Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Synthesizing Literacy Lessons

My colleagues and I at Vintage High School are undergoing a year of professional development in the area of literacy, and the process is definitely doing us good. In our latest session, we were reminded to look back and make connections with the past two sessions.

That caused me to look at how I not only could -- with prodding -- remember the training but also realize I'd almost unconsciously integrated the training tips into a whole approach, some of which I've already been using. After considering the latest tips, it was obvious that we could incorporate still more into a completely synthesized approach for both encouraging literacy skills and supporting the curricula that depend upon them.

Now, I had noticed that I'd brought together two of the suggestions -- jigsawing and graphic organizers -- into an activity in which I've been having my Marketing class pre-read chapters by cutting them into bite-sized segments and then having each student report back to the class on his or her segment, while using a Cornell Notes template that I designed as their organizing principle.

I could, though, have helped them further by giving them a "think-aloud" procedure to help them comb through the information contained in their assigned segment before they organize it using the Cornell Notes template.

In the end, it's possible to over-simplify -- or over-synthesize -- the procedure, but my feeling is the added vehicle helps. Here's the package:

1. Assign a portion of a chapter or hand-out as a pre-reading activity.

2. Point to the poster -- that you've made? -- to encourage them to "think aloud" as they work through the text. Content for a poster can be taken from this group of "Say Something" starters I've placed online. Alternatively, print the PDF and pass them out.

3. Instruct students to organize the resulting ideas using the Cornell Notes template posted a couple of weeks back.

4. Have them present their information to the class in turn, using their Cornell Notes as a speaking guide.

I teach in a roomful of computers, so I often forget that many teachers need to provide printouts to their charges. You can print the Cornell Notes template for your students' use.

Oh yeah, and of course once your students have been trained -- and have some visual prompts around -- you can just say, "Do it the way we do it." By then, they're getting the hang of sorting through information, drawing what they can from it, and confidently laying it out for each other.

There are so many ways to integrate teaching techniques. This is only one. Think up your own. Email me fresh ideas.

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