Course Load Calculator

Have you ever wondered just how much work your class or course actually entails for students, or if you are a student just how much time you need to invest in your coursework outside of class.  This guest post by my colleague at the Center for Learning and Teaching at The American University in Cairo looks the advantages and limitations of just such a tool. Check it out!

A Guest Post by Maha Bali

Would You Use a Course Workload Calculator?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

This is the second time I come across something like this. A course workload calculator. This one from Rice University (I have a soft spot for them because I taught there in 2008).

Rice University

On the one hand, I feel like it can be useful for people who teach courses at the same level to compare their workloads to each other or what is expected.

I do like that they ask if readings have new concepts or are difficult, for example, so I think some people might find that useful, e.g. should they assign the reading and expect students to understand it before they discuss it in class? Perhaps certain readings can be done before, but others after. Also, the calculator doesn’t account for reading ability esp for non-native speakers. But it does allow you to adjust the reading speed for example, which I guess to be honest you may need to do for different segments of students. I once had two freshmen in my mostly senior and junior class, and they truly struggled with some of the readings. The other students had no problems at all, either they were better readers or better bluffers (which, honestly, is a good strategic learner move).
Read More (redirects to Maha’s blog, Reflecting Allowed).


Writing for Science Learning: Book Creator

by Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Science teacher Kathy Blakemore has inspired generations of seventh-graders to take better care of our planet, to be curious about all its inhabitants, and to learn more about what makes its ecosystems work as they do.

Recently, Kathy and her students at Elsinore Middle School in Lake Elsinore, California decided to take their learning public. Using Book Creator, the students published a book titled, Incredible Invertebrates. Students worked in teams to identify sources about various phyla and then synthesize graphics and their reading. They learned about what it takes to write a book that is appealing to their audience as well.

Amazing Invertebrates

Incredible Invertebrates Click to read this book, made with Book Creator

Each chapter is organized describing where the invertebrates live, what threats exist to their survival, and what fun facts the student scientists and authors uncovered. I was very impressed that the students cited their sources and identified key vocabulary that their readers will want to understand.

Congratulations to Mrs. B and her 7th-grade GEMS students on a job well done.

Read Up, Ask Around, Double-Check

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

In this post, I share an infographic representing the ideas in the article,
“Accuracy in Digital Writing Environments: Read Up, Ask Around, Double-Check”. Access the article by clicking here and scrolling down to the article.

You are welcome to share this infographic in your classroom or for nonprofit educational purposes.

Read Up, Ask Around, Double-Check

Read Up, Ask Around, Double-Check

Infographic design by Getty Creations

Creative Commons License
Read Up, Ask Around, Double-Check by @TDWolsey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at

The Portable Web in a Box: Why You Need It and How to Get It

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

In backpacks, pockets, and purses, students bring their connected devices to school. But “connected” may be the wrong term; perhaps “connectable” devices is more accurate. Bandwidth means that a network can deliver data in a specified amount of time. For many schools, bandwidth may be a limitation. For some teachers, there is nothing more frustrating than planning a lesson that requires students to access the internet only to find that the bandwidth delivers data at speeds at which snails would sneer.

Students at Maya Jaguar using RACHEL

Some educational settings require restrictions on access to the internet, such as those that serve incarcerated youth or adults. Others are so distant from internet connections that it is prohibitively expensive to ensure all students have access.

Click to read the rest of the article on Literacy Daily, Teaching with Tech.

The Photo Essay Project

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

This semester, I assigned my undergraduates to create a photo essay defining the places that have had the most impact on who they are and who they might become.  Their photo essays are due next week, so this week I am sharing some of the photo essay websites and software tools they are using.  Today, they explored the affordances of each. I provided a list of questions (you will find them below) to guide their choices.

Dear Literacy Beat readers, if you have a site or tool to share, please add it in the comments.


iPhone Photos


  1. Tumblr
  2. Instagram
  3. WordPress
  4. Spark from Adobe
  5. Exposure
  6. Ghost
  7. PowerPoint Online and Slideshare, Youtube or Vimeo (convert slide decks to video), Authorstream
  8. Prezi

Pro-Tip: What’s your statement about the photos you choose? Can you write one (or maybe two) sentences that capture the main idea of your photo essay? Is it unique enough that others will want to view your essay?


Photo Editing Tools

  1. Canva
  2. Ribbet
  3. GIMP
  4. Photo Resizer
  5. net
  6. Photoshop Express
  7. PIXLR

A note about intellectual property: Any work you use that you did not write or create must be attributed.  This includes music (and be aware that using copyrighted music could result in your project being taken down by the platform or host).

Pro Tip: Create a rough draft of your essay in order to check out the features of the platform and tools you use.  Try different ways of arranging your photos, text (including captions), and titles.  Later, you can hide or delete the rough draft.

Questions / Affordances

Check out the sites and tools (software) on the first page and review a couple of examples. What affordances does each offer your project?

  • What does it cost?
  • Do you need an account?
  • Can you make the site available to anyone?
  • Does the site privilege images, text, or both?
  • What features does the site or tool have that others may not have?
  • Is the site or tool mobile friendly? Laptop friendly?
  • Does it have sharing tools (e.g., Facebook, Twitter)?
  • Are there advertisements? How intrusive are they?
  • Is the platform easy to navigate and provide tools that make it easy for you to create a photo essay?

Two notes about color:

  1. Don’t overdo it!
  2. Make sure the colors you choose for frames, text, and so on are easy to read against the backgrounds you choose

RACHEL Goes to Northwestern Guatemala

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Try to picture yourself without access to the Internet. The web of sites and content have changed our lives dramatically. When we need to stay informed, we can just Google a topic and voila. Not everyone on Planet Earth has the luxury of Google, though.

Students at the Maya Jaguar Center for Education and Development are used to innovation. They maintain sustainable gardens and go to classes in rooms lit by solar power. The latest innovation at Maya Jaguar is the introduction of RACHEL, a Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning. Internet content difficult to access in the past is now a reality there.

RACHEL brings large but thoughtfully selected portions of the internet to regions and institutions that do not have affordable access to the internet via broadband.  I delivered a RACHEL server to Maya Jaguar early in August. Francisco Pablo is the senior technology instructor at Maya Jaguar. He and I worked together to show the other teachers how to navigate the RACHEL interface.

Maestro RACHEL screen

Francisco Demonstrates RACHEL

Teachers were encouraged to create their own sites on the server with content they upload that is specific to their classes. In the coming months, they will work on methods of helping students to be inquirers and critical users of the content they encounter on RACHEL.

Teachers Maestros Computers

Teachers Exploring RACHEL’s Possibilities

For me, it was gratifying to see the teachers’ excitement as they found materials on the server that could really enhance their teaching.  For some months, Alan Crawford, Frances Dixon, and I have been working on ways to bring simulations to the students.  Simulations provide a way to explore ideas and phenomena that can’t be visited and observed in the physical world (or at least not easily).

With content from the University of Colorado at Boulder’s PheT project installed on RACHEL, students can now explore atomic interactions,  create semi-conducting diodes, and learn the principles of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).  All of this is available in Spanish, of course.



The RACHEL server has proven so useful that Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala, the Foundation that sponsors the school and outreach programs, is now exploring the possibility of a second device. Two RACHEL servers would make it possible for each of the two main school buildings to have RACHEL availability all the time.  Want to help make that possible? Please visit

Learn more about RACHEL here:

Adapted version cross-posted on Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala.

Teatro de lectores | Readers’ Theatre

~Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Available in English/inglés and adapted from: 

Lapp, D., Fisher, D., & Wolsey, T. D. (2009).  Literacy growth for every child: Differentiated small-group instruction K-6. New York, NY: Guilford Publishers.

Un teatro para lectores es una actuación informal en la que los estudiantes en grupos pequeños leen un guion en voz alta. El guion puede ser preparado por adelantado por el maestro o los estudiantes pueden crear sus propios guiones. El ensayo les permite a los estudiantes practicar ante una audiencia con sus compañeros de clase. En el proceso, vuelven a leer el texto muchas veces y aumentan su fluidez de lectura.

readers' theatre

Teachers in Guatemala City demonstrate readers’ theatre.

Los puntos fuertes del lenguaje y la lectura se desarrollan a través del teatro de lectura cuando pequeños grupos de estudiantes vuelven a leer los textos en su nivel de lectura independiente y los transforman en un guion de teatro de lectores que pueden representar más tarde para sus compañeros. La relectura, que es importante para la comprensión, también proporciona la seguridad de que los estudiantes hablen públicamente durante la actuación. Todos los estudiantes, incluidos aquellos que son muy competentes, aquellos a quienes todavía les cuesta alcanzar la competencia, y los que son estudiantes de un segundo idioma tendrán un crecimiento positivo a medida que participan en las representaciones teatrales de los lectores (Goodman, 1978). En estos grupos de colaboración, todos los niños aumentan su fluidez en la lectura y el habla al compartir textos con sus compañeros (Martinez, Roser, & Strecker, 1998/1999). Estas actuaciones se pueden compartir dentro de su clase y también con otras clases. Un beneficio para la clase que se visita es que una vez que los oyentes están expuestos a nuevos libros, a menudo claman por leerlos

El énfasis en el teatro de lectores está en apoyar el crecimiento de cada niño en fluidez de lectura y lenguaje oral. Esto sucede naturalmente si los estudiantes, con la ayuda del maestro, seleccionan sus roles y tienen tiempos de relectura y de práctica adecuados. La meta del maestro debe que todos los estudiantes trabajen dentro de sus niveles de comodidad y competencia y que tengan experiencias exitosas. Todo el grupo también puede discutir cómo actuar con el uso de títeres, personajes de fieltro o programas de animación gráfica.

Las ventajas del Teatro de lectores incluyen*:

  • Promoción de la fluidez, incluida la expresión o prosodia
  • Brinda a los estudiantes la oportunidad de elegir, ensayar y presentar guiones cortos de tipo obra ante los compañeros de clase y otras personas sin el estrés de memorizar líneas o usar disfraces o accesorios elaborados
  • Proporciona oportunidades de lectura repetida a medida que los estudiantes practican antes de la actuación
  • Maximiza el compromiso de los estudiantes ya que cada estudiante en el grupo tiene un rol.
  • Aparece menos desalentador que otros textos ya que un alumno lee una parte en lugar de todo el texto solo
  • Se adapta a una amplia gama de habilidades con roles o partes de nivel de dificultad variado.

Los profesores:

  • Seleccionan los textos. Los textos narrativos con mucho diálogo funcionan mejor.
  • Preparan los guiones (las fuentes incluyen guiones preparados comercialmente, sitios web y guiones escritos por el docente o los alumnos); resaltan las partes específicas en los guiones de los estudiantes
  • Modelan leyendo el texto en voz alta
  • Asignan los estudiantes a grupos
  • Proporcionan retroalimentación y monitorean a medida que los grupos pequeños practican

Los estudiantes:

  • Leen el guion en silencio o con un compañero
  • Vuelven a leer en grupo con los estudiantes, leyendo diferentes roles, en turnos
  • Negocian y asignan roles
  • Leen y releen de forma individual, centrándose en la parte o rol asignado (pueden practicar fuera de la escuela y en casa)
  • Practica la relectura del guion con otros en grupo
  • Hacen etiquetas, tarjetas o marionetas que los estudiantes sostienen para identificar a su personaje
  • Deciden dónde se colocarán los estudiantes durante la actuación
  • Actúan con el guion en la mano

El teatro de lectores no es una gran producción y no es necesario que los estudiantes memoricen líneas, usen un micrófono o se pongan disfraces.

* Adaptado de los materiales proporcionados por la Universidad de Texas en Austin.

Recursos y ejemplos:

Teatro de lectores- 02 La Honestidad

University of Texas at Austin Resources in Spanish and English

Tareas del teatro de lectores

Readers’ Theatre Tasks en-es (descargar PDF)

El coyote y el conejo



Goodman, J. A. (1978).  Teaching the total language with readers’ theatre.  [ERIC document number ED 191321].

Martinez, M., Roser, N. L., & Strecker, S. (1998/1999). I never thought I could be a star: A readers’ theatre ticket to fluency. The Reading Teacher, 52, 326-333.



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