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School of Thought

Insights & Ideas for Online Teaching

Today’s Language Learning: More Than Ink

Literacy today is more than reading and writing.

Reading today is more than print.

Writing today is more than ink.

To engage my second language learners, I developed a blended learning unit on picture books that utilised both traditional and new literacies, and both analogue and digital tools. The whole unit was delivered via Edmodo and Google Sites.

I booked out a selection of picture books from the library, including classics such as ‘The Giving Tree’ and ‘Green Eggs and Ham’. We began with traditional literacy in the form of analytical skills, such as examining sentence structure, and identifying language patterns such as rhythm, rhyme, repetition, and onomatopoeia. We explored characterisation, and developed visual literacy by analysing how the images enhanced and helped the text. We also looked at the cover, the style of illustration, the page turners, the main conflict and the theme. Throughout the unit, learners learned new vocabulary through Quizlet, where I added new terms as the unit progressed.

Learner's added the themes and conflicts of the picture books to a flip chart anchor board, and we discussed their relevance to young children's hopes and fears. Following this discussion, they wrote a journal about a childhood memory that resonated with them, and focused on writing using first person narrative and past tense.

Flipping the classroom, learners were asked to watch some tutorials on story structure via a playlist created on Sophia.org for homework (read about Playlists in my blog post, Personalised Learning Playlists). In the next lesson, learners used this knowledge to deconstruct the animated film of the picture book, 'The Gruffalo'. Using a storyboard template, learners made visual notes on the characters and setting, the conflicts faced by little brown mouse, the complications and the resolution embedding and understanding of the concept of the ‘story mountain’.

Using this structure, learners were then given a blank template and asked to develop their journal writing into a picture book plot outline. Practising persuasive devices, they pitched their plot ideas to peers, who provided feedback. They then amended, revised and developed their storyboard.

Using Book Creator on iPads, the learners created their picture books in digital form. The finished books were peer assessed and revised. We used AirServer to share pages from their books on the projector with the whole class for comment and advice, before making final revisions and finally sharing with a Year 3 primary class in a school in Malaysia. Books were uploaded to a Google Docs file that was shared with the Year 3 class, who could then download and open the picture books in iBooks. The Year 3s completed a Book Review on a Google Form that provided feedback to the Year 10 authors.

Finally, learners will write a detailed reflection about their learning in the form of an essay. This will allow learners to review and embed the need for clarity in their writing through devices such as topic sentences, connectives and transitions, as well as develop a coherent overall structure.

My learners are all intermediate English learners, and this unit helped address many important terms and skills required for them to pass their IGCSE Second Language exams. It also went way beyond that and gave them essential digital and media literacy skills; it engaged them through writing stories based on their own life and allowed them the change to create through technology. The use of technology meant we also were afforded an authentic audience to easily share with and receive real feedback from.

Reading is more than print. Writing is more than ink.

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