Young people are reading and writing more than I ever did at their age, but they are doing it using their computers and mobile phones. The mobile is central, and will become even more so as time goes by.
Digital devices encourage our learners to read constantly and read more than we could have in the past. Unfortunately, our students are inundated with content, which they quickly skim and often share before moving onto the next reading material. They rarely question what they read, fact check, or dive deeper. Additionally, many of our learners struggle with answering reading comprehension questions and lack critical reading skills.
If we want our students to read with a critical eye then we have to teach them how to use their digital devices to annotate, evaluate, research, fact check, and question the material they read. Below are ideas and free resources to help you motivate your learners to critically evaluate their reading materials.
Get your students to evaluate how keen they are at spotting false facts, fake news, and bias by playing the Fake It or Make It online game. Discuss why it is important for them to share stories, news, and articles, which are based on facts and the truth. Then introduce them to fact-checking websites like Snopes, Fact Check, and Politifact.
Bookmarking and Curation
Saving important online resources is easier and more efficient than ever! With web tools and apps like Diigo, Pinterest, EduClipper, Livebinders, ScoopIt, and Pearltrees, students can save, collect, and organize their bookmarks for easy access later. Some of these web tools also allow students to create digital galleries or boards where they display their bookmarks in a visually stunning way.
Annotation means to digitally markup a document, website, pdf, or other content. Diigo lets you annotate pdfs and other saved bookmarks. I also like these web tools and apps for highlighting documents and leaving notes.
Newsela is a web tool, which provides reading material and news stories for students at different reading levels. Each article tests learners’ critical reading skills with quizzes and writing prompts. Students also can highlight each article and leave notes about these highlights. I ask my learners to highlight the thesis, the main ideas, and supporting details. They also highlight in a different color the words they don’t know and leave a note with the definition they looked up. They also note areas in the reading they agree or disagree with and explain why they agree or disagree. This helps students connect with the reading and dive deeper.
Owl Eyes is another web tool that has a library of literature and texts students read digitally. Students can annotate the classics and answer quizzes.
Read and Write is a web tool and Google Chrome extension students use to highlight web articles, pdfs, and texts. They can also look up any words, translate, and choose to have certain parts of the article read aloud to them.
Google Drive has the Kami app, which lets students highlight pdfs, their own writing, and other documents in different colors, add text comments, add shapes, and reads the article to them.
If you want your class to annotate and discuss an online article or text together then try Hypothes.is. Students can also like each other’s comments and respond to each other while reading the text together.
An important part of literacy and critical reading is knowing about context clues. Language learners, especially, often come across vocabulary and areas of the text they just don’t understand. Not being able to understand the text often frustrates readers to the point where they decide to give up on engaging with the text. We need them to know how to look for clues in the writing that can clear the confusion. For example, many texts will define a difficult word in the same sentence, which is indicated with commas.
Check out the following resources with more ideas on teaching context clues:
- ESL teacher Tan Huynh provides a video, infographic and tips in his post, Don’t Pre-Teach Vocabulary: Cluing ELs into Context Clues.
- Flocabulary has a fun rap song to help students learn about context clues.
- BrainPop has several resources for teaching context clues, including a video, quiz, lesson plan and activities. My favorite resources are their two context clues games kids play online, Riddle Books and The Meaning of Beep.
How do you encourage students to read critically?
Check out more of Shelly’s tips for online resources for teaching English.