Standard Lesson

Exploring Literacy in Cyberspace

9 - 12
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Five 40-minute class sessions
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Whether they realize it or not, students are already immersed in a world of multiple literacies. This lesson invites students to become aware of the analytical skills that they commonly use when reading. The class first generates and categorizes a list of strategies and thought processes that can help to make sense of a print text, such as connecting thinking, visualizing, noticing text features, etc. They create symbols to represent each type of strategy, and work in pairs to identify strategies used in reading newspaper articles. This think-aloud activity is repeated with informational websites, as students transfer these skills, along with some other strategies, to navigating and reading online texts. Students then compare and contrast their reading of print and online texts, sharing what they have discovered about the thought processes and skills they used.

From Theory to Practice

  • Broadly defined, intermediality is the ability to "critically read and write with and across varied symbol systems."

  • Students are part of the youth media culture-like it or not-and are already literate communicators who spend more time engaging with mass media outside classrooms than they spend in schools.

  • Just as we teach students to be aware of author purpose and text structure in reading, we must also help them identify such organizational structures in viewing and representing ideas through popular and electronic media.

  • If educators fail to acknowledge the meaning-making capabilities of extracurricular media messages and information, any attempts to increase literacy learning will be rendered incomplete.


Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

Materials and Technology

  • Computers with Internet access

  • Overhead projector, white board, chart paper, or chalkboard

  • Pencils and pens

  • Three brief newspaper articles with enough copies for students



Select three brief articles of interest from a local newspaper to use for modeling of the think-aloud strategy and student practice of the strategy. In addition, generate a list of appropriate and varied websites for students to access during Session 2 of the lesson. (See the list of Websites for a few possibilities.) Bookmark the sites for quicker access and designate the student pairs in advance of the lesson.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Analyze the thought processes and skills they use to read and understand traditional print texts

  • Practice using the cooperative learning skills of active listening, taking turns, and sharing materials

  • Use the think-aloud strategy to record and label the thought processes and skills they use when navigating and reading an online text

  • Discuss and discern how their reading of print texts is similar to and different than their reading of online texts

Session 1

1. On an overhead, white board, chalkboard, or chart paper, record students' responses to the question: "What are some skills, thought processes, or strategies you use when reading print materials, such as your textbook, a magazine article, or a newspaper article?" If students are not forthcoming with many ideas or suggestions, ask the question in a different way or ask further questions to solicit more information, such as: "How do you go about making sense of what you read from a book, a magazine, or a newspaper?"

2. Once the class has generated enough responses, help students categorize and label the types of thought processes and skills represented. For example, if a student says, "I think about a movie or TV show that is similar to the story I am reading," the category could be "Connecting Thinking." If a student says, "I try to figure out the meaning of a word by looking at others words around it," the category could be "Word Attack Skills." Make the categories as broad or as narrow as is comfortable for the class. A sampling of categories might include: "Imaging or Visualizing," "Reacting," "Evaluating," "Noticing Text Features," and "Marking Up Text."

Before the next class session, type up the list of categories that students have generated and label it as "Reading Strategies Resource List." The list will serve as a reference tool for later reading activities in the lesson. Make one copy of the list for each student.

Session 2

1. Distribute the "Reading Strategies Resource List," which represents the thought processes and skills that students use when reading print materials.

2. Help students create shorthand symbols to represent each type of skill or thought process on the list and ask them to record the symbol on their copy of the sheet. These symbols will facilitate the labeling part of the think-aloud activity.

3. Distribute one of the newspaper articles to each student and invite one student to be the scribe. Have the other students follow along as you read the newspaper article aloud. While reading, convey your thoughts about the article for the scribe to record on an enlarged copy of the Reading Think-Aloud Sheet. A copy of the sheet can be presented on an overhead or drawn on chart paper or the chalkboard. Make sure to model a slower pace for this activity to give the scribe time to write your thoughts. Point out the reason for a slower pace to students as well.

Explain to students that as you read aloud, you will also say aloud whatever comes to mind as you read. For example, "This typeface is pretty small," or "This article is unbelievable," or "This story reminds me of an episode of the television show Seinfeld because the man sounds like Kramer." Tell the scribe that they are only responsible for recording the thoughts you say aloud about the reading. These thoughts do not have to be recorded exactly word for word, but should sum up the general ideas.

4. After modeling the think-aloud, have the class work together on labeling the skills and thought processes that you used while reading the article. Students should refer to their "Reading Strategies Resource List" and indicate the appropriate shorthand symbol in the second column of the Reading Think-Aloud Sheet for each portion of the scripting.

Session 3

1. Review the think-aloud strategy modeled in Session 2 and the types of thought processes and skills class members decided might be used when reading a print text. Ask students if they have any questions and make sure that they have a copy of their "Reading Strategies Resource List" to use for the next activity.

2. Have students break into their pairs and practice each role of the process-reader and scribe-using the other two newspaper articles and the Reading Think-Aloud Sheet. Observe students while they are working and address any problems or confusion that the students experience.

3. After students have had an opportunity to practice as the reader and the scribe, allow time for them to share examples of some of the thought processes and skills they used while reading the articles. This will help reinforce the reading categories and shorthand symbols on the "Reading Strategies Resource List." You may also want to ask about any problems the students had as reader or scribe and address those before continuing with the next phase.

4. Inform students that they will be using the same two-step process to read online texts during Session 4.

Session 4

1. From the list of bookmarked websites, have each student select two sites to read and fill in two copies of the Reading Think-Aloud Sheet with the URL for each site. Make sure that student pairs choose two different sites for a total of four different sites.

2. Students can decide the order for reading and scripting the sites. However, each student should act as reader twice and scribe twice. The reader will think-aloud as he or she is reading the site and the scribe will record the partner's thoughts in the left-hand column of the Reading Think-Aloud Sheet. If a website has multiple pages, students should read the homepage and an agreed-upon page or pages to facilitate the process.

3. After both students have completed their reading and scripting portions of the activity, they will then use the "Reading Strategies Resource List" and help one another label the types of thought process and skills that they used to navigate and read each site.

Session 5

1. When all pairs have completed their Reading Think-Aloud Sheets, gather the class for a discussion on how their reading of online texts compared and contrasted with their reading of traditional print texts. Possible questions for this discussion include:

  • How was reading websites different from reading newspaper articles? How was it similar?

  • Did students use different or additional thought processes and skills to read the online texts? If so, what were those skills? If not, explain why.

  • Which reading experience, online or print article, did students prefer and why?
2. After the discussion, have students individually complete the Follow-Up Reflections Sheet to show what they learned about their reading process for online texts.


  • Have students choose and read one online article from a magazine or newspaper and the print version of an article from the same magazine or newspaper. Ask them to write a follow-up paper about how the two texts and reading experiences compared.

  • Ask the class to generate a list of critical questions about nontraditional texts (e.g., a movie segment, television show, commercial, toy, game, logo) that they think should be answered. For example:

    • How does the experience of reading a nontraditional text differ from reading a traditional print text?
    • What specific characteristics of a nontraditional text influence how an audience reads and understands the text?
    • What characteristics or qualities does the reader bring to a nontraditional text that helps or hinders his or her understanding of the text?

    Then, have students select and read a triad of nontraditional texts. After reading, have them each choose one of the nontraditional texts to orally present their reading experiences to the class, making sure to address some of the critical questions that the class developed. The purpose of this activity is to help students identify the different kinds of reading strategies they use when reading nontraditional texts.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Thorough and correct completion of the shorthand symbols portion of the class-generated "Reading Strategies Resource List," including additions made during the online reading activity and follow-up discussion

  • Successful navigation to and through the various sites

  • Completion of the Reading Think-Aloud Sheet for the selected websites, with thinking appropriately identified by shorthand symbols and reflective of sufficient understanding of the online text

  • Teacher observation and anecdotal notes about the students' quality of cooperative interaction while working in pairs and their participation during class discussions

  • Completion of the Follow-Up Reflections Sheet, showing an awareness of the reading strategies for traditional and online texts

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