Grant enhances A-W students’ reading lessons

Posted October 24, 2013 at 5:00 am

By Julie Ann Madden

j ebooks used during reading time Carter Wilken Jack Terpstra tyler Wetrosky.tif

Second graders Carter Wilken, Jack Terpstra and Tyler Wetrosky are reading eBooks on their new mini iPads.The eBooks were purchased with an Akron Community Foundation grant.

Akron-Westfield Grades DK-2 have new opportunities in learning how to read.

First, they can read a book to themselves.

Second, they can listen to the book be read; or

Third, they cannot only read the book but do interactive activities to increase their spelling, vocabulary, pronunciation and knowledge of books’ components.

And not one of these options requires a teacher or adult sitting by their sides.

A student getting frustrated because they have to wait for a teacher or other adult to read it to them or wait for help with words they don’t know or understand may soon be a thing of the past.

All three of these new reading skill options were made possible by an $1,800 grant from the Akron Community Foundation.

The grant funds were used to purchase electronic books (eBooks) through the Scholastic Storia computer application. Now the eBooks have been downloaded on to the Grades DK-2 students’ iPads.

“Students — even in Discovergarten — know all about how to use their iPads,” said Palmer, noting students can actually teach the teachers some iPad technological tips and tricks.

Each of the nine Grades DK-2 teachers was given $200 of the grant funds to purchase eBooks, according to A-W Second Grade teacher Carol Palmer who submitted the grant.

When teachers purchase Scholastic books, they earn “bonus” points which gives them the option of getting even more books at no cost.

Therefore, Palmer purchased 92 eBooks for her second grade class, of which about 20 were through bonus points.

“Scholastic Storia” has thousands of eBooks at every reading level, explained Palmer. “Scholastic Storia,” which can be used on iPads, computers and with classroom document cameras, is a way to integrate eBooks into the curriculum.

“Storia eBooks can help students become better readers by motivating them to read a variety of books and to practice their reading skills,” she said. “ Students are so motivated, they check their ‘Storia bookshelf’ and read these eBooks immediately.”

eBooks don’t teach reading, said Palmer, explaining they reinforce the reading lessons teachers teach.

For Discovergarteners, the eBooks reinforce how to read and turn pages of a book as they listen to the book being read. With some of the books, the words are highlighted as the story is read out loud via the computer. This way students learn to read words on pages by following the words as they are highlighted.

For first and second graders, some of the books are curriculum-based — relating to what the students are learning in subjects such as science or Social Studies.

For example, an eBook on frogs matches the science lessons Palmer is teaching her second graders.

One of the advantages of the books is the integrated activities. In the eBook on frogs, students can click on a video that shows how tadpoles hatch from eggs, what they look like and their movements in water.

Also, if students don’t understand a word such as the word “pryoclastic,” clicking on it pops up a box with a written definition of the word and the eBook computer pronounces it and reads the definition aloud.

Students learn how to spell the word, pronounce it and its meaning — all from the touch of a finger on the word in the eBook, said Palmer.

Students Read eBooks

Palmer places one eBook a week on each of her students’ Scholastic Storia bookshelves on their iPads.

For second grader Luke Meinen, he is excited.

The first week he was given an eBook about the differences between polar bears and grizzly bears.

He likes nonfiction factual books, and even though it had been more than a week since he’d read that book, Meinen still remembered in a fight between the two bears, the grizzly would win. A grizzly is 8 feet tall and a polar bear is 10 feet tall he told The Akron Hometowner.

Last week, he learned three new words in a book on volcanoes.

Not only could the second grader pronounce the word “obsidian” but he showed The Akron Hometowner exactly where the word was written in the book and what it meant.

The second grader also prefers eBooks because they don’t get damaged, fall apart like print books. Also, on iPads, the lighted background makes the print and photographs easier to see.

“I read the “Volcanoes” book in two days,” said an amazed Meinen. “I read 19 pages the first day and the next day I went all the way through to the end — to 48 pages. It was weird how fast I finished it.”

Another advantage he was thrilled to explain to The Akron Hometowner was being able to enlarge photographs on the eBook pages to see what volcanic obsidian really looks like. In case readers are wondering, obsidian means “Glassy obsidian (rock) is made from quickly cooling lava.”

“Students love the pictures,” said Palmer. “They think of it as a game but they’re learning.”

“It’s really fun and exciting for the students,” said Palmer. “Students become better readers.”

Advantages for Teachers

It’s also exciting for the teachers who are still learning all the ways they can use not only the Scholastic Storia application and eBooks but the mini iPads technology itself.

“It’s important for us to have all these books and the technology,” said Palmer, “but we don’t ever want to get completely away from all of our hard cover books because they are important in students’ education, too.”

“I feel it’s important for them to be able to use the new technology for lots of different things in their lives,” she explained. “But it’s just one of many tools we use to teach.”

Purchasing eBooks allows the teachers to enhance their reading skills lessons for students who may be struggling to read, said Palmer. It also provides the means for students to advance to higher reading levels on their own.

“It’s very important for us to have all these eBooks and technology,” said Palmer, noting teachers and people in general can purchase free books from other companies but the Scholastic eBooks have special features that many free eBooks don’t. Furthermore, Scholastic books are well-known for their educational value.

Akron-Westfield teachers can also use the Storia eBooks during Guided Reading, which is small groups of students reading together. Students can individually open the eBooks on their iPads so they can all see it at the same time — much like having several copies of a hard cover book for students to share — but only one eBook was purchased.

Teachers are also integrating other computer iPad applications to enhance teaching the state curriculum standards.

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