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Engaging Students in Reading and Writing With Interactive Whiteboards

Some critics claim that interactive whiteboards (IWBs) are glorified, expensive projectors. I suppose they are, if they are used as a presentation tool and not as a learning tool that requires student interaction. There are effective ways of implementing an Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) into reading and writing without a lot of time or technological skills. The key is to make sure the activities are interactive, as the name suggests. 

Improving Reading Comprehension

During reading, I use interactive flash objects such as word matchingword sorts, and sequencing sentences that engage students in prereading and postreading activities. The interactive objects are similar to templates; I input the information and the students manipulate the objects. These activities have students out of their seats, motivated and engaged in learning. Minimal technological skills are required to enrich lessons in this manner. Watch the video to see how I created an interactive vocabulary matching activity. 

Still, how do you get students engaged in higher level thinking during reading? I don’t reinvent the wheel. I use strategies that I already use in my classroom. One of my favorite comprehension strategies is think-aloud, as it illustrates the thought processes that occur during reading. Students, especially in middle school, are more willing to take risks if they see that the teacher, too, has to process what is being read. Using the  SMART Notebook pen, I can write on any projected image: e-book, e-magazine, Web site, or video. After projecting a text image, I model what my brain is thinking by reading aloud, pausing, and explaining my thought processes. IWB tools make this oral activity visual and engaging. I can highlight text, or stamp a smiley face when making text-to-selftext-to-text, and text-to-world connections. I may even post a question mark, if I am confused and cannot comprehend a word or passage.

When reading nonfiction, I tell my students to think like a lawyer and highlight the evidence to support opinions or defend an answer. After I model the activity, the students engage in guided practice using the IWB tools to mark their own annotations while explaining their thought processes to the class. With guided practice, my students are more successful at transferring this skill into literature circle discussions and independent reading activities. 

For instance, on my class Web site is a SMART lesson, "Basketball, Then and Now," which exemplifies how I enrich everyday classroom materials with an IWB. In this example, students read an article from Storyworks, a language arts magazine published by Scholastic. I have a classroom subscription; any electronic resource will work. YouTube videos are also embedded to provide background knowledge to improve comprehension. Many videos can be found at SchoolTube and TeacherTube as well.


Writer’s Workshop

In addition to aiding in reading, IWBs are highly effective in Writer’s Workshop. I start out by highlighting parts of a sentence, the subject and the predicate, to teach simple sentence structure. Later, I use highlighting to teach compound and complex sentence structures by highlighting dependent and independent clauses in contrasting colors. Eventually, students highlight and analyze varying sentence structures in an “expert’s” writing sample, which they use as a model when venturing out on their own. Interactive flash objects in writing include flip bars, click and reveal boxes, pull tabs, etc. The exercise "Run-on Sentences" is a good one for Writing Workshop. You may download it and modify it to fit your needs. It was created using varying interactive components.


Using Reading as a Model for Writing

How do I pull reading and writing together? I use reading as a model for writing. For example, many students at this age level struggle with organizational patterns in nonfiction texts; therefore, I use nonfiction reading passages as a model for writing nonfiction. We begin by highlighting cause-and-effect or compare-contrast patterns as a class. The students finish highlighting in a think-pair-share activity. Independently, the students use the annotated “expert’s writing” as a model to guide them in writing their own articles, mimicking the “expert’s” pattern. Implementing an IWB provides the opportunity for students of varying learning styles to interact and engage in the learning process.

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