Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Digital Tools to Help Build a Culture of Readers

Post first published on FTEdTech

If you were lucky enough to hear Donalyn Miller speak this week you might be feeling inspired to work on building a culture of readers that are engaged and intrinsically motivated through strategies like the 40 Book Challenge.

Not sure what I'm talking about? You can get the gist of the what the 40 book challenge is about here, and you might modify it to match the number of weeks we have left in the year:

I would also suggest before you get started, that you might want to check out Miller's 40 Book Challenge Revisited post.



Getting Started Right Now with Small Shifts

You don't have to wait until the beginning of next year to get started with something like the 40 Book Challenge. We can start making small shifts in practice to encourage wider reading.


Use your School Library

First, you don't have to worry about the size of your classroom library. Our school libraries are stacked with tons of amazing books, and our librarians are working on building e-book content that students can use 24/7. Consider a small shift that would include encouraging your students to visit the school library more frequently at appropriate times. Work with your librarian and our public library to make sure all students are set up with ebook accounts, and review with your librarian the ebook resources we have available like Epic, Pebble GO, PebbleGo Next and OverDrive.

Check out FTReads

A second small shift would be to ditch outdated practices for some more modern practices. In the Book Whisperer Miller includes many practical strategies and resources for making book recommendations for students, building that classroom library with a variety of books and getting kids writing and sharing their reading. My favorite chapter is Chapter 6: "Cutting the Teacher Strings". In this chapter Miller outlines a number of "traditional practices" with alternatives. She encourages the use of book commercials, book talks, and encouraging the idea that reading is its own incentive.


You could easily capitalize on our own FTReads and the resources there to help your students create their very own book talks and trailers. Send me or your school's librarian your favorite student projects and we can add them to the FTReads site for other students to see.

Use #FTReads when you're tweeting and share what your kids love with all of our schools.


Share Book Projects

Another simple shift that goes along with this is to create a media album in Schoology. With the media album, students can add their own book trailers, posters in PicCollage or book talks and upload to share. If students are given commenting privileges, and use Schoology through Safari (instead of the app) they will be able to interact and encourage each other using good Digital Citizenship skills.

The same type of sharing can be created using other tools like Seesaw and Flipgrid.

Use Reader's Notebooks Instead of Logs

Are you ready to ditch the reading log? Consider using the approach that Miller describes in the Book Whisperer with the idea of a Reader's Notebook that includes letters written back and forth between the student and teacher. You can grab a copy of a digital version of a notebook here


The benefit of using this in the digital form is that if you distribute it through Schoology as a Google or Microsoft Assignment, both you and your students can have access to it when needed. As a teacher, with this format, you have editing privileges and can add slides to respond to your students' letters. Students can also use this notebook to add pictures from the books with their own annotations. If they use post-it notes while reading, they can take pictures of the post-its and add as a reflection. They could also hand write their letters and take pictures of their handwritten work.

Try out Bilbionasium the Goodreads for Kids

You can expand the reader's notebook type of activity and manage the challenge through your school's access to Biblionasium (the Goodreads for kids) through your library's Destiny accounts.

Check out this introduction to Biblionasium and work with your librarian to get things started for your class:


You can run your entire challenge from Biblionasium and build a culture of reading by encouraging students to share reviews and make recommendations. This is a fantastic alternative to incentive based programs we have typically used.

Biblionasium is a fairly new tool for us. You will want to work closely with your librarian to test it out.

Model Global Communication

Many of you are just beginning to use Twitter to share what you are doing in your classrooms. Twitter is the perfect place to connect with authors and other readers. If your students make a cool project or want to share what they love about a book, look to see if the author is on Twitter, by searching for them, and tag them in a tweet.

You can also follow some role model readers and check in on their tweets periodically to see if there's something you can share with your class.

Some of my favorites on Twitter are:
Hashtags - search use these hashtags to connect, share and learn from others

  • Nerdy Book Club - here you have a tremendous resource and online community of readers sharing reviews and ideas.
  • KBA - this is the site for the Kentucky Book Awards - get your students interested in what other kids in our state are reading
  • Global Read Aloud - get really global and connect with other classes for the Global Read Aloud, happening in October
  • FTReads Day - Created by librarian Jason Gay - be on the lookout for this in March

You might even consider taking this all a step further and creating your own class blog or website that you use to share student work. If you do, make sure you send me a link so I can add it to FTReads!

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