When I first started teaching about six years ago, one of the biggest mistakes I made was believing that reading comprehension did not consist of much more than reading texts and then answering follow-up questions. Then, everything changed when I read Mosaic of Thought by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmermann, followed by Strategies That Work by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis. Now, all of my reading comprehension instruction is encompassed by the essential question, “How can I understand while I am reading?” In other words, it is what great readers do while they are reading that makes them great. This teaching relies heavily on student metacognition and the explicit strategies of monitoring comprehension, activating and connecting to background knowledge, questioning, visualizing, inferring, determining importance in text, and summarizing and synthesizing information. (It is also my firm belief that students should be consistently using these strategies from first grade through high school.)
I am always looking for unique ways to leverage different technologies in order to teach these explicit strategies, and to help in deepening student understanding of what they read. A few weeks ago, I decided to use the augmented reality iOS app, colAR Mix, to teach the strategy of visualizing through a writing workshop. ColAR Mix is an app that literally brings drawings to life! Through the app’s official website, the user can print out coloring pages. Then, when the app’s camera is focused on the printed page, the drawing pops out of the page and animates. It is really one of those things that has to be seen to be believed.
The question that drove the lesson was, “Why are inferring and visualizing BFFS?” (By the end of the lesson, I wanted students to understand that while reading, drawing inferences is a necessary part of visualizing.) The writing workshop consisted of four steps:
- The students performed free writing with nothing in front of them for inspiration.
- The students performed free writing. For inspiration, each student used a black and white coloring page that had been printed from the app’s website.
- The students performed free writing. For inspiration, the students first colored in their coloring pages.
- The students performed free writing. For inspiration, the students animated their colored pages with the colAR Mix app. (I should also note that I told my students about all four stages before they did any writing at all. This helped to build anticipation, and they just could not wait to see what I meant by “bringing your drawing to life!”)
Once all four stages were complete, the students presented their writing, with an emphasis on how their writing improved as their inspirational coloring pages became more and more “alive” (nothing > black and white > colored > animated). As a class, we discussed (1) how the details became clearer as the students were able to better visualize what was taking place, and (2) how inferences still needed to be combined with the coloring pages in order for stories to be created.
The handout from the lesson is here. Feel free to use it!
Please let me know how you approach reading comprehension and/or the teaching of the explicit strategies!
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