technology into Reading Instruction

Last December, I visited Heather’s ELL 6/Reading 250 class and observed her implementation of STAR practices. Although this was my 102nd STAR class observation, it was the first of its kind! Throughout the two-hour observation, Heather skillfully integrated computer and internet use into her alphabetics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension lessons. All students appeared to be comfortable with the use of technology, and it seemed to increase their engagement with words, texts, and each other.

Heather and I decided the best format for sharing how she blended technology into her reading instruction was to create an interview script. My five questions are in bold and her detailed and/or bulleted answers are below (slightly edited for clarity and length).

  1. What is essential to have in the classroom for integrating technology into the classroom?

I find the most essential thing is a learning attitude.  A lesson may not always go spectacularly, but if we plan in advance, hold onto our calm, and persist through the bumps, our students will get on board and benefit from technology integration. The minimum level of equipment includes computers and reliable internet access. If you want the whole class to be involved, it’s best if everyone has their own device. However, if you don’t have enough, setting up small group computer stations can also work well. The minimum level of skills includes knowing how to log in/out, navigate websites, click, and click and drag. There isn’t a specific program or tool that is essential; there are many tools available, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Consider the intended learning target of the lesson, students’ accessibility and skills, and the cost to your program.

  1. Which reading component(s) is/are better integrated with technology and why?

Vocabulary may be the easiest because it’s usually concrete. Here are some strategies for vocabulary:

    • Use resources like or to introduce and practice new words.
    • Have students write and/or edit sentences using new words with Google Docs or MS Word.
    • Make quizzes for students to match new words with definitions or examples with Google Forms, Quizmaker, or Poll Everywhere (if you don’t have another preferred platform like Schoology).

I really liked using technology with fluency and comprehension because it allowed me to differentiate by level. I mostly used Readworks or Newsela, which offer multiple levels of text about the same content.

Here are some strategies for fluency:

    • Select texts that have multiple levels available, choose or create questions, and then share appropriate links with your students.
    • If you have volunteers, have them model a proficient reading first; then guide students through an echo or collaborative oral reading.
    • If volunteers are not available, record yourself reading, select texts that offer online audio recordings, or use a screen reader tool where students read along silently and then try to read along out loud.
    • Have students re-read the same text again out loud, to themselves, or with a fluent reader/recording.
    • Follow modeled and guided oral readings with basic gist or 6W questions for students to discuss.
    • Have students record a cold reading at the beginning of the week and a warm reading after several practice readings using Schoology or Flipgrid. This allows them to self-assess their fluency progress across repeated readings.

Here are some strategies for comprehension:

    • Have them dig deeper into the text – one paragraph at a time – and identify the main ideas.
    • Present a multiple-choice quiz using Schoology, Google Forms, or Poll Everywhere. This tells you who is getting it or not so you can respond appropriately.
    • Present multiple-choice questions for students to answer and have them highlight the sentences from the text that support their choice.

Here are some strategies for alphabetics:

    • Have students record themselves reading a list of words with taught letter-sound-syllable-affix-root patterns using Flipgrid. This tells you who is doing well and can move on to another pattern, or who needs additional instruction or practice.
    • Have students find and highlight taught pattern words from sentences or paragraphs using a highlighting tool.
  1. What online reading resources are most “teacher-student friendly” (considering variable skills and access to technology)?

I think part of my success was keeping the number of websites to a minimum. I used NewsELA, Schoology, and Google Drive (docs, slides, forms) for almost everything. Occasionally, I used Readworks, a YouTube video, or another website, but only if it fit our learning targets and I couldn’t accomplish a similar end with my regular choices. I also had an additional folder with a bunch of websites for students who wanted more independent reading practice (ReadTheory, TED Talks).

  1. What is a good balance of teacher directed instruction, student paper/pencil practice, and computer-based activities?

The balance depends on the class content, student goals, and learning target of each lesson. At the beginning, I spent more time with direct instruction and paper/pencil practice so that students could make progress. Then I slowly introduced new technology routines until my students could almost all use them as well (or better) than pencil/paper. A few of my students preferred using technology because certain features allowed them to easily enlarge the text or record (rather than write) their ideas or answers. I tried not to make technology the focus of the class or lessons; it’s just another resource we use to learn. I found that with time, practice, support, and routines, my students developed technology comfort and were able to attend to the content. Then I was better able to differentiate and meet their reading skill or level needs.

  1. Any other comments or ideas?
  • You can’t do everything at once, so don’t even try! Select technology tools or websites of highest value for your students’ learning.
  • Blending of technology into reading (or any) instruction takes some frontloading work, but the payout is great! You will be able to reuse what you create year after year and just tweak it to fit your new students rather than create something from scratch.
  • Remember to use technology when it makes sense — not because it’s required or you should.
  • Sometimes students with a fear of, negative experiences with, or misconceptions about the value of technology, need you to build trust first. That takes time, but your routines and other classmates will help with that.

Originally published 12/17/19

Marn Frank, Literacy & STAR Coordinator ATLAS
Heather Yee, Teacher & Technology Coordinator Minneapolis Adult Education