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Using Webjets to Elevate Students’ Technology Use in Literature Circles

By Kimberly Kimbell-Lopez, Carrice Cummins, and Elizabeth Manning
 | Jun 21, 2019

Webjets is a visual collaboration tool that allows users to capture, record, organize, and connect information from the web. Users can gather items (such as documents, links, text, videos, and images) on cards and add them to the platform, creating a virtual bulletin board.

Webjets has a huge potential for teaching and learning across all content areas. Drawing on its collaborative features, students can capture and record information about any topic being read and discussed. Once the information is captured in Webjets, students can log into the cloud-based app using cell phones or iPads. Recorded notes can then be used during group or class discussions and new notes can be added during or after the discussion, if needed. 

Literature Circles is a strategy used to engage students in a shared reading experience with a small group of their peers who are reading the same material. Students independently read designated pages/chapters of the text while keeping a written record of their responses. Students then meet face-to-face with other group members once or twice a week to discuss the reading. This process of independent reading, response, and discussion continues until the entire text is covered.

Traditionally, students capture their written responses to text using a paper/pencil literature response journal. The journal may be open-ended, allowing students to respond in any way they wish, but most often it is used via assignment of specific roles. This format assigns (or students self-select) different roles to each member of the group so that the responses are specific to a task or way of thinking about the material. Common roles include the discussion director, literary luminary, connector, artistic adventurer, vocabulary enricher, and character captain, but book/material specific roles can be used as needed. Students who take on these roles are responsible for the following tasks:

  • Connector: Connect what was read to their own lives, their feelings, and their experiences
  • Illustrator: Draw a picture, sketch, cartoon, diagram, or flowchart that relates to the reading.
  • Literary luminary/passage master: Select quotations or special sections of the book for the group to discuss.
  • Questioner: Write down questions about what they were wondering about as they read the story, questions they had about what was happening, or questions about the meaning of words.
  • Summarizer: Prepare a summary that includes key points about the reading.
  • Vocabulary enricher/word wizard: Identify puzzling or unfamiliar words, mark them in the book, then later look up the definition.
  • Travel tracer/scene setter: Use words or diagrams to track the action that took place during the reading.

These roles help students focus on one specific area for their responses, which are shared at each discussion meeting. The roles rotate after each discussion, allowing all students to engage in different ways of thinking.

So how can Webjets be used to elevate students’ use of technology when using Literature Circles in the classroom? Simple—instead of using the traditional paper/pencil literature response journal, students can create cards in Webjets  to house their responses to the assigned reading. Although the Literature Circles strategies were originally designed for fiction texts, the concept can be modified for nonfiction content. For example, one tweak might be changing the role of “character captain” to “fabulous fact finder” (in which the student is responsible for identifying a specified number of interesting facts) or simply eliminating that role from the assignment. The possibilities for roles are open to your area of content and your imagination!

Artistic adventurer

webjets1To demonstrate how Webjets can enhance Literature Circles strategy, we used The Watsons go to Birmingham—1963 (Yearling) by Christopher Paul Curtis. The first example shows the artistic adventurer role using photos of Flint, Michigan from the 1960s. The pictures are used to illustrate what Flint, Michigan looked like during that time period.

webjets2
The second example includes interesting words identified by the vocabulary enricher for chapters 1–4 from the same story. The words were selected by the student and recorded using the card feature in Webjets. When it is time to share with the group, each student can discuss their role using their Webjets cards as talking points.

Travel tracer

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Students (or one student with the role of travel tracer) can also create a mindmap with Webjets by using lines to connect different parts of the map. In this example, the mindmap is used to trace the Watsons’ journey from Flint, Michigan to visit Grandma Sands in Birmingham, Alabama. The lines follow the route traveled by the Watsons with other lines connecting to photos that relate to that leg of the trip. Similar to the travel tracer role, students can create a collaborative map of the Watsons’ journey by sharing it with other students. As the role is rotated to a new student for each group meeting, the new student will add the latest information about the Watsons’ trip to Birmingham.

Students often investigate what they know about the characters as the story unfolds. Webjets has a table tool where students can add information about what they learn about the characters. The following example highlights the characters Byron, Kenny, and Joetta Watson, siblings in The Watsons go to Birmingham—1963. The dynamic of their relationship evolves throughout each chapter, and students, or the one student identified as the character captain can capture this information as they identify what they learn about each sibling based on how Christopher Paul Curtis revealed these character traits through their thoughts, words, or actions.

The virtual bulletin board offered by Webjets allows students to create a visual representation of their learning. Students can choose from multiple options to display their work (i.e., boards, lists, cards, tables, and mindmaps), and they can organize their information in folders. They can easily incorporate images, video, text by dragging and dropping from their browser or from their desktop. Students will be actively engaged in the learning process as they make decisions about what types of information to include in their projects.

Illustrating character traits

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Students come to us with much ease and comfort in using different forms of technology. By using these technologies in our classrooms, we can rejuvenate sound research-based strategies designed to cognitively engage students in thinking and talking about texts. Webjets and Literature Circles can work hand-in-hand to help students learn how to think about what they are reading, record their reflective thoughts about the reading, and share their understandings with group members in a very engaging and technological way.    

Kimberly Kimbell-Lopez is a professor in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Leadership in the College of Education at Louisiana Tech University. She has been an educator for over 30 years, and her areas of expertise include literacy and technology.

Carrice Cummins is a professor in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Leadership in the College of Education at Louisiana Tech University. She has over 40 years’ experience as an educator with primary areas of interest in comprehension, content area literacy, and teacher development. She served as the 2012–13 president of the International Reading Association.

Elizabeth Manning is an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Leadership in the College of Education at Louisiana Tech University. A veteran K–8 teacher of over 25 years, her areas of interest include content area literacy, writing workshop, and curriculum design and development.

This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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