Schema

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Today, we were given a text each to read in pairs. On one side the title was ‘text 1’, on the other side the title was ‘Washing Clothes’.

I was given ‘text 1’ and read it to my partner. I tried to guess what the text was about, but couldn’t. When I was given the title, I kicked myself. It really highlighted the importance of telling learners what they’re going to be doing, before actually doing it. This way, a discussion can be made, a brainstorming session, a KWL grid, or a short introduction activity. This enables learners to collect information, making the process less challenging if you are unaware of the topic, and allows learners to share their knowledge.

This can also support soft skills such as confidence in class, peer cohesion and study skills.

How do we learn the conventions of writing?

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We completed this activity in college which I found useful, so decided to use it as a basic for further research in future. As always, I’ll get around to reviewing it at some point!

Writing

These are some questions we looked at today. I also think this could be a good activity when covering audience and purpose with learners.

What kinds of texts have you written in the last month?

In the last month, I’ve written text messages, essays, a Police statement, signed a tenancy agreement, written a complaint email, and written a multitude of lists!

What was the purpose of the writing?

There were many purposes, with some having dual purposes. For example, the purpose of the Police statement was to log a crime, and the purpose of my complaint letter was to firstly complain, secondly to provide my own entertainment, and thirdly to ask for compensation!

Who was your audience?

There were many audiences including friends, family, landlords, managers and the Police.

What was the context?

The context of the text messages were personal (e.g. to ask how people were, to ask for help and say happy birthday).

The context of the Police statement was to document items that were stolen.

The context of the complaint letter was appalling customer service from a well-known electrical’s supplier.

Two views of writing

  • Writing as a product
  • Writing as a process
    • The process can be split into stages – they may differ person to person. Learners should be supported throughout but they should retain ownership.

Genre Approach

Genres have different structures depending on audience/purpose/social context and learners need to be taught conventions of different genres explicitly.

  • Focus on how to construct different types of texts through modelling/sharing/scaffolding. An example of this could be an email/letter writing template.

A list of strategies to support writing composition

  • KWL grid
  • Using discussion beforehand
  • Mind map
  • Complete chart
  • Sequencing words/activities
  • Language experience
  • Scaffolding/starter sentences
  • Photos
  • Wh- questions
  • Character creation chart
  • Story boards
  • Lists/sticky notes

Further reading

  • Kernel sentences
  • Consequences game.

 

We were asked to complete the following chart. The chart can also be used in lessons. It’ll be going on my list of things to try!

Text type Purpose Audience Context
Text messageBoard writingPost-it notes To persuade someone to ring me so I could get them to give me their washing machine!To inform learners of the difference between present simple and present continuous.To inform me of what clothes I had in each washing basket. LandlordLearnersMyself Landlord
Classroom
Home

How do we learn to write?

It’s important to acknowledge how learners would naturally pick up the conventions of writing. For example:

  • Greetings cards – how do we learn to write greetings cards?
    • We get a lot throughout our lives, even before we can read ourselves, so we may use modelling
    • We might write our name at first
    • Pick up the conventions of greetings cards from home context and receiving themAssignment writing – how do we learn to write assignments?
      • From reading examples
      • From using scaffolded activities
      • From modelling
      • Learning methods such as point, proof, analysis
      • Learn how to structure at school – every story needs a beginning, middle and end
      • Through feedback from our tutors

I will tag this under ‘things to try in the classroom’ to ensure I’m applying some of the theory to practice.

Performance reading

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I was first introduced to performance reading through Burton (2007), where it was suggested that learners could prepare for a performance of a play script. However, as I researched, I found a strategy with the same name, which enables the teacher, and learner, to make reading thinking visible for further work.

Readwritethink explain that ‘The NCTE/IRA Standards for the Assessment of Reading and Writing contend that “reading very short passages and answering a limited number of multiple-choice questions is not a good measure of what literate people normally do when they read. Authentic assessments of reading employ tasks that reflect real-world reading practices and challenges” (p. 46).’You can find the resources here.

Performance reading template – blank

Performance reading template with questions

I also had a look at think-aloud strategies used in classrooms which seems to be based on the same theory. I mainly found examples from the USA. I’m not sure if this is a strategy used or not in the UK, but I can definitely see the benefits of trying the method with a text in class, and recall similar techniques used in school. I found the following videos interesting in various ways, as well as some info on the readingrocket website using think alouds and using them to aid comprehension.

The benefits:

  • You can ‘see’ what the learner is thinking which can provide useful diagnostic, formative and summative assessment
  • It helps my understanding of how we think through reading a text and gain meaning from it
  • You can guide learners into a way to think, through modelling and demonstration – this could suit a variety of learning styles
  • It helps learners think more autonomously

Cons:

  • Getting learners on board with a deep thinking/reading exercise – it could take a lot of time!

I’ll definitely be giving it a try in class with these documents as guidance, as I’m aware I need to further my knowledge of learner’s thinking skills, and how to develop them. I’ll try it out. At the end of the day, if my learners don’t like it, I’m sure they’ll let me know!

Have you ever used these techniques with adults of various skill levels? I’d be interested in finding out your thoughts!

References

Burton, M. (2007) Reading. NIACE: London

Read Write Think, (2013), Making the Reading Process Visible through Performance Assessment, [online] Available at: http://www.readwritethink.org/professional-development/strategy-guides/making-reading-process-visible-30961.html [Accessed 18/02/13]

Readingrockets, (2013) Think Alouds, [online] Available at: http://www.readingrockets.org/strategies/think_alouds

Readingrockets (2013) Using Think Alouds to Improve Reading Comprehension [online] Available at: http://www.readingrockets.org/article/using-think-alouds-improve-reading-comprehension