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Digital Word Detectives: Building Vocabulary With e-Book Readers

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Digital Word Detectives: Building Vocabulary With e-Book Readers

Grades 2 – 6
Lesson Plan Type Minilesson
Estimated Time One introductory 45-minute lesson; Additional 30- to 45-minute lessons (one lesson for each chapter of the selected e-book title)
Lesson Author

Lotta C. Larson, Ph.D.

Lotta C. Larson, Ph.D.

Manhattan, Kansas


International Literacy Association



From Theory to Practice



E-book readers, or digital readers, are devices that can host thousands of electronic books and allows readers to interact with digital texts through the use of e-book tools and features. In this lesson, students will read e-books and use digital tools (dictionaries and notes) to support their development of vocabulary. Specifically, students will assume roles of “word detectives” as they look up words in digital dictionaries and use other strategies to identify the meaning of vocabulary words. This lesson assumes that students have prior knowledge of e-book reading and are familiar with the specific tools and features of their digital readers. In particular, students should know how to access and use the built-in digital dictionary and know how to insert digital notes into an e-book. If students lack such knowledge, please see Going Digital: Using e-Book Readers to Enhance the Reading Experience for an introductory lesson plan.

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Greenwood, S.C., & Flanigan, K. (2007). Overlapping vocabulary and comprehension: Context clues complement semantic gradients. The Reading Teacher, 61, 249–254.

  • Learning words via naturally occurring context is important but not terribly efficient (Stahl & Nagy, 2006).

  • Students need instruction and practice using context clues including repeated, meaningful encounters with new words.


Larson, L.C. (2010). Digital readers: The next chapter in e-book reading and response. The Reading Teacher, 64(1),15-22.

  • When having access to digital readers, students use new literacy skills and strategies to envision and retrieve the potential of the digital device.

  • Electronic books extend connections between readers and text as engagement with and manipulation of text is made possible through electronic tools and features.

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Larson, L.C. (2009). e-Reading and e-Responding: New Tools for the Next Generation of Readers. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(3), 255–258.

  • Electronic books provide new opportunities and extended possibilities for personal interpretation of and engagement with texts.

  • Digital note-taking features engage students in the reading experience.

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