Learning Centers in a Blended Literacy Classroom

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I am excited to share this post which was co-authored with my friend, Steven Anderson @web20classroom. It is sponsored by ThinkCERCA, an online platform designed to empower teachers to personalize literacy instruction across disciplines.

There has been no greater impact on differentiation and student achievement in recent years than the effective integration of technology in the classroom. Traditionally, literacy educators spent long hours gathering resources, developing tasks and extensions, and reading and analyzing assessment to determine if the instruction was meeting the needs of students. Now imagine doing this same routine 3 or 4 times over to cover all Lexile levels in one classroom; exhausting. Technology has not only provided text access at students’ differing instructional levels, but has streamlined formative assessment, and has given back precious time to teachers to work with small groups and individuals.

The most effective blended learning model that literacy classrooms can utilize to meet the needs of all readers is the “Rotation Model” in which online engagement is embedded within a range of face-to-face forms of instruction. While this blended environment could look many different ways, we believe that the workshop framework provides the instructional vehicle that makes differentiation most successful. Technology or a blended model is not a component of the workshop framework, but utilized by a skilled workshop teacher, platforms such a ThinkCERCA, and an understanding of each student as a reader is when achievement is maximized.

In a workshop framework, there are 3 main components: Mini-lesson, Independent Practice, and the Share. The mini-lesson is whole group instruction. The teacher targets a learning objective, models it with a mentor text, actively engages the students in similar work, and then sends them on their way to apply the new learning to their own independent books. It is during the independent time that teachers experience the greatest challenges as well as the largest gains made by their young readers in the form of conferring. At the end of the time, the whole class is once again gathered to partner share or large group share out the important work they did during the day.

The question we often receive is centered around the Independent Practice. Teachers witness the benefits of small group instruction but are less certain about the learning taking place by the rest of the class. While there are many different ways to implement and manage independent routines, it is here where technology can best support young readers. During the independent time, centers are one way to keep students learning, not just completing busy work. Literacy Centers, infused with a blended environment is an example of rotation model at it’s best.

Centers –

  1. Student-centered, active inquiry, open-ended
  2. Purpose is to learn, offering opportunities for a variety of levels
  3. Center should be applicable to what you are teaching and what students are learning
  4. Established routines, organized materials, and dedicated space
Centers for the Early Grades Centers for the Intermediate Grades
Independent Reading

***accessible text at independent reading level, epubs, books and articles online

Independent Reading with Reader’s Notebook

***accessible text at independent reading level, epubs, books and articles online, digital reader’s notebook

Listening Center

***tablets, laptops, ipads, ipods

Multimodal Center

***devices and examples on one topic in multiple modes, consumption, and creation

Word Work

***active, and able to manipulate like a drag and drop option, text to speech, videos, word games

Beautiful Lines, Interesting Words, Author’s Craft

***accessible poems online, apps, resources, tools, publishing and sharing platforms

Writing Center

***comprehension checks, graphic organizers, student-created graphic organizers, video and audio, publishing and sharing platforms

Writing Center

***comprehension checks, graphic organizers, student-created graphic organizers, blogs, video and audio, publishing and sharing platforms

Wonder Center

***Virtual Reality, Videos, Infographics

Wonder Center

***Virtual Reality, Videos, Infographics

Poetry Center

***accessible poems online, apps, resources, tools, publishing and sharing platforms

Book Clubs, Literature Discussions

***accessible text, discussion forums, real-time chats and video options

Partner Center

***accessible text, audio and video

Drama Center (Reader’s Theater, plays, speeches)

***accessible material, video examples, clips, video and audio recording capabilities, publishing and sharing platforms

*** Technology Integration Ideas to Consider

Managing independent time in the literacy classroom is an area that teachers must address directly. Independent time, centers, or stations should not be busy work or only used sporadically. It does not have to be an either/or in regards to technology, instead, it is BOTH and supports students with all types of reading and writing they will consume and create in their lifetime.  It is a time for students to take ownership in their own learning. Integrating technology into independent time routines or centers is advantageous for both students and teachers and help to move all readers forward.

Want to learn more? Check out the Administrator Guide to Personalizing Literacy Through Blended Learning from ThinkCERCA! There is also a great webinar on crafting Scalable Blended Literacy Programs worth a watch as well.

References:

Blended Learning Models (Friesen, 2012)

Guided Reading, Fountas & Pinnell

Shaelynn Farnsworth is a Digital Literacy Expert in the Iowa. You can follow her on Twitter @shfarnsworth

Steven W. Anderson is a Digital Teaching and Relationship Evangelist. You can follow him on Twitter @web20classroom.

 

Write. Create. Publish: 4 Student-Centered Writing Projects to do Before Summer Break

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At dinner, I was informed by my third and seventh grader that they had 23 days left of school. Wow – 23 days – the school year has flown by. As the weather turns warmer and classroom windows begin opening once again, it is important to maximize the small amount of time we have left with our students. When the weather is hot, installing an TintNWindows on the classroom can help in lowering the temperature so that students can study more productively. Writing and sharing their voice with the classroom and globe will foster engagement, relevance, and practice with essential skills all students need.

Below are 4 of my favorite Student-Centered Writing Projects to do before Summer Break:

  1. Future MeScreenshot 2017-04-25 at 9.52.30 PMFutureMe.org is a free website that allows students to send an email to their future self. Users get to select the date it will be delivered, whether the letter is private or can be posted on a public forum, and can attach images to the email. Students will love seeing an email pop up in their inbox that they had forgotten they wrote. While content can be a variety of things or left entirely up to the student, here are a few questions that my students loved to write about: What are you most proud of from this year? What is one new thing you want to try this summer?  What are you going to miss the most from ___ grade? Who did you get to know better this year? What are your goals for next year?
  2. Curated Google SiteScreenshot 2017-04-25 at 10.11.40 PMAt the end of each year, create a memory website full of pictures, videos, and student work samples. When I did this in my classroom, I had students share their favorite pieces with me so I could collect and curate them in one spot. This reflection can be coupled with writing where students are  The new Google Sites is perfect for this type of project. Living in the cloud, Google Sites is accessible for everyone and it integrates easily with Google Drive making curation easy! No Google Sites, don’t worry, Padlet would work too!  
  3. Flipgridflipgrid_all_devicesCatch the# FlipgridFever and have students create a Grid of Gratitude for support staff or retirees. Flipgrid is a collaborative video discussion platform that lets users create and respond to each other via video. Use Flipgrid to thank support staff in the building or a beloved teacher before they retire. Creating short videos is engaging and meaningful to students and allows them to use a contemporary mode to share their thoughts.  
  4. 6 Word MemoirClass of 2012 6 Word MemoirsCredited to Ernest Hemingway for writing the first, 6 Word Memoirs is a favorite writing activity to use at the end of the year with students. Having students share who they are at this moment in time using only 6 words requires reflection, analysis, and succinct writing. Adding an image or video to the project reinforces the multi-modality that can be used to share their work with a public audience. As a teacher, they were always my favorite writing projects to read. Here is an example from my former classroom  Student Examples Check out Smith Magazine for more publishing and sharing opportunities for students!

Soon, students and teachers alike will be leaving the doors for the last time to begin summer break. Make these last days together impactful, encouraging growth in self, and fostering relationships. And please share! If you try any of these ideas, tweet and share a picture to #MakeLitREAL

3 Strategies to Support Student Interaction with Complex Text

3-strategies

Upon graduation, we hope students leave school equipped with skills, strategies, and tools to support a lifetime of literacy encounters. Whether on the job, in college, or informing oneself on Presidential Candidates; students will be continuously encountering text that must be digested and understood independently.

As educators, we must not only place complex text in the hands of our students but also support their learning through modeling and scaffolding of strategies Good Readers use to make sense and solve problems when reading difficult text. Although student understanding content is important, it is a transfer of these skills and strategies we want students to utilize any time they encounter complex text on their own.

3 Strategies to Support Student Interaction with Complex Text

Good Readers…

 1.  Act on the text to support their understanding. Annotation, the practice of making notes for oneself, is one-way good readers interact with complex text to help them make sense of what they read.

Common Annotation Marks – Demonstrate, use, and teach students how Good Readers interact with and mark on text to aid in their understanding.

common-annotation-marks

Digital Annotation Tools to Explore and Share with Students

2.  Identify difficult words in complex text and use strategies to help them understand meaning. Good Readers work within the word. They identify morphemes to provide part of the definition. Good Readers also work outside the word. They ask themselves what resources can I use to support understanding. For words that are discipline specific, Good Readers use resources, such as “Discipline Dictionaries” to gain meaning of unknown terms which aid in comprehension of complex text.

3.  Finally, educators can model specific strategies during an Interactive Shared Reading. The text is delivered by the teacher while students read along silently. It is typically short and lively and promotes rereading as a way students can make sense of complex text. After the Interactive Shared Reading, the teacher may prompt discussion and support peer interaction about the text. Create a screencast for students to reference for additional support with specific strategies. It is important for students to see the text being read and hear the teacher’s thoughts as they model the specific strategy. Check out these screencasting options.

Resources – Rigorous Reading, Fisher and Frey

 

3 Ways to Motivate Young Readers

2009

Question: How do we do a better job of cultivating young readers? 

The panacea to motivate young readers – an observant and informed teacher! Informed educators use variety of tools and resources to cultivate readers; from  reading inventories, and noticing and noting reading behaviors during conferring and small group instruction, teachers can place high-interest books in the hands of their students, as well as identify possible barriers that make accessing a text difficult and limit the enjoyment of reading for many children. Fostering an environment that supports literacy, encourages relationships, and promotes reading as a social activity where ideas and connections are shared with partners or in literature circles can also help to cultivate young readers.

A common currency shared by all students supplying intrinsic means to develop lifelong readers is difficult to pinpoint. Unfortunately, many educators turn to extrinsic rewards as a way to entice students to read. And although research supports an increase in page numbers read through the use of points, rewards, or reading logs; research also concludes that there is where the gains end. Students do not become lifelong readers, and in fact, research shows that overall, extrinsically motivated readers will not increase achievement in the long term (Wigfield & Guthrie, 1997).

With this information and the realization that there is no silver bullet or one program to transform all students into readers, there are factors educators can focus in on to increase student motivation and drive in reading.
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Building off of the work of John T. Guthrie who shares 3 reading motivations to target for cultivating young readers: Interest, Dedication, and Confidence.  An interested student enjoys reading, a dedicated student finds value in reading, and a confident student reads because he or she can do it (Gambrell & Morrow, 2015).

3 Ways to Motivate Young Readers

  1. Motivation: Interests

Young readers are motivated by choice. When students have no choice in what they read, they are limited to read what the teacher chooses, squelching passions and interests, similarly to the situation in the previous videos. Students as young as Teddy Kids Leiden Kindergarten should have choice in their independent books from the classroom library. To optimize choice within the classroom library, educators should estimate needing around 20 books per student. Texts should cover multiple topics, themes, and genres. Don’t forget digital texts and epubs as options in the classroom.  Providing accessible texts for kids is important in a classroom library.  Include books ranging in levels that would be appropriate for your beginning readers, as well as texts that are 2 levels above your advanced readers. (Students should not be limited by levels according to their score when choosing books). Poignant topics and relevant information help to strengthen young readers who are Interest motivated.  Goodreads, a digital space to share the love of reading, also provides lists of books related to themes, genres, and grade-level; a great resource for teachers. Wonderopolis is another resource for students and teachers. Wonderopolis ignites creative thinking, sparks inquiry, and supports young readers by providing resources to dig deeper and question more!

 

2. Motivation: Dedication 

Although one of my favorite commercials about reading is actually an advertisement for Scotch, it depicts readers who are motivated by dedication. Just as in the commercial illustrated, many of our students are motivated to read because of behavior-related factors. Dedicated readers realize their outcomes are directly related to the effort they put forth. Students are motivated by the value they believe reading has in their lives and will play in their future. Tapping into this belief system, an educator can provide specific examples of how reading can change a person’s life. For instance, the NYTimes Learning Network provided a collection of resources related to Malala, along with other social justice issues for students connect with and explore in the classroom. Similarly, Web of Stories is a website providing a collection of famous scientists, authors, movie makers, and artists telling their stories to inspire others. Located under the “Theme” tab on the site is a collection of more than 300 videos tied to education!

 

3. Motivation: Confidence    

 

The third type of motivation that drives young readers is belief-driven, Confidence. To increase confidence in young readers, focus on accessibility, feedback, and expression of learning. A misdiagnosis of a student’s lack of comprehension of a text, often times is actually attributed to vocabulary and accessibility and not comprehension. Informed and observant educators realize these barriers and work to provide access to complex texts through scaffolding, and a rich supply of books and articles at a student’s independent reading level. Technology and digital resources provide an ever-growing supply of leveled texts, especially in the areas of non-fiction. A few of my favorite digital resources to support young readers: NewsELA, JellyBean Scoop, and  TweenTribune . Consistent feedback can also boost confidence in young readers, just as the video demonstrated the growth in language acquisition in the students who were paired with the retired grandparents. For the grandparents out there who wants to transform their skin into a young looking one, go to the website of Dr. Andres Bustillo to take the facelift surgery.Some people just feel that they would be more comfortable in their own skin and sexier if they just did a nip and tuck here or there. Self-improvement plastic surgery can allow people to function in life the way they wanted to, and this can be OK too.The desire to look and be more like a Hollywood celebrity can be a factor driving people towards cosmetic surgery, but this is not a good reason either. For the Hollywood stars plastic surgery SkinMD’s Kybella in boston may have been a necessity of their job, an essential career move; however, for people who idolize a famous person and just want to look more like them, the motivations are fuelled by the wrong reasons.

Plastic surgery is a wonderful way to make adjustments that can increase your happiness and target the areas that you choose. If you are considering plastic surgery, whether rhinoplasty, a facelift, eyelid surgery, or something else, after deciding that it is the right course of action for you, then do your research on finding a reputable Toronto plastic surgeon and move forward with confidence! All patients will go through a screening process with their plastic surgeon to ensure that they are mature, responsible, and mentally stable enough to undergo cosmetic surgery. Feedback options to consider besides face to face in class: voice comments, virtual book clubs or mentors, or even through video. Recap is a new app that allows students to express understanding by creating a short video response. Classroom threads can be saved and shared, increasing the feedback a student may receive to others beyond the school walls.   

When students leave our classrooms we hope they take with them a love of reading, not because we want them to keep up with coursework demands in the next grade, but because we want students to be lifelong readers! There is not one program or motivating factor that will cultivate every student into a reader. In fact, many students are motivated by a blend of the factors previously mentioned. But, a well-informed and observant teacher can focus their instruction and differentiate content to meet the needs of all students, motivating and cultivating lifelong readers.

Special thanks to George Courous – videos were spot on!

 

Resources:

  • Gambrell and Morrow. Best Practices in Literacy Instruction. 2015.
  • Guthrie, John T.”Motivating Students to Read.” Best Practices in Literacy Instruction. 2015.
  • Wigfield, A., and Guthrie, J.T. “Relations of children’s motivation for reading…” Journal of        Education Psychology. 1997.

 

Blogging in the Classroom: Student Roles

blogging in the classroomIn 2009, I began my personal journey in blogging, as well as implementing blogging into my classroom. Josh, a senior that year, walked into my classroom and told me and his peers that he hated writing and was going to hate this class. Instead of questioning him, I simply stated that this year we were going to try something new with in our writing class and I hoped that it would change his mind – Blogging.

Fast forward 2 months, and Josh had a personal blog, a classroom blog, a large following of readers, and had changed his views on writing overall. In fact, I often brought him with me to speak with other educators and students on the power of blogging, student choice, and a public audience. Not only did he revel in this new found role in speaking, but he became a writer, and actually enjoyed it.

Blogging is the one strategy, that I share with other educators, as the most powerful shift in my teaching with the integration of technology into the traditional ELA classroom. My students were empowered to share their voice, honed multimodal communication skills, and wrote real pieces for a different audience than the traditional, lone teacher.

I am often asked for blogging advice to support educators new to blogging in the classroom, so, this will be the first post in a series I will write. You can find my “Classroom Blogging Expectations” HERE. Feel free to use these as a starting place for your own classroom.

When considering the roles of student bloggers I offer the 5 following considerations for you and to be shared with the students:

Student Roles

  1. Write, Write, Write – Blogging requires students to write, and write often. To maintain an engaged audience, students must write and publish frequently. On average, my students publish two posts a week. Not only did this require them to be constantly writing, but to have multiple pieces started and in different places in the writing process. The amount of student writing inside the classroom doubled, but the most interesting surprise was the amount they wrote outside of the classroom, to keep their readers satisfied and wanting more!
  2. Purpose and Voice – While this did not happen overnight, students soon realized their writing required purpose to appeal to their readers. Through blogging, students discovered their own, unique voice and their purpose for writing was uncovered. Starting off with a general blog was how many students began their journey, but the more they practiced and published, and the more they read posts from other peers and writers, they realized that most blogs had a niche; and they needed one as well. From original music, xbox tips and videos, to a co-authored blog publicly debating controversial issues; my students refined writing skills, uncovered and developed their own niche, and unearthed their voice as a writer.
  3. Publishing – Another student role in a blogging classroom is the responsibility of publishing regularly on a public platform. Publishing their work to someone different than the traditional, lone teacher increased engagement and developed explanatory and argumentative writing skills. It also provided students an opportunity to shift from digital consumers to digital creators. Having spent most of their lives reading online, students now created the same types of texts they read daily. This exposure to practice writing multimodal texts demanded knowledge and demonstration in structure, format, design, audio, visual, etc. (some posts were in the form of images or vlogs – video blog posts) .
  4. Community – Starting off, I knew the pitfalls of having students blog; one being who would read their posts. Before I introduced blogging to the students, I connected with other educators across the country to develop a blogging community for the students. This way, not only would they have their peers reading their thoughts, but also peers from around the country would be reading their work on a regular basis. This element is essential. Plan carefully to ensure someone reads what your kids post, or else it will loose purpose and engagement will dwindle. This community of writers was created to share ideas and encourage growth in all kids. Students commented on and followed each others blogs. Their charge was not one to edit or evaluate each other, instead, to be an active participant in this learning community and respond in a way that moved all writers forward. (How I taught my students to respond is found in the blogging expectations linked above). This collaboration and connection provided powerful reinforcement for writing!
  5. Finally, it is a student’s responsibility in a blogging community to not only reflect and respond on the other writers in the group, but also a personal reflection of growth as a writer. This was done throughout the year and ended in a reflection sheet containing links to posts in which they felt demonstrating their strongest displays of writing or which met standards. They reflected on their growth as a writer and their contribution to the community as a whole. They reflected and shared stories of their own writing, but also included stories how they helped other writers move forward!

There are many roles and responsibilities of student bloggers that could have been included on this list, but in retrospect, this list encompasses the top 5 roles my students found themselves in most frequently.

Next time, I will share the roles and responsibilities of the teacher in a classroom that blogs!