Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Reading Realities: Using E-Readers to Engage and Support Students' Critical Reading Skills

Lindsay Hawkins, Bradly Cusack, Susan McHale, Susan McHale | Published: September 16th, 2020 by K20 Center


The "Reading Realities: Using E-Readers to Engage and Support Students' Critical Reading Skills" professional development focuses on using Kindle e-readers and Google Expeditions to support student reading engagement. Research suggests that students are more eager to read when using an e-reader or mobile device. Participants in this 3-hour professional development will use multiple features of a Kindle e-reader and explore a Google Expedition through immersion in a social studies lesson. They will be able to generalize how e-reader features could be applied in future lessons to engage and support students in critical reading activities.

Essential Questions

  • How does an e-reader increase reading engagement with students?

  • What are the features of an e-reader that can support students' reading skills?

Learning Goals

  • Participants will discover the features of a Kindle e-reader.

  • Participants will experience a mini-lesson using a Kindle e-reader and Google Expeditions.

  • Participants will reflect on how Kindle e-readers can be used in the classroom for future reading activities to increase student engagement.







Materials List

  • Reading Realities presentation slides (attached)

  • Kindle e-readers for participants or pairs of participants

  • Google Expeditions VR/AR devices

  • Kindle Scavenger Hunt handout (attached)

  • Vocabulary Builder handout (attached)

  • T-Chart handout (attached)

  • 3-2-1 handout (attached)

  • Individually-wrapped candy (optional)

  • Resources for E-Books and E-Readers handout (attached)

  • Wirelessly Uploading Documents to Kindle handout


Display the professional development title on slide two and give participants a brief summary of the topic.

Ask participants to consider the question on slide three: How do we engage students in reading? Introduce a Think-Pair-Share strategy and have participants reflect on this question for a minute, The, ask each participant to find an Elbow Partner and discuss their responses to the question. After partners have had a few minutes to discuss their responses with each other, call on as many pairs as possible to share out with the group. You may wish to list the groups' responses on a chart tablet or a by displaying Google document.

Display slide four, identifying the session objectives and expectations. Slide five lists the goals of the GEAR UP grant. Reinforce that this particular type of professional development is designed to increase student academic preparedness for postsecondary educational opportunities. Preparedness includes engaging student readers through technology and improving students' ability to read critically.


Transition to slide six and ask participants to use the scale shown to self-assess their knowledge of Kindle e-readers. Participants should choose a number from one (least familiar) to three (most familiar). Have participants line up from one to three in a single line. Now, use a Fold The Line strategy to pair participants who are more familiar with Kindles to those who are less familiar.

Display slide seven and pass out the attached Kindle Scavenger Hunt handout to pairs. Allow time for them to explore the features of a Kindle as they work through the scavenger hunt.


Now that participants are more familiar with the features of the Kindle, they will use the e-reader to participate in a lesson, The New Colossus. Slide eight displays the lesson title. (The lesson can be found in its entirety by following the link to the LEARN site. The full URL is also included in the Resources below). This lesson is intended to demonstrate how the Kindle e-reader features can support students in developing critical or close reading skills. Ask participants to think of themselves as students as they participate.

Display slide nine that addresses the standards of this ELA lesson and the essential questions. Tell participants that the essential questions are designed to focus students on what they are about to learn. On slide 10, ask participants to think of everything they may know about The Statue of Liberty using a five-minute timer. Explain to participants that this Collective Brain Dump activity is designed to activate prior student knowledge in a short amount. Have participants share out what they know about the Statue of Liberty or add it to a Padlet.

Ask participants to find the poem "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus on their Kindle. Read the poem aloud as participants follow along silently (slide 11).

Pass out the attached Vocabulary Builder handout. Display slide 12 and ask participants to follow the directions on the slide. Have participants work with their scavenger hunt partner to highlight five unfamiliar words, add them to the vocabulary builder handout, try to predict their meaning using context clues, and then use the dictionary feature to find the correct meaning of the word.

Have a few partners share out one or two examples of what they placed on the vocabulary builder and how the dictionary assisted them in the meaning. Ask if anyone looked up the word "Colossus" and have that pair share the definition. Read aloud the first two lines of the poem again. Share slide 13 and talk about the first Colossus of Rhodes, noting that the author is comparing this ancient Colossus to the Statue of Liberty or the "new Colossus."

Display slide 14 and ask participants individually to highlight words in a different color that give a positive or negative description of the Statue of Liberty. Ask participants to pop up a note and record the words or phrases as either positive or negative. On slide 15, participants share with their partner what they highlighted and their reasoning for whether the words or phrases are viewed as positive or negative.

Pass out the attached T-Chart handout. In the interest of time, you may not wish to have participants write down their highlighted words together on the T-chart; rather, you may choose to explain what the students would do at this time. Emphasize that students would write down their positive and negative descriptors of the Statue of Liberty and then create a summary on the T-chart (slide 16) of what they believe is the author's viewpoint about the Statue of Liberty and about immigration.

Introduce the Google Expedition to Ellis Island and allow participants to virtually tour Ellis Island with their VR reader. Allow 10–15 minutes for the tour. The link is also included on slide 17 and in the Resources list below.

Display slide 18 which asks participants to reflect on their virtual tour by pretending to be a new immigrant arriving in New York Harbor. What would they see, hear, think, or feel? If time allows, ask participants to jot down their words on a piece of paper. Type the words of the participants into a Wordle to create a word picture of participants' responses.


Ask participants to step out of their student role in the lesson. Tell participants to find the reading called E-readers: Powering up for Engagement on the Kindle. Using the highlighter tool, have participants highlight important or main ideas and create a note about why the main idea is important. This activity is called Why-Lighting and directions can be found on slide 19.

Ask participants to reflect on the reading by asking the question: "How do e-readers engage students?"

On slide 20, ask participants to reflect on the mini-lesson, "The New Colossus," and the way in which students were engaged with e-readers during the lesson. There are two questions on the slide to guide participants.


Display slide 21. Pass out the attached Resources for E-books and E-Readers handout to participants. Allow a few minutes to discuss the resources and fair use laws that will help teachers to find readings and manage e-readers more effectively.

Distribute the attached 3-2-1 strategy handout and ask participants to use it to complete the statements on slide 22: List 3 instructional applications you plan for e-readers. Record 2 questions or concerns you still have. Brainstorm 1 idea for using Google Expedition. Spend some time sharing ideas for e-reader use from the handouts by reading them aloud. Respond to any questions or concerns. Finally, share ideas for using Google Expeditions.

Research Rationale

Miranda et al (2012) report that in a study conducted among low-reading-ability middle school students, students became more motivated to read using e-readers. Students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades were observed using the e-reader features to support their comprehension. Students self-reported ease of use and the easy mobility of using e-readers to contain all their required texts. In a comparable study of secondary students, students who read the Great Gatsby on e-readers showed a slight increase in reading comprehension and increased motivation to read required texts as compared to those who read the Great Gatsby in paperback form (Parker, 2017). Schepps et al. (2013) in a study of 103 high school students with dyslexia noted that some dyslexic students increased speed and comprehension because of the ability to format the text with shorter lines. This seemed to help students who have issues with eye tracking.