Readers Adapt Their Strategies for Reading Online


At UWCSEA East, we have been implementing Reading Workshop (also known as Reader’s Workshop) to help our students develop into fluent, capable and effective readers. Our Literacy Coach Michelle Goodison has been supporting teachers in this framework, and a lot of professional development has occurred to help teachers introduce the strategies that help students best learn to read.

Increasingly, much of our reading is done online, but there is little research out there to help teachers transfer strategies from offline to online reading. Making Sense of Online Text (Educational Leadership, October 2005, Volume 63, no 2, pages 30-35) is one of the better articles I have read on the subject, but even that was written in 2005!

So what to do while the world catches up with this ‘new’ way of reading? Adapt our existing strategies for reading online as best we can.

We are lucky to have Mac computers at our school which have a lot of in-built features that support reading online.

We introduced three to Anne Marie’s 5th Grade class, taking care to connect them to strategies they already use offline.

The three strategies we introduced were:

Avoiding distractions

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We teach our students to find a comfortable place which is well-suited to reading. Online, we can easily get distracted by the visual noise of a website – the advertising, the animated gifs, the links to other pages.

Using Safari, many articles have a button called ‘Reader‘ in the address bar. Clicking this button strips the distracting information from around the main text of the page, leaving you a clean interface to focus on.

Solve Challenging Words
Just as students collect and solve challenging words in their offline reading, we can easily define words from within Safari using the built-in dictionary. Select a word, right-click (either a two finger tap or conrol + click), and the dictionary appears with the definition, right in the web browser.

Students need to be reminded to look for the definition that most makes sense given the context of the word, as we would expect offline.

Organize Thinking
Taking notes on the main idea and supporting details in a piece of writing is also important as we read. Choosing Print, then Open PDF in Preview from the print menu, and finally clicking on the pencil icon, allows students to highlight and annotate text.

For teachers, this is particularly interesting, as the PDF can be saved together with the student’s annotations, meaning you can see the effectiveness of their note-taking. This is useful in showing the progression of researching online, taking notes, and finally writing in their own words.

While we introduced these strategies to Anne Marie’s class, I flipped open my laptop and captured some video of the process. I hope this helps others introduce their students to some tools that can help them read effectively online.

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