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Build Interest and Motivation With Online Reviews

by Katie Stover
 | Apr 10, 2015

Unlike traditional book reports that are often written only for the teacher as an audience, online book reviews offer students an engaging way to connect with other readers within and beyond the four walls of their classroom. With the continued influx of the Internet and an increasing availability of a wide range of digital tools, creating and sharing book reviews with a wider audience is easier than ever. In their Reading Research Quarterly article about using multimedia book reviews to increase elementary students’ independent reading, David Reinking and Janet Watkins reported that multimedia book reviews offer numerous benefits including improved attitudes towards reading, increased time spent reading, and enhanced confidence and engagement in literacy-related activities.

Third graders in Anna Derrick’s class at Monarch Elementary in Greenville, South Carolina experienced this firsthand when they shared their reviews of recently read books using AudioBoom, an online podcast tool that allows users to record and post up to 10 minutes of audio recordings. Known as “boos,” these recordings can be shared easily by posting the link on Twitter or sharing the QR code that is generated automatically by the website.

Derrick’s third graders were inspired to enhance the quality of their work after learning that their online book reviews would be accessible to a wide audience. To begin, they studied various book review formats by reading and critiquing other online book reviews written by kids on websites such as Spaghetti Book Club. Next, they drafted their book reviews and orally rehearsed their ideas by reading drafts with a peer. This peer interaction often resulted in discussion and suggestions for improvement, and students eagerly made both oral and written revisions to their thoughtfully composed reviews. After making revisions, students recorded their reviews using AudioBoom. Many students opted to record their reviews again after listening to the original recording in order to improve their fluency when reading, like that of Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet.

To share their published book reviews with peers, students created QR codes and posted them on the classroom bulletin board. Their classmates then scanned the QR codes with iPads to listen to their peers’ online book reviews. To connect with a wider audience, Derrick used Twitter to share students’ AudioBooms using the hashtag #Readergrams. In fact, one fifth grader from Washington, DC, replied to a tweet about Nia the Night Owl Fairy, “Oh I used to love that in second grade! It’s a series!” This demonstrates the communicative nature of using technology to share about books. Perhaps the students in Derrick’s class will be inspired to read other books in the series.

Several benefits were observed among Ms. Derrick’s third graders after using a combination of AudioBoom to record their book reviews and QR codes and Twitter to share their reviews. First, these activities appeared to enhance students’ motivation and interest in reading. Second, their fluency improved through authentic opportunities for repeated readings, which corroborates with Chase Young and Timothy Rasinski’s findings in their Reading Teacher article “Implementing Readers Theatre as an Approach to Classroom Fluency Instruction.” In their study, they found repeated readings improved students’ fluency with both familiar and new text.

Finally, when Derrick’s students found out they would be sharing their book reviews with an audience beyond the teacher, they appeared to be were more thoughtful in how they composed their book reviews, which in turn helped to improve the quality of their writing. Overall, the activities observed in Derrick’s classroom reiterate the idea that having students create online book reviews can foster their motivation and interest as readers and writers while encouraging them to connect with a broader community of readers.

Katie Stover is an assistant professor of literacy education at Furman University in Greenville, SC. You can follow her on Twitter. This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association’s Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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