I just had a fantastic meeting with two of our wonderful grade 5 teachers, Sandra and Diane, to brainstorm ways to naturally embed 21st century literacy skills into our (Lucy Caulkins) Readers’ Workshop (RW) units of study for next school year (Reading is a school focus for next year). The grade 5 team is looking for easy ways to promote student discussion about reading strategies and to deepen their conversations about the content they are learning while they’re reading.
Here’s what we came up with (and I would love to hear feedback):
The grade 5 students will create a Students Teaching Students podcast focused on helping other students learn and use quality strategies for reading. This is an educational podcast teaching other students how to become good readers using RW strategies that they learn over the course of the year.
This strand will continue throughout the whole school year with different sections of grade 5 (we have 7 grade 5 classes) leading different units of RW. All podcasts can be uploaded onto a common 5th grade reading-focused blog and added to iTunes for parents and other teachers to subscribe. The podcasts can also be shared with the 4th and 3rd grades so we have a built-in authentic audience (and we help vertical articulation too!). The project will be started with our first RW unit and continue throughout the year.
To allow for new teachers (we will have 4 new grade 5 teachers next year) to get comfortable with the process, we can differentiate: some classes can start with just listening to the podcasts, then when ready, students come in as “guest stars/speakers” on the “show,” eventually we can have many facilitators from all classes.
The project can be broken into 3 stages:
Stage 1: Focus on strategies.
Students Teaching Students podcast begins with 1 or 2 of our grade 5 classes to develop strong student facilitators and provide a model for good student-produced podcasts at ISB. The first stage is to focus on what strategies they are learning in RW and teach other students how the strategies help them become good readers. This can be a regular, short, podcast focusing on the critical aspects of RW they learn each week – the podcast station can be set up as a “center” in the classroom.
Stage 2: Focus on the content being learned in RW.
Have “guest stars/speakers” from other classrooms on the “show” to talk about the content they are reading and how they use different strategies to learn through reading. Student facilitators from the first two participating classes will lead these discussions on a weekly basis.
For this to work well, we will need to develop common prompts, thinking strategies and questions so that students will have a “handbook” for excellent podcasts. Eventually this could be entirely managed by students.
Stage 3: Focus on building excitement about reading.
Add book talks, book reviews, etc, using these same tools (or perhaps VoiceThread and other tools) to deepen learning about content, to make connections to other student readers, and to share more about what we’re reading. Start regularly connecting with students in other schools around the world to discuss and improve reading skills and strategies.
What do you think? How can we make this idea even better? Has this already been done (which would give me a great model to start from)? All feedback appreciated!