3 Instructional Strategies to Support Literacy in all Classrooms

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“All educators are teachers of literacy”

– a common phrase I echo when speaking or writing. Notice, I did not say “All educators are teachers of reading,” which would demand a skill set many educators do not have, although that is often what most people think when they hear the first statement. There are no expectations for educators at the middle and high school grades to understand reading instruction (phonological awareness, decoding, fluency, etc.), instead, expectations reside in supporting student understanding in literacy acquisition in discipline-specific consumption and creation.

The Question Becomes How?

With this lens, fears often subside and educators realize that they are the EXPERT in that content area. The question then turns to – How? Zooming out to a wider view of discipline literacy, one understands that much content learning by students is done through reading or viewing and their demonstration of understanding is exhibited through writing or communicating in some form. From the larger view, teachers can then zoom back into specific disciplines and ask themselves what are the skills a student must possess to tackle discipline-specific texts (which includes multiple modes) and what components of communication do I need to teach in order for students write and create in a discipline-specific way.

3 Instructional Strategies

The How is one area that I am often asked to address with staff. I offer 3 Instructional Strategies that are applicable to any discipline and support literacy in any classroom:

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ExamplesA History Teacher demonstrating how historians read and make sense of primary sources. Read/think aloud text – Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech. A reading strategy historians often use is to consider the time period it was written in and what was happening in the world during that time to help them understand meaning and context. This would be modeled aloud to students.  Math –  Rafranz Davis shared with me a movement among math educators, shifting the focus from test made questions to real-world problems. During a read/think aloud in math class,  Davis suggests utilizing Polya’s 4 Step Method as a model to demonstrate to students – 1. Understand the problem. 2. Devise a plan. 3. Carry out the plan. 4. Look Back. Students can call upon this strategy anytime they approach an unfamiliar example.

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ExampleAlice Keeler provided the perfect example foridentifying Concept and Label vocabulary in a math classroom. Students are given a problem to solve and explain their thinking around parabolic, cubic, and porabolas within the context of 2 illustrations, one is a visual of a climbing path for El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, the other a water fountain. Parabolic would be an example of a Concept vocabulary term, as opposed to Yosemite, bagging the peak, or bushwhacking. The last 3 terms are ones the teacher would define for students and move on, on the other hand, concept vocabulary would demand more attention in both the instruction via the teacher and the acquisition and demonstration by the student. Providing a non-example, such as the climbing path, also pushes kids to think differently and solidify their demonstration of understanding of a concept.

 

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Example – A science teacher uses multiple lab reports published in a scientific journal as a mentor example. Students examine how the data sets were organized, recurring vocabulary, and structure. The content of the lab report may not be an area that is covered in the course, but as a mentor example, students to grasp the essential components of a lab report – how labels work to inform to support the format, the proper way to insert lists and data into the report, and when longer explanations are needed in paragraph form on lab reports.

 

Once educators understand the Why of discipline-specific literacy, the How is the next step in learning. Applying these 3 instructional strategies will help students consume and create discipline-specific literacies.

Sources:

Polya – Berkely  

What is Disciplinary Literacy and Why it Matters – Shanahan & Shanahan 

5 Google Resources You Never Knew Existed

Google Resources You Never Knew Existed

With new Edtech resources popping up daily, it seems that many educators can miss some of the good ones that would be most useful in the classroom. While preparing for a conference and updating my slides, I thought I would share 5 Google Resources you may have missed.

SmartyPinsSmarty Pins – Is a Google Maps game incorporating both geography and trivia. Players can choose a category and are given clues in which to guess the location before their miles or time runs out. A guess is made by dropping the pin on a location on the map. THis resource is great for Geography, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Play on your own or challenge a friend.

Google Arts and CUlture 1Google Cultural Institute – Now known as Google Arts and Culture, allows users to explore collections from around the world. It brings together  brings millions of artifacts from multiple partners, with the stories that bring them to life, in a virtual museum. This digital platform provides access to artifacts for a worldwide audience. Take a virtual tour or explore an artifact; a great place to spark student inquiry or access to primary sources!

Screenshot 2016-07-30 at 8.34.08 AMGoogle Night Walk – Google Night Walk is an immersive experience taking the viewer takes a journey through the vibrant streets of Marseille. During the walk, viewers are provided a 360 view of the streets and are beckoned into the culture and street art through narration and storytelling of the guides you meet along the way. This was built upon the use of multiple Google Products and is a great launch into creativity in the classroom begging students to consider creating their own “Night Walk” to demonstrate their understanding!

 

constituteConstitute Project – The Constitute Project is one part of Jigsaw (Formerly Google Ideas) and is a collection of the World’s Constitutions. Students can read, search, and compare constitutions from around the globe. Focusing in on specific categories, anything from race and religion to Head of State and the military, students can build a global perspective through a comparison to their own.

 

Google Experiments music Chrome Experiments – Get ready to get lost for hours, this extensive resource created by the Creative Coding Community showcases innovative and new ideas. Chrome experiments are interactive and range from themes such as 3D, Interactive Coding, to Games. Chrome Experiments also allows users to submit their own ideas to be featured. Check out the Sound and Music Category to play and record your own music!

Often times I find the most interesting, classroom supports from the non-education resources. Don’t be afraid to search out and dive into the resources that, at first glance, seem unrelated to the field. Many times these types of resources speak to students in an untraditional way and demonstrate real-work that is being down around the world! Enjoy!

Developing “Healthy Skeptics” in the Age of New Literacies

DevelopingHealthy Skeptics in the Digital Age.One of my most poignant “slaps on the face” in the classroom came while conferring with a student over their research paper. During our conversation, confusion arose from the conflicting information that he had found on the web. Upon further dialogue, I learned he relied heavily upon the source, Martin Luther King.org , which was supported by StormFront, a white supremacy group. The information that he found here was in stark contrast to many of the other sources he was citing. This insight hit my like a ton of bricks. I had done very little in terms of supporting students in the areas of discerning information, locating reliable and relevant sources, from learning abilities to the care of their body, with the help of supplements from sites as Reportshealthcare.com.

Technology has launched education into an exciting time in terms of literacy and instruction. These opportunities not only provide rich content, connections to a global learning lab, and creation modes unimagined; but also the exciting challenges to equip our young people with the skills and strategies to not only be creators to the sea of information but also “healthy skeptics” during consumption. This new era of information can bring a lot of benefits into young people, they are able to go online to find many useful things as information for their studies or supplements as this heart attack defender to keep good health.

Proficiency in these constantly evolving literacies will help to “define student success” in both their personal and public lives. Read, writing, communicating and learning in this digital arena is now commonplace instead of a rarity and we must, as educators, lead the charge in educating our youth instead of running away from the lion!

A foundation in multimodality in online media should be included across disciplines and grades. In fact, the Common Core mentions the introduction to digital text as early as Kindergarten. By the upper grades, students in a CCSS aligned district will analyze, synthesize and evaluate digital information, as well as using digital means in their own projects, writings, and multimodal communication.

Support on where to begin and how to build their own knowledge in New Literacies baffles educators. Here is a collection of my favorite resources to support educators and students!

Google Inside Search  – Understand how Google Search works, explore the interactive timeline highlighting the advancement of Google Search throughout the years, and view lesson plans for educators.

BrainPop – A video introduces students to search engines and how to use keywords and phrases to locate the information they want. This site also includes lesson plans which include multi-media ideas and also skills to promote with students for online research!

ReadWriteThink – A great lesson plan to help students focus their internet searching. This lesson not only supports skills need in the initial search, but also reading strategies to locate and evaluate information once it is found!

 

 

Digital Literacy: Teaching Infographics, a sub-genre

infographic components

During the past few months, I have had the pleasure of teaching a Digital Storytelling course. The focus was on how students can use digital modes to communicate their understanding of concepts, topics, and problems. Recently, the learning was on infographics. We live in a visual world, digital communication makes up most of the reading one does daily. Videos, images, and infographics are commonplace and examples of reading and writing digital literacies.

Digital modes of communication are best taught as sub-genres in the classroom. When considering Infographics and how best to teach students to consume and create them, the following are guidelines that will assist you in this endeavor.

First, start with an inquiry lesson in which students investigate a collection of infographics that are considered to be of high quality. I like the ones listed in the article entitled, 11 Best Infographics of 2015. students will find a variety of designs, structural examples, along with content areas. Students are charged with Identifying Commonalities, Naming Components of Good Infographics, and Providing Reasons to Justify Claims. (All which are aligned to the Common Core Writing Standards).

Second, identify a mentor “text” (in this case an infographic) in which students can use to refer back to when making decisions on their own infographic. Remember, a mentor text is one that has many access points students can use. It can be one that is teacher-created, or student-created, as well as one from an expert. It does not need to align to content, instead, the focus is on skills and components students use and show when designing an infographic.

Third, good writers/designers plan before they start creating an infographic. A storyboard or checklist containing components of an infographic will provide structure to budding designers. Check out Google Templates for examples, or better yet, have students create their own. The more complete their planning is, the more successful their creation of infographics will be.

Finally, provide a checklist containing the 7 Elements above with explanations, examples, or other activities that allow students to dig into the different areas while constructing their  own knowledge of this sub-genre.

  1. Topic: Student-Choice should be given when selecting a topic. Remember, we are working on skills and components of stellar infographics that they can use from this day forward, not the content! The topic should be relevant, engaging, as well one that is not currently an infographic that they can Google and copy.
  2. Audience & Purpose: Identifying audience and purpose of communication provide a lens in which to look through when sharing information. Just as in all types of communication, the skills students use to demonstrate their understanding through an infographic are transferable to multiple digital and text-based modes.
  3. Structure: Infographics have structure similar to what a reader may notice in non-fiction. Description, Compare and Contrast, Order, Sequence, Chronological, Cause and Effect are a few of the ways students can consider when structuring their information and flow.
  4. Hook: Good Infographics have a catchy title or image that “hook” the viewer at first glance. Students should identify this, not only in mentor examples but also as a skill that is transferable to all forms of communication. Taking time to practice this skill is essential!
  5. Balance: Infographics have a balance between text, images, icons, and white space. Succinct communication through words, phrases, and images demonstrate a command of the information and also design elements.
  6. Design: There are many different strands to infographics when dissecting design elements; start with the basics and build from there. Notice color schemes, fonts, and images. How do they promote or detract from the message? A site for those of us that are clueless when it comes to color choices is Coolors which generates possible options for users. When deciding on fonts, Canva’s Design School provides examples as well as reasoning.
  7. Sources: Finally, when students cite their sources, they not only enhance their credibility when providing data, support, etc., but they are also demonstrating good digital citizenship by avoiding plagiarism and recognizing copyright.

My love for infographics has been reawakened through the teaching of this course. It allows me to blend my passions in literacy and technology. Teaching digital literacy, and the modes that are associated with it as a sub-genre provide accessibility to educators and students for reading, viewing, and creating their own! Here are a few sites to support the creation of Infographics:

Day 3 Digital Storytelling

Google Draw

Canva

Piktochart

Easelly 

5 Google Resources to Support Student Writing

Pathways to the Common Core- Accelerating Achievement (2)Supporting students in the writing process involves explicit instruction, modeling and utilizing resources to support their development. Sharing high-quality, digital resources with students will increase accessibility and independence in all student writers. Writers, professionals, and adults use digital and non-digital resources to improve their writing, so why wouldn’t we provide the same experience and guidance to our own students?

This list of 5 Google resources are practical and easy to use with all writers! They support a wide-range of ability, mimicking what is commonplace in the classroom. From the struggling writer, English Language Learner writer, and the gifted writer; Google resources can support all kids!

  1. Google Doc Research Tool – Search on Google, Scholar, Images, Tables, and Dictionary to access the information you need without leaving Google Docs. The Research tool allows users to cite information using multiple formats.Pathways to the Common Core- Accelerating Achievement
  2. Google Keep – Google Keep captures your thoughts via text or voice. Create lists, add images and access across multiple devices. Notes are shareable to friends and teachers making brainstorming, tasks, and source collection easy with this resource. Students can set reminder notifications as well! Google Keep
  3. Grammarly – Grammarly is an App that can be added to your Chrome browser. This app detects plagiarism, and helps to improve your writing. It recognizes spelling mistakes, as well as errors in Grammar Usage and Mechanics. It offers suggestions to users. A great app for students to utilize as their first support in editing. Grammarly
  4. Read and Write for Google – Read and Write for Google provides accessibility for docs., the web, pdfs., and epubs. Options provide support to all students! Struggling readers and writers can use the Google Docs tool bar to read aloud and highlight text. Use the picture dictionary to support emerging readers and writers. The translator option supports ESL students as they write and struggle translating ideas in another language. Free for teachers and can be pushed out to your entire domain! Read and Write Google
  5. Voice Typing Tool – Google voice typing allows writer to easily put their words on a page by speaking them instead of manually typing. Voice Typing is located under the “Tools” tab in Google Docs and appears as a microphone symbol, on the side, once selected. When trying out for my own use, I was surprised on the accuracy and would recommend this to teachers and students without hesitation. Pathways to the Common Core- Accelerating Achievement (1)