Re-establishing the richness of classroom learning
The uncertainty wrought by the pandemic has highlighted that educating students with the skills to manage their own learning throughout life is paramount, and we need structures and frameworks that support this aim.
Schools interrupted, have learnt valuable lessons Marise McConaghy
We have had a couple of weeks back in the classroom, and this winter holiday break gives us a ‘breather’ between the upheavals of the last terms, and our preparing for the rest of the year.
We need ways to ensure that the classroom’s richness as a learning environment is maximised.
Kath Cartwright’s last blog introduced Rebecca Brooks’ piece about the need to deal with some of the assumptions we have had about children and learning.
What children need – in fact what society needs – after the pandemic is not ‘catch up’. It is ‘recovery’.
Students need the ‘recovery’ of being in class with their peers, working with learning that builds on their current knowledge and understandings, and with opportunities to talk and share that learning with others. We can use this to integrate rich and rewarding learning.
Literacy in the classroom
Here are some classroom procedures that partially replicate the real-life learning that students have been engaged in at home, where they ‘vigorously pursued their own interests, engaged in life skills activities like never before,’ (Brooks).
These procedures use students’ interactions with each other to build all aspects of literacy. They can help re-establish the connections between students, and between students and our expert teaching selves. They demonstrate and help to reinforce powerful collaborative learning.
The practices are tried and tested. They can be used in all subjects.
Dictogloss is a dictation activity suitable for classrooms where there is a range of reading and writing skills, like most classrooms. The procedure is suitable for both factual and fictional texts and provides important assessment information. It is very useful for EAL/D students.
The procedure: Students listen to a short, teacher-prepared text, containing target information and/or grammatical structures. Students make notes, and reconstruct the text using their own understanding of the content. Students work individually or in pairs, then clarify their created text in groups. The class comes together with the teacher to confirm understandings.
The key to the Dictogloss approach … is interaction. … through this active learner involvement … [students] find out what they don’t know, then they find out what they need to know …
Wajnryb 1986 p.6
As described by the British Council, Dictogloss requires the students to combine all aspects of literacy, incorporating vocabulary and collaboration, to achieve the goal of meaningful text to complete the task.
You can view demonstration of the procedure in both primary and secondary EAL/D classrooms at Te Kete Ipurangi. Here the teachers provided extra support with explanations of unfamiliar English vocabulary in students’ first language, and with sentence starters for those working on particular grammatical structures.
It is best to use only 3-5 sentences in the text, with appropriate and interesting content. Try using Dictogloss each week for a term as a component of the literacy program.
‘Dictogloss is a fantastic activity because it uses all four skills of reading, listening, speaking and writing, and it gets all the students involved in the class.‘
Reciprocal Teaching (RT)
RT fits well into class reading programs, because students are actively engaged with the text at all times.
This is a detailed process, and requires a bit more effort to get established. The four stages of RT need to be clearly understood, rehearsed and implemented in preparation for using in each session.
Predicting what the text will be about, before reading. Not guessing, but rather using the clues provided in the text title, the cover, illustrations/maps/diagrams, the list of contents and so on, and linking that evidence with prior knowledge. Students prepare their thinking to be ready for possible content.
Clarifying means ‘clearing something up that you don’t understand’ (student in Stephanie’s introductory video). Text that is challenging contains unfamiliar content, and makes new demands on the reader. This stage helps students to acknowledge that we don’t always understand everything as soon as we read it, and talking about the confusing bits, and revisiting the text, helps to build understanding.
Questioning requires students to ask about author purpose and intended audience, deeper meanings, and about possible alternative readings of the text.
Summarising the text involves students working together to sort through the information to determine the most important points. This can provide written evidence of deep understanding of the text.
In the two videos from Stephanie’s class (below), high achieving students, who are very familiar with the procedure and the roles, work through the process. At first students work alone, then come together to examine each stage as a group.
This video is hosted by students and provides an introduction to RT, and a realistic demonstration:
Collaborative Reading (Gibbons pp 87-88)
There are a couple of variations on this procedure, but each is designed so students use collaboration to build meaning about factual material, and about the nature of text itself.
Students are grouped and provided with a text that is at an appropriate level of difficulty for each child. Texts for the different groups are about the same topic, or aspects of the same topic. Students read independently and discuss what they have learned, sometimes using a graphic organiser to assist with note-taking. Then they move as the ‘expert’ in a new group, where their information is pooled in preparation for constructing a new text.
This procedure is also known as ‘Jigsaw reading’. This video in Reading Rockets describes the procedure and demonstrates a primary class in action. The children in this video are familiar with the strategy, so the lesson is focused. The collaboration to construct text from the information read about and discussed is affirming for all students.
Sometimes the texts chosen for collaborative reading may contain different or even conflicting information. Judicious guidance to find ways to determine accuracy, if possible, is provided by the teacher. This is where students learn about the nature of text itself, as they consider the reliability of each author, evidence provided to support statements, and the potential for more questions to be generated and research to be pursued.
These procedures are excellent for working on content in all subjects. They require good organisation, and plenty of practice for maximum benefit.
Take your time. Teach each part of the process by modelling exactly what it is you are doing and what the students have to do. In small groups everyone can see and hear what the role requires. Use ‘think-alouds’ as you model.
Students’ talk and written texts demonstrate student achievement and inform planning and teaching. Look for demonstration of literacy behaviours described in ACARA’s Literacy Progression sub-elements:
- Speaking and Listening – Listening, Interacting and Speaking
- Reading – Understanding Texts and
- Writing – Creating Texts.
These procedures allow teachers the space to observe students’ literacy behaviours across all subjects. Students are freed up to bring their own understandings, including those gained in the challenges of the first half of this year, to their learning.
As students return to classrooms after COVID-19 lockdowns, teachers should focus on rebuilding relationships, avoid rushing through missed content, and preference a deep understanding of a few topics over a superficial understanding of many, according to a new article published in the Mathematics Education Research Journal.
Gibbons, P. (1991) Learning to Learn in a Second Language Newtown: Primary English Teaching Association
McConaghy, M. (2020) in Sydney Morning Herald June 30 2020 at https://www.smh.com.au/education/schools-interrupted-have-learnt-valuable-lessons-20200630-p557jf.html accessed 02/07/2020
New Zealand Ministry of Education Te Kete Ipurangi (TKI) – ESL Online https://esolonline.tki.org.nz/ESOL-Online/Planning-for-my-students-needs/Resources-for-planning/ESOL-teaching-strategies/Oral-Language/Listening-and-speaking-strategies/Dictogloss accessed 30/6/2020
Reading Rockets at https://au.video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=jigsaw+reading+strategy#id=6&vid=5a3d4294d8b4fa2225c256c191ae39d3&action=view viewed 01/07/2020
Teacher Magazine: Vukovic, Rebecca at https://www.teachermagazine.com.au/articles/strategies-for-returning-to-the-maths-classroom from Sullivan, P., Bobis, J., Downton, A., Feng, M., Hughes, S., Livy, S., … & Russo, J. (2020). Threats and opportunities in remote learning of mathematics: implication for the return to the classroom. Mathematics Education Research Journal, 1-9.
Wajnryb, R. (1986) Grammar Workout: The Dictogloss Approach Sydney: Melting Pot Press