Skip to main content Skip to main content

Private: Teaching Reading: 3-5 Workshop

New Literacies of the Internet Put It Into Practice | New Literacies of the Internet

Choose Activities

In this section, you will build on what you have learned and develop strategies you can use in your classroom. The following activities are designed to assist you in integrating new technologies into your existing curriculum. Choose one or both of the activities from the list below.

Activity 1 –Research an Author

In this activity, you will develop a lesson that guides your students to use the Internet to find out information about an author whose work they are reading in class.

Activity 2 –Develop Background Knowledge

In this activity, you will determine the background knowledge that is required to enhance students’ understanding of a novel you teach in your literacy program.

Research an Author


Teachers often give students background information about an author before reading a book. In addition to providing interesting information for the reader, this knowledge often helps the reader understand the author’s purpose in writing.
In this activity, you will help your students gain knowledge about an author by using the Internet. To develop this activity, use the following steps. When you have finished, save your written work to submit as an assigment.

  • Think about what you want your students to know about the author. Use the following ideas as a guide:
    • Consider what is interesting and unusual about this author’s life.
    • Decide which events in the author’s life affected his/her writing.
    • Think about the number and type(s) of books the author has written.
    • Consider the audience(s) of the books this author writes.
    • Has the author won any prizes? What does that tell you about the book/the author?
    • What is the relationship between the author and his/her illustrator, if there is one? How was that illustrator chosen?
  • Develop a broad question to guide students’ inquiry.
  • Find several Web sites about the author.
  • Develop specific questions that will help students access the important ideas on the Web sites provided.

For example, for the author Cynthia Rylant:

  1. General question: How did Cynthia Rylant’s childhood and young adult experiences influence her writing?
  2. Here are several URLs with information on Cynthia Rylant:
  3. As you search for information on the experiences that influenced Cynthia Rylant’s writing, use the following questions tguide your inquiry:
    • Where and when was she born?
    • Where did she live growing up?
    • With whom did she live during her childhood?
    • When did she decide to become an author?
    • What kinds of books has she written?

Develop Background Knowledge


Many intermediate-grade novels are set in a time and/or a place that may be unfamiliar to students. For example, a story may take place on a Navajo reservation (Annie and the Old One), in Europe during World War II (Number the Stars), in the 1950s before the Civil Rights movement (The Gold Cadillac, Leon’s Story), or during the Great Depression in America (Bud, Not Buddy; Out of the Dust).

In this activity, you will identify the background information your students need to understand a novel they will read. Think about a favorite book that you teach with a setting that requires more background knowledge in order to understand and identify with the characters and story events. Then plan a two- to three-day lesson in which students will use the Internet to gather information about the setting of the story. Use these steps in designing your lesson:

  • Consider the important concepts or characteristics that define the setting and will enhance students’ understanding when they read.
  • Develop an overarching question that will guide students in their learning about this information.
  • Identify specific vocabulary words in the story that could be used as key words during the search.
  • Search the Internet to discover Web sites that will be useful to your students.
  • Develop several additional questions related to the major question to clarify the search.
  • Prepare a worksheet for students to complete as they search the Internet and gain new information.
  • Plan a specific time for students to share what they have learned with the whole class or in small groups.

A sample lesson plan follows.

Using the Internet to Build Background Before Reading Lesson to Prepare for BudNot Buddy
By Christopher Paul Curtis

Setting: 1930s Depression Era in the Mid-west

  1. Important concepts: poverty, homelessness, food lines, soup kitchens, jazz, blues

  2. Overarching question: How did the hardships of the Great Depression affect people’s lives?

  3. Key words for searching the Internet: Great Depression, drifters, Hoovervilles, railroads in the 1930s, Flint, Michigan

  4. Possible Web sites:

  5. Additional questions:

    • What was the role of the railroads during the Great Depression?
    • How did the U.S. government help people during the Great Depression?
    • How did the music of the Great Depression reflect the times?
  6. Sample student worksheet:

    Question Web Site What I Learned New Questions
  7. Sharing ideas: whole class or small groups; record new information on charts to be used during reading of book

After you have taught this lesson, consider the following questions:

  • Did the Internet search help students to understand the important concepts related to the setting of the story?
  • How did you support your struggling readers in using the Internet to answer the questions?
  • What was most difficult for your students in searching Web sites related to your questions?
  • What might you do differently the next time you use the Internet to prepare students for reading?

Series Directory

Private: Teaching Reading: 3-5 Workshop


Produced by WGBH Educational Foundation. 2006.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-815-7