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    Motivating Resistant Readers With PBL in the Reading Workshop

    By Jenny Gieras
     | Aug 23, 2019

    Although I’m sure it exists, I’ve yet to encounter that mythical class of students, the one where every student enters my classroom an avid reader, embraces every genre we explore within the course of our school year, and cheers when prompted to write about their reading. Rather, the norm seems to be that some students would spend their days reading only nonfiction texts or graphic novels if they could, others fight any type of assignment that requires them to write about their reading, and some would be content spending the workshop period not reading at all, just flipping through the pages of a glossy magazine filled with photos of their favorite athletes.

    Alhough I am a strong supporter of student choice for independent reading, the fact remains that, as a teacher of elementary literacy, I have a curriculum to teach that purposefully exposes my third graders to a variety of text genres (character fiction, mystery, expository and narrative nonfiction, etc.), affording them opportunities to strengthen decoding, fluency, and comprehension skills they need to be lifelong readers and thinkers, as well as—let’s face it—standardized test takers.

    This can be a tough pill to swallow for a kid who just wants to read about sea animals or laugh his way through comic books all day, use her reading notebook to draw cartoons, or in some cases, not read anything at all. That’s where I’ve found a motivator is helpful, and I’ve had great success motivating even my most reluctant readers with interest-driven, technology-enhanced, project-based learning experiences based on students’ in-class reading.

    Literary projects appeal to everyone because of the innate differentiation embedded in them, offering entry points for all learners. They capture the attention and motivation of even the most reluctant readers, giving them purpose as they read, and they provide extension opportunities for those kids who are intent on reading the entire classroom library in a school year. In addition, comprehensive projects like these nudge students to think more deeply about text to ensure what they are sharing or presenting will make sense and appeal to real audiences; they also provide authentic formative assessment opportunities, enabling teachers to monitor student comprehension as they plan, create, modify, and present their projects.

    Following are some of my favorite ways to shake up reading workshop, modifiable across genres, grade levels, tech accessibility, and ability levels.

    Character interviews

    After reading self-selected fiction books in partnerships, students choose a character from the book to critically analyze, citing text evidence to back claims about his/her motivations, traits, and interests. Then, they draft questions they might hypothetically ask the character in an interview. Working together, the reading partnerships write a script between the character and an interviewer, create one or more background(s) that made sense for the book’s setting, and use an app with green screen (we use DoInk) to record a “live” interview “on location.” My students are always eager to share their interview videos with others on sharing apps like SeeSaw, and they put great effort into generating thoughtful questions and answers that would accurately depict the character to their peers. They speak in character and borrow quotes from their books. It’s especially fun comparing interpretations when more than one group chooses the same character to “interview.”

    Book trailers

    gieras-2

    In their reading partnerships (I love this for our Mystery unit), students select a favorite text, then create book trailers. (We always first watch a few current movie trailers to get a sense of what a trailer is.) Some kids use the easy-to-use templates in iMovie, others get crafty and create stop motion animations (my favorite tool is Stop Motion Studio Pro) with clay, paper, or drawings, and others write scripts, paint backdrops, and film themselves as characters from their books to entice others to read them. We roll out the red carpet and serve popcorn as a final celebration on our Book Trailer Premiere Day. Students also have the option to create book trailer posters to display in the classroom or school library, which can include a QR code that directs interested readers to the recorded book trailer.

    Comic books based on chapter books

    Graphic novels have been enjoying their moment in the sun. Comic book images not only appeal to our more visual learners, but also lend graphic support to often complicated storylines. Having the opportunity to create comic book versions of chapter books (usually just a portion, but for some more ambitious students, an entire, abbreviated, book) or short stories encourages many students to keep going during periods of marathon reading, such as during our mid-winter Test Prep unit. Some students love drawing their own comics to create homemade graphic novels; others digitize their work with basic drawing tools like Sketchbook which they import into slideshows using Apple Keynote or Google Slides, or by using cartoon creation tools in an app like Pixton. Once the comic books are “published,” we add them to our classroom library, alongside their companion books, for others to enjoy.

    Newsreel

    gieras-1

    Kids love creating their own news segments and teaming up with peers to create a broadcast. Typically during a nonfiction unit of study, students choose a topic and read several related books, collecting information as they hone their research skills. Creating short news clips provides a great opportunity for learners to demonstrate their understanding and share their learning with a broader audience. One or two students play anchor and introduce the segments, and the whole package can be streamed to the school’s broadcast system (if one exists), or recorded and shared on a learning management system (like Google Classroom), viewed by other classes in an assembly, or sent home to parents in a linked email. To prepare kids to make nonfiction book segments, we watch videos on National Geographic Kids, or perennial favorite The Kid Should See This. We add some snazzy sound bites to liven up the broadcast with snips from ZapSplat or StoryBlocks Audio. For fiction books, the news segments can be reports on what’s actually happening within books (“We interrupt this newscast to tell you that author Wallace Wallis had been reported missing!”), or, with a little imagination, an extension of a storyline. Kids love talking about their characters like they are real people!

    As literacy educators, we know that best practices include matching texts to readers, exposing students to a variety of genres, and differentiating assignments. We also know that, while literary writing is an essential academic skill our students need to develop, the fact is that there are multiple ways to demonstrate comprehension of text. Not every student will need a motivator to read, consider and comprehend, and respond to text across the school year. For those who may need a little motivation, literacy projects just might be what it takes.

    Jenny Gieras teaches third grade at Roaring Brook Elementary School in Chappaqua, NY. She is passionate about student-centered, technology-enhanced, inquiry-driven learning. You can find her on Twitter @JennyGieras.

    This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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    Where Will I Store This? Using a Digital Repository to Curate and Share Collections

    By Nicole Timbrell
     | Aug 16, 2019
    timbrell-wakelet-2 copy

    One of the great benefits of being future-focused educators is the ability to connect with fellow professionals and education networks on a wide range of digital platforms. In such places we acquire ideas and resources for our students, teaching, and professional learning. Yet, the sheer volume of potentially useful material we encounter as we scroll through these platforms is also one of its greatest challenges. On an average day, a connected literacy educator may encounter streams of potentially useful educational content such as TED talks, news articles, or videos which they may wish to save and use later. Consequently, it is worth sharing ideas for approaches to capturing and organizing such content, especially during the summer vacation when many educators are engaged in self-directed professional learning and preparing resources for the school year to come.

    Although most digital platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, and TED have options for saving posts and resources, such an approach results in a series of disparate collections on multiple platforms, often leaving users wondering, Now, where did I save that? Managing and sharing digital resources is an expected skill of our contemporary world. Therefore, as educators and school leaders, we are called to model for our students and colleagues efficient and collaborative ways to do so. While there are many methods educators could use for this purpose, none seem as user-friendly and visually appealing as the digital curation tool provided by Wakelet.

    Wakelet helps users to quickly store, organize, and share digital content that is relevant to them. Once a free account is set up, the user can curate collections to group together similarly themed digital resources, or find collections curated by other users. Collections can include a mix of weblinks, text, photos, videos, images and files, all of which are able to be titled, annotated and reordered. By downloading the app and adding the web browser extensions, saving digital content to a collection is a matter of a few quick clicks. Wakelet collections can be kept private or made public, are easily shared via a single URL. Additionally, the ability for users to collaborate on collections together amplifies the possibilities for use with students in the classroom.

    Students could use Wakelet to track source material for an independent research task, or as a digital writing portfolio to showcase their best compositions with a college admissions office. Teachers could use the tool for group work requiring the curation of a themed collection (ie: concept, genre, writer), or to have a class co-construct a collection of book reviews and book trailers to inspire each other’s independent reading. School leaders might compile a resource list of educational research articles centered around the school’s professional development goals, or share a collection of resources to promote digital citizenship in the home with their parent community. Visit the Wakelet blog to read more about the ways educators are using this digital curation tool in the classroom.

    Finally, given that it is currently summer break, let’s take a moment to consider the opportunity that digital curation provides to organize our lives for the better. Now you finally have a central place to save and share recipes, travel destinations, and reviews of all those films you’ve been meaning to see. Go forth and (digitally) curate!

    Nicole Timbrell is the assistant head of secondary school at Australian International School in Singapore, where she also teaches English. Formerly, Nicole was a graduate student and a research assistant at the New Literacies Research Lab at the University of Connecticut. She has no affiliation with the Wakelet team. You can find her on Twitter at @nicloutim.

    This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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    From Craft to Curriculum Design: Experimenting With Maker Education

    By Amélie Lemieux
     | Aug 02, 2019

    Ask any teacher and they’ll likely agree that one of the most significant challenges in their work is implementing innovative material using new technologies or modalities they have not yet learned or mastered. In a recent study I conducted at Mount Saint Vincent University in Atlantic Canada, I asked seasoned in-service teachers to document their thought processes as they engaged in maker activities that were new to them. I was interested in finding out what happens when teachers engage in makerspace literacy activities.

    Most teacher participants in this maker study agreed that the professional development they receive, usually once or twice a year, is insufficient to support them in maker curriculum implementation and development throughout the school months. Ideally, professional development should be ongoing, and schools should support maker activities with appropriate infrastructure. With more studies documenting how materials present both challenges and opportunities for affective, cognitive, and sensory learning, it makes sense to find ways to support teachers in maker-driven initiatives.

    Following are three examples teachers can apply in their classroom settings. You might explore some of these activities and related technologies at home this summer as you gear up for the new school year.

    Maker experiments, design, and genius hour

    lemieux-1If you are inclined to take up material making and work with pencil design and planning, there are benefits to embracing drawing and building as multi-step maker activities. In the picture above, a participant designs a wood stick box and documents the materials she plans on using in her unit on Genius Hour with fifth graders. In this activity, planning and drafting structures become integral parts of making.

    After this exercise, students chose and tested the materials with which to create this box, as the experiment was meant to test whether an uncooked egg would crack depending on the height at which it was dropped. While this type of maker activity does not require technology, it does mobilize maker skills such as design, creativity, and problem-solving.

    Video making and editing

    pic-2 - CopyOther kinds of maker activities require beginner technology use. There are many accessible video recording and editing software products that teachers find useful without specialized training. StopMotion, pictured below, entails iPad play and is ideal for enabling both teachers and students to creatively animate ideas. iMovie is another editing software that requires little prior knowledge for effective use. In the screen caption below, two teachers are making edits to their video—their project was centered around creating tutorials with primary-grade children (how to make apple sauce).

    Coding

    pic-4 - CopyCoding is also a popular maker space activity. A program called Scratch is one of the most popular coding tools, but software updates in January 2019 introduce a series of changes that require attentive adaptation. Watching tutorials and taking notes can provide some support for learning Scratch, and for those using Chromebooks in your classrooms, you will be pleased to know that Scratch 3.0 is now supported on this platform. Other Chromebook-supported software, such as Blockly or micro:bit (pictured below), might prove to be convenient alternatives to Scratch. Your choice of programming language will ultimately depend on resources, skill level, and adaptability of the software.

    Remember, maker education is all about trying out new things in a fun and accessible environment. Though you may be moderating the activity as the teacher or leader, do not be afraid to learn with your students—embrace the unknown and discover the joys of learning with technology.

    Teacher resources

    • Create 2Learn compiles resources for teachers who want to take up maker education for the first time and are unsure how to start.
    • LEGO Education's engaging, standards-based lessons help inspire curious and creative minds. 
    • Scratch for Educator offers guides to help you prepare and run Scratch classes and workshop as well as plans, activities, and strategies for introducing creative computing in the classroom.

    Amélie Lemieux is assistant professor of literacy and technology at Mount Saint Vincent University,  where she researches digital literacies and makerspace engagement through mapping methodologies.  She can be reached on Twitter at @ame_lemieux. For recent scholarship on maker education, please visit www.amelielemieux.com

    This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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    Teaching and Learning in a Digital World: Digital Literacies for Disciplinary Learning

    By Jill Castek and Mike Manderino
     | Jul 26, 2019

    collaborative-pl-2Over the course of a two-year period, we have been discussing digital and disciplinary learning with our colleagues in schools and universities. These discussions suggest that teaching and learning with digital technologies require us to think differently about classroom organization. They also introduce synergistic practices centered around teaching literacies in ways that cut across disciplinary boundaries.

    We argue that in a digital world where learning traverses digital/print, in- and out-of-school, face-to-face and virtual communication, disciplinary literacies that rely solely on print resources are no longer sufficient to fully convey complex and multilayered meanings. In this blog post, we briefly sum up three key ideas gleaned from our conversations.  

    Digital resources enrich disciplinary thinking and collaboration

    It is becoming increasingly clear that the digital world is a collaborative world. Meaning making is also a collaborative, networked activity that involves many individuals with different kinds of expertise. Discussion is often part of this process and includes both face-to-face and virtual, the latter often mediated through a shared, networked collaborative space such as Hypothes.is. This shared annotation space provides an online forum to hold discussions, read socially, organize a collection of reading materials and research archives, and take personal notes.

    Hypothes.is and other similar digital tools provide a collaborative context for synthesizing ideas drawn from multiple resources and a means for discussing them with other learners. Such digital exchanges of ideas mirror the forums disciplinary experts use to exchange ideas, track the evolution of their thinking, and post ideas for critique and discussion with other disciplinarians. Incorporating flexible digital forums into classroom instruction invites multiple perspectives and encourages the examination of ideas from different points of view. Flexibility, multiple perspectives, and examining different points of view are mindsets that are vital in disciplinary learning and also in the digital world. 

    Digital collaborations promote opportunities for curation

    We recognize that teachers have limited time to keep pace with the infinite possibilities of digital literacies for disciplinary learning. We advocate for collaborative curation of digital resources that converge with disciplinary practices. Twitter chats, Google Docs and sites, and Tes Teach with Blendspace are great places for teachers to connect, curate, and share resources for digital literacies for disciplinary learning. Students can also use these forums to share, so they become tools for developing disciplinary communication and deepening disciplinary inquiry.   

    Collaborative professional learning experiences enhance engagement

    We advocate for professional learning that makes space for teachers, along with their colleagues, to design, iterate, and test learning tasks within and across disciplines. If teachers are to build students’ disciplinary knowledge, then they themselves must develop their own means of digital and disciplinary engagement. Teachers rarely get opportunities to build, tinker, and create their own disciplinary inquiry. Making time for such activities supports their development, instructional planning, and implementation as they guide their students through similar processes. We encourage collaborative professional learning, which can span online and offline forums.

    These networks create spaces for teachers to engage in their own learning while sharing with the texts and tools used by students and to develop the digital and disciplinary knowledge with and alongside their students. One exemplary program for collaborative professional learning is the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy. This multi-dimensional learning opportunity scaffolds collaborative, project-based inquiry using a variety of digital texts, tools, and technologies that support challenging and engaging learning opportunities. 

    Jill Castek is an associate professor in the College of Education at the University of Arizona. Find her on Twitter @jillcastek.

    Mike Manderino is the Director Of Curriculum And Instruction at Leyden High School District 212.

    This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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    Extending Text-Based Strategies to Digital Environments

    By Amber White
     | Jul 12, 2019

    Extending Text-Based Strategies to Digital EnvironmentsTake a moment to reflect on your daily digital reading habits. How do you start your day? Perhaps you begin the morning by reviewing your Google Calendar to see what the day ahead entails, then catch up on the latest news from AllSides, next you read the latest education news curated from Troy Hick’s Nuzzel newsletter, and then spend a few minutes scrolling through your Twitter feed and notice an article highlighted by Nell Duke that you like and will read later. Within the first hour of waking, many of us have immersed ourselves in a significant amount of online reading, most of which is informational in nature.

    Regardless of our online reading habits, the “internet of things”  doesn’t sleep and will continue to soar in the variety of information being generated through the datafication of online clicks, likes, shares, postings, streamings, and more. The diverse reading that we—and our students—will have to traverse online requires that we have skills and strategies to navigate and comprehend the various multimedia elements in genre-bending spaces.

    It’s clear informational reading plays a significant role in our readerly lives yet early learners often have limited access and exposure to informational text in school. What can we do to help prepare our students to comprehend informational text in a digital environment?

    Adapting and extending research

    Bridget Dalton and C. Patrick Proctor’s research suggests that text-based pedagogical strategies, such as reciprocal teaching, can help support students’ thinking when extended to a digital literacy environment. Moving reciprocal teaching into an online environment involves supported instruction around the adapted use of four comprehension strategies—predict, question, clarify, summarize—and has text-based research for improving reading comprehension.

    In an adapted version of reciprocal teaching, an upper elementary student from Michigan created several short metacognitive screencasts to demonstrate the strategic reading of online informational text in a digital learning environment.

    Reciprocal teaching screencasts 

    Note that other digital tools, such as InsertLearning or DocHub, could be used to make digital annotations viewed in the screencast clips above.

    Although this tailored version of reciprocal teaching took place in a static digital space, it still beautifully captures how online tools can be leveraged to better navigate and comprehend online information. After receiving explicit, direct instruction, this student demonstrates how using the strategies—making predictions, clarifying thinking while reading, and using questioning to set authentic purposes for reading—can strengthen comprehension. In addition, the digital think-aloud clips of the strategy itself amplify the student’s learning within the digital environment.

    Implications for text-based strategies

    We can move students from effortful strategy use to a more automatic skill by intentionally introducing them to a repertoire of impactful strategies that will help them monitor their understanding of online informational text. As the information at our fingertips continues to soar, increased action research and scholarship exploring the successes and/or failures of proven text-based strategies in digital environments will be highly beneficial for classroom teachers and their students.

    Amber White is a reading specialist, a teacher consultant for the Saginaw Bay Writing Project, and the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for North Branch Area Schools. You can reach her on Twitter @AWhite100.

    This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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