Reader Response Meets New Literacies: Empowering Readers in Onine Learning Communities

“Cool! We’re using the laptops!!” (Larson, pg.638) was the cry that was heard when a class of 5th graders came in from lunch recess.  A semester long case study was set up in the context of a reading workshop to explore new literacies and technology integration.

Out of a classroom of 26 students, the teacher picked out 10 students who were known for being communicative both in writing and verbally.  The students had multiple reading levels, diverse backgrounds and a varying range of technological skills.  They would read e-books  on laptops and respond to the reading by electronic journals (message boards).  The reading was focused on historical fiction and the American Civil Rights Movement.  The ten students were given the choice of which two books they wanted to read.  It worked out to be 5 students for each book.  A typical session was students reading and responding on e-journals for 30 minutes.  Then they would take 15-20 minutes on the message board, responding to prompts about their reading.  After following the first 2 prompts set up by the teacher, students asked how they could write a prompt and mini lessons were given.  From then on the students took control of their own learning communities surpassing traditional teacher-driven plans for classroom.

“Today’s teacher is no longer the single source of knowledge and roles of students and teachers may even be reversed,” (Larson, pg.640).  As has been seen with teachers using the same methodology from years past being the status quo in todays classroom, technology is here to stay and it opens up new forms of learning and communication.  Teachers need to embrace what and how learning occurs with new technology.

Some findings of this study showed students using 5 prompt categories – experiential, aesthetic, cognitive, interpretive, and clarification.  The students liked to use different categories for specific reason.  Experiential prompts were used because they like to talk about themselves.  Aesthetic prompts were longer in length because student’s emotions were involved with the book plot and other’s contributions.  Cognitive prompts encouraged students to make predictions, solve problems, and make inferences about the plot and characters.  Interpretive prompts had students using highest level of reasoning and contemplating personal feelings about moral, value, meaning, message and judgements of plot and characters.  Clarification prompts were just that, clarifying what a student ment by a prompt.  All prompts, as mentioned earlier, were student driven.  And over the time frame, close to an equal number of prompts were written for each category.

Many of the NETS standards were being address in this article.  For NETS-s students were applying existing knowledge (face-to-face literature discussions) and new ideas as they used the message boards on-line (NETS #1).  Students were communicating their thoughts, ideas, collaborating and contributing to solve each other’s prompts (NETS #2).  Students used the laptops to read the e-books, processing and reporting their thoughts about what they read through the e-journals (NETS #3).  Students used critical thinking and problem solving to word their responses to fellow student’s prompt, questions (NETS #4).  Since many of the students emailed friends on-line, they were comfortable with the technology and enjoyed working with the process (NETS #6).

The NETS-t applied by the use of technology in a new virtual learning environment   (NETS #1).  Since the students lead their learning with their own prompts, the teacher was able to evaluate authentic individual learning experiences. This was done through the stats available on message boards (NETS #2).

I can see this resource being useful in how I look at teaching reading, and other subjects for that matter.  Students love to be on a computer and I like the idea of allowing each student to have time to think about how they will respond to their classmates prompts.  As mentioned in the article, traditional classrooms are teacher-lead discussions with occasional student imput.  With new literacies (message boards, e-books), students can have insightful, thoughtful, engaging, interactive, discussions with everyone, whether they are talkative or shy, allowing for each of them to find and share their voice.


Larson, L. C. (2009). Reader Response Meets New Literacies: Empowering Readers in Online Learning Communities. The Reading Teacher, 62(8), 638-648. doi: 10.1598/RT.62.8.2


About Jan Rue

Hi, I am a graduate student at Western Oregon University working towards a masters in teaching with an endorsement in reading. I am not currently teaching but hope to be able to teach in the elementary level.
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2 Responses to Reader Response Meets New Literacies: Empowering Readers in Onine Learning Communities

  1. jely06 says:

    I agree that that technology has opened up a new platform for which learning and communication is occurring in the classroom. I have also found that many students in the upper elementary are starting to prefer to use laptops during designated writing times rather than using pencil and paper. I too also like the idea of students responding to other classmates prompts. This could potentially lead students to view other student’s perspectives of the content. In addition, using a medium like message boards would provide students with a community of learners driving their learning and often language in directions that the classroom might not always be able to facilitate. It could also like how you mentioned providing an outlet for students to fine their voice. Very interesting topic, thanks for sharing your ideas.

  2. Robin Nelson says:

    Thank you for your article response post for Reader’s Response. The title Empowering Readers in Online Learning Communities caught my attention. Each day I work with an advanced group of 4th grade readers in a literature study session. They are amazing readers and take part in advanced literacy processes. It is truly my favorite teaching time. I can see this group of students being empowered by online reading and posting experiences. The prompt categories that you listed: experiential, aesthetic, cognitive, interpretive, and clarifying provide many thoughtful response choices for the advanced literacy student. Online reading and posting responses would help students meet the NETs standards for: Communication and Collaboration and Technology Operations and Concepts. We may be able to access online reading selections and response posts. My students would enjoy the challenging format.

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