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Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Layers of Teaching and Learning

Surely, the most fervent luddite must acknowledge that preservice teachers need to know how to use instructional technology in their practice.  Unfortunately, many schools of education wrestle with how to best prepare these future educators to employ digital tools that often ebb and flow through various trends. Since Google is the current rage in my professional circles, I decided to watch some tutorials and promos about how Google is being integrated in the elementary classroom. My goal was to share this knowledge with my literacy methods students.  One of the slide show promos that I viewed contained an example of how first grade students used Google Presentation to produce nonfiction writing.  As part of the writing process, students worked in small groups, used nonfiction books to research their topic, and then collaborated with others to create various multimodal presentations. The technology educator who demonstrated how Google is used in this elementary classroom showcased some of this student writing:

First grade students were able to demonstrate they could use the technology, share their work with a large audience, and exhibit engagement.  Important outcomes, no doubt. However, what this Google promo didn't illustrate was the behind the scenes literacy instruction that helped these emergent writers shock and awe us with their work.   Here is just a basic overview of the teaching that was involved in helping first graders flourish with informational writing:

Foundational Reading Skills - Teachers taught lessons on:
  • phonemic awareness 
  • letter and letter sound identification
  • phonics 
  • sight words 
Sentence Conventions - Teachers instructed:
  • punctuation
  • capitalization
Research Skills -  Students learned how to:
  • discern credible information
  • paraphrase
  • safely search for information on the Internet
  • use and write a table of contents
  • use and write a glossary and index
  • analyze and comprehend visual information
  • comprehend nonfiction text structures
Writing Craft -  Teachers demonstrated how to:
  • use headers, captions, labels, bold words
  • provide evidence to support claims
  • use colorful language
  • structure sentences
  • write leads and endings
  • elaborate by using examples
  • focus their topic and writing
  • change fonts to give meaning to the text.
  • revise their writing
Assessment - Teachers knew their students as writers and worked from their strengths:
  • conferred with writers daily
  • provided effective feedback to propel writing feedback
  • understood qualities of writing, assessed for it, and used the assessment to teach
Motivation - Teachers motivated students by:
  • tapping into their interests as writers
  • sharing engaging books to excite their passions
  • sharing their own writing lives
  • believing in their abilities as writers.
  • facilitating their identity as writers
Here's an example of kindergarten writing that showcases this teaching and learning

Visual Presentation - Finally, once students were ready to publish.  Teachers taught:
  • basic skills: opening Google presentations, navigating documents, etc.
  • keyboarding skills
  • embedding photographs and visuals
  • embedding videos
  • embedding sound
Most importantly, all of the above instructional moves were differentiated to meet the diverse needs of first grade learners.  Surprisingly (or not) technology integration is just a small piece of the complex act of teaching. Our best teachers do more than just get kids to collaborate in a Chrome Book.  They understand the science of teaching and learning...they care about their kids.  So to the preservice teachers out there: focus on your craft, deepen your understanding of literacy, and remain technologically current. Above all, remember how invaluable you truly are in the intellectual and emotional lives of children.

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