Monday, January 9, 2017

My New 3 R's - Reading, Writing & Recapping

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Ever since I can remember, the foundation of education has been the 3 R's - reading, writing and 'rithmetic.  But as education evolves so have the new three R's. Furthermore, as we evolve professionally, we identify and develop a foundation of basic skills for our own practice which brings me to today's topic.

This fall after discovering a powerful video reflection tool. I came up with my own version of the 3 R's - Reading, Writing, and Recapping using Newsela, Blogger and Recap. My students read, blog and record. These three have really stepped up literacy instruction and deepened learning, most especially reading comprehension and vocabulary development.

Here they are:

Reading -
I teach all English lessons in context and are usually based on nonfiction reading selections. Newsela has long been one of my favorites for informational text. Why Newsela? (1) Articles are relevant and interesting to teens but also aligned to curricular standards. (2) Stories are scaled at different reading levels, making differentiation a breeze. (3) It has a nifty annotation feature that helps readers interact with the text without having to print. (4) Most of its offerings are FREE.

This year, my district purchased the premium version, Newsela Pro. And while I've always found the free version to be more than adequate, the added data features of the Pro version have made this tool a staple in my classroom. Furthermore, as many social studies and language arts teachers use the tool as well, I not only use it as a reading tool, but I also help English learners navigate the site so that they may be better prepared to use it in other classes. Here's a comparison of Newsela vs. Newsela Pro, in case you are considering it.

Writing -
My students have been blogging since 2014 and I often use blogging to check for understanding as students reflect on their learning. Newsela's interesting articles gives students lots of food for thought and lots to write about.  Students' writings are original as they share their views and opinions on a given topic. However, as they express their views, they also write about the main idea and other points as well as use new vocabulary, providing evidence of reading comprehension and vocabulary gain.  It's a much better assessment than any multiple choice quiz.

Why Blogger?  For me, it's simply because we are a Google school and it's easier for students to use a Google tool.  There's a plethora of blogging tools out there to consider.  I say that so long as students are writing to an audience of more than the teacher, use the tool that works best for you and your kids.

Recapping -
Recap is a free, multiplatform student video response tool that lets teachers see how students learn. While it offers English learners invaluable speaking practice, it can be effective with any student population and any content area. At first, I thought my students would cringe when videotaping themselves, yet they loved it. Furthermore, teachers have the option of providing video prompts/instructions, which for me is a must - do as I do, not just as I say.

I have to admit that when I was first introduced to Recap by a colleague last summer I was not very impressed. After all, there a few video tools on our MacBooks that offer speaking practice without having to log in to one more website. Nonetheless, I decided to give it a try and my students were very enthused.  So much so that they asked to use it more often and so it became part of my weekly routine - hence the 3 R's.

How does it help with reading? For me, it's the icing on the cake and enhances reading by getting students to think beyond what they read. I always give them questions that draw on their personal experience or viewpoints, but we have also had fun with some "would you rather" questions. Regardless of the type of question or prompt, students record a concise summary of what they gained from the article.

As we move forward to a new year, I encourage you to try these tools, if you haven't already.  And if your students have Internet access at home, these activities can be completed at home, although a simple guided practice at school may be helpful.

Once you implement these 3 R's, I would love to hear from you and your experience.

Happy 2017!