Image: Werner Kunz
I stumbled upon a neat way to apply literacy today in our applied learning context, thanks mainly to the initiative of a colleague responsible for teaching technology and design to our students.
We are in the middle of writing mid-term reports for our learners, and this teacher thought it would be an interesting exercise to have his students compose their own reports (about themselves) in relation to their performance and learning in his subject. He initially did this to create a comparison with his own assessments of the learners, but as we were to later discuss and ponder, this turned out to be a brilliant way to have the students reflect on their own performance in a much more salient way. Our students are fairly unlikely to read or take on board the formal reports written by their teachers, but when they do them for themselves there is much more likelihood of real reflection and uptake.
This in itself was something I thought of as being 'blogworthy'; it is a great example of what I like to call 'integrous teaching' -- a process that facilitates and promotes learner integrity.
The learners completed a paragraph about themselves addressing 3-4 key points suggested by the technology and design teacher in relation to performance in that particular subject. This teacher then approached me to see what we could do with this work in terms of facilitating extensions into literacy development. I was happy to give this a shot, and the initial integrous activity then became an integrated one (from subject to literacy skills).
Based on the initial paragraphs of about 100 words, I had the learners extend them to about 300 words basically by identifying the key ideas and thoughts, turning these into topic sentences for independent paragraphs and then 'growing' each paragraph to include supporting details and examples. They were then shown how to add short introductions and conclusions, along with signpost language to create progression and cohesion across the body paragraphs.
This created a 3-4 draft process (relatively untaxing based on the electronic format of their texts) which was precious in terms of meeting our VCAL literacy outcomes but also developing and applying real literacy skills in a fairly logical and organic fashion. From single paragraph 100-word accounts we had grown 4-paragraph essays of about 300 words in length and it was interesting how much easier for the learners this was compared to the 'traditional' approach of planning out a full essay in advance.
Aside from the literacy skills perspective here, I think this was really valuable from the integrous and reflective angles as well. By visualising and describing actual behaviours and experiences to support their initial assessments of themselves, it forced them to not only rationalise them but also genuinely notice their own performance.
This application across two teachers and two subjects was particularly fruitful. Like so many of my better teaching experiences, it sprang out of someone else's initial application and then grew in a very collaborative way. Cheers Robin!
The really juicy thing to consider is how this could be extended and reapplied across other subjects and tasks as well. For now and the future, I think I'd like to bear in mind those two terms 'integrated' and 'integrous'; I think there's a tremendous amount of potential mileage there for the applied literacy teacher.