Thank you to Margaret Simon for hosting DigiLit Sunday. Please visit her site to read how other educators are using digital tools in their reading and writing workshops.

Balance...we all want it.  Usually when I think of balance, I think about my home life vs. my school life.  How do I make sure that one isn't overpowering the other?  When I focus on school and balancing curriculum and student interest, I end up having more questions than answers.  Our latest digital endeavor has done just that for me.

As part of our Digital Maker Playground, Cathy and I are encouraging teachers to try some of the reading responses with their students.  Our first make was to respond to  Last Stop on Market Street with a visual image.  Maybe (ok, definitely), I was a little too sure of myself.  I thought it would be easy.  My kids have been using digital tools.  They've been responding to their reading and getting better at it.  I gave them some choices of how they might respond.  They could look at characters, theme, setting, favorite quote, or choose a different lens if that's what came to them.  We read the book together and talked about it.  The kids wrote and sketched in their reader's notebooks as I read and then I asked them to do a quick write about their thinking after we read.  Together, we created a list of apps they might use to create their images.  I did everything I should have, right?

Apparently, I missed something.  I imagined my students thinking deeply about their responses, looking for images that would symbolize the meaning they gleaned from the book.  I could tell from our discussion that they had been moved by the book and that they understood some of the deeper messages.  However, some of the work I was seeing, did not show that understanding.  I noticed a few different things happening in my room.

  • Students were quickly searching for images that demonstrated a literal understanding.  
  • The response became about the tool.  At one point, there were 8 kids crowded around the book, jostling to take a picture of the text so they could use ChatterPix.  (ChatterPix is a great tool by the way!)
Something was out of balance!  

First, my students haven't had enough opportunities to look closely at images. In fact, we've done very little.   In Falling in Love with Close Reading, Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts talk about the importance of using visual media to help kids understand, make inferences, synthesize, and analyze.  I can't expect my students to do this kind of deep work without giving them the necessary skills.

Next, I think they may have been more successful if I would have layered the steps we took.  It might have been better if I had modeled a response and thought aloud about my process with the students with a different book.  Then, I would have had students share their images with a partner and talk through their thinking before they created a final product.

Lastly, I think it would have been better to add more detail to our list of apps that would work well for this  project.  

So, tomorrow, I slow down and try to bring more balance to this project.  I'll begin by sharing an example of my thinking from a different book and the response I composed based on that work. I'll make transparent why I chose the image I did.  Katie Muhtaris and Kristin Ziemke's Amplify shows a wonderful Priority Anchor Chart.  At the base of the triangle is content.  I think it will be important to spend some time helping my students develop their thinking and articulating the message they want to convey.  They can then go back and revise the work they began on Friday.  I am hoping that by stepping back and giving my students more time, their responses will be more reflective.   I'm anxious to see how their work changes.  

From Amplify by Katie Muhtaris & Kristin Ziemke


  1. Such an important post. Making takes time, freedom and choice, lots of talk (self and w others) and so often lots of errors. I can recall back in 2009 working with tenth graders who were making digital stories using iMovie.The method was far less important than having something to say. There were some completed iMovies that were very superficial. But, there were a couple stories that stole our collective breaths. It was sharing these that raised the overall quality during the next project.

    Good luck with the work.

  2. I am so glad you wrote this reflection. I tried the visual image response as a choice for reader response with their independent reading books and all of the responses were literal. This week I had a student use music to relay the tone of her book. This was much more thoughtful. I watched her be intentional about her choice of songs. Have you considered this option? I would like to work more with images and talk more about how to get students to a higher level of thinking, away from the literal to the figurative.

  3. You're right on with this post. I was in the similar boat that was sinking. I thought I had scaffold enough support for visuals and quickly realized I not only did not support my students were looking right over them. Umm now you have me thinking about this a little differently... thanks Julie.

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