September is National Literacy Month. This is a great opportunity for all school stakeholders to share their best practices that help promote a passion for reading and writing. During my time as a teacher and administrator, I have been exposed to some very innovative literacy initiatives that make learning engaging and relevant. In this blog post I will highlight eight instances in which educators have gone outside of the box and promoted the importance of literacy.
One Book, One School
At Black River Middle in Chester Township, N.J. all students and staff participate in the annual One Book, One School initiative. Over the summer months, students and staff read a book that is age appropriate. Then, upon returning to school, various discussions and learning experiences take place in our advisory groups pertaining to the themes. For example, this school year, we are involved with the book, “The Wednesday Wars” by Gary D. Schmidt. This initiative is a great way to strengthen a positive school culture and ensure that literacy is promoted as a necessary component to being a well-rounded citizen.
Elementary- and secondary-school students and teachers throughout the world read and compose blog posts on a daily basis. There is no better way to infuse passion for literacy and connect with an authentic audience than with the power of blogging. Take for instance the story of a nine year old in the U.K. who was able to turn her blogging skills into a worldwide campaign to fight hunger in Africa. Quad-blogging has also come to the forefront as a way for students to share, read and comment on other student’s blogs from around the world. For lead learners across the globe, curating and reading education related blogs allows for reflection and idea sharing that benefits all school stakeholders.
One of the main points of National Literacy Month is to promote a passion for reading and writing. Over the past decade schools have seen an increase of tablets and e-readers being utilized by students. Two schools in particular, South Orange Middle School and Black River Middle School, are offering students the ability to sign out Nooks so that they can read in a way that they are most comfortable. The Nook initiative will give students greater access to many age-appropriate books that are of high interest and relevant to their own lives.
Adopt a class
Research shows that some students learn best when read to or taught by their peers. Mr. Pizzo, a 7th-grade language arts teacher at Black River Middle School, takes a class trip to Dickerson Elementary School each year so that his students can read books to 2nd-graders. This is a great example of older students modeling a passion of reading to their younger counterparts. The entire experience creates a passion for reading and reinforces the notion of a community of unity.
Online book talk
During the 2012-2013 school year staff members of the Chester School District in N.J., participated in an online book talk. They used Edmodo to discuss the book “Teach Like a Pirate” by Dave Burgess. For nearly a month, topics from the book were broken down and best practices shared as it related to passion based teaching. The author, Dave Burgess, also participated which made the experience that much more beneficial. As a follow up, Dave Burgess visited the district and dazzled the crowd with his bag of tricks to engage students in meaningful learning experiences.
Inter-generational book talk
Emily Bengels, a gifted and talented education teacher for the Readington Township School District in Whitehouse Station, N.J., conducted an inter-generational book talk. This entailed middle-school students and community members reading a book together and sharing generational perspectives. The author of the book was then Skyped in and was able to share insight on the various topics of discussion. More about this literacy initiative can be found here.
Drop everything and read
Each week during the school year, students literally drop everything and read at Black River Middle School. High interest articles are chosen for students to read so that they stay abreast of current events and understand the importance keeping their reading skills up to par. Almost every subject area is included and topics range from the effects of sunburn to the recent deaths of dolphins off the coast of the Jersey Shore.
Online book trailer
Students love to create book trailers using tools like iMovie to promote what they are reading and convince their peers that being literate is worthwhile. During the 2012-2013 school year, a student was recognized on social media for a creative trailer she created. The author uploaded the trailer on his Twitter and Facebook feeds and gave the student a global shout-out. This sort of recognition gives all students a sense of confidence that lasts a lifetime.
As you can see, there are so many ways that National Literacy Month can be recognized by schools. There are so many available resources now for students to show what they know and stay passionate about reading and writing. All educators must continually model the importance of literacy and find creative ways to keep the passion going.
Brad Currie is the middle-school vice principal and supervisor of instruction for the Chester School District in N.J. Currie is the co-founder and co-moderator of a weekly Twitter discussion for current and emerging school leaders called #Satchat. The online discussion takes place every Saturday morning on Twitter at 7:30 AM EST/PST. He has presented at various conferences around the country on educational technology, social media integration and personal learning networks. Visit Currie’s website or follow him on Twitter @bcurrie5 for more information.