How I Use It
Building literacy skills is a fundamental part of any English Language Arts class. Over the 14 years that I've spent in classrooms across a few different districts, I've bore witness to a gambit of strategies deployed for students with low literacy and functioning skills. In several instances, I've seen students literally shut down and out right refuse to participate in engaging reading activities. Have spent about half of my career in a classroom for students with disabilities, I've witnessed first hand how reading skills can impact the well being of students from elementary to adult education. As such, when it came down to using the Bookshare website to assist students with reading assignments, it just made sense.
I currently work at a District level with minimal interactions with students. To vet this program before suggesting it to the teachers and leaders of my district, I worked with one special education teacher to use the system with her students. After the particularly grueling registration process, the teacher and I decided to work one on one with a few students to test out the website. After the learning curve associated with creating accounts, the work was smooth sailing.
The students with whom we worked were able to access selected pieces of literature and listen as their devices (we used a computer and an iPad) provided a natural "read along." Going in to the vetting process, the teacher and I deiced that we would focus on using the materials to help students build fluency. As such, we assigned each student a pair of headphones and asked him or her to read along with the recording. In an attempt to get the students "hooked" on the site, the teacher and I incentivized the work by conducting fluency assessments before and after the practice. We told the students that this website would serve as their "fluency warm up" in that they could access the website at their leisure and simply practice reading with their "digital partner." The teacher and I were convinced that our idea was pure genius!
While our particular loos may have resembled a Read Naturally program, the teacher and I found the ability to choose in print test the most beneficial. I was completely in agreement when the students choose works to listen to, even when they had no books with which to follow.
Overall, I see Bookshare as a rather incredible platform. While I am uncertain as to the level in which my non-readers will interface with the website, I do feel confident that our highly motivated and self-regulated students will rely on the site to assist with reading fluency and access to reading materials once the student is in the safety of his or her own home. I have ways been a fan of technology that can continue to "teach" while the teacher is away (primarily during homework hours). As such, I look forward to recommending this product to our families and students as the new year approaches. My hope is the our families will begin to integrate the use of this website to increase student productivity and engagement in class. By assigning a specific reading prior to class, a student need only log in. Once the student gets to class he or she will have the opportunity to share what was read, reviewed and learned. The largest stumbling block or difficulty lies in creating new user accounts and downloading texts. Other than that, Bookshare gets two thumbs up in my book!