As a certified librarian and Technology Resource Teacher in a K-2 school, I often look for digital tools that are both easy enough for my young learners to use and interesting enough to inspire them to read closer and write with more depth and detail. My students have unique needs – they have much to learn, but are just learning to read for information and with an increased text complexity. They have much to say, but are just gaining the fine motor skills needed to write fast enough to keep up with the ideas and knowledge rocketing around in their brains.
Booktrack has fulfilled just this purpose and has helped me differentiate for all of the learning styles in my classroom. By integrating this digital tool into our Inquiry Based Learning environment and Integrated Arts research opportunities, student have successfully been able to ask their own questions, use print and digital resources to find their own answers, use information writing strategies to compose a detailed piece of writing, and share their findings in a unique yet engaging way.
Today's Common Core Standards have transformed a typical weather unit in grade 2 from read a book to write a report to a research experience, requiring students to recount or describe key ideas or details from a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media (ELAS). With the integration of digital tools such as Booktrack, the project doesn't end at handing in the paper; students get to share, present, or "get creative" in how that final "project" looks and/or sounds.
Students were able to type their findings by chapter, using Booktrack's easy organization and creation tool. Then, with some time and practice, add their own "weather sound track" to their writing. My students were engaged and enthralled that they could add wind, rain, thunder, or music to represent the research and extreme weather conditions they had been reading about.
Reluctant writers were inspired to go back and write more, so that they had more words to pair with sounds. Reluctant readers were excited to read faster to keep up with the sound track, but I was thrilled that I could adjust the pace of the track with just a click of the button, to provide them with the success they often struggled to achieve.
This tool provides another opportunity for my young students to express themselves through a variety of digital tools and to help me to meet Common Core State Standards and goals of creating a 21st century classroom environment.
Barbara Johnson is a Technology Resource Teacher and Certified Librarian in the State of Connecticut. She currently serves on the Governor's Common Core Task Force, and is a member of the CASL, AASL and ALA. She posts all of the digital tools she finds on Pinterest, can be followed on Twitter and maintains a webpage for the Integrated Arts program at her school.