Thursday, October 8, 2015

Making Radar Charts for Running Records

 I want to share an interactive tool here that I developed as a way to show how young readers are coordinating complex reading processes as they learn to read. Radar charts, a standard feature in Excel spreadsheets, will help you visually display the information readers are actually using:

  1. meaning cues: reader miscued, trying to make sense considering the story, picture cues if any, and avoiding nonsense words 
  2. structure cues: reader miscued, trying to make the word sound right to fit the expected part of speech (noun, verb, pronoun, possessive, past, present, or future tense, plurals, etc.)
  3. visual cues: reader miscued, trying to match the letters in the word printed on the page

Knowing the kinds of cues that a reader uses, and the kinds of cues that a reader overlooks, can help you target your teaching. On the radar chart below, a lopsided corner will lean or stretch out toward the reader's "go-to" cueing systems used more often, pointing to areas of strength or even overuse. Targeted minilessons can help readers notice the kind of cues they are missing, whether meaning, structure, or visual cues.

The chart below works with running records to allow teachers to quickly see if readers are effectively coordinating three kinds of cues as they read a passage. If you know how to conduct a running record (e.g., DRA, Reading Recovery, Fountas & Pinnell), you can instantly visualize your data here and create your own radar chart by typing each of the MSV percentages into the yellow cells in the chart below. The tool here is interactive in real time: enter your scores in the yellow boxes and the chart below changes instantly.

©  2013 Karen Wohlwend
You can download your graph by clicking the download icon above.

For an alternative version using miscue analysis format in Kidwatching (Owocki and Goodman, 2002) rather than running records, click here.)

Monday, October 5, 2015

Mapping Apps: Looking for Playful Literacy Learning in the App Store

   photo: Luis Villa del Campo cc2.0                                                    
This week, Lisa Guensey and Michael Levine exposed the "confusion and disarray in the educational aisle of the App Stores", noting that "among free apps, more than 50 percent focused on teaching children to recognize the letters and sounds of the alphabet. Less than 10 percent of free apps focused on reading comprehension, and even rarer were skills like reading fluency (the ability to read without stumbling over certain words) and self-expression."  However, they also point out that the best-selling apps that parents buy tend to focus on simplistic reading rather than the creative literacy that educators most value. So what's going on here? 

In a forthcoming article, fellow literacy researcher Jennifer Rowsell and I look critically at apps to examine their underlying assumptions about learning. We found that rather than an educational definition of literacy based on reading research, an oversimplified and commonplace notion of reading is  operating here-- for both parent consumers and app developers. And oddly, it seems based on 20th century learning models of drill and memorization in flashy flashcards, ignoring the rich potential of 21st century literacies in touchscreen animation and digital media production.

Guernsey and Levine call for clear criteria to ensure educational apps truly promote learning that has relevance beyond the screen, such as literacy learning that is meaningful, authentic, and social. Toward that end, Jennifer Rowsell and I have developed a rubric and mapping tool to compare educational apps on key aspects of digital literacies, that move well beyond word and letter recognition. Importantly, these rating tools are grounded in our ethnographic research in which we closely observed children with a range of apps to see if and how deeply they engaged in literacy. The most engaging (and popular) literacy apps earned high ratings in all dimensions:  multiplayer activity that allowed children to play together but also to design their own content using image, sound, movement, and animation in open-ended play. Good apps, like good books, also engaged a learner's passion for learning more and could be shared on digital networks.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Hot Topics in Literacy Education for 2016

The International Reading Association released its annual list that forecasts "hot" topics in literacy education. Hot is not the same as important, but indicates an area of high interest or even debate among reading experts.  Conducted by Jack Cassidy,Stephanie Grote-Garcia, and Evan Ortlieb, the 2016 survey polled 25 leading literacy scholars and researchers to find what's hot and what's not.


  • Common Core State Standards
  • Close Reading/Deep Reading
  • Digital Literacies/New Literacies/Media Literacy
  • Disciplinary/Content Area Literacy
  • College and Career Readiness
  • Informational/Nonfiction Texts
  • Text Complexity
  • Adolescent Literacy
  • Writing--academic, argumentative, and based on sources
  • Literacy Coaches
  • Motivation/Engagement
  • Creative Writing
  • Oral Language
  • Summer Reading/Summer Loss
  • Phonics/ phonemic Awareness
  • Fluency
  • High-Stakes Testing
(Cassidy, Grote-Garcia, & Ortlieb, 2015)