Genius Hour Project

Exploring Technology Used in Schools for Struggling Readers

by Shannon Peterman

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Why does this even matter...?

When I first found out about this Genius Hour Project, I immediately knew what I wanted to research -- What technologies/technological resources can be used to assist students that are struggling readers? Reading has always been something I have held dear, and during my time as an Early Childhood Education major here at UGA, reading education has become just as important to me. Through my field placements I have already been able to see a variety of ways that reading is taught, and have even had my own guided reading groups. However, it was not until this past semester's placement that I saw technology being used as a support in reading education. The few resources used by my mentor teacher seemed to really aid my students throughout the year in their growth as readers. My curiosity was sparked, though! What other resources are out there? What technological tools are ready and waiting to be used as reading supports? As a pre-service teacher that greatly values reading and wants to instill my love for books in all my future students, I was motivated by both my curiosity and my desire to better my teaching to give this project my all and discover all of the technologies that can be used in reading education, specifically for struggling readers.

So what did I find?

From iPad apps to computer programs, I found technological tools galore! Below are the categories of technologies. Under each category is a list of tools/resources, each with a quick description/purpose. By presenting it in this fashion, my hopes are to make it easy for other teachers to quickly find a technological resource to use! For instance, if their class uses iPads and he/she wants an app that will assist a group of readers struggling with word comprehension, they can easily skim through the list and find the best support to use!

iPad Apps

  • Sentence Builder
    -Challenges students to build grammatically correct sentences
    -Reading fluency, writing fluency, comprehension, vocabulary (i.e. parts of speech)
  • Jumbled Sentences
    -Comes in a series and allows students to interactivity unscramble words to form sentences with them
    -Reading fluency, writing fluency, comprehension, vocabulary (i.e. parts of speech)
  • Reading Remedies
    -Students read broken-down passages and then play activities afterwards that require them to recall what they read
    -Comprehension, fluency, phonics (breaks down certain words), vocabulary (allows for sight words to be used)
  • Enchanted Dictionary
    -Words must be unscrambled in order to form a definition sentence; subject area can be picked (i.e. science vocabulary words, mathematics vocabulary words, etc.)
    -Vocabulary, comprehension, fluency
  • Reading Trainer
    -Aims to improve retention rate and reading speed using fast-paced exercises
    -Fluency (i.e. WPM), comprehension


These are just a few of the countless reading support apps that are out there! When it comes down to choosing one to integrate into your reading instruction, it is all about what the needs of your specific students are and what they are struggling with.

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A preview of Jumbled Sentences
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A preview of Enchanted Dictionary

Computer Programs/Software

  • SuccessMaker Reading
    -Able to individually focus on the needs of the student using it; incorporates Common Core and other subject areas; variety of activities focusing on different elements of reading instruction
    -Comprehension, writing fluency, reading fluency, vocabulary, phonics, parts of speech, sight words
  • Accelerated Reader
    -Assesses students' reading levels, provides books/reading material on that level, and quizzes students on said books
    -Fluency, comprehension
  • MultiFunk
    -Very similar to Accelerated Reader; allows students to make a profile dependent on skills/preferences and activities/reading materials are then based off these individual profiles
    -Comprehension, fluency, spelling


I did not find as many computer programs/software as I did iPad apps, leaving me to believe the use of apps has become more popular. However, these resources are just as effective and can even be cheaper (many of the apps cost money, especially when buying for every student's iPad).

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A preview of SuccessMaker Reading

Websites

  • BrainPop
    -Provides short videos along with quizzes on a variety of topics/subject areas
    -Comprehension, fluency, parts of speech (depending on the video), phonics (depending on the video), grammar (depending on the video), spelling (depending on the video)
  • Starfall
    -Focuses in on different reading levels in order to teach students how to read/how to better read
    -Comprehension, fluency
  • Padlet
    -Essentially a digital word wall; can create a class set or have an individual set in order to focus in on difficult words
    -Vocabulary, sight words, fluency


There are many more websites out there -- this is the twenty-first century, after all! However, being an early childhood education major I have focused more on websites that would be essential supports for the K-5 student.

Moving forward

I can only hope you learned as much as I did concerning technologies/technological tools that can be used for struggling readers! Just from the research I have done this semester, I feel infinitely more confident about my reading instruction in my future classroom. I truly feel like the information I have learned will make me a better teacher and allow me to better cater to my future students' needs. I can only hope you now feel this confidence, too!

If you would like to learn more, I encourage you to look at my Genius Hour Blog, as well as continue some research on your own!

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