What are you currently reading? I am in the middle of Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun, Gary Marx’s 21 Trends for the 21st Century and whatever I find interesting on Flipboard. It was on that wonderful app where I came across an article sharing these quotes about the wonder and power of books and reading in general:
“Books are like mirrors: if a fool looks in, you cannot expect a genius to look out.” -J.K. Rowling
“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.” -John Green
“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” -Frederick Douglass
Our students’ literacy levels, that is the ability to be read, write, and communicate both verbally and with a range of media, directly impacts their capacity to think critically. Let’s define that ubiquitous 21st century educational objective, critical thinking, using this visual.
That is a great list that leads to central questions about education. What are your favorite skills on the list? Are your students developing them? Do you explicitly let students know that they are developing those skills?
I argue that being explicit is a key step in teaching and learning. For one thing, it helps students answer the question “why?” But the type of experiences we provide students with to both develop and and demonstrate their literacy skills is significant.
For some c0ntext, take a look at this history of reading…hmmm over 2 million views. Well done.
Consider adding these electronic literacy tools to your repertoire. Try them out, or at least one, this year. They can add an additional way to engage your students, and ultimately develop their critical thinking skills.
- Newsela provides articles to students at 5 varying levels of difficulty but with the same content. Super easy to use and has collaborative and annotation features. As their website says: Newsela is an innovative way to build reading comprehension with nonfiction that’s always relevant: daily news. It’s easy and amazing.
- Wordle is a fun tool that visually displays words of a selected text in varying sizes by their frequency. You can ask students to predict what the piece is about, or ask them to define/use the most common words in the piece, or have them create a wordle to analyze their own writing. See the example below. What text do you think it is?
- Genius is an online tool that breaks down line by line annotations edited by anyone in the world. Luckily, Genius has a specific education feature that can be explored here in a controlled area/class: If you are an educator interested in using Genius in your classroom, check out our Teacher’s Guide. To learn more about Education Genius and to activate your Genius “Educator” account contact firstname.lastname@example.org. I have used this with students to collaborate on a document. For example, here is the link to Frederick Douglass’s speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July” http://genius.com/Frederick-douglass-what-to-the-slave-is-the-fourth-of-july-annotated
- Sentence Starters are powerful tools that demystify writing and helps students get over writers block and frustration. The website I suggested is from Auckland, NZ. But there are an abundance of these online to select from. If you are a Pinterest fan you can find multiple boards there too.
- Thinklink allows you and students to create interactive visuals. In a recent blog, the website Ed technology has expanded on the tool’s educational potential: “The images you create can come alive by adding to them text, video, music, and links. ThingLink has also recently rolled out a new feature, which is still in beta, that allows you to add interactive pinmarks to YouTube videos. These pin marks can be links to other videos or websites. The ability to enrich images with different media content makes ThingLink an ideal tool to incorporate in your instruction. There are a variety of ways you can use ThingLink with your students and the visual below provides 27 examples of activities that students can do using this platform.”
- Word Walls are an effective tool to enhance literacy. They should be part of every… that’s right I said it… EVERY classroom. If time is an issue, have students make them. If space is an issue, consider restructuring your room space. Teachers can also call these “Concept Walls” and use them for larger ideas for a unit or course. But these must be referenced and used by students in order to make them effective. If you aren’t using a word/concept wall, why aren’t you?
Finally, I love this list by Kathy Schrock which qualifies/categorizes literacy according to content and skill areas that each possess their own nuances, jargon, and skills. The one to add, possibly, is cultural literacy… but that may be folded under the global literacy domain.
Oh ,by the way, the wordle I used was from the preamble to the UN Charter. Spread the news and enjoy!