Saturday, June 18, 2011

Wicked Problem Project - Final Project

Wicked Problem Final Project

1. What is the important educational need you are seeking to address?
Motivating and engaging my most at-risk readers during independent reading time.  

The important educational need I am seeking to address is my students’ level of excitement about reading, and their motivation to take control of and be an active participant in their own literacy development. As with every classroom, I have a wide range of academic abilities in my class. Furthermore, while some students do very well with and are very excited about reading, others find it very challenging and/or boring and are less inclined to be an active participant during our daily reader’s workshop sessions. Motivating particular students to read and/or get excited about reading has been a struggle I have faced all year. Now that we are in our last five weeks of school and my students realize that summer is just around the corner, it has become even more difficult to motivate and engage some students during our reader’s workshop sessions. For the structure of my reader’s workshop, I use a program called the Daily 5. At the beginning of each day, the students make 3 literacy center choices which they will participate in during our 60-minute reader’s workshop block (the students choose from Read-to-Self, Writing, Word Work, Listening to Reading and Read-to-a-Partner). The students can do the centers in any order they wish, my only rule is that Read-to-Self must be one of their three choices.While the students are participating in their centers, I am pulling guided reading groups to work with. Recently, I have noticed particular students who are very off-task and unmotivated to work during their Read-to-Self choice and/or our guided group time. Many of these students are considered low in terms of their reading level, and some of them are right on the edge of moving up to the next reading level. With only five weeks left in the school year, it is my goal to find a way to motivate and engage these students, and with any luck, help some of them to move up to the next reading level before the end of the school year.

2. How do you plan to address this educational issue with technology? 
Have my most at-risk reader record his own audio books to use during independent reading time, as well as to track his progress. 

To address this educational issue, I plan on having my most at-risk reader, record himself reading books at his current reading level to then listen to as audiobooks, as one of his Daily 5 choices. I purchased 8 MP3 players at the beginning of the year to use for the Daily 5 choice Listen-to-Reading, but did not have the funds to purchase audiobooks for the MP3 players, nor all of the hard copies to go along with the audio files. Although I did purchase a few with my own funds, I eventually just decided to leave out the Listening-to-Reading choice during Daily 5. However, I did allow every student, at one point during the year, to use the MP3 players to listen to what few audiobooks I did have and it was a huge success. The students brought in their own headphones and were able to listen to the audiobooks, while following along in a hard copy of the book. The students were excited and engaged. Thus, my hope is to take my most at-risk reader and let him record a few audiobooks to listen to during independent reading time, with the hope of motivating and engaging him as a reader.

3. What is the TP knowledge for the solution?
As stated in Part A, in my classroom I use a program called the Daily 5 as the structure for my literacy block. The students make 3 choices from 5 literacy stations: Read-to-Self, -Read-to-a-Partner, Listening-to-Reading, Word Work and Writing. The students can make any 3 choices, in any order. While the students are engaged in a literacy center, I am working with students one-on-one, or in small groups. For the center, Listening-to-Reading, I have audio books on MP3 players for the students to use. Each student has his or her own pair of headphones and can choose from a large selection of books, which one they want to listen to/follow along with. Because my students are already comfortable using the MP3 players, I thought this would be an excellent technology to use for this project.

Given that there are only two weeks left in the school year, for this project I decided to work with only one student, my lowest student (from a reading-level standpoint). His home and past academic situations have made his experience in my classroom most interesting and it has been very difficult to motivate him to read, or even try to read, independently during literacy centers. He does, however, love to listen to the audio books on the MP3 players. Thus, I thought having him record his own audio books would be a great way to engage and motivate him to be an active participant in his literacy development.

In regards to how this technology supports teaching strategies and methods I have chosen, every day when this particular student makes his Daily 5 choices, I have him make Read-to-Self as one of his choices. During that time, I pull him and we find books at his reading level for him to record on the MP3 players. We practice the books together, discuss different strategies good readers use when they read (as far as word decoding goes as this is his biggest struggle) and when he feels ready, he records the books onto the MP3 player. Then, during his Listening-to-Reading center choice, he is able to listen to the books he has recorded while following along in the book.

4. What is the TC knowledge for the solution?
As a first year teacher, in a district without a core reading program, teaching first graders how to read has proven to be a huge challenge for me this year. I have had to pull from multiple resources and essentially create my own reading program. I have found, however, several technological resources, including audio books, to be some of the most engaging and motivating resources. I have used multiple websites (including and the MP3 players, as opposed to the traditional leveled books, to use with my students during reader’s workshop and guided group time. The biggest differences I have noticed using the audio books and websites versus the traditional “round robin” approach with leveled books, is the students’ level of engagement, the students’ discovery and acclamation of new vocabulary, and the students fluency development. Listening to the audio books while following along with the words on he page (or screen, in the case of the websites), allows the students to not only hear the fluency, but also spend more time discovering new words and comprehending the texts, as opposed to exerting all of their energy on decoding the words. I have found that by using the audio books in my classroom, the students are less frustrated during guided group time and more excited about reading. Furthermore, given the vast selection of audio books out there, I have been able to find books to go along with the specific phonics concepts we are working on in class, whether it be long or short vowels, digraphs, blends, contractions, etc.

5. What is the PC knowledge for the solution?
By using the audio books to motivate and engage said student, as well as given the structure of the Daily 5 program, I am able to work one-on-one with my student, as well as let him work independently because of his familiarity with the technology. While it has been incredibly beneficial to work with him one-on-one, I have also seen the sense of pride and accomplishment he gets from overcoming his academic challenges independently. By working with him one-on-one first and helping him to utilize the decoding strategies we have worked on together throughout the year, I can then let him work independently to record the audio books and then listen to them on the MP3 player, where he can spend more time engaged in really thinking about and comprehending the books, as opposed to being frustrated and unmotivated that he is struggling to even decode the words. Thus, I have created a selection of books for my student to choose from to record. First I will have him record books that are slightly below his reading level, because I know he will master them and for the purpose of introducing this project to him, I want him to first see he can be successful with it. After these first recordings, I will let him choose from books at his level, that include phonics concepts he needs additional help with (long vowels, blends and digraphs). Finally, once he has seen he can be successful with books at his reading level, my ultimate hope is to have him record a book slightly above his reading level. Also, I will have him use the MP3 players for multiple practice sessions with the same book to help him improve his fluency. As Susan informed me, "Studies indicate that when students read a passage or short story several times in a row - fluency improves. Becoming a fluent reader in the younger grades is crucial. Statistics indicate that students who have fluency issues in the first grade, grow up to be non-fluent readers in later elementary. Multiple readings is a strategy is a part of both the Read Naturally program and the Six Minute Solution. "

Research to Support Project (Revised from Part A Blog Post)
Much of the research/resources that guided my project was past experiences with  and observations of the Daily 5 program in action. Specifically, the level of engagement of students during the Listening-to-Reading center. I’ve observed the program in 3 different classrooms, as well as successfully implemented the program in two classrooms of my own. Furthermore, I also researched the use of audio books and the impact on student reading achievement. Much of the information I found cited the direct link between the use of audio books and students’ reading fluency. After reviewing Sue's comments, I also took some time to explore some different reading programs such as Read Naturally, which notes that, "Repeated reading is another strategy that research has shown improves fluency." I also reviewed my Daily 5 book and the research based lesson on the "Listening to Reading" center, where it was noted, "Hearing good examples of literature and fluent reading expands your vocabulary, builds stamina and helps you become a better reader." 

For additional research,  Google Scholar was the main search engine I used. I found several articles on podcasting and MP3 Players as emerging technologies in today’s classrooms. I also found several articles regarding the use of technology in the classroom to increase students’ level of motivation and engagement. One theme that I continuously came across during my research was that while technology can be used to motivate and engage students, what is most important is that the tasks being performed need to be meaningful for students. This recurring theme is what helped me to decide to have the students record their own audio books, as opposed to just having them listening to audio books that I could purchase. I want this project to be meaningful for my students; I want them to take control of and be invested in their literacy development. I feel that by having the students create their own audio books, they are engaging in a meaningful project where they have to be responsible for their own learning. Furthermore, by the end of the project, they will have a finished product that will give them a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Articles and Websites that Support Project:
  1. Learning Through Listening 
  2. MP3 Audiobooks: A New Library Medium? 
  3. Supplemental Instruction in Early Reading: Does it Matter for Struggling Readers?
  4. The Daily Cafe: Listening-To-Reading

1 comment:

  1. By the end of this presentation, my mind began focusing on the struggling readers that will be coming to me in the fall. I'm hoping to use listening centers for my students, as well. I have been given a set of Read Naturally materials, audio cassettes, and tape players - a little low tech, but I'm hoping I see the results you realized with your young man. Good luck as you work on expanding this project in the fall.