Why Literacy In The U.S. Is So Important

Literacy surrounds us daily and we may not even realize. Students who read and enjoy reading are learning at a subconscious level. Kids learning without realizing? Is that possible? Yes it is and it occurs all the time when students choose to read. Teachers get caught up in teaching the content we may forget to just read. History teachers are worried about loosing time to teach content or that there is no reading material available. Then create it. For example, I found a story written about Roy Benevidez on how he survived and even pronounced dead when he was not. I showed the story to my students and they found it interesting and could not believe what soldiers went through in Vietnam. Another example of learning subconsciously. Did you know about Roy Benevidez before reading this? Do you want to know now? You should.

We nee to read more and often. Even if its for 5-10 minuets a day. Its possible if you just DO IT!! No Excuses, just do it, is my motto in life.


Example of using literacy in US History

The most common excuse I hear on incorporating literacy activities into our lessons at a high school level is time and they do not know what to use. With US History there is so much reading and writing we can use there is never enough time to do it all. I am starting the Roaring 20’s unit today and I already found so much reading that I am going to have to figure out what I am going to do. There is so many poems, photo essays, songs, primary source readings, books,and short reading passages from books that I can use. Here is an example of what I am using today.

Today I am covering the Great Migration. First they are going to read a reading passage to introduce the Great Migration before they take notes. Second I am going to have my students read a poem by Langston Hughes and I may read aloud a poem for my class with many ESL students. We are going to discuss how it relates to the Great Migration and the culture of the South and how the poem depicts life for blacks in the South. If I get to it or I will put it on tomarrows lesson they will write a photo essay analyzing the push pull factors of the Great Migration using background knowledge and what they learned today. I will show them a painting by Jacob Lawrence for their essay.

Yes that is a lot to do in one day but the reading will cover depth they will need to know about the Great Migration. They are reading, writing and thinking. Maybe there are other ways of covering the same information but this is what I am going to try and see if it works. Interpreting poems is and can be hard but it gets the students thinking.

Great Migration photo by Jacob Lawrence

Great Migration photo by Jacob Lawrence

Here are some websites where I found some poems I am going to use and examples lessons and activities on the Great Migration and race relations during the 1920’s.

Lessons and Essential Questions: http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/31/one-way-ticket-exploring-the-great-migration-in-literature-and-the-arts/?_r=0

Poems: http://www.georgeking-assoc.com/gointochicago/poetry.html

Paintings: http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/04/10/398806751/painting-the-epic-drama-of-the-great-migration-the-work-of-jacob-lawrence

Writing with voice, its more important than you think.

Why do we like to read? What type of books do you enjoy reading? Do we read with a voice in our head while we read? Some of my favorite books are Harry Potter and Twilight series. I love these books because the author writes with her voice, meaning she gives the character voice. When I read,  make out the sounds such as if someone is yelling or getting onto someone. That is voice. It makes writing more engaging to the reader. If no one write with voice would we even enjoy reading. Would there be a Harry Potter? They put their own voice in writing. Voice is what makes a good book and writer. When you write with voice it is more entertaining. How can we gets students to write with voice? Why do focus more on punctuation than creative writing. We need to gets students to write correctly but if we keep marking their papers as if someone died, they will not write with voice. Have you ever read something that was so boring you could not read anymore? That is an example of not writing with voice. If we can get students to write with voice instead of focusing on structure, a thesis, or punctuation the rest will follow. Students sometimes do not enjoy writing because of the format they have to follow. Lets just have kids start writing and correct them later. Honestly, the rest will follow and we are getting kids to write more and enjoy it. Many high school students hate writing. I hated writing at one point. I always thought I was a bad writer because that is what my teachers told. It wasn’t that I could not write, it was that I follow a specific format that was limiting my creativity. Yes, students need to write an essay and know punctuation but if they enjoy writing, their writing will improve overall.  Lets start with allowing students to write with their voice and work on correcting errors slowly to work them up to being better writers. This is an example I me writing with my voice. I am writing whatever comes to mind and go back to fix spelling errors and revise after I am done. To get kids to be better writers they need to write more and enjoy writing.

This is a great article on how to add voice to writing.


Context Clues

Using context clues with vocabulary instruction increases student’s vocabulary  knowledge and in depth knowledge. ESL and low income students know the least amount of vocabulary words due to different factors such as parents educational level, no access to literary materials and language barriers. Using synonyms was the most effective strategy in helping ESL and all students acquire difficult vocabulary terms. Either provide the synonyms or have the student look up synonyms for terms will increase their comprehension. As students acquire new vocabulary their comprehension will increase and they will use more academic terminology in their writing.  If we do not help students define terms how will they know what it is. How can we learn Spanish or a new language if we are not provided the English translation to that term? Students need to be shown different ways to help them comprehend the term. We can not expect all students to understand each term.

These are some example anchor charts teachers can use in their classroom.

context cluees context clues

Here is a link to sample context clues worksheet to use in classroom 1-6, possibly higher grades.

Why you should read more today!!

1. Reading a novel increases brain function for days.

found that reading a book can increase connectivity in the brain which makes neurological changes that act like muscle memory. Books not only put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense, but also in a biological sense

2. Reading can help prevent Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Increased brain function is also useful for other things — various studies have shown that adults who engage in hobbies that stimulate the brain, such as reading, are less likely to have Alzheimer’s disease. The brain is an organ like any other and just as exercise strengthens the heart, reading strengthens the brain.

3. Reading reduces stress.

Do you take a walk or listen to music to chill out? The University of Sussex thinks that you should consider reading instead. In tests, reading was the most effective way that participants were able to defeat stress, doing so in only six minutes.

4. Reading can help you get better sleep.

Reading a book is one of the most effective ways to calm your mind and help you sleep. The bright lights of electronics have been found to signal to the brain that it’s time to wake up. Reading a book under a dim light has the opposite effect – putting your brain to rest.

5. Reading makes you more empathetic.

If you read, you are likely to better empathize with the struggles of others. A study showed that losing yourself in a work of fiction can increase empathy and emotionally transport you into the position of another person. The emotional intelligence easily translates to your real world non-fiction relationships.

7. Reading makes you more attractive.

A study recently confirmed the belief that being (or appearing) smart makes you more attractive to others. In fact, it’s one of the sexiest traits in the eyes of a majority of women.

8. Readers have clearer life goals.

As well as helping you meet the love of your life, reading about someone who has overcome obstacles in life can encourage you to follow suit. Ohio State University found that the more you identify with a character, the more likely you are to also take action in your own life.

“Literacy stimuli can be found all around us. The more we expose children to environmental print and printed matter, the more we are providing them with models of reading and writing that can impact their literacy development.”

Why aren’t more people understanding this!!

Reading Motivation

One area I am passionate about is reading motivation. Reading motivation correlates with all literacy skills including vocabulary knowledge, reading fluency and automaticity to name a few.

Is students have a high level of reading efficacy students will read more and more often. High school students lose their reading motivation because of different factors. The students background, income level and parents education level influences the students reading efficacy. Teachers can increase students reading motivation using different strategies. Providing students with choices and a variety of reading material exposed them to new books. Many students have not found the right book.. Students comprehension and reading level increases effects students reading motivation. Teachers can create a personal classroom library with Young Adult literature that reflect the diversity and multicultural aspects of students. The more students read their reading skills will improve. Why do high school students read less in high school compared to elementary? Is is because elementary schools value reading? Provide more independent reading time? Make reading fun? Remember enjoying going to the school library and bragging about how many books you read? Or remember enjoying hearing the teacher read a story? How can we bring back the same joy of reading to high school? One teacher can not do it all but if that one teacher can increase 1 or more students reading, that is one students we have changed and encouraged to read more. As adults we forget how much we can learn from reading and forget to share that same passion with students. Lets do more with a book and establish life long readers among all students and keep that passion past high school.