Mark Ahlness not only shared great perspectives from his classroom about “Technology and Literacy” at the recent International Reading Association’s conference in Toronto, but by presenting asynchronously via video and synchronously via a Skype chat he also shared a powerful object lesson about teaching, learning, and professional development in the 21st century. I’ve been able to follow Mark’s great work helping develop 21st century writers in his 3rd grade classroom the past couple of years, and it is wonderful he was able to share many of his students’ perspectives as well as his own at IRA.

Check out the links and resources on the pbwiki page he created for the presentation, as well as his blog post reflecting on the presentation experience.

In the video “Sustained Silent Reading…from blogs”, Mark included recorded thoughts from his students who had experimented with SSR with blogs. The following are some of the observations shared by students in the recording:

  1. Students enjoyed reading nonfiction texts in blogs, which some reported they usually read less often in school.
  2. Students liked the choices and options which blogs provided. They liked to select their own hyperlinked pathways for learning.
  3. Students liked reading things that were written by other young students. Without blogs, they likely would not have had access to those voices.
  4. Students liked being able to comment on blogs.

Through this video and audio recording, Mark is challenging the established idea that students should JUST be reading chapter books during SSR time in school. I think this challenge is needed. I heard a podcast recorded by Bob Sprankle awhile back (Kevin Perks on teaching strategies for reading Informational Texts) which discussed the VITAL importance of helping our students read nonfiction / informational texts. A HUGE percentage of the texts students will be required to both consume and PRODUCE in their lives / for their jobs after their years of formal education will be informational / nonfiction. We tend to over-emphasize fictional texts in English and Language Arts classes.

Kudos to Mark for not only creating and sharing this presentation, but also challenging educators at IRA to reconsider our predominant focus on fictional texts in our classrooms!

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One Response to Emphasizing informational texts via SSR with blogs

  1. Mark Ahlness says:

    Thanks much, Wesley. My third grade group is still finding its way, in terms of identifying things to read that interest them. After several months, blogs continue to attract them – but not every day, and not everyone in the group. Just like grownups, I would guess. I hope to put together another podcast of our experiences before the year is out. We’ve got another 5 weeks to go around here… – Mark

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