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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Literacy

Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

Whether early or accomplished readers, if your students read, then their emotions and imaginations can be evoked when they engage the "literate eye". Add this to your cognitive toolkit: literate students learn better when they have opportunities to work with information in different visual formats.  

So, encourage your students to play with graphs, charts, tables, maps, lists, VENN diagrams, info graphics etc.

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The Literate Eye: A Cognitive Tool

If you have been following this Tools of Imagination series on BAM EdWords, you will be familiar with the term “cognitive tool”. The practice of organizing knowledge in different visual ways is another tool of the imagination and, thus, learning or "cognitive tool." Here’s why: when we become literate the way we access information shifts. Rather than gaining most of our information about the world through our ears (which is the case primarily for oral language users) we now access information actively through our eyes. We de-code symbols all around us (language being one symbol system) all the time. So, afford your students opportunities to play with information visually and you will tap into this powerful feature of their imaginative literate lives.

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Posted by on in Education Resources

As a proponent of choice reading, I am always looking for ways to get books into the hands of my students and have them build their reading list, and what better way to celebrate Valentine’s week than having your students speed date books? Inspired by the speed dating scene in New York where single people met potential dates over a brief, timed conversation and ranked them, speed dating books is a way for students to quickly put their hands on several books in order to find one of interest.

To kick off each semester, my students speed date books. I’ll give our media center specialists a little information about my class, and they go to work pulling high-interest books. When we arrive in the library, several books are arranged on tables and students find a table and sit with their guided note page. I set the timer for anywhere between two to four minutes depending on the students, and the book dating begins. Students make notes on first impressions of the cover, the inside jacket blurb, and possibly even the first paragraph or two. The timer buzzes signaling students to move to another table and start the process with another book. We may repeat this process between five and ten times depending on student interest and the time of year. After students have completed the process, they will rank books deciding which book to begin reading immediately and which ones to add to their reading list.

I have experimented with book speed dating several ways. Books may be grouped at tables by genre helping students learn different types of genres and seeing the variances within a genre. Faculty members may choose books which have been personal favorites for students to browse or students may each submit a couple of their favorite books for others to choose from. Today my students will speed date books on Valentine’s day complete with chocolate and candles. The possibilities are limitless.

As a follow up to speed dating, I carry the analogy further by discussing dating the book. A book may start slow but grow on you as the more you read it, so I encourage students to not give up too quickly on a book. Sometimes, however, the book does not live up to the hopes and expectations of a student, and students have permission to break up with a book and try another one. Life is too short to trudge through a book without connecting to it especially for choice reading when there are so many other choices.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

The world is full of heroes.

Some of our heroes are people that exemplify qualities such as ingenuity, flexibility, agility, determination, or reliability. For example, we are impressed by the extraordinary speed and strength of basketball player Lebron James, or the extraordinary agility and accuracy of soccer player Lionel Messi. We are awestruck by the perceptiveness and intelligence of scientist Marie Curie. We admire the bravery of Rosa Parks or Amelia Earhart. We note the selflessness of Mother Theresa. These people all possess transcendent human qualities that we also possess. The difference, often, is that we hold the same qualities to a lesser degree. Sometimes the people we consider “heroes” are those that demonstrate in large measure qualities that we feel we lack.

But humans are not our only heroes. We also emotionally connect with institutions (the United Nations) or concepts (democracy) that exemplify values we believe in: justice, equality, freedom. We may admire the incredible abilities of different animal species as well. So by “hero” I am not refering to a testosterone-driven male figure but, rather, someone or something exemplifying an extraordinary human quality.

The curriculum is also full of heroes; every topic of the curriculum can be seen as heroic in some way.

You’ve probably noticed that many young people associate with heroes or idols. It is not unusual to see pictures of a rock star, artist, or actor plastered into lockers or onto bedroom walls. Our students can become quite fanatical about learning all there is to know about some athlete, actor, author, songwriter, or world leader. If our students are associating with heroes constantly in the world around them, shouldn’t we pay attention to this imaginative activity? Imaginative educators do; they bring out the heroic in the curriculum topics they teach.

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Posted by on in Literacy

In the last post we examined how my district is exploring the use of consistent reading strategies throughout elementary and middle school (grades K-8): monitoring comprehension, activating and connecting to background knowledge, questioning, visualizing, inferring, determining importance in text, and summarizing and synthesizing information…And, we took a look at how we could leverage the Notice & Note signposts (both fiction and non-fiction) to have students get more out of these strategies in grades 4-8.

Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels, in Comprehension and Collaboration, succinctly explain the significance of reading comprehension strategies, “Explicitly teaching comprehension strategies remains one of the key principles of reading achievement, and the flexible use of comprehension strategies allows readers to hurdle the background knowledge gap when reading challenging text.”

Introducing Reading Comprehension Strategies

As a fourth grade teacher, I introduced the reading comprehension strategies to my students, one at a time, sometimes through the use of a co-created anchor chart. Generally, we spent 1-2 weeks learning and practicing each strategy (often times while instinctively combining its use with previously learned strategies) before moving onto the next. The exception to the rule was monitoring comprehension, on which we spent 3-4 weeks, because (1) it serves as the basis for all other strategies, and (2) it was always learned first and students needed more time getting used to the idea of breaking down texts in a way that was for the most part foreign to them.

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Posted by on in Literacy

Currently in my district at the elementary level, we are in the process of strategically moving away from our basal reading program. We’ve already “cut out” its writing component, as this year we’re hitting the ground running with Writing Workshop and the Units of Study. Also, we’ve begun the process of designing our own reading comprehension instruction with the assistance of Reading with Meaning, Strategies That Work, and Notice & Note (both fiction and non-fiction).

A component of these reading comprehension modifications involves exploring the use of consistent strategies throughout elementary and middle school (grades K-8): monitoring comprehension, activating and connecting to background knowledge, questioning, visualizing, inferring, determining importance in text, and summarizing and synthesizing information. These strategies, which are from Strategies That Work (and many other resources), are “the first recommendation in the IES Practice Guide from the What Works Clearinghouse on improving reading comprehension.”

In addition, we’re looking at leveraging the Notice & Note signposts (both fiction and non-fiction) to have students dive deeper into the strategies (and texts) in grades 4-8. And, if you’re not familiar with the signposts (and you should be), just follow the previous two links to see how they apply to both fiction and non-fiction.

Now, while the idea of consistent strategies may sound neat, organized, and impressive, I believe it’s important to be able to specifically articulate why this is the path we’re considering.

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