Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Used any good "sidewalk cutouts" lately?

As usual, the discussion was wide-ranging and interesting. Some of the ideas that were discussed:

  • Improving student access to technology - the library lab
  • Using the web to support reading through the use of programs like Strategy TutorTM
  • Gathering other teachers' "sidewalk cutouts"
Dave G shared an activity and an insight he had working with his Com kids. Here's his description of the task and his thinking:

In my Communications class, I was looking for a way to assist my non-readers in handling text. While I was setting up a lesson on the habits of effective readers, the plan was to tackle an activity developed by Cris Tovani on reading. The goal of this lesson was to introduce students to how "reading with a purpose in mind" can focus the meaning-making and give context to finding out what is important.

The challenge faced by a number of students in my class is the struggle to engage the text when they spend so much energy and time on decoding. As well, I had in mind the principles Fred brought up last week around how we need to provide for the visual and auditory learners in our classes. So I started to play around with Garage Band and made a recording of the text that students could listen to as they read.

As it turned out, it helped my students in a number of ways. The first benefit was that the whole class was on pace and able to keep up with the material in a relatively equal manner. By being all together, it allowed those who could go ahead to develop their thoughts and make notes, while those who were just getting the main idea to have something to say. It also helped limit off-task behaviour by providing a focus. The kids were also able to go back and listen again as I played the reading several times.

Instead of me saying "read through the passage 2 or 3 times", which most students view as punitive and unnecessary, I was having them hear the text and look at the words repeatedly and either reinforcing the big ideas or connecting in new ways. One other important benefit to this was how it embedded wait time to allow for the different processing rates. We all struggle to build in meaningful wait time and an audio recording that is played more than once provides that crucial time period for kids to connect to content and develop the meaning. And this is just what I have observed in doing this once.

So the question I am left with is how do I set up routines in the class that make this type of accommodation available more often. I want to explore how I could attach these audio files to a website or home page in order to let students access this easily and outside of class. I also want to see how I could do this with longer pieces to text and even novels. Then how could the students use this technology to help with written output - can they make podcasts of their thoughts or lit circles. And in response to Fred's question around planning for the kinesthetic learner, do I have accommodations for them?


Ms. Panas said...

Can someone please clarify what you mean by "sidewalk cutouts"?

Dave, thanks for the overview of how you used GarageBand--"sounds" awesome! Might you be willing to do a little tutorial for those who want to try it out? Or point us in the direction of a good online tutorial?

Anonymous said...

Sidewalk cutouts are the slopes cut into a sidewalk at the entrance to each drive way or store front. They were originally put in so wheel chairs could negotiate the climb. People and cars originally had to step up or climb the curb.


Ms. Panas said...

Of course--duh! Thanks, Fred. My brain hasn't been working well this week. Now I get the reference...