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How we read online


Students read excerpts from two articles synthesizing key research about online readers and demonstrate an understanding of how online readers interact with content.


  • Students will read and identify the findings of major studies of online readers.
  • Students will be able to synthesize findings.
  • Students will be able to develop online writing strategies that address the reading habits of typical online readers.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.2 Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to provide a complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.


50 minutes


Research Guide: How We Read Online (handout)

“F-shaped pattern for reading Web content” by Jakob Nielsen (link)

“Lazy Eyes: How we read online” by Michael Agger (link)

(optional) “What you think you know about the Web is wrong” by Tony Haile (link)

(optional) “You won’t finish this article: Why people online don’t read to the end” by Farhad Manjoo (link)

Computer access

Lesson step-by-step

1. Introduction — 5 minutes

Begin by telling students that today they will be discussing research on how people read online. Ask students to share what they think they know about how their peers read online stories. List out responses on one side of the board, as they will compare their predictions with the research findings at the end of the day. Explain that the question we are trying to answer is: How do we read online?

2. Guided reading — 35 minutes

Distribute the “Research Guide: How We Read Online” handout to each student and direct them to the two linked stories.

Students should read both stories and complete the worksheet. After they have completed the worksheet, ask students to share their responses, writing the characteristics and traits of online readers on the other side of the whiteboard.

3. Application — 10 minutes

Ask students to turn over their papers and turn what they have learned about online readers into a simplified list of five tips for online journalists. The list itself should be written with an online-reader friendly format.


For the application activity, consider having students work digitally to create the tips list either in a Google document or as a post on a class blog or news site.

To extend this lesson, follow this activity with one or both of the optional articles in the materials list above. While both are longer stories, they offer commentary on the complexities of online readership.