Integrating Literacy in the Content Classroom

“Why do we have to write? We’re not in English class!”
“Do we really have to read the entire chapter?”
images-of-school-books
Many students have the impression that reading and writing only happen in English/LA class.

However, this misconception is not only with our students. Many adults also believe that literacy instruction is solely the responsibility of the English/LA teacher.

In casual conversations with other teachers, I have heard these responses when talking about literacy across content areas: “It’s not my job to teach them how to read!” or (my favorite) “I didn’t go to school for English, so I’m not grading writing.”

The idea of integrating literacy skills, particularly reading, writing, and speaking, into the core content areas is not a new concept. In fact, most teacher certification programs require a class about integrating reading and writing in the content classroom.

So why, after we leave college, do so many content teachers ignore or drop the inclusion of literacy in the classroom?

Whatever the reason may be to forego literacy in the content classroom, it is time to bring it back! For students to improve, they must practice reading, writing, speaking, and listening every day in every content area.

As August comes to a close, many teachers are either beginning to plan for the upcoming school year, or have already begun school, and I would like to challenge you to find ways to incorporate literacy in your classroom.

What is Literacy?
Literacy has generally been defined as the ability to read and write; however, literacy is so much more than just reading and writing. Literacy includes: reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

How we interact with language and texts varies depending on the type of text and the content. Interaction with texts also goes beyond just reading and writing about them; when we interact with texts, we also think about them, discuss them, and use the texts in subject-specific ways.

How to Incorporate Literacy in the Content Classroom
All subject areas can incorporate reading, writing, and speaking in their classrooms! Remember, for many of these strategies, you must model for students how to use them before assigning them to be completed independently.

  •  Think-Pair-Share: This is a great strategy to help students practice speaking and listening skills. It is a great strategy to use as an anticipatory set or closing activity, or even as a transition between topics or lessons during class. There are three parts to this strategy:
    1. Think: The teacher poses a question, prompt, or observation to the students. The students then take some time to think about the topic.
    2. Pair: Students then pair up with a partner (you can designate the partners or allow students to choose partners) and talk about the responses that each partner came up with. They compare and contrast their responses, and then come together to create a joint answer.
    3. Share: After the students discuss the prompt with partners and come up with a shared response, the teacher then calls on the pairs to share their responses with the class. You could record the responses on the board, and then use these responses to lead to a class-wide discussion on the topic.
  • ABC Summary: After a lesson, unit, or reading activity, the teacher can have students summarize their learning with an “ABC summary.” On their paper, students will list the letters of the alphabet vertically. The teacher will then ask the students to write a word, phrase, or sentence beginning with that letter to explain or relate to the topic. This is a great strategy to work on comprehension and writing.
  • 3-2-1 Exit Ticket: At the end of the lesson, have the students list three things they considered important from the lesson; two things they would like to learn or find out more about; and one question or concern they still have about the topic.
  • Text Features & Text Structures: When giving students a reading passage or informational text, demonstrate and model how to understand the text for your content area. Point out text features (bold, underlining, headings & subheadings, pictures & captions, tables & charts) and show students how to use those features to understand the content. Point out transition words and text structures and show students how authors of your content organize their texts to help students understand the topic. For more information about text features, check out the “Effective Instructional Strategies Series: Text Features,” and for more information about text structures, check out “Classroom Strategies | Text Structure” and “20 Strategies to Teach text Structure“. After point out these features, use graphic organizers to help students organize their learning and the content.
  • Cornell Notes: This note style is extremely beneficial for students when organizing note-taking and their understanding of content. It can be used during lectures or reading activities. The students take notes on content in the right hand column, after the notes they go through and record the main ideas in the left hand column. At the bottom of the page, as a closing activity, they write a summary of their learning. To see sample Cornell notes and learn more about the strategy, check out JMU’S Learning Toolbox: Cornell Notes.
  • Think-Alouds: Model for students how to think about and understand a text by reading it out loud and stopping to share your thinking and questions. Learn more about the think-aloud strategy here or from the Model Think-Aloud strategy by Derek Fernandez.

 

These are just a handful of the hundreds of strategies out there to incorporate literacy in the classroom. For more information on literacy strategies, check out the resources below:

Integrating literacy across the curriculum helps students become stronger learners. Hope everyone has an awesome 2016-2017 school year!

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5 Ways to Use Edmodo in the Classroom

While there are many other resources students and teachers can use to connect and share information, Edmodo is one the most popular social learning network sites out there. As a loyal user of Edmodo (six years and going), Edmodo has helped me to transform my classroom into an interactive, student centered environment that encourages my students to use 21st century learning skills.

Edmodo is very easy to maneuver and is extremely user friendly; it can be used through a web browser or through the mobile app (available for both iPhone and Android). Student interest is immediately piqued because of Edmodo’s similarities to Facebook, and it allows the teacher, students, and parents to connect with each other and access class content online. Parents and teachers can also feel comfortable using it because it is a controlled environment – there is no personal information required, and posts can only be seen by the teacher and other students in the “classroom.”

5 Ways to Use Edmodo in the Classroom

Once you have signed up for an account, you can: edit your profile, join PLN groups, create your own groups, and download apps. Some considerations before you begin, however, are:

  • How many of my students have access to the internet and a computer at home?
  • How will I manage assignments for students who do not have access to the internet and computer at home?

I always conduct a technology survey the first day of school; this way I know exactly how many students have access to computers and internet at home, and I can begin thinking of ways to supplement or adjust assignments for the students that do not. So, without further ado, here are 5 ways to use  Edmodo in the classroom.

1. APPS

5 Ways to Use Edmodo in the Classroom

This is one of my favorite features about Edmodo. Since my school mainly uses BYOD, and it can be challenging to get students to download every app we use in the classroom. Also, due to district regulations, I cannot require students to sign up for anything that might require an email. Through Edmodo, I can assign different apps I want to use to each group and students immediately have access to them. They do not have to create individual accounts for each app, so it eliminates the need to remember multiple usernames and passwords as well. There are tons of free apps, but some apps do require you to pay for them. The main apps I use are:

  • No Red Ink: This is a grammar website that uses student interests to create sentences for editing. I can assign each group a specific skill and set up assignments for them to complete. Unfortunately, as of June 30th, this app will no longer be available through Edmodo.
  • Office365: As an English teacher, my students are constantly writing and editing. Surprisingly, many students do not actually have a word processor or PowerPoint application on their computers at home. Edmodo has joined up with Office365 and students can access Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel through Edmodo. Not only can they access these applications through Edmodo, but it saves all their documents directly to their Edmodo library! So, no more “I don’t remember where I saved that paper” or “I lost my flashdrive” excuses from students. After they have completed their assignment, they can upload it directly from their Edmodo library and send it to me. It is AMAZING!
  •  UDebate: One of our SOL’s for all English teachers is argumentative writing and persuasive techniques; the UDebate app allows students to participate in moderated discussions within their individual classrooms and with others, including experts in the field, throughout the world. It opens the door for collaboration, critical thinking, and communicating ideas with others while still being in a controlled environment.
  • RefMe: A citation app that allows students to cite their research sources and build a works cited page. Very useful during research to check their already created citations (I’m mean and make them cite the “old-fashioned” way first)!

2. SNAPSHOT

It has a bank of Common Core, TEKS, and SOL aligned questions to create quizzes. All I do is pick which standards I want to assess on Snapshot, and the program sets up the quiz. I use Snapshot a lot for pre-assessing students on reading, writing, and grammar skills; however, it could also be used as a formative assessment at the end of a unit. It works on both the website and the app, so students can truly access it at anytime, and you can access the data at anytime.

5 Ways to Use Edmodo in the Classroom

On the Snapshot dashboard, it shows you how many students took the assessment, how many met the standard, and how many are behind. It also identifies which standards you may need to reteach and makes suggestions for apps, YouTube videos, or lessons through LearnZillion to help reteach those skills.

You can also access an individual student’s data and see which areas that particular student was weak in. Snapshot has been an invaluable time saver and resource for me this school year!

3. INDEPENDENT READING ASSIGNMENTS

My students are required to read for 20 minutes every night each week. Prior to using Edmodo, I would require my students to complete and submit a reading log each week. However, I found they were not utilizing the tool appropriately and were often making up the information or getting it offline. They still submit the reading log outlining the time read with a parent signature, but they also have to make a post to Edmodo by Sunday night sharing their reflections on their reading (not just a summary like the original reading log). The post must be a minimum of 150 words and show thoughtful reflection; they must also respond to at least two other students’ posts. This has been great because it allows for them to have meaningful discussions about the books they are reading, and allows other students to get ideas for books to read.

4. LITERATURE CIRCLES

Within each class, you are able to set up small groups. I set an Edmodo group up for each book group, and discussion and group work are conducted through Edmodo. The students will set up a calendar of when posts and responses are due by, and then each member is responsible for posting at least two times about their topic/role and members must respond to the posts; they can also incorporate YouTube videos or pictures to enhance the discussion. They have preset guidelines they must meet, and all posts must make references back to the text to support their statements! It also allows them to ask questions about the text as they are reading at home versus having to wait to get to school the next day.

5. SUBMITTING PAPERS & PROVIDING FEEDBACK

Students no longer submit their essays or writing to me via paper; assignments are set up and submitted electronically through Edmodo. This has cut down drastically on the paper use in my classroom, as well as eliminates the need for me to trek large groups of papers from home to school. I simply set up the assignment, and the students can upload their documents to the assignment.

It has also changed the way I provide feedback. After receiving the assignment, I am able to read it and annotate it through Edmodo. I can make suggestions and provide feedback directly onto the document, which the student can then access when they check the assignment. While it took awhile to get used to, and initially took longer than hand grading the assignments, I have now cut the time I spend editing and providing feedback in half!

This is just a general overview of ways I use Edmodo in my classroom and is not by any means an exhaustive list of all the things you can do with this resource! If you are interested in learning more about any of the topics I outlined and how I use them, please feel free to comment below or send me a message! Also, Edmodo has a wonderful Help Center on setting everything up and providing ideas on other ways to use Edmodo.

As educators, it is important for us to incorporate technology in our classroom; we must teach our students how to harness the power of technology for collaboration. Edmodo provides a safe and controlled environment for students to learn about and to practice these 21st century skills.

 

 

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