Plunge into a text with social reading

Plunge into a text with social reading

Photo credit (left): flickr user Jake Macabre Creative Commons License
Photo credit (middle): COERLL Creative Commons License
Photo credit (right): Deutsche Fototek Creative Commons License

COERLL recently made the social reading tool eComma available for users of Learning Management Systems (LMS). In eComma, a group of students can annotate the same text together and share their annotations with each other in the form of comments, tags, and word clouds. Students’ natural capacity for socializing online is put to good use with social reading, as they learn from each other, uncover the multiple layers of meaning in a text, and reflect deeply on their reading. But how does a teacher set this process of learning and reflection in motion?

There are a lot of options for using eComma with your class, and how you choose to use it depends on what your goal is. Here are some possible goals for reading, and ideas for how to meet them:

  • Introduce a new grammar concept: Provide students a grammatically rich text to read in eComma before coming to class. Ask them to comment on words they don’t understand, to make observations about certain parts of speech, and to make guesses about grammar rules, all while responding to each other’s comments and questions. In this way, they learn from each other as they form patterns, solve problems, and build hypotheses. (This inductive technique was developed by Alex Lorenz from The University of Texas at Austin.)
  • Raise awareness of cultural constructs: Lead students through a series of steps to build awareness of their assumptions about the L2 culture and language. They begin by “red flagging” a text based on anything that stands out. Through comments to each other and further research, they discover where they may have been misconstruing a text, and finally formulate a modified interpretation of the reading based on research and peer feedback. (This process was developed by Joanna Luks, as described here in more detail.)
  • Guide students in identifying key information in the text: Kara Parker of Creative Language Class uses highlighters and paper instead of eComma, but the same ideas can apply in eComma… ask students to identify “who”, “where”, “when” and “action taking place” in the text. Then, they can use this information as a basis for a summary of the text, in paragraphs or tweets. (Read more here.)
  • Show how tenses convey meaning: Ask students to label verb tenses to bring their attention to the differences in how the tenses are used.

These are only just a few ways of using eComma, and any of them could be done asynchronously as homework, or synchronously in the classroom, where students can see each other’s comments popping up in real time.

You can also make use of certain strategies to ensure your students are engaging with each other and with the text. For example, require each student to respond to at least one comment from a fellow classmate, ask them to find patterns in what their peers are commenting on, ask them to make comparisons, or assign them each a role in reading and annotating the text. (For example, each student highlights a different grammatical structure.)

We hope you will find a way of using eComma that works best for you and your language class! If you do, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below… your ideas could be valuable for other teachers.

For further reading:


  1. Will this be open source?

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