Research and studies have found that students who are reading proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to graduate high school than their peers reading below grade level. In the United States, preparing for the critical third-grade shift is also key for the more than 10 percent of students who are English Learners according to NCES, 2017.
It is especially crucial for students learning to read and write in English apart from high-quality reading instruction in order to prepare to “read to learn” by third grade. For all students especially the ones learning English, quality reading instruction including explicit, targeted direction and practice in areas such as phonological awareness, phonics skills, vocabulary, oral language fluency, and comprehension is very effective. However, it becomes increasingly difficult to provide explicit, targeted instruction for every student for every reading skill as classrooms grow and needs of students within the same classroom can vary widely. That said, technology-based supplements to reading instruction can provide teachers with tools to differentiate the teaching of these early literacy skills well before students reach third grade and here are a few examples of how technology could be used to support both the teacher and the student in building foundational reading skills in the early grades.
Filling in gaps
Students enter school with varying degrees of pre-exposure to reading activities in both their native as well as the English language. A student might be a strong speaker but doesn’t fully understand the meaning all the words they are using. A technology-based approach can be used in such cases to target skill gaps that are personalized to each student. Additionally, even if only one student in the classroom needs practice with a particular skill or set of vocabulary words, the information presented digitally can be shown over and over. Using a technology tool for individualized instruction also comes in handy when a student may be in second grade but has kindergarten-level vocabulary knowledge, as the tech tool can aid teachers in instructing reading skills from outside their current grade-level of expertise.
Removing time constraints
Working one-on-one to target each child’s individual skill development needs can be a huge challenge within the time limits of the school day. Hence technology tools allow each student to independently work on the skills they need all at the same time. Digital tools can also produce actionable data for teachers that may translate into time savings like pinpointing specific areas in which students need extra practice can help teachers better plan their time for whole-class and small-group lessons by taking into account the specific needs of their classrooms.
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