Posted by: Elizabeth Grochan | March 2, 2012

Deep Reading and Internet Inquiry

Deep Reading and Internet Inquiry

“Can we only engage in deep reading when reading novels? What needs to be in place and what is necessary to acquire the ability to read deeply? Is it like any other habit that is broken…if you don’t use it, you lose it? What are your thoughts?”

“To sit down and read text over an extended period of time where the reader is ‘thinking’ carefully about the text-generating new thoughts as words are decoded…go beyond the author’s printed words.”

To me, one cannot engage in deep reading until they have mastered decoding. If your brain is spending most of its energy decoding words, you are unable to fully engage in cognitive thought. Once the decoding processes have been achieved, deep reading can begin. Even if the capability and skill is there though, deep reading doesn’t always take place. Many factors need to be present for deep reading. The reader needs to be engaged in the reading. If the reader has no interest, then deep reading is unlikely. The reader also needs to be able to devote their mind to what they are reading to the point that they are able to attend to the meaning beyond the author’s words.  This means that you are focused on what you are reading and are able to construct new thoughts and ideas, making connections to prior knowledge. You need to be free of distractions, at least for the duration you are attending to the reading.

I don’t know if you necessarily have to be engaged for a set amount of time, but I do feel that for the duration of the time you are reading, you must be engaged in order to read deeply. I believe that one could technically read a facebook status deeply. While most status are fairly ordinary and basic, I have seen a few that strike up some fairly cognitive thoughts and replys. I would also say that regardless of length, academic articles require a level of deep reading, at least if you want to get anything from them. Reading a novel seems like the most likely of deep reading settings. But do you need to read for a few hours to deep read? Probably not. As long as what you have read you have cognitively thought about, considered thoughts beyond the author’s direct words, made inferences about what you have read and even thought beyond the current plot to what may happen I believe you have engaged in deep reading.

I do not believe deep reading is a lost art. I believe that once you have learned how to decode enough to free your thought processes up enough to allow your brain to think cognitively the ability is there. But it is a muscle that needs to be trained. The more you deep reader the easier it will be to do. You will also learn in what atmosphere and what kinds of mediums you need to read in order to most engagingly read. For many of us, myself included, I know that in order for me to deeply read an academic article, I need to print the article and be able to highlight and take notes. I am not able to read as effectively on a computer. Not to say the current generation feels the same. To them, having an article on paper may act as a deterrent. While I prefer paper for reading articles, I enjoy both e-readers or paper books for almost every other kind of reading. I also know people who need complete silence in order to read. For me it just depends on what kind of reading I am doing. I sometimes like to play music while I study, and depending on what I am reading having people talking around me does not distract me. If you haven’t engaged in deep reading for awhile, it may not be as easy to do so right away. But once you begin again I think you can easily retrain your brain to do so.

“…As a medium offers little in the way of clear boundaries, standards, and organization, the ability to discern these features is a necessary skill for the online reader (Wolf, 2009).”

“I would argue that Web sites like National Geographic for Kids Creature Feature site is as organized and bound by standards as any nonfiction picture I have seen: feature/

Please take a moment and investigate and explore and respond. Be sure to click on a creature and explore each tab for the respective creature. What are your thoughts?”

As a whole, I can see how one would classify the internet in such a way. But I think that is because it is so vast and accessible to anyone. I have walked into book stores and libraries and have found myself with similar thoughts though. No order and organization and overwhelmed by the array of materials and unsure of where to look. But with the right training in how to navigate the internet you can find plenty of websites that offer a place to find and discover information that has clear boundaries, standards and is designed in a completely organized anyone can successfully use.

Upon first visiting the site feature/

I found it interesting, but not overwhelming. Tabs were easily to see, easily identifiable and easy to navigate. As far as locating the creatures, I liked that in the center there was a scrollable part where you could not only see the name of the animal, but as the picture. Being in alphabetical order also helped in quickly locating an animal you may have had in mind. On the left hand side, the categories of animals and habitats (also alphabetized) makes it easy to narrow your search down if there is a specific kind of animal or a specific area you are looking for regarding your animal.

I chose to investigate the giraffe a little further. I thought the information provided was very clear and easy to understand. As Dr. Frye pointed out, the information was just as good as anything one may get out of a nonfiction book. Unlike a book though, the website provided a way to watch a movie clip as well as a few other fun activities such as sending an ecard. I liked how some facts were told in almost a narrative format, while others were ‘fast facts’.

For younger readers, an accessible e-text also found ‘online’. Please take a moment to explore and respond. What are your thoughts?

One of my concerns while looking through the creature feature webpage, was that while it was definitely full on good information and kid friendly, it was geared towards older students probably at a late 2nd grade to a 3rd grade level. These are the kids that should be able to open a textbook and be able to read for understanding. A first grader would get very little from a site like that because they are not at the point where they can read many of those words nor understand what the words are telling them.

I enjoyed getting to ‘explore’ the young explorer site found here:

This site allows the student to choose an issue to read. It is easy to choose what it is you are looking for also because each issue has a distinctive picture as a guide. The issue provides a link to listen and read. So even for those learners who are not independent readers yet, they can still explore and learn from this site. I clicked on the issue with the dolphin on the front. The page resembles many nonfiction factual books I have read for kids over the years. It looks just like a book page, with a large image and usually one fact, sometimes 2, on each page. Around the page are clickable sound features the student can click on to be read to. While the voice is reading, the words illuminate for the student to follow. At the bottom of each page is a place you can click that ‘turns the page’. I liked how this read so much like an actual book, yet it was on a computer and provided sound.  I feel as if young readers will enjoy reading and exploring the many issues here.

Please explore the mountain gorilla creature feature…what are your thoughts?

These sites very much remind me of a collection I had as a kid, and I am actually hoping my parents have them somewhere around their house still! It was the wildlife fact-files. Pretty much you had a binder filled with these pull out cards for each animal. There were pictures and facts such as location, habitat and food. I loved these books, and know most kids do also. As I explored the mountain gorilla site, I was again reminded of these fact files. They were just as good as any book I ever read, and if I was a kid I think I would enjoy navigating the different areas of facts, pictures and movies as I learned about various animals. What I did like about the information on this Mountain Gorilla page ( and others) is that more information is available than would be in a book that was about more than one animal. Most animal information books would have maybe a 2 page spread to fill with all the facts and pictures they could. On this site, there are at least 5 pictures on gorillas that can be scrolled though, and far more facts than would more than likely be included. In addition to that, the videos add for further enhancement that you just can’t get from a books.


We give books:

Please explore this organization and the digital books they have made available. What are your thoughts? Opportunities?

One thing I do love about sites with online books such as this, is so many schools both in the States and in other countries have a lack of books available to them. I student taught in San Pedro Belize 2 years ago, and in the classroom I was in all they had was 1 small book shelf that was 2 feel wind and 2 shelves tall, and that was all the books that class had to read. Most were not ‘leveled’ appropriately and few were engaging for the students. With sites like this where as long as you have a working internet you have access to books, more students will be able to be exposed to more books and reading.

As I have said, I do enjoy reading online. I would think sharing an online book like this would be a good way to read to a whole class, or if you have a larger group with you say during an assembly. Many people would argue that they miss the feel of an actual book in their hand, and a part of me agrees. But we are in a technological age where we can give our students both. They have access to all different mediums to read from, as well as a wider array of books to choose from that are now available to the,. I think as teachers we should embrace everything we have available to us.

New essential standards for Information and Technology to be implemented 2012-2013. Grades K-5; Grades 6-8.

What are your thoughts?

We are now in the 21st Century, technological skills are a must have for our learners. Where I rarely remember using a computer at all through elementary, remember my 6th grade typing class as a way to memorize the keys with drills, and playing games like Oregon Trail to fill the time, and used the computer in high school as a means to type final paper copies, we are teaching our students how to use the computer successfully before many of them can even read. Most kids before they enter kindergarten have basic knowledge of a computer. My nephew at 4 was showing my Mom how to do things on the computer. Kids are no longer being brought to libraries to find information from giant tombs of research books. Instead we are bringing them to the ‘media library’ where we teach them how to use the internet to find information, and take that information to create a powerpoint or other digital representation of the information they gathered. Students have so many more places to find information, and also have to become wise in determine what is accurate and reliable. If that doesn’t take a new level of literacy I do not know what does. Students are being expected to know how to use technology for informational, instructional, creative, innovative and so many other ways just to succeed in the world today. We as teachers have to be there to guide them, and to do so we need to know how to use these 21st Century skills as well. We may not always choose to use them for our own personal methods of reading and research, but we need to understand them so we can instruct our students in them so they may learn to use them. 21st Century learning is here, and we must embrace it if we want our students to succeed.



  1. Elizabeth G,
    I have just started my collection of Wild Life Fact Files! The first binder arrived last month and it includes three new sections. One is dedicated to conservation, another preserving the environment and the third is global issues. I love non-fiction and while recovering last summer I watched The National Geographic Special “Great Migrations”. It was an amazing addition to my background knowledge and a resource that I can recommend to my students. When I was young Mutual of Omaha had a Sunday night special, right before the Disney Special, and I still remember learning about the wildebeest migration! Access to digital information does have a place in education and can be a source for deep reading.
    Elizabeth A.

    • Aren’t those Fact Files amazing! I loved them as a kid 😀 I am visiting my parents for Spring Break, may have to try to locate them haha

      I would be interested to see if they have grown to include internet links and such. I would imagine they, like National Geographic, have expanded to include ways to incorporate digital means to enhance learning. Maybe I will take a look when I visit your classroom next week, which again thanks so much I am very excited!

  2. Elizabeth,

    I also found that the National Geographic Feature Creature Website was geared towards children around third grade, which frustrated me because I had initially planned to create a Kinder workshop, but it was not possible to find infomation that Kinders could read and understand. Although I understand your point that at third grade students should be gathering information out of a textbook instead of a very well-organized website, we have to keep in mind that not all third graders will.Possibly this could be the assignment for struggling readers and grade-level and above grade-level students could locate information out of the textbook. I find it very interesting that you did your student teaching in Belize. How did you arrange that?


    • I did my undergrad at UNCW. They had a International Student Teaching Experience where I did a condensed student teaching of 10 weeks in the States, than a group of 17 of us went to Belize (which by the way was unBELIZEable) for our final 5 weeks. If you are interested, the blog I created while I was there is on my page 🙂

      It was an amazing teaching experience that I feel really influenced a lot of my teaching. One thing that really has stayed with me was not just the lack of supplies available, but the extreme lack of technology. Especially as we continue to work with the amazing uses of technology in the classroom, I am left to wonder about those students who at times never had electricity. I would bring my laptop, and there reaction was, ‘are we going to watch a movie’. For them, that was what a laptop was used for. I still keep in contact with my partnership teacher there, so I know there are working on improving technology skills, they even have an computer lap. I would imagine though that even with the increase of technology usage, they are still going to be significantly behind in the ways of technology and how it enhances learning.
      I also questioned the ‘hinderance’ of technology. We as teachers had become reliant on using technology not just to create lessons, but to teach them. In Belize we had to rely on just our creative sides and the limited supplies available. I was amazed at the change in the overall teaching experience.

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