Why Literacy Matters: 6 Smart Strategies for Student Success

This summer we’re going to take an important journey together. We’ll consider why literacy matters by exploring 6 smart strategies for student success. I hope you’ll join me!

This summer we’re going to take an important journey together. We’ll consider why literacy matters by exploring 6 smart strategies for student success. I hope you’ll join me!

It’s summertime, which means it’s time to rest and do those home projects we can’t seem to find time for during the school year. It also means it’s time to reflect on the past school year–what worked, what didn’t, and how we can improve our game.

I like to look for smart strategies when I’m reflecting. These are strategies I like to keep in my quiver, ready to shoot at a moment’s notice–they’re easy to implement, but they can make a profound impact on classroom instruction.

This summer, I’m going to delve into 6 smart strategies in six weeks. Then, by the time we get back to the grind in August, you’ve got 6 arrows added to your quiver, ready to aim and fire.

Let’s start by discussing

Why Literacy Matters

A couple of months ago, I signed my contract. I had to do a double-take at the number. I’ll be entering my 24th year of teaching in the fall (I obviously started teaching when I was 10). I’ve seen many trends come and go.

I’m the department chair for social studies at a high school in Georgia and have taught social studies for most of my career (save six in ELA). Two lingering trends in social studies education–and I think this applies to most subjects–are learning facts and making every lesson fun.

I’m not saying facts and fun lessons aren’t important. Facts definitely have their place in education, and fun can create buy-in. We all learn better when we enjoy the task at hand. But enjoyment is separate from fun for fun’s sake. Enjoyment can derive from rigor. To enjoy learning, students must be engaged. To be engaged, they must understand.

Literacy is the key to understanding.

Literacy’s not an educational trend. Literacy’s the foundation for any subject. Literacy unlocks understanding, which leads to engagement.

If we focus on literacy, weaving it into the fabric of our instruction, we don’t need to worry about making our classes “fun.” Our students will be engaged in the work. I don’t know about you, but that lifts a huge burden off my shoulders.

Literacy places the onus of learning on the student’s shoulders, squarely where it belongs.

Literacy also prepares them for their futures as productive members of society.

We know that students need to be able to evaluate sources and evidence–social media has made this more urgent than ever. But we also need to be aware that the economy we were prepared for in school doesn’t exist anymore.

The days of training for a job and doing that job in the same way for thirty years are gone. Rapidly developing technology means that our students must be life-long learners. Even if they (by some miracle) keep the same job for thirty years, they’ll frequently need to learn new ways to do it.

With this in mind, over the next six weeks, we’ll learn

6 Smart Strategies for Student Success

This is a very brief overview of what we’ll be discussing for the rest of summer, and it’s me, so you know you’ll be getting a template here and there. Go ahead and prepare by signing up for the Free Resource Library.

  1. Close Reading

Reading is the foundation of literacy. We’ll look at strategies to integrate reading into your lessons. The key to reading success is establishing a clear purpose.

  1. Note-Taking

Note-taking is a vital skill for life-long learners. We’ll look at strategies for processing and summarizing key ideas.

  1. Standard Annotation

It’s not exciting, but standard annotation (when done correctly) truly does transfer ownership of learning to the students.

  1. Writing at the Sentence Level

Studies of deliberate practice have shown us that experts are made, not born. We’ll apply this principle to writing starting at the sentence level (ala Writing Revolution and my own resource for my ELA program, Writing Blocks) to build better writers.

  1. Writing at the Paragraph Level

After ample sentence practice, students will graduate to paragraphs using the CEA (Claim, Evidence, Analysis) model.

  1. Writing at the Essay Level

We’ll discuss moving students into writing complete essays with confidence (and ways to avoid spending all your time grading).

We’ll look at simple ways to integrate these 6 smart strategies into your lessons. I hope you join me over the next six weeks in learning ways to boost your students’ literacy success!


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