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January 14, 2021

A Critical Eye for Remote Reading

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Through screen shares, think-alouds, and opportunities for breakout room discussions, students can dive into texts with purpose.

Instructional StrategiesTechnology
Online and hybrid learning experiences present unique challenges when helping students learn to read critically. In both classroom and distance learning environments, students interact with text in online spaces that require them to navigate digital tools and think critically about the content they come across.
Never has reading critically been more important than in a world where anyone can instantly publish online. Strategic lessons and activities can help students evaluate text and question the accuracy and authenticity of the materials in front of them. But reading critically also means having opinions and taking a stance on one's reading perspective.
Just as writing benefits from the good counsel of teachers and fellow writers, a student's reading life is enriched by inquiry-based instruction that uses open-ended questions to foster deep discussions about texts and by seeking out others' interpretations of a book or other reading material in a safe learning environment where students can test new ideas and stretch their thinking.
We can still model how to think critically about text at a distance. Through screen shares and think aloud and opportunities for breakout room discussions, students can dive into text with purpose.

Thinking Critically When Reading Online

When students type a keyword or term into a search bar, the results will require them to think critically about which information may be helpful or irrelevant and which may be intentionally distorted depending on the motives of the creator.
Teachers can model this process by thinking aloud after a search. They can walk students through their thought processes for picking and choosing between a list of websites in a set of search results. Students can see how teachers make a snap judgment to rule out certain search results and how they dig deeper into other search results to evaluate their authority.

Keyword Search Activity

  • Model your search. Talk to students about how keywords are more effective than complete sentences.
  • Send students off to brainstorm questions and keywords for their search.
  • After students have brainstormed their keywords, show them how you will gather information as you read. It is important to model how you skim or read a page on the internet to gather information and record what you've found.
  • After students have spent time gathering information, bring them back together to share their reflections and discuss any obstacles they faced while searching for information.
Tip: Although many tools have a search function, it might be helpful for student creators to try out this quick activity with a keyword search.

Thinking Critically About an Image

Show students how a picture in a read-aloud book and pictures in an online encyclopedia both provide useful information to support their thinking. Encourage higher-order thinking by asking questions such as, What information can you learn from this image? What part of the text does this image connect to? Why do you think the author included this image? Where can you go to find more information on this topic?
As you look for images to share with students, you might first turn to your favorite current events resource. This could include Newslea, Scholastic News, or the New York Times online. If you are making cross-curricular connections with a critical thinking activity, you might choose to explore one of our favorite places to find primary sources online, including the Library of Congress, National Archives, or LIFEPhotoArchive.

Think Aloud, Open-Ended Questions

As you work with students to think critically about what they encounter in online spaces, model how to ask questions as you read by thinking aloud to students. You might select one of the questions below and tailor it to the specific reading material you plan to share with students:
  • Who is in charge of this website?
  • What is the quality of the information?
  • Do they have a bias or a strong opinion on this topic?
  • I wonder why the author chose this word.
  • I wonder what type of experience the reporter has with this topic.
  • I wonder why the author wrote about this topic or chose to interview this person for the article.
Tip: If you are working with students at a distance, you can model your thinking by creating quick videos using the free tool Flipgrid Shorts.
As students think critically, modeling and supporting their note taking and annotations are essential. Ask students to think aloud with you as they explain what stood out for them in the text and provide feedback that highlights strategies like identifying the main idea and details. By periodically reviewing student note taking, you can provide support for their critical reading of a text, identify misconceptions, and recommend additional resources for them to explore.
This is an adapted excerpt from the Engaging Students in All Types of Text Quick Reference Guide.

Dr. Monica Burns is a curriculum and EdTech consultant, Apple Distinguished Educator, and founder of ClassTechTips.com. As a classroom teacher, Monica used digital tools to create an engaging, differentiated learning experience to meet the needs of her students. Monica started her blog, ClassTechTips.com, in 2012 and launched the Easy EdTech Podcast and her membership site, the Easy EdTech Club, to support educators who want to streamline technology integration. She leads workshops and provides keynote presentations to teachers, instructional coaches, administrators, and tech enthusiasts at numerous national and international conferences, including SXSW EDU, ISTE, FETC, and EduTECH. Monica is the author of Tasks Before Apps and four ASCD quick reference guides, among other publications.

 

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