Are accessible materials as good as gold (for all students)?
During our team planning meetings in September and October, our discussions frequently returned to the question of how we should measure the effect of accessible materials in the classroom. Based on research and initiatives carried out elsewhere across the country, we already knew the critical value of accessible materials in K-12 education. However, we wanted to document how accessible materials would impact our students (both those with diagnosed learning disabilities, and those without). This, while conscious that we were not conducting a research project. Working with the objective to increase student exposure to and engagement with text, we sought a tool that would measure students’ attitudes toward print, as well as a tool that would measure the amount of time spent (or the “stamina” demonstrated) engaging with print.
Teachers hope to notice whether reading accessible e-books will positively influence their students’ stamina. The teachers decided to continue using a stamina chart from previous years. The students were already familiar with the tool and it would allow for some consistent comparisons to be made. A stamina chart allows students to keep track of how many minutes they spend reading over a set period of time (e.g., each day over the course of a month). Students can visualize the amount of time they spend on-task in order to set longer goals. A good example of this and other stamina – based activities can be found in Jennifer Serravallo’s book The Reading Strategies Handbook (2015).
The task of measuring students’ attitudes toward print was tackled via a two-part student reading survey, one part paper-based, the other via Google Forms. We liked the ability of the digital survey to organize and classify data and to be administered within Google Classroom, but we also wanted to use visuals such as emoticons, which weren’t possible within Google forms. So in the spirit of offering alternate formats, we used both mediums.
The paper-based survey was designed to gather data on students’ identities as readers and their previous exposure to alternate formats (such as audio books and e-books). Click to download the paper-based student-reading-survey..
In the second part we used a Google form to survey students on their favourite books, personal interests and reading behaviours. Students in five English Language Arts classes (Secondary 4 and 5 and a group of students in the Work Oriented Training Path program) completed the surveys and discussed their results. The purpose was both to gather information about the students in order to select appropriate collections and integration strategies, and to help students discover and reflect on themselves as readers (an engagement strategy in itself). In spring 2017, the intent is to repeat the process (as well as to interview selected students with print disabilities) to determine whether exposure to accessible text has had a positive influence on their reading engagement.
Even though it was clear that students did not really read during their personal time and did not have a strong identification with reading, we combed through the results with a lens of student engagement. What information could we extract that would help the students make a positive connection with reading? On the classroom bulletin board, we celebrated the following:
93% of students affirmed the statement, “I think reading is important.”
70% of students reported reading either books, magazines, newspapers or articles online at least once a week, outside of school.
Most students reported having loved the classic classroom novel, The Outsiders, so we made read-a-like recommendations from our Virtual Library and presented “Did You Know?” facts about the book. The idea was to set the stage for further conversations about reading and to be able to draw from their interests and preferences when it came time to launch the accessible e-books.
(In our next post Good-Fit Books, we discuss the accessible resources we selected with professional narration and highlighted text. For more information on the pilot project at Perspectives II, please check out the other blog posts about our classroom experiences.)