Literacy experts Sharon and Phil Callen reveal the questions teachers need to ask before using a program, tool or resource in a literacy lesson.
The duo revealed how teachers can ensure a potential resource is fulfilling and tackles the entire curriculum on episode 52 of The Teacher’s Tool Kit for Literacy.
Sharon said it is particularly important for teachers to be ‘wary of the easy’, which often miss the connections between reading, writing and word work.
“Be wary of anything that promises us that it will be easier for us if we use it, whatever this might be. To make it easy doesn’t necessarily make us a better teacher,” she said.
“So let’s say something has come to us that says, ‘oh, this is easy. You just need to do this each day and this will be all taken care of’. But you need to be critical and wise about what part of the curriculum is represented here, because invariably it won’t be the fullness of the curriculum that’s represented. It will be part of it.
“So then look at, what parts of the curriculum does it ignore?”
Other critical questions are around the time demanded from the resource.
“How much time is this thing demanding from our English block from our 100 minutes a day? And is it connected or is it just in isolation? Am I going to get my students taking those reader writer actions? Is it giving them that time spent on it? Is it building actions?” Sharon said.
Sharon said successful literacy learning comes from providing all different children an entry point. Therefore, if a resource is restrictive or only caters for a particular group of children, then it’s the wrong choice for your classroom.
“Does it explain and demonstrate better than you can? Does this thing absolutely know what my students need. Does it allow an entry point for Every Child Every Day? Does it put a limit?” Sharon asked.
“I want an entry point and I want no ceiling for Every Child Every Day. So that is a key question there, because often as teachers we’re trying to differentiate for our students. So does this thing value differentiation?”
The ability of your resource to integrate and make connections between reading, writing and word work is equally important.
“Does this resource value reading and writing and word work practise? Does it let your students construct their understanding and give them the opportunity to apply their understanding that’s been explained and demonstrated? So does it value the time for them to practise that strategy or that piece in use, rather than deconstruct processes in abstraction?” Sharon said.
Finally, effective teaching also comes down to setting the expectations you have for your students on how they’re going to be active and authentic readers and writers in the classroom. Your chosen resources should also achieve this goal.
“Does it put high expectations on the learners? Because if we’re not putting high expectations on the learners through this thing, maybe it’s offering our students ‘this will be easy’, when in fact what our students also want is for it not just to be easy, but for themselves to be better. Does this enable them to be better?” Sharon said.
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