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For Each Interactive

Using the Site with Less Skilled Readers

A note from our advisors Joseph Czarnecki and Suzanne Clewell about using this site with any reader.

Dear Teachers:

The Exploring Maryland's Roots Electronic Field Trip is an exciting, informative and highly interactive learning experience for your students. Each of the four major sections provides a wealth of information in the form of text, interactive experiences, and a variety of graphic supports. You may want to begin using the site by visiting the Classroom Resources to get a quick overview of the contents and options. As with any new content area, students will be most successful when they have the level of support they need to handle new and unfamiliar concepts, vocabulary, and historical settings. Less skilled readers will require even greater levels of assistance.

Here are a few tips for using Exploring Maryland's Roots with less skilled readers:

1.  Tapping prior knowledge
All students, particularly less skilled readers, benefit from activities that help link previous knowledge with new knowledge. This accessing of prior knowledge can be in the areas of content, vocabulary and knowledge of history. After previewing the site you may want to develop a list of terms/topics to share with your students. You can present them on a chart, chalkboard, or transparency a list of terms for them to respond to. For example, from the Explore the Shellfish Bay portion of the Land and its People section, you could display the terms: Chesapeake, shellfish, colonists, 17th Century, Potomac, St. Mary's City, marshes, tributaries, Algonquian. Ask students to think about what they know about each term, then share with a partner, then share with the class. This activity not only taps and shares prior knowledge, but it also gives you an idea of how much they know and which terms were easy or difficult. These terms then become purposes for reading as students try to confirm and add to their knowledge of the terms.

2.  Accessing Graphic Information
Many students do not chose to or are unskilled at accessing graphic information when they read. Model how to access graphic information prior to reading. For example, in the Visit a Woodland Indian Village, (in the section Land and its People) before clicking on the information, model with a think-aloud, what information and/or predictions can be made by looking at the drawing of the village. You might share that you noticed the high fence around the village and you guess it is either for protection from animals or unfriendly neighbors.

3.  Setting Specific Purposes for Reading
The most effective reading occurs when the reader has a specific purpose and keeps that purpose in mind while reading. Less skilled readers benefit from having one or two specific purposes for reading. In the Journey to a New Life page in the Voyage to Marie's Land segment, they will read about how the boy gets caught and sentenced for stealing. After giving them a preview of the content, ask them while they read to think about how they would act and feel if they were in the place of the boy. Ask them for feedback during and after reading.

4.  Modeling Before, During, and After Reading Strategies
This last tip combines two effective techniques - modeling and using close reading strategies. Watch the video Focus on Close Reading and then select a particular part of the site. Model the close reading strategy using a think aloud and encourage students to use the strategy in a reading assignment.

Finally, there are numerous lesson plans to assist you in using this wonderful, rich site with your students, no matter what their reading level. Enjoy!

Specific tips for helping less skilled readers work with each interactive are also included in Teacher Tips.

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