Web-Watch: The Balanced Literacy Diet

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

This week, I share a website I recently discovered while visiting with a colleague from the University of Toronto. The Balanced Literacy Diet website takes an innovative approach to supporting teachers, parents, administrators, and teacher-educators in preventing literacy failure. The Balanced Literacy Diet approach uses a familiar metaphor to address the complex nature of teaching literacy: the food pyramid. On this site, the food pyramid is transformed into a reading pyramid and a writing pyramid. Fifteen essential “food” groups form the foundation of the literacy diet.

Reading Pyramid

Literacy Diet Reading Pyramid

The food groups include topics such as motivation to read, writing processes, and text structures, for example. View a full list by clicking here. Teachers can then use the recipe finder to locate activities and explanations built on the food groups. For example, one recipe for fourth grade addresses the food group, “Real Writing: Text Structures” through a math lesson (see figure 2, below). The recipe includes an activity objective, four images of student work products, a video with a teacher explaining the recipe, and a transcript of the video. Links to other recipes by the featured teacher are included. Each video is concise and just long enough to keep the viewer engaged. The math literacy lesson video is just one minute, twenty-three seconds in length.

math & literacy

Math and Literacy Recipe

Another innovative feature of the site is the virtual classroom tour option. The virtual classroom tours are interactive; that is, the viewer controls what to look at in the classroom and can point to features which then pop-up a description and additional video describing what is on the screen. I recommend using Chrome or Firefox rather than Internet Explorer at this time; Internet Explorer 10 appears to limit what you can do on the website.

The Literacy Diet website is a project of the Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment. A key tool in the Institute’s arsenal rests on the idea that improved literacy for students translates to a more peaceful and less violent society overall. Please take a moment to read about the Institute. The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto hosts the site. You may want to grab a soda and snack before you visit the Literacy Diet site—once you start reading, viewing, and touring the recipes for literacy success, you may spend more time than you planned getting to know the innovative teachers on this interactive and useful site. Teacher educators will find all kinds of useful examples for the teachers-to-be-with whom they work. Excellent ideas gathered by grade/age, stage of literacy development, and food group will inspire new ideas for teachers, parents, and administrators.

Generative Technology: Teacher Candidate Examples

by Dana Grisham

In my last post, on March 2, 2013, I talked about a project that my colleague, Linda Smetana, and I did with teacher candidates who were asked to integrate technology into literacy lessons they were doing in their assignments in schools. Linda and I refer to this as “generative technology” and feel that when students create something as a result of using technology, there is a positive synergy about it. The teacher candidates benefit from learning to use technology in their teaching and their K-12 students benefit from creating something academic with the tools they are offered.

Linda and I believe that “generative” technology needs to be infused into teacher preparation. Technology in teacher preparation tends to be “silo-ed” in the programs where we teach.  By generative technology, we mean that the technology is embedded in the content of the course in teaching methods, rather than something “added on.” In my March 2013 post, I talked at length about the assignment that was generated and promised to share the products in my next post. So, here are a couple of the products that resulted from our generative technology assignment. Remember that there were 21 teacher candidates in the fifth quarter of a seven-quarter post-baccalaureate teacher preparation program; 17 of the candidates were simultaneously completing their masters degree in education while 18 of the 21 participants were earning their education specialist and multiple subject (elementary) credentials.

First, teacher candidates showed a great deal of diversity in the choices they made about the technology they infused into their projects. The actual projects that candidates chose are listed below (all names are pseudonyms).

Simone

High School

Mixed general education English class includes

Sped, at risk, low performing

Intern

Using Voki to create avatars who read student created papers

Nita and Lila

Elementary

RSP & intervention 4th & 5th graders

Interns

Shared teaching position

Class Writing Blog where student progress was chronicled

Avram

Middle School

RSP & intervention

Intern

Writing Website created by the Flamingo Writers; weebly.com

Lani and Ed

Middle School

RSP & Instructional Support, history

Student teachers

Election Brochure using

MyBrochureMaker

Alicia

Early primary

Special education self contained class

Intern

Storybird for creating books with repetitive text incorporating sight words

Elana

Primary

Special education, self contained class

Intern

Prezi for zoo-phonics lessons

Joanne

Upper elementary

Special education, self contained class

Intern

Toontastic as a vehicle for Story Writing using the iPad.

Callum

Middle School

Communication and Social Skills class

Intern

Toontastic as a vehicle for Story Writing using the iPad

Lianne and Jerri

Elementary

Resource

Student teachers

Comic Creator to create a class book of prepositions; iPod to record student’ reading of authored page; student videos

Jake

Middle School

Resource

Student teacher

Using Glogster, students created presentations of specific historical events

Monte

Middle School

Resource & Intervention History class

Intern

Using Glogster, students created

presentations of inventions

Joleen

Elementary

Language enriched special education self contained class

Student teacher

Comic Creator to create simple stories

Tina

Elementary

Special education self contained class

Intern

Storybird to create stories – social skills and sharing

Miles

High School

SPED class for students with Emotional Disturbance

Intern

Began with Prezi and changed to ppt because of site technology resources; Students isolated the elements of the novel ‘the necklace’ located images on the web that reflect essence of event

Larry

Elementary

Special Education self contained class

Intern

Strip Generator, student created panels regarding sharing. Luke’s presentation to the class was through Prezi.

Serena

Middle School

Resource Specialist Program

Student teacher

Storybird to create stories; illustrate stories from gallery pictures

Janet

Elementary

Special Education self contained class

Student teacher

Using Xtranormal, a text to movie website; students created short films reflecting narrative story structure with their own scripts using text-to speech technology.

Callista

Elementary

Resource Specialist Program

Intern

VoiceThread; understanding literal and figurative meaning of idioms

I’d like to share just a couple of examples with you.

In the first example, low track high school students in tenth grade learned to create avatars using VOKI (http://www.voki.com/). Simone, their teacher, planned a series of lessons for the students to write a descriptive paragraph incorporating at least four adjectives and one metaphor after reading the poem Mother to Son by Langston Hughes and highlighting the staircase metaphor. After writing their paragraphs, students audio-recorded them and the VOKI avatars voiced the paragraphs for the entire class. Simone stressed in her reflection that students had discovered “the power of their voices” and were incredibly motivated by the project.  She stated, “I was happy to learn more about my students—because they were more motivated to complete the assignment, they were participating more in the activities as well, and I got a great insight into both their comprehension and writing levels.” She also recounted one of the “greatest successes” was with a male student who became more engaged and active when he realized “he could become his character.”

Another example is the Flamingo Writers Workshop, which comes from the middle school level.  The teacher, Avram, developed the Flamingo Writers Workshop, a pullout group of behaviorally and academically challenged English Learners, all boys. The project lasted several weeks and Avram stated that they “stayed completely engaged” with it. The students created a website after receiving instruction in both writing and in using technology on Weebly (http://www.weebly.com/).  Avram stated, “I wanted to give them something that they could remember for years to come.” One of the interesting aspects of this project was the parallel he drew and emphasized throughout the lessons, between writing as a process—as represented by the POWER acronym (Prewriting, Organizing, Writing, Editing, and Revising) and the “steps” for creating the website: Plan, Design, Create, Register, Inspect, and Publish.  He stated, “Technology made everything we did more engaging to the students.” Avram, an admitted “technophobe” changed his views substantially, stating that the assignment “has certainly helped me understand that students need the enrichment and engagement that technology can provide.”  He related that the website and the writing posted there gave these students an identity as a community that they have continued into other spaces. You can explore the Flamingo Writers Workshop (which continues to function as of this date) at http://flamingowritersworkshop.weebly.com/.

The first page of the website looks like this (and it is truly interactive):
Flamingo
Students worked really hard to make an interactive website that reflected their needs and identities. The next page defines writing:
Why I should care
Finally, here is an example of expository writing (and there are examples for narrative writing also):
Expository

The final example comes from the elementary level and was unique because it is the only project submitted that was not generative in the sense that students did not create anything, but from the report they were certainly the benificiaries.

Elana was working at the second and third grade level in a Special Day Class setting. She chose Prezi (http://prezi.com) for lessons in phonemic awareness and phonics—chosen as presentation software that is “interesting to my students, but not too distracting.” She stated that Prezi allowed her to “take something my students have been working on since Kindergarten and make it new and exciting.” She scanned the “Zoo Phonics” (http://www.zoo-phonics.com/) picture cards into the computer and inserted them into the Prezi. She then projected the Prezi onto the whiteboard and the students did the body movements and chanted the alphabetic sounds. Later Elana plans to add sight words to the Prezi. For the students, here was a more engaging and multimodal way of learning “the same old thing.”  Here is an example of one of the cue cards:

Catina

           Linda and I believe that for all educators there is an urgent need to embrace technological tools for communication and composition in our homes and schools. There are examples everywhere of sound technology use in schools as well as the examples we have provided here (Google sites, for example). Teacher candidates need practical experience in using new tools in academic settings. Grisham and Wolsey (2012) have highlighted the fear factor that even technologically adept teacher candidates have until they gain experience applying new tools as teaching and learning opportunities for themselves and for their K-12 students.  In teacher preparation programs, candidates can collaborate to support each other as they work with these 21st century tools. As teacher educators we are committed to articulate the use of 21st century technology for teaching and student learning across program courses so that teacher candidates may have multiple opportunities to practice and develop the skills to implement technology-rich instruction in their classrooms. We would like to stress that while ours is not the only way to meaningfully integrate technology into teacher preparation courses, we would argue that it is one effective way to do so and we invite readers to try this for themselves.

           In closing, I’d like to once again share the TPACK model that guided our students in their integration of technology and literacy.  Another of our LiteracyBeat authors, Bridget Dalton, has shared this with teachers everywhere in her 2013 column in The Reading Teacher.

TPACK

References:

Grisham, D. L. & Smetana, L. (in press). Multimodal Composition for teacher candidates: Models for K-12 classroom writing instruction. In R. Ferdig & K. Pytash (Eds.), Exploring multimodal composition and digital writing. Hershey, PA: I-G-I Global.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge . Teachers College Record 108 (6), 1017-1054.

Wolsey, T.D. & Grisham, D. L. (2012). Transforming Writing Instruction in the Digital Age: Techniques for Grades 5-12. New York: Guilford.

UDL Studio: Deepening response to literature

UDL Studio, a free digital tool (funded largely by the Carnegie foundation) has recently been released by CAST. UDL studio is underpinned by the principles of Universal Design for Learning . UDL Studio  joins other successful digital tools created by CAST. See for example my blog post on LEA Meets Book Builder. UDL Studio enables anyone to create media-rich resources, to actively engage and motivate students, and to respond flexibly to the needs of each learner; thereby ensuring quality and equality in access to learning for all.

UDL Studio offers templates to scaffold you or your students as you create content using multimodal elements, such as text, image¸ video, audio, and animation. You can explore the project library to view previous projects created by UDL studio users.
For example, Katherine Cooper has created a project around Charles Dickens’ classic tale A Christmas Carol. In the screen shot you can see links to audio recording related to character study. Students can also record their prior knowledge of the story through multiple modalities, such as writing, recording, drawing, or uploading a file attachment.

Katherine Cooper

Katherine Cooper

Meanwhile, Matthew Puma has created a resource to support his students while reading SOS Titanic by Eve Bunting. Students can explore historical information relating to the Titanic; inner feelings of the characters; and actions and events within the book. The screen shot below relates to a mind map of themes in the Titanic.

mind map SOS Titanic

My wonderful, final year, elective student teachers have begun to explore the possibilities presented by UDL Studio to encourage immersion in, involvement with, and interpretation of literature (Dwyer & Larson, 2013). We have begun a project around The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas/Pajamas by John Boyne. Our aim is to deepen engagement with the text through close reading to explore the structure of the text; the perspectives of the characters; the use of vocabulary; and historical perspectives relating to the text.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

We really like the tips and resources page which asks you to reflect carefully on how the use of the digital tool enhances children’s understanding of text; enriches the reading experience; and represents information in an engaging manner. The plethora of free digital tools include:

Recording and editing software
Audacity: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
Free Sound Editor: http://www.free-sound-editor.com/
Audio Pal: http://www.audiopal.com/index.html

Video search engines and editing software
• Blinkx Video Search Engine: http://www.blinkx.com/
• Truveo Video Search: http://www.truveo.com/
• Video editing http://www.stroome.com/

Sources for images
• Pics4Learning: http://pics.tech4learning.com
• Creative Commons image search: http://search.creativecommons.org/
• Free Photos: http://www.freeimages.co.uk

Animation tools
• Gifninja: http://www.gifninja.com/
• Picasion: http://picasion.com/
• GoAnimate: http://goanimate.com/

Reference
Dwyer, B. & Larson, L. (2013). The writer in the reader: Building communities of response in digital environments. In Kristine E. Pytash & Richard E. Ferdig (Eds.). Exploring Technology for Writing and Writing Instruction. US: IGI Global

Power Up What Works!

I want to share an excellent resource to support technology integration, the Center for Technology Implementation’s Power Up What Works website (http://powerupwhatworks.com).  With funding from the US Department of Education, EDC, AIR, and CAST have partnered on this project to develop a comprehensive set of online resources for using technology to support literacy and math (of course, I have focused my attention on the literacy materials!).

What makes Power Up unique is its special attention to the needs of students who struggle with learning, including students with special needs.    As a member of the Power Up Advisory Board, I’ve had the opportunity to see the resource evolve and want to share a few of my favorite features.

Image

Power Up with Technology Blog

Stay connected and get up-to-date information and teaching ideas through the Power Up with Technology blog.   The April 17 blog post caught my eye, since it was about “create your own interactives”, something that I find key to my own teaching. It highlighted three resources that offer lots of potential:

Did you notice that the blogger noted whether the resource was free and/or fee-based?  I find this incredibly helpful, since like most teachers, I have limited funds and want to take advantage of the high-quality free resources that are available online.

You can find the blog on facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/PowerUp-What-Works/127625650650645?group_id=0

The Learning Center

http://powerupwhatworks.com/content/render/LearningCenter

The Learning Center has a wealth of information and resources to explore. Since literacy is my thing, I’ve spent most of my time in the Reading and Writing sections.  In Reading, the focus is on comprehension and vocabulary, while the Writing section focuses on supporting the writing process, from idea generation to publication.  Throughout, you’ll notice the links to the Common Core State Standards.  You can get information at the level and type that is useful to you. For example, each of the Reading sections includes an overview of the strategy (e.g., self-questioning, summarizing, visualizing, context clues, s semantic mapping and word analysis), a description of how to teach the strategy, an extended classroom example, a list of resources, research, and tech tips.

Image

PowerUp Your School

Teachers are the ones leading the way on integrating technology into their teaching and their students’ learning.  While teachers are ‘making it happen’, sometimes one classroom at a time, we know that more is usually required to sustain effective technology integration over the long term.  If your school is interested in developing a school-wide plan for integrating technology, Power Up offers a range of resources to support you in developing a school-wide plan and building a team that will work together to support one another in making technology a meaningful part of children’s learning.

Image

I know the Power Up team is eager for feedback, so let them know what you find especially helpful and share suggestions for improvement.

The Info on Infographics: Synthesizing Multiple Sources with Text and Visuals

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey
Infographics may be a term you haven’t heard (or if you have heard of it, you may have thought, “Ugh, another infomercial”). However, even if you haven’t heard the term, it is very likely you have seen an infographic if you have been on Facebook, YouTube, or on your school or company website. What they are is as intriguing as the first picture book (it was Orbis Pictus, by the way) or the comic books and graphic novels you read when you were a kid, or last week, for that matter. As important, infographics are tools that teachers can use to help students understand big ideas, and they are tools that students can use to synthesize multiple sources of information.
What is an infographic? Well, it combines data, charts and tables, text, maps, and images in a persuasive and engaging way. Infographics are often fun to read. They transcend the individual chart or table by bringing together many types of information. Here is one example:

Infographics

Infographic of Infographics

and here is another

The topics captured by infographics are diverse. They can convey complex economic concepts, or persuade the reader to take action to help solve a complicated problem facing the world. They may present an array of terms that develop conceptual understanding of vocabulary. For students, infographics gather information and present it in an interesting and coherent way. At the same time, the best infographics challenge the imagination and the intellect. Quite often, infographics have a very professional look about them, but, get this: students (and their teachers) can create them, too. I decided to test one infographic creation tool just to show readers of LiteracyBeat that it can be done. If I can do it, so can you. I used Picktochart for this experiment to render LiteracyBeat as an infographic. LitBeat-Infographic

Click the image to see the infographic in greater detail.

How might readers of LiteracyBeat use infographics to help their students make sense of content? When students create infographics, they might
• Compare two or more works of literary fiction or the authors of those works +
• Use images, text, and tables to show how social media affects their own lives
• Present local findings and those of peers at another school in a different geographic region with comparisons of international data
• Encourage peers to read, via an infographic on the school webpage, by including data about the most popular books read, the most assigned books, and so on.

How have you used infographics? How might you plan to use infographics to assist your students with summarization, synthesis, and other high-level cognitive tasks?

Resources:
From Kathy Schrock: http://www.schrockguide.net/infographics-workshop.html
Plus a rubric: http://www.schrockguide.net/uploads/3/9/2/2/392267/infographic_rubric.pdf
From Visual.ly: http://create.visual.ly/
List of tools and links From InfographicsArchive: http://www.infographicsarchive.com/create-infographics-and-data-visualization/
More resources on Delicious: https://delicious.com/tdwolsey/Infographics

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