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In this module, I explore the use of ReadWriteThink in English classrooms.
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ReadWriteThink.org is a website developed by the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English to provide free resources for English Educators, Tutors, and parents. It has material designed to meet the wide range of English Education needs for K-12 students. The site is broken down into four main parts: Classroom Resources, Professional Development, Parent and Afterschool Resources, and Community Stories. The Classroom Resources section contains Lesson Plans, Student Interactives, and Printouts. The Professional Development Resources consist of strategy guides, a professional library, a list of meetings and events, and online development resources. The resources within the Parent and Afterschool activities section are extracurricular activities that are designed to help promote student interest and improve student ability in reading and writing. All of these resources are differentiated by grade level and by resource type (projects, games, tips, print outs and podcasts) and can be filtered by theme or learning objectives. The Community Stories section of the site contains examples of how educators have successfully used the resources of ReadWriteThink.org in their classrooms. The testimonies and examples present in this section can be sorted through by the last name of the contributing educator.
The Lesson Plans and Student Interactives in the Classroom Resources section are the most relevant aspects of this site to the educational needs of classroom teachers. The Lesson Plans are designed for specific grade levels, are complete with assessments, and are aligned to state, NCTE and IRA standards. The Student Interactives provide opportunities to engage the class actively in their study of writing, vocabulary, and other content specific materials.
ReadWriteThink has gone through tremendous lengths to make their site accessible to anyone who might wish to find English Education resources. The homepage (http://www.readwritethink.org/) has dropdown menus at the top of the page that can direct the visitor toward the specific content that they are looking for. In the center of the page, there are sections for each of the four major areas of the website with an image, a short description of what the section contains, and links to featured topics or events. At the bottom of the homepage, there are links to view the site’s content by grade level. At the left side of the homepage, and every page on the site, there is a search bar with many filtering options to allow for the visitor to specify exactly what they are looking for. The site also has a site demonstration page with a site overview PowerPoint and ReadWriteThink ReView videos that describe how to use the site (http://www.readwritethink.org/util/site-demonstrations.html). The link to this page is available on every page of the site, so it is readily accessible whenever problems may be encountered. These videos range from how to find resources for a specific grade level (http://www.readwritethink.org/util/site-demonstrations/review/finding-resources-your-grade-21.html) to how to find out if a resource on the site complies with specific state requirements (http://www.readwritethink.org/util/site-demonstrations/review/aligning-your-instruction-with-17.html).
Example 1: Lauren Boulden using “Building Reading Comprehension Through Think-Alouds” Lesson Plan
Lauren Boulden shares her experience of adapting this lesson plan (http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/building-reading-comprehension-through-139.html) that is designed to develop reading comprehension to the poetry unit she did with her middle school students. This lesson begins with the teacher modeling the think aloud strategy by reading a Langston Hughes’ poem and stopping periodically to reflect upon what she think the poem means and what she has been thinking about while she is reading. Students are then split into groups and asked to perform the think aloud strategy on their own with a new poem that is different for each group and to discuss their understanding and observations of the poem with their group. From this point in the lesson plan, Ms. Boulden adapted the activities to pursue further learning goals for her students. She added a jigsaw groupwork strategy, reassigning the class into new groups after their discussion so that the new groups each have one member of the previous groups. In this arrangement, one person in each group has a poem that they can speak about as an expert that no one else in their group has read. From their discussion of each of the poems read by the class, Ms. Boulden then asked them to try to identify what kind of person Langston Hughes was and what was important to him. Beginning with a ReadWriteThink lesson plan, Ms. Boulden was able to conduct an engaging activity with her class that was targeted at their specific learning needs.
Example 2: Theresa Grimsley’s creation of a school newspaper
As a first year teacher, Theresa Grimsley utilizes many ReadWriteThink resources in her classroom. Ms. Grimsley has a particular focus on encouraging and motivating her students to write. She has utilized the professional development advice (the specific article she references is no longer available) to write in front of her students so that they can observe and learn from her process. She also successfully adapted the structure and activities detailed in the “Creating a Classroom Newspaper” lesson plan (http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/creating-classroom-newspaper-249.html?tab=4#tabs) to found a schoolwide newspaper. Ms. Grimsley was able to use ReadWriteThink resources to support her desire to motivate her students to write and to meet a schoolwide need for a writing outlet by starting a school paper.
Example 3: Doris Powers’ use of creative lessons
Doris Powers, a thirty year veteran teacher, turns to ReadWriteThink to help her meet the needs and interests of some of her struggling students. She references the lesson plan “Book Report Alternative: Hooking a Reader with a Book Cover” (http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/book-report-alternative-hooking-977.html) as an effective way to have students analyze a book in an engaging way. This lesson asks students to select a book based solely upon the cover art, to make predictions about what the book will be about based upon the cover image, to read the book and to reevaluate what elements of the book are conveyed by the cover. This fresh way of looking at a book incorporates visual learners in a way that traditional book reports cannot.
Example 4: Jennifer Smith’s use of an interactive to motivate students of varying abilities
Jennifer Smith also incorporates ReadWriteThink’s resources into her classroom when she is adapting to the specific needs of her students. When her co-taught eighth grade class was struggling with the concept of dialogue punctuation, Ms. Smith had her students practice with their dialogue by using the Comic Creator Interactive (http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/student-interactives/comic-creator-30021.html). Ms. Smith asked each of her students to write dialogue, which she checked for correct punctuation. She then had them use the Comic Creator Interactive to create comic strips featuring the dialogue they create earlier. Once their comic strips were completed, the students looked at each other’s comic strips and tried to write down the dialogue as it had originally appeared with the correct punctuation. Ms. Smith enjoyed this activity because it allowed her students to be creative and supported visual learners while it reinforced the content that they were covering in class.