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 

Recap App: 3 Back-to-School Ideas for Student Videos

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Last time we co-authored a blog post, Steven Anderson and I shared Blab. It was so much fun and such an easy app to integrate into the classroom we wanted to share another favorite of ours!

Recap is a free video response app created by Swivl which allows students to reflect, respond, and demonstrate through video. Recap is easy to use as both an educator and as a student. It is also an excellent way to model and use digital literacy modes in the classroom! Simply create a class and assign a Recap to students. Questions or prompts can be teacher-created in the forms of text or video, and can be assigned to individual students, small groups, or to the whole-class. When completed, teachers can share the whole “Review Reel”, or each individual child’s video. Share options include email or weblink!

Here are 3 Back-to-School Ideas that will have your students (and parents) Recapping through video response:

  1. Reading Interest Inventory – At the beginning of the year, giving students a “Reading Interest Inventory” provides valuable information about each students’ reading preferences and how they view themselves as readers. It also provides a launchpad to place the “right book” into their hands that may hook a reader for a lifetime. Using Recap, students could record themselves on their computer or ipad. These video responses would provide valuable insight to climate and culture of literacy in the classroom. Here are a few of unique questions to include on a Reading Interest Inventory: What is your earliest memory of reading or books? How do you choose a book? What do you notice adults reading? When should a person leave a book? What two books or magazines do you wish we had in our classroom library?
  2.  Student Goals and Reflection – Another way Recap could be used at the beginning of the school year is to capture a student’s goals for the year. Part of educating the Whole Child is helping the student see where they are with their learning and where ultimately they want to end up. We know that learning is a continuum. So using Recap students can record where they’d like to see their learning be at the end of the school year. Maybe they want to be a better math student. Or perhaps they want to be able to read more proficiently. What ever their goal they can capture it. Then throughout the school year they can refer back to it. Use it as part of their own personal reflective practice. How are they progressing? What do they still want to do. Have they met their goal and maybe it’s time for another. These videos can become a part of a larger learning portfolio where students examine their learning throughout the year.
  3. Parent Involvement – At the beginning of each school year, many of our youngest learners attend a back-to-school night or an open-house in which they meet their teacher, unpack their school supplies, and explore their new surroundings in the safety of their parents. It is also a time that many parents and family members come to the realization that their child is growing up and “leaving the nest”. What a perfect time to have a “message station” set up for parents or family members to leave a Recap for their student. Imagine the joy in a child’s eye after receiving a message from their parent or family member on their first day of school. Recap classes can be accessed through a pin number assigned to the class, so those parents or family members unable to attend can record their message from anywhere. It is also a great way to demonstrate to parents how you will meet the digital literacy demands in the Common Core State Standards, as well as how technology can be used in a meaningful way even with our youngest learners!

Recap is an engaging and creative way for students to share their understanding through video response! Recap is a free app and is available via the web (so perfect for chromebooks), as well as an iPad app. Coming soon – a  phone app, Recap from anywhere at anytime!

Amplifying the Writing Process with Technology

 

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Yesterday marked the 8th year of the Iowa 1 to 1 Institute. A conference that is close to my heart, and has provided support, inspiration, and opportunities to me throughout the years. It is also one that I help to organize and run with an amazing team led by Nick Sauers.

This year, over 1000 educators gathered in Des Moines for the 2 day conference.  Dr. Robert Dillon kicked off the first day leading the learning on Leadership Day. The second day provided attendees with over 100 sessions to attend. My session focused on the influence of technology on the writing process and the changes that have occurred because of this influx. These changes have helped to amplify student writing in multiple ways. I have included my slides which highlights these changes, provides brief theory, as well as technology resources and tools to amplify the writing process.

Amplifying the Writing Process

Link to Slides found Here! 

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)

Uncovering the Why: the Importance of Beliefs

BeliefsFor many years, my professional learning consisted on the “what” and “how” in the classroom. What were your kids reading? writing? discussing? What tech were you using? How are you using portfolios? How do you grade? How do you differentiate? 

While all of these questions are important to answer, it wasn’t until I drilled down the Why, that I truly appreciated learning. Understanding the why, helps provide a framework in which all other decisions can be based upon. Why do I teach Shakespeare? Why do I have students blog? Why does it matter that students publish to  public audience? Why do I prefer the workshop framework over traditional instruction?

Currently, I am reading Read, Write, Teach by Linda Rief. The introduction provides insight into the purpose, design, and the Why for writing this book. She starts with the Why because it “grounds her choices of the what and how.”

The following are images of my own Whys on Literacy, inspired by the work of Linda Rief. I encourage you to not only explore your own beliefs on teaching and learning, but also to bring the conversation back to your departments, buildings, or even districts. Do we have similar beliefs? What is gained and what is lost when staff members have the same beliefs? Is a common set of shared beliefs necessary for our students?

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