Read-Alouds for Older Kids

This semester students in READ 6309 examined components of a strong reading program. As part of their work, they were required to contribute to this blog.

By I. Martinez

Read-alouds are meant to help students in build their vocabulary, add to their storehouse of knowledge, and gain an appreciation of literature. These very same reasons hold true for older students, maybe even more so. Middle school and high school students acquire language and vocabulary suited to their age groups while regaining their love for literature.

In the book Yellow Brick Roads by Janet Allen, the author lists several steps to consider before and during the reading of a text to students, and amongst those steps, she recommends reading the text with passion, or as Maya Angelo states “infusing it with shades of deeper meaning”. I am in total agreement with these statements; however, as most teachers will confess, the reality of maintaining that “passion” by the end of the school day is not likely. Teachers who have four to six classes everyday may have a difficult time maintaining a reading schedule and moreover exuding that love of literature in their strained voices. This is one of the many reasons I am grateful for technology.

Project Gutenberg offers books on audio that are either human read or computer-generated. This is a quick and free resource for teachers, students and parents. Many classic books written by well-known authors like Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe can be found in this section of Project Gutenberg. Also, the corresponding written text to these audio books can be found in the main Project Gutenberg directory. Of course, not all books are copyright free, and therefore do not have a free audio or text option.

A couple of years ago, I undertook the task of reading Rip Van Winkle, a required reading, to several classes of high school seniors. The language itself was a tremendous hurdle for most students and most especially my ESL students. Rip Van Winkle was published in 1819 and reflected the language of the 19th century. I quickly realized that it was going to be a challenge gaining the students’ attention and interest in a story that they had difficulty understanding and relating to. That is when I decided to record my voice on GarageBand and add sound clips to aid their understanding. I have included a sampling of my reading with sound clips.

I am happy to report that the response to the recordings was incredibly positive. The students began requesting that more books be “read” to them in such manner, and everyone hushed and actually listened! It was like the witnessing of a miracle in a high school setting. That is the power of a read-aloud bringing dormancy back to life.


Multiple Literacies Theory

This semester students in READ 6308 explored various theories about learning and learning to read. As part of one assignment, they created a post for our blog.

By V. Saladini

The Multiple Literacies Theory (MLT) was first defined in 1996 by the New London Group  which was comprised of ten academics from Great Britain, Australia, and the United States.  According to this group the term “Multiliteracies” immediately shifts us from the dominant written print text to acknowledge the many varied ways that literacy is practiced in the new millennium. (Pedagogy of Multiliteracies, Cope & Kalantzis 1996).

ML imply the execution of multilayered and multimodal forms of literacy, which by nature breach the school walls and is intrinsically link to the community, its culture, and the society at large.  It aims at the implementation of a democratic, pluralistic society in which students are considered valuable contributors to the teaching experience.  Through the implementation of MLT students become producers of knowledge and meaning and not just mere recipients.  According to  Cervetti, Damico, and Pearson “multiple literacies are conceived of as plural, as social practices, as situated in specific social institutions and ideologically charged, and as inextricably linked to social, cultural, and historical factors”.

ML involve the use of new technologies, such as tablets, computers, cell phones, video and picture  cameras, GPS devices, scanners, just to mention some; as well as the implementation of more traditional forms of literacy like pictures, reenactments, writing, drawings, debates, and field trips among others.  The important principle behind the use of these and other types of literacy is that they are used to allow the students to create new knowledge based on current and relevant issues.  As schools strive to provide students with more access to technology it is important for the teacher to remember that learning the technology is not what builds up literacy, instead it is the use of the multimodal literacies tools that will allow students to build knowledge.  Using technology to learn old things in old ways and recreate traditional pedagogies is definitely not MLT being implemented.

With that said, we as teachers feel overwhelmed and even inadequate to attempt to understand and implement the diversity of literacies our students bring to our classrooms.  In our era of standardized assessments many of us retreat to teach that what is testable and measurable by traditional means.  MLT strives for an implementation of literacy that links the school literacy to the real world so that since a very early age students come to understand that literacy is not something that is restricted to one particular place, time, and style.  On the contrary, students learn that they can apply literacy to just about every area of their lives inside and outside of school.

A classroom conducive to the implementation of MLT would not only be equipped with several pieces of diverse technology equipment, but should also allow the time and appropriate guidance for students to work in collaborate teams that address issues relevant to their communities and current social environments.  The goal is that students build an understanding of how the use of multiple literacies can affect their lives beyond school and guide their career choices.

In closing, I believe MLT has several good principles and applications that could really benefit our students in our highly technological era.   I see several of its main ideas implemented in classrooms across America.  However, a full implementation of this theory as its proponents originally envisioned is not feasible under our current standardized assessment practices and the digital divide that clearly marks who has or hasn’t have access to technology and the technological gap that exists between teachers and students.

Wonderful iPad Apps

This semester students in READ 6306 each wrote a course-related post for this blog.

By I. Martinez

In this blog piece, I chose to write about iPad apps that can be used by secondary school teachers and their students. Many of the apps are free, some are free with the option to purchase an enhanced version, and some are for a nominal fee. I have also included apps that can be used in social studies and science because of the integration of writing in those subject areas. All in all, I think you will be impressed with how powerful the iPad is in the educational arena.

 99 Words-The 99 Words app uses a carefree method of introducing book writing. This application allows students to join another author to write a book until 10 chapters are completed. Two students can pair up to write a story with this app, or students can write stories with an unknown author who already has an existing story in the making. Oh, and by the way, that’s not my coffee mark, that’s actually how the settings page looks!



Notability-This is a fantastic app that helps students in the preparation of writing. This app allows you to create your own notes or import a PDF and annotate it. You have the option of using handwriting, typing, importing pictures, and recording.

As a teacher, I can receive my students’ papers by email in PDF format, import them into Notability, and write directly on their PDF papers all of my corrections, comments, and suggestions. I can also record a reminder, or encouragement within it, then email it back to the student. I will no longer have to wait until I am face-to-face with a student to explain my notes. Likewise, students don’t have to wait in class until I have time to speak with them about their papers. And I don’t feel like I’m doing twice the work-first by reviewing and grading and second, by conferencing, which can now be done with audio recording on the paper. When I email it back to the student, I have an option of emailing back the annotated PDF as paper only or paper and audio.

Lists for Writers/Storyteller: These are simplistic apps that help the student to brainstorm all the constituent parts of a story. These apps supply ideas on character attributes, the setting, and the plot to help students decide on the focus of their literary piece. If the students do not have access to an iPad, the teacher can simply project the screens with the Eiki and a $40.00 connector. The students can then view the different ideas for character, setting, and plot creation, then brainstorm amongst themselves.

TitleHelper, Character Prompts &  A+Writing Prompts: These apps can be utilized by both teacher and student. These apps will help students who need additional help in coming up with ideas, or just knowing how to start. TitleHelper helps to generate possible titles give a list of “patterns”, and Character Prompts leads students through the different attributes of a potential character. And from both a teacher and a student perspective, these prompts are not boring, for example, a writing prompt can be something like this: A love triangle between an elf, a wizard and a human change the world.

Dragon Dictation & Speak it! : These apps are wonderful for students with special needs, or teachers with tired eyes. Speak it! is also a good app in that whatever you paste onto its desktop will be read back to you. This of course paired with a set of headphones could help students with visual impairments. Teachers could also download free copies of ebooks, Gutenberg selections, or any text that is copyright free into Speak it! and students with visual impairments can listen to the automated voice read back. Unfortunately, the text itself cannot be enlarged within this program. My search for both reading text and enlarging text thus far has been unsuccessful. Dragon Dictation allows students to dictate onto it as it creates a written text that can then be emailed to the teacher; however the student must have good enunciation or the teacher will receive students’ work that is unintelligible. Otherwise, this is a great app to use with students who have dexterity problems.

SimpleMinds, iThoughts HD & Idea Sketch: These apps can be used as both a study aid or a writing aid. They allow students to create graphic organizers for a variety of purposes. SimpleMinds and Idea Sketch are the simplest giving the students quick maneuverability of the process, but iThoughts, though more complicated, allows for the importing of images into the graphic organizer, the pasting of text, and also allows for two separate unrelated concepts within a single web. This could help in teaching compare and contrast of two or more story plots, or compare and contrast of two or more characters and their attributes, etc.

myMemoir: This app uses multiple journals to allow the budding writer to add text, photos, and video to personalized journals and publish them with ePub, and it is also an open eBook standard, meaning it can be opened by any eBook reader.



 MoodWorks Creative Writing: I am really excited about this app. This application was developed by a teacher from Humboldt State University who is also an international poet and workshop leader. The app takes students through interesting practice exercises daily. For example, for teaching dialogue, this app will list several practice dialogue options such as: a teenage girl telling her mom that she is pregnant, or someone trying to talk their way out of a speeding ticket, or two thieves planning out how to rob a house, etc. The students are instructed to practice writing a dialogue and then share it with a partner to discover if their dialogues sound natural, if they make sense, and if they are interesting. I really believe this app to be a must-have for any writing teacher.

 ScriptsPro and Elite Prompter: These apps work in tandem. The Scripts Pro app allows students to write their play in screen play format with each character’s lines while the Elite Prompter is a teleprompter that will display the character’s lines in enlarged text. Teachers can also use this in conjunction with an Eiki to enlarge text further.

Blog docs: This app allows the entire class or an individual student to post text as a blog HTML along with added images, handwriting, and multiple partner signatures. This app allows you to draw on top of images and also incorporates splashes of text colors.

Writer’s Studio: This app allows for writing, drawing, painting, importing of images that you can scale and rotate, and audio for narration or character dialogue. After completing a literary piece, it can be viewed on Apple TV via airplay, it can be published instantly on YouTube or emailed  as a .mov file. This would be a great app to motivate an entire class to write a class mini book and then have it published on YouTube, and it can also be sent to parents via airplay or email.


Khan Academy: This app allows viewers quick access over 1000 instructional videos. Most of the videos are involving mathematics, but some are on art history.

Educreations:  This app works as a recordable whiteboard for your very own lesson creations. If you wish to share your lesson(s) with the rest of the world, you can do so on the app, or upload it to Facebook, embed it into your blog, your website, or email it.

Before beginning a series of tutorial lessons, you may want to open a teacher account and log your students onto that account. This action makes your lessons private and it also allows for any published student work to be available for review online. Also, the lessons that are public have been neatly organized by subject area.

SparkNotes: Yes, it’s wonderful. It has literature, Shakespeare, poetry, philosophy, drama and short stories.






NatGeoToday: This app is from the National Geographic Today. It features beautiful pictures, information and videos which can all be used to assist students in finding interesting research topics for social studies.

Technology Moves Literacy

By Alvarez

This post is written by a student in READ 4351 Learning through Literacy. Students in this course are part of the high school and all-level teacher preparation programs and are pursuing certification in a wide variety of subject areas.

After spending some quality time with one of my cousins, I have come to a conclusion that the modern day teen, or adults, have now morphed into the modern day technology. My cousin wishes to remain anonymous; we shall call her Mary to respect her privacy. Mary spends most of her time on her cell phone, like most of us nowadays do. There I found that she spends time on text-messaging with family and friends, social networking, gaming, homework on the computer, or even just watching her favorite television shows. She used technology to share her opinions, read literary pieces, and watch literary-inspired film. I grew up with less technology and seeing all this makes me realize that time changes. Even if they are not outside getting their knees scraped, jumping puddles, or climbing trees, they have a bigger advantage by using literacy found by using technology. I saw Mary text with her friends and she could hold up to five conversations at a time. She read an average of one sentence and at time she received forward messages that were very lengthy. She read all of them and answered back with proper grammar; I cannot say the same about her friends because they would cut words or used some sort of slang to text. In her text messages, she also received messages from Facebook, so she would continually sign in to Facebook and check her messages or comments.

When Mary sat down to watch TV, we saw a lot of literacy too. Commercials take advantage of viewers to promote their products, many advertised by calling others by mailing, but both required some sort of reading. Mary is surrounded by technology and has to adapt to the new technology that is coming out. Mary’s little brother plays video games and we took a peek at one of his games, Call of Duty Black Ops. He was playing online so he communicated with people all over the world. His game had literacy too, because he had to follow what the screen said and focus on missions.

We can say that technology has reached everyone and now it is up to us to receive it with arms wide open so that we can become literate by using technology and not just reading newspapers or articles. We now have a choice on what we read, all thanks to technology. Having technology around is not a bad thing; people nowadays are hooked on the new era and rely on it. Technology has now come into our lives and is here to stay. We should learn how to adapt to it because it promotes a lot of literacy for everyone, even if it comes from a text message or even a TV commercial, it has the power to make us literate just as an English teacher would.

Facebook: A New Form of Literacy for the Next Generation?

By Amanda

This post is written by a student in READ 4351 Learning through Literacy. Students in this course are part of the high school and all-level teacher preparation programs and are pursuing certification in a wide variety of subject areas.

Whether you have a Facebook account to keep in contact with friends and family, have a business or educational page, or even had one at one point in your life just to “check it out”, Facebook has become a trend that a person just cannot avoid.  This fad has even gone as far as proving the saying, “Everyone and their mother has one” to be true.  A social networking site, once meant solely for college students, now houses members ranging from kids as young as eleven years-old to adults sixty years and older.  There  is no argument necessary when stating that the majority of people who have a Facebook account spend an immense amount of time and energy on this site.  Students even go as far as posting status’ like “I hope I can stay off FB for just one day so I can study!”  A statement saying, yes I know I need to study for this extremely important exam but for some reason Facebook seems to be much more important. 

With such a large amount of time spent on this social networking site, one has to wonder what skills, if any, do we actually get out of using Facebook so much?  Now there is no argument that can be made about Facebook being a wonderful way of keeping in contact with friends, family, school assignments, and other events going on in our lives however, can one go as far as saying that solid literacy skills can be gained from using Facebook?  Survey says……….NOT! 

Facebook posts do not involve a high quantity of reading, nor quality, for the fact that posts are written in a more relaxed lingo compared with the academic language found in novels, textbooks, newspapers, etc. where the main purpose is to gain knowledgeable information.  You almost never see correct punctuation anywhere on Facebook and abbreviations like ‘LOL, FML, WTF, SMH’ are seen everywhere.  Although one can say reading is reading no matter what format it may be in, the language found on Facebook can be pretty detrimental to anyone’s literacy skills, especially for those who spend a large amount of time on Facebook.  A person may even get so used to using this informal language that all of a sudden when having a face to face conversation with someone, they may feel the urge to say ‘LOL’ instead of just laughing out loud!  Trust me, it happens!

Changing Forms of Literacy

By Priscilla D. Torres

This post is written by a student in READ 4351 Learning through Literacy. Students in this course are part of the high school and all-level teacher preparation programs and are pursuing certification in a wide variety of subject areas.

New literacies are made possible by digital technology developments which usually involve instant messaging, blogging, social networking, downloading, texting, video casting, e-mailing, and much more. Could this new technology improve or handicap the literacy of the upcoming generation today?

In an interview I conducted with a seventeen-year-old Edinburg high school senior, the female student discussed that when she doesn’t understand something in a textbook or doesn’t quite understand what the teacher is explaining, she’ll just pull out her IPod and search for the answer. This was interesting because she did not mention getting up and going over to pick up a dictionary or reference book. She used informational literacy to look up a particular problem at hand. These students in classrooms no longer have to wait till lunch or after school to go to the library to find an answer. They can just pull it right out of their pocket and search for it within a few seconds.

Adolescents today spend much more time in front of a computer than playing outside. Reading for school, for fun, and talking on the phone with friends are done less nowadays,  if not at all. Watching T.V, playing video games (including IPod), and participating in extracurricular activities are considered free time now. I asked the student how often she spends time in front of a computer. Her reply was that she spends over five hours surfing the internet and writing (writing to friend’s online, blogging, and text messaging). I remember back then when a computer was only used for business work and playing outside was much more of a priority than being inside. The generation today is completely different. Now you can’t even get these adolescents to get off the computer and have them help water the grass. Nowadays, a cell phone is needed wherever one goes. I feel that adolescents are much worse when it comes to this. For example, in school settings, teachers are constantly warning students to turn off all phones, especially during standardized testing. Yet, there’s always that one student who fails to listen and it goes off during the middle of an exam distracting everyone. Although this technology is important, it is also a major distraction.

During my observation with the seventeen year old adolescent, I noticed the absurd amount of time and energy she puts into text messaging her peers. Her main objective was to finish up a homework assignment for school; she continued to do so taking small breaks to look at her phone. This made me wonder if traditional literacy was declining and if adolescents in her generation would ever have trouble reading and writing due to this new technology evolving. The adolescent discussed how she doesn’t know cursive and how the school just taught them for a week and moved them into the computer lab to learn how to type. When I was in school a few years back, I remember when my peers and I would write letters to each other during passing periods as a form of communication. Although we would have to wait hours at a time to receive the next “letter,” technology today eliminates the “waiting time” and offers a quick response.

I was worried if text messaging short hand would replace traditional literacy and dumb down the new generation. So far, research has claimed that these adolescents are at an advantage and are able to read and write more starting at an earlier age. Lily Huang, a writer for World News stated in her article “The Death of English,” “that children who texted-and who wielded plenty of abbreviations–scored higher on reading and vocabulary tests. In fact, the more adept they were at abbreviating, the better they did in spelling and writing (Huang, 2008).” These results were astounding to me because I always thought texting abbreviations would influence the new generation skills in literacy.

Literacy Through Entertainment

By Joel

This post is written by a student in READ 4351 Learning through Literacy. Students in this course are part of the high school and all-level teacher preparation programs and are pursuing certification in a wide variety of subject areas.

Literacy through entertainment is a new phenomenon that is having a major positive impact in today’s adolescent society.  With today’s fast growing technology, literacy is being seen, heard, and read across all different types of media.  These different types of media include the internet, television, radio, and social magazines. 

Today’s teachers have to incorporate a new way of teaching to today’s adolescents with the help of technology that is influencing our adolescents.  Social websites such as facebook, and twitter keep all of society up to date with what a individual is thinking and doing at that exact moment of the day.  This technological advancement can be used to help students stay on track with what assignments are due and who has the next chapter in the group work that is due tomorrow.  Social clubs such as the science, math, art, etc., can also keep track of important dates and rely information to other members that might not be there in person. 

The technological advancement of computers probably has had the most impact in helping today’s adolescent practice better literacy skills.  Spell checker which is on almost every single computer and lab top has helped countless amounts of people spell the correct word they are trying to type.  Some might see this as a step back on helping people practice better literacy skills, but I see it as a positive step forward in helping students see the errors that they make and then showing them the correct way to spell it.  This not only helps prevent spelling errors in the future, but also gives students a broader landscape of how they are improving their literacy skills. 

Since adolescents are strongly influenced by the entertainment culture that surrounds them it is a good idea to incorporate several out of school materials that discuss the content subject you are teaching.  Doing this will further spark interest in your students and give them a initiative of working on out of school research.  This will also keep them from getting bored to death of the same school work they have to endure throughout all their academic years.  Entertainment certainly does have it’s value in today’s school agenda.  Since I am going to be a music teacher, I am looking forward to incorporate and practice literacy through entertainment.  I will make sure all of my students are fully aware of how music can influence society and spark change for the better.