Amber Tilley, Northland Pines High School, Eagle River, WI, atilley @ npsd.k12.wi.us
The inscription on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum wall read, “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness–Elie Wiesel.” That quote stuck with me all the way back to Wisconsin. What did it mean to “bear witness”? Who was I to carry out this sort of work in my rural Wisconsin high school? I understood its importance, having taught Night for several years. But I had no direct understanding of the Holocaust, no true training in Jewish studies, and no firsthand contact with anyone who did. Yet, Wiesel’s task stayed in the forefront of my teaching…to bear witness.
Getting to Know the Holocaust: My Journey When I started teaching in rural northern Wisconsin, I found a stack of copies of Night, read the book, and had decided right away that it merited teaching to the sophomore class. I did not know much about the Holocaust except for what I researched. No other English teacher in my school taught Holocaust literature, and, at the time, it was touched on only briefly in history classes. At first, teaching Night was not a matter of my students lacking empathy or experience, it was a matter of student interest level, convenience, and resources. They were very interested, and I had the books right there before me. That first year, they had questions–I also had questions–and we did our best to find answers. In my second year of teaching Night, I vividly remember a student sitting in the front row. He fired off question after question about the “why” of the Holocaust. Our attempts to find information online were only somewhat successful. I had some detail and databases of first-hand accounts, but there was no one I could talk to.
This sparked my journey of trying to find answers and ultimately set me on my way of seeking a truer educational experience in order to provide students with a deeper understanding. The Holocaust Education Resource Center (HERC) in Milwaukee was one of the first organizations from which I sought knowledge. It has a vast Holocaust survivors speakers bureau and connects teachers and their students with those who have first-hand or educational experience in Holocaust education. Through its programs, I traveled first to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, and connected with other teachers who had interest and desire to be Holocaust educators. HERC then provided the opportunity to travel to Poland, Lithuania, and the Czech Republic and to visit Auschwitz, Birkenau, Treblinka, and Majdanek. I toured the ghettos in Warsaw and Lublin. I looked at the pits at Ponar. Reflection in this process is key, and to be there where they–the victims of the Holocaust–walked, died or survived…what an experience to be able to relate back to my students! A couple years later, HERC offered another trip, and this time I traveled to Israel to study with scholars at Yad Vashem. HERC has proven an invaluable resource to my Holocaust studies.
Two years later, I studied with Holocaust scholars in New York City at a summer institute sponsored by The Olga Lengyel Institute (TOLI), named for the author of Five Chimneys, the first Holocaust memoir published after the Holocaust in 1946. Every summer, TOLI offers 12-day seminars including discussions with Holocaust survivors and Holocaust rescuers, scholars, several authors; collaborations with fellow Holocaust educators; research into Jewish history and life today; and so much more. This experience added more depth to my knowledge and connected me with amazing peers in the field.
TOLI also offers a one-week Satellite Seminar Program across the country, FREE to educators at all grade levels, and we have one right here in Wisconsin. I attended the seminar in Fox Point, which included discussions with Holocaust survivors and a local rabbi, information about the history of Anti-Judaism, and a visit to the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. I received books and materials to take back to the classroom as well. During the summer of 2017, I co-facilitated this seminar. Again, the connections to people and experiences was invaluable.
Learning from HERC, TOLI, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Yad Vashem helps create a new, deeper understanding for educators and networks of colleagues. Taking the travel experience into the classroom, students can now hear what it is like to step foot in a cattle car, to walk the grounds of Auschwitz, and to hear more about survivors. My educational experiences have also had a ripple effect: not only do my students learn what I have learned, but so do my colleagues and educators state-wide at conferences and the TOLI Summer Seminar-Wisconsin.
All of the instruction, experience, travel, and tools have shaped our curriculum. My colleagues and I now have the tools to teach the Holocaust and, through that, empathy.
Holocaust Education in My School Today: Connecting Students At Northland Pines High School, students get their first understanding of the Holocaust in US History classes. However, the English classroom is where they get the most instruction–and experience–in understanding and connecting to the Holocaust. Today, our English curriculum dedicates a quarter of the sophomore year to Holocaust and genocide studies. As my department and I continued teaching Night, we came to understand how much students really connect to the Holocaust and Elie Wiesel’s account. We discovered that we not only were able to cover the mandatory curriculum requirements of the classroom, but we could also teach empathy.
Gradually, we expanded the Holocaust unit from just Night and related readings and videos to the full nine weeks. During the unit, students choose one novel from this list:
Opdyke, In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer
Sharenow, Berlin Boxing Club
Gourevitch: We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda
Once they have chosen their book, we group them accordingly. They create their own reading calendars and come to class having annotated their books (usually with sticky notes) ready for Socratic seminars, largely organized by students with one as a note-taker and all others participating in a roundtable discussion. As they discuss their books, they ask meaningful questions, share reactions, and read whatever passages they found to be important or significant. Afterwards, they complete a summative assessment group presentation when they share out main plot points and themes.
Besides reading nonfiction and historical fiction, they also watch a variety of short testimonials and read poems and stories. Many of these are discussed in small and large groups, often through writing assignments. They watch the documentaries I’m Still Here: Real Diaries of Young People Who Lived during the Holocaust (MTV) and One Day in Auschwitz (USC Shoah Foundation). The culminating assessment comes in the form of a research project: students investigate both the life of a Holocaust victim and a victim of a different genocide, and they cite sources and present their findings on a poster shared with a small group of peers. This is rolled out in a research phase when students investigate survivor testimonials on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, USC Shoah Foundation, Echoes and Reflections, and Yad Vashem websites, which have excellent testimonial archives. They then create a timeline of the victims on large posters, citing information, and deliver presentations in small groups. Through this project, they get to know their victims well and also get to hear about other testimonials as well.
Towards the end of the unit, my students visit Wiesel’s quote, “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” We discuss the meaning of this quote and what it means to bear witness. How can students bear witness in their own lives? By being an upstander for what is right and good? By being empathetic to others in a tough situation? By keeping in mind the lessons of the Holocaust? Students reflect on these questions in writing.
Finally, keeping in mind the teachings of the Jewish tradition, they learn about the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam, which means to repair the world. They reflect on what they have learned in the Holocaust unit and think of a way they can “repair the world.” They pledge to make a change for the better, such as socially, environmentally, or spiritually. This dedication to making the world a better place ends the Holocaust and genocide unit. In all, students learn about the Holocaust in depth in English classes. They acquire an understanding of the depth of the atrocity, and they learn the difference between bystanders and upstanders, that is, what to do if they see wrong on any level. They read about people much like themselves who find themselves in impossible situations. They make connections, which builds the empathy. They also understand the depth of the atrocity, which helps their understanding of humanity.
Measuring Achievement: Do Students Understand the Holocaust Better? Do They Become More Empathetic? Through reading and watching the texts–through research, writing, and discussions–students get to know the victims of the Holocaust personally. This connection–not only to words on a page but to the humans behind those words–makes the experiences more tangible. The lessons can be applied not only to English class, but the experience transcends into other areas of the students’ lives as well. By having traveled to the places of the Holocaust and having mindfully planned lessons, I make sure the students learn about the Holocaust more deeply than when I first taught Holocaust literature. Do students become more empathetic through learning this material, and how do I know? Besides being a part of student growth of understanding as observed in student behaviors, writing, and attitudes, I do ask them to write about what they learned. The question is, “What is the importance of learning about historical events like Holocaust and genocide in general?” Some answers from students recently:
When I was reading Night, I found it hard to keep reading it at times because of the depth, but after reading the book I realized that through the literature I got to feel what Elie was going through. It became a lot more real than just hearing what happened or learning it through some kind of lecture. This kind of learning brings a new maturity to students. We can understand what students, people from the past have gone through. It brings a sense of appreciation. And it teaches us to do something when we see people being treated unfairly.–Meaghan L.
At the beginning of the unit, I heard a student saying something under his breath about why do we have to learn about this. He was making jokes. At the end of the unit, he understood. He had a new perspective. He was over making the jokes. This type of deep learning, reading, brings people into the conversation. Now people understand the points of view of others.” –Nicole R.
Overall Impact Wiesel’s words changed my focus in class and inspired my travels and investigation into the Holocaust and bettering my teaching practices. Inscribed at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and also on the wall of my classroom, his words, “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness,” are often at the forefront of my mind. Being charged to bear witness, I decided to focus on teaching the Holocaust more mindfully, and in addition, to teach other educators in order to make connections in Wisconsin and help them improve their curriculum as well. This educational topic has shaped my students to be globally aware of issues of social justice of the past and present, and to be aware of red flags for injustice in the future. Knowing the history and repercussions of being a bystander or perpetrator makes many students have a better understanding of themselves and others.
John Pruitt, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Rock County campus, pruittj @ uww.edu
Zona Gale was born in Portage, Wisconsin, in 1874 and died in Chicago in 1938. Since then, we haven’t heard much about this writer who won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Miss Lulu Bett in 1921.
Perhaps her stories are a little too sentimental. Friendship Village (1908), Friendship Village Love Stories (1909), Neighborhood Stories (1914), and other collections of short fiction really are penetrating in their perception and pictures of small-town life, and some newspaper critics referred to Friendship Village as a utopia. These same critics also declared Gale “one of the foremost writers of our time” alongside the literati of the starkest realism including Upton Sinclair, Theodore Dreiser, Horatio Alger, Sinclair Lewis, and Edith Wharton.
To be sure, Gale didn’t dwell on the unpleasant side of human nature. One of my favorite characters in Friendship Village is the chatty spinster Calliope Marsh, ungrammatically pouring forth the milk of human kindness toward her neighbors.
Then social causes increasingly crept into her fiction, and she changed her views about idyllic village life, possibly stemming from her political views. As a political activist and supporter of the La Follette family, Gale joined the National Women’s Party, lobbied for the Wisconsin Equal Rights Law, and became a member of the executive committee of the Lucy Stone League. In 1923, she was appointed to the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, where she served until her death from pneumonia.
This new strain of writing includes her greatest successes, Miss Lulu Bett (1920) and Faint Perfume (1923), both satirical depictions of oppressive domesticity and female independence. It also produced the unpublished short story “The Reception Surprise,” which argues for equal rights for African Americans.
I’m a fan of Miss Lulu, who claims power and her rightful position in her home and in society at large. She understands that it’s her work that keeps the household running and that her family values her only as a servant. However, through her brief encounter with Ninian, Lulu begins to see that she possesses powers of her own, and she’s able to express herself and direct her own future rather than succumb to the will of those around her.
After she wrote this novel and adapted it for the stage, there was no returning to Friendship Village. Faint Perfume, another best-selling novel, indicts medical treatments designed to heal intellectual, overly stimulated women, as does Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s canonical “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Leda, an unmarried New York author stricken with neuritis, submits to her physician’s order to cease writing for one year and recover in her father’s house in the Midwest. Unlike Gilman, who liberates her heroine, Gale allows her protagonist to silently lose her mind, art, and identity.
Why should we invite Gale into our Wisconsin classrooms? All of these texts are open access and free at websites such as Hathi Trust Digital Library and Project Gutenberg, and they provide a great deal of insight into the rural communities where many of us teach. Is Friendship Village a century ago similar to contemporary Ingram in Rusk County, Lime Ridge in Sauk County, or another of the 400 villages around the state? Can you find current examples of Leda and Lulu in a state that only this month voted along party lines to advance the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution? How do small-town settings serve as a means of critiquing social institutions and ideas beyond the confines of the small town? In American fiction, the small town often serves as a crucible for democracy, and just as often doesn’t. Experiment with these stories and send your lesson plans and students’ reactions to an upcoming issue of Wisconsin English Journal.
Jonathan O’Brien, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, jonathan.obrien @ nwtc.edu
College writing instruction in a public, two-year college has its share of challenges: open enrollment, transfer agreements, credit for prior learning, basic writing instruction, and the wide variety of programs, certificate, and transfer paths that writing classes serve. Meeting these diverse needs becomes especially poignant in the first-year writing course, which we call English Composition at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC). In English Composition, students coming from or concurrently enrolled in basic writing programming, students enrolled in the General Education Transfer Certificate program, and students in programs as widely varying as nursing, criminal justice, marketing, and electro-mechanical engineering sit beside each other to build writing skills that they will use in a variety of academic, organizational, and business contexts.
English Composition at NWTC English Composition is required of a wide range of students in the college including all students in associate’s degree programs and those enrolled in the college’s General Studies Transfer Certificate. The course is taught in face-to-face sections meeting once or twice weekly, fully online, in a blended mode, and in accelerated format both in-person and online. The Course Outcome Summary states that in English Composition “learners develop knowledge/skills in planning, organizing, writing, editing. Students will also analyze audience/purpose, use elements of research, format documents using standard guidelines, and develop critical reading skills.” Students must meet one of the following prerequisites:
NextGen Accuplacer Scores for placement into English Composition must be 250 or above in Reading and Writing
ACT Reading score of at least 16 AND English score of at least 15
Successful completion (B or better) of College Reading and Writing (for students not scoring the minimum Accuplacer Reading and Writing scores listed above; these students must complete both this course and the English Composition Prep course) AND/OR English Composition Prep (for students not scoring the minimum Accuplacer Writing score listed above; students may enroll in this course that is taught with an embedded Writing Coach concurrently with English Composition)
Course competencies from the Wisconsin Technical College System focus on these items:
Establish document purpose
Differentiate essay parts
Construct topic sentences
Devise thesis statements
Compose paragraph types: Introductory, concluding, topical, and transitional
Employ rhetorical strategies
Apply revision skills
Prepare written documents
Establish critical reading skills
Investigate information sources
Integrate research techniques
The course is taught by full- and part-time faculty and by high school teachers who offer the course as NWTC transcribed credit. In the spring 2019 semester, full-time instructors taught twenty-five of the forty-four sections of the course offered with part-time faculty teaching seven sections and transcribed credit instructors teaching twelve sections.
Our Challenges Since the Spring 2019 semester, the Communication Skills team at NWTC has worked on revamping the English Composition course, and as the lead faculty member for English Composition, I have been tasked with much of that development. As a team, we felt the time was right for major change for several reasons. First, the afore-mentioned needs of a wide variety of students make the teaching English Composition at a two-year college somewhat different than its instruction elsewhere. Tinberg (2015) has argued that the “generalized” nature of the community college curriculum, its need to be everything to everyone, places unique demands on curricular design (p. 26). He also notes that much academic scholarship on the first-year writing course looks at it in terms of supporting academic majors in the university setting whereas in a two-year college, students often employ the learning and skills from the class immediately in business and organizational settings (p. 15). As instructors, we felt this important set of demands on the class. For instance, statements that students will use the research and documentation skills taught in the class in upper-level major courses are often met with blank stares by large portions of our classes. Still, some of our students do transfer the course to four-year universities, and those universities look for transferring students to have received instruction in critical analysis, information literacy, documentation format, and the expectations of academic writing. Overall, we needed a model to address the myriad ways the course is used.
We also identified needs in the area of contextualization, an ongoing effort of our college to match course content and instruction to specific programs. With the pairing of English Composition with other courses across the college since some sections are taught using the LinC (Learning in Community) model of paired classes and instruction, along with the desire of programs to enroll program students in specific English Composition courses for program scheduling needs, we felt the need for contextualization in our approach to English Composition.
Finally, some exigent considerations drove us to make changes to the course sooner rather than later. NWTC is moving to college-wide implementation of an eight-week scheduling model in academic year 2020-2021 for which a pilot including the English Composition course has begun in academic year 2019-2020. Coupled with the fact that we had decided to move away from our traditional textbook to an Open Educational Resource in academic year 2019-2020, the time was ripe to make curricular changes since we had important re-design work to do anyhow. We began the work of re-designing the class during the spring 2019 semester.
Our Design We have employed a writing process model focused on the modes or patterns of development (causal analysis, comparison and contrast, exemplification, etc.) for English Composition for roughly the past twenty years. We used Wyrick’s (2017) Steps to Writing Well textbook since around 2010, and in recent years, we paired the book with MindTap, Cengage’s online support for that textbook. However, in academic years 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, I ran a pilot using an Open Educational Resource called ENGL 101: Rhetoric and composition (2017) as a textbook. This text still employs our previous models of writing process and the modes of development, but we like its readability and its chapters on the basics of paragraphing, topic development, and reading for comprehension, which we still need to cover given our course competencies. Hence, we are carrying this book into our re-designed course. We simply minimize the chapters on the modes of development. We offer the book as a link and an Adobe PDF document in the course Blackboard shell, but we also offer a spiral-bound printed copy to our students from our Print Services department for a cost of $10.
In our thinking about the possibilities for a new course, we discussed our assumptions about writing, most of which come from Writing Studies and Rhetorical Genre Studies (see Table 1). As the Writing Studies model avers, writing classes have their own terms, threshold concepts, and skills, some of which center on the shared nature of texts, which the term “genre” conveys. We had come to see problems with our earlier model that treated the modes of development as fixed and staid genres rather than as sites of social actions/expectations, as Rhetorical Genre Studies argues (Rinard & Masiel, 2016).
These assumptions prompted us to look for a model reflecting our assumptions about writing and its disciplinary integrity along with the needs of contextualization and flexibility already noted. Given the models for teaching composition currently on offer, the transfer model of writing instruction (see Table 1) seemed to fit our needs best as the basic model for our revamped course. In that model, focus is on building writerly identity and transferable skills, knowledge, and processes across academic, personal, and work contexts. We felt this malleable model would allow us maximum flexibility to address wide-ranging needs. Tinberg (2015) points out that with retention and persistence a perennial issue at two-year colleges, instructors need to think clearly about offering value for the diverse needs of students in a first-year writing course (p. 10). Transfer theory places those considerations of value and continued applicability at the forefront, guiding curricular design and assessment.
The Elon Statement on Writing Transfer (2013) offers some working principles of the transfer approach, advising explicit rhetorical instruction in areas like audience, exigency, genre, purpose, and style since with such instruction “students are more likely to transform rhetorical awareness into performance.” Another important aspect of the transfer model is “designing academic writing opportunities with authentic audiences and purposes” (p.6) and prompting repeated and meaningful opportunities for metacognition on the knowledge, skills, and processes at work in the class (p. 6). We coupled the transfer model with a reading-centric model (see Table 1) with a course topic and questions that guide the course. This approach follows the suggestion of transfer theorists like Beaufort (2007, 2012) and Yancey, Robertson, and Taczak (2014) who argue for offering course topics and a shared set of readings/sources so that writing instructors can offer the rhetorical and genre instruction that the transfer theory centralizes in an intentional manner. For instance, we can ensure that students are summarizing effectively with a source we as instructors have already read. We can also model how a rhetorically-skilled, educated reader encounters texts and sources as readings unfold in the course. We also believe there is a benefit in preventing plagiarism since we can rotate the readings that assignments are based on.
We have initially offered the class to our part-time and transcribed credit instructors with a set of readings and sources on the course topics of (1) happiness and (2) work and human dignity, though we are developing course topics on grit, delayed gratification, imagination, nature versus nurture, empathy, and career choices. We offered the “Guidelines for assembling readings and choosing topics” below for all full- and part-time instructors to guide their topic and reading selections if they did not use the course topics and readings already prepared:
Class topics should be developmentally appropriate for a college freshman in terms of topic, complexity, and readability (aim for lexile levels around 1,200-1,400)
Create 3-4 essential questions to guide the course
Aim for coverage of the course topic from several angles and disciplines to provide opportunity to discuss disciplinary writing practices
Aim for multimodal diversity with text articles, videos, charts, graphs, podcasts, etc.
We also offered the following “Guidelines for writing course questions” to all full- and part-time faculty with a set of example questions on our happiness topic:
Aim questions at the personal level, at the discourse level, and at the cultural level
a. How do humans across time, cultures, genders, ages, and socioeconomic levels differ in how they talk about and represent happiness? (discourse)
b. What do cultural representations of happiness tell us about both happiness and those cultures? (cultural)
c. What are the most significant and best-supported claims about happiness from our readings? (discourse)
d. What would you say to someone who asked you the most important lesson you learned from your reading and reflections on happiness? (personal)
Prompt students to look at various genres and modes (online sources, books, art, music, academic research) through your questions
Our focus on reading in the course features a specific approach and not one of simple comprehension, though we cover basic annotation and summary skills early in the course with our OER text. De Piero’s (2019) model of focusing on “rhetorical reading skills” in three areas guides us in our reading instruction since it dovetails so well with the transfer model. Those three areas, deconstructing genres, situating texts in discourse communities, and reading like a writer, provoke the kind of rhetorical instruction and reflection that the transfer model is built on. We see value in such reading in the course for things like academic vocabulary acquisition as well. Research by Krashen, Nagy, and Townsend (2012) has shown that readers can acquire more academic vocabulary through genuine academic reading than through direct instruction, and we believe the same extends to inculcation of awareness of academic genre and language expectations.
Implementation As we built the course, we sought to scaffold and repeat assignment types, taking Beaufort’s (2012) admonition seriously not to teach too many genres or assign too many rhetorically-different assignments in a transfer-centered course. Since one of the main features of transfer theory is a focus on metacognition, we begin the course with two reflective assignments, the Discourse Community Map and the Literacy Autobiography (see the assignment descriptions in the Appendix, offered without their accompanying rubrics). We also sought to sequence knowledge and skill attainment by (1) building global skills before local skills, then (2) increasing complexity, and finally, (3) increasing diversity (Berryman, 1991). Thus, we build from metacognitive assignments early on before talking about items like topic sentences and thesis statements. Then, we move to summary and critical analysis skills in the Annotated Bibliography assignment which we assign in four separate entries on assigned course readings. Then, we move into a Textual Analysis Essay where the focus is on smooth integration of sources and a balance between paraphrase, quotation, and commentary on two of the sources already read and discussed in class. Then, we move into the Synthesis Paper where students are invited to add another source of their own finding on the course topic to the seven sources that the class has read and discussed. In this paper, students address the course questions, bringing in sources to support their analysis. Students must bring multiple sources to bear on specific analytic claims they make. In other words, they must synthesize the sources to support claims. Finally, the course closes with another metacognitive assignment, the Theory of Writing Essay, an assignment that Yancey, Davis, Robertson, Taczak, and Workman (2018) argue is important for cementing the transferable knowledge, skills, and processes from the course for students as they move into other contexts for writing (p. 44). As a team, we have always united strongly around core shared assessments, so we require that all instructors use the same assignment descriptions and rubrics and a common percentage (70%) of the course grade must be built on those same core assignments, all of which are writing assignments. Each instructor builds 20% of the course with personally-designed assignments and activities, often journal entries, revision groups, discussion boards, and in-class activities. The remaining 10% of the course grade is based on the student’s participation, engagement, behavior, and professionalism centered on the college’s seven “Core Abilities”: Demonstrate Personal Accountability, Demonstrate Community and Global Accountability, Value Individual Differences and Abilities, Communicate Effectively, Work Cooperatively and Professionally, Solve Problems Effectively, and Think Critically and Creatively.
Early Outcomes and the Future Though it is too early to fully report outcomes of the changes to the course since the Fall 2019 semester is the official kickoff to full implementation, we have received some initial feedback since we have completed a single summer offering of the course and two eight-week offerings just completed in the first eight weeks of the Fall 2019 semester, one taught by me and one by Kristin Sericati, the developmental reading and writing instructor on our team. Kristin taught the redesigned course paired with English Composition Prep in the Summer 2019 session and reports that the relative ease of getting into the course with more reflective, personal assignments and then ending with metacognition again in the Theory of Writing Essay bookends the course in virtuous ways, prompting students to reflect on the skills, knowledge, and processes they have developed in the course and how they apply in other contexts. In the first eight week sessions just completed, Kristin and I both witnessed stronger student engagement with and reflection on course materials and sources than we had seen in the course before. Students engaged effectively with the course topic, questions, and sources overall. They also seemed to grasp the importance of transferring their hard-earned knowledge and skills across contexts. The Theory of Writing Essay in particular seemed to prompt that sort of reflection as students considered their individual takeaways from the course. Quantitatively, our course success rates saw a bump as well, though it is impossible to sort out the effects of the eight-week delivery mode on course success rate versus the effects of the overall course re-design. We hesitate to make any claims based on our limited early numbers. Still, in the Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 semesters, we had a 60.8% course success rate (out of 204 students) for students in English Composition who had taken or were concurrently enrolled in our basic education course sequence with English Composition, which is the same population of students taking the course in the three redesigned sections of the course just completed. By way of comparison, we enjoyed a 69.6% course success rate (out of 23 students) in the three completed sections of the re-designed course.
Other instructors teaching the course have also offered initial feedback to me as the course contact person. Several transcribed credit instructors have reported that the new course aligns more consistently with Advanced Placement (AP) writing expectations and design than what we had taught previously. Other full- and part-time instructors have reported deeper, more aware engagement with the core concepts of writing such as audience, purpose, tone, discourse communities, and genre than what they had experienced before. All told, we are excited about our early returns, and we have created an assessment plan for the course redesign. We will look at average scores for each assessment, student surveys, instructor feedback, and overall course success rates to guide changes and updates to the course as we continue to seek ways to serve our students’ needs through high quality writing and reading instruction.
References Adler-Kassner, L., & Wardle, E. A. (Eds.). (2015). Naming what we know: Threshold concepts of writing studies. Utah State University Press.
Bawarshi, A. (2016). Beyond the genre fixation: A translingual perspective on genre. College English, 78(3), 243–249. Retrieved from the Academic Search Complete database. (Accession No. 112470115)
Krashen, S., Nagy, W., & Townsend, D. (2012). Direct instruction of academic vocabulary: What about real reading? [Letter to the editors]. Reading Research Quarterly, 47(3), 233–234. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.018
Rinard, B., & Masiel, D. (2016). “A set of shared expectations”: An interview with Carolyn Miller. Writing on the Edge, 27(1), 7–16. Retrieved from the Education Research Complete database. (Accession No. 120480666)
Tinberg, H. (2015). Reconsidering transfer knowledge at the community college: Challenges and opportunities. Teaching English in the Two-Year College, 43(1), 7–31. Retrieved from the Education Research Complete database. (Accession No. 109483692)
Wyrick, J. (2017). Steps to writing well (13th ed.). Cengage Learning.
Yancey, K. B., Davis, M., Robertson, L., Taczak, K., & Workman, E. (2018). Writing across college: Key terms and multiple contexts as factors promoting students’ transfer of writing knowledge and practice. WAC Journal, 29, 42–63. Retrieved from the Education Research Complete database. (Accession No. 134140796) Yancey, K. B., Robertson, L., & Taczak, K. (2014). Writing across contexts: Transfer, composition, and sites of writing. Utah State University Press.
Appendix A Discourse Community Map
Writing professor Anne Beaufort defines a discourse community as “a social group that communicates at least in part via written texts and shares common goals, values, and writing standards, a specialized vocabulary and specialized genres.” For this assignment, you will need to identify the discourse communities that you participate in and comment on their rules and typical ways of communicating.
The purpose of this assignment is to examine how your writing is shaped by and shapes the various discourse communities to which you belong. Your audience for the assignment is your Instructor and peers.
Construct a discourse community map that outlines at least three discourse communities you belong to and the different literacies required for membership. As you begin to construct your map, look at various concept models to inspire a design. You can find examples online by using search keywords like “concept map templates.”
Write a 1 page reflection on your discourse community map. Comment on what is intriguing to you or unique to the various discourse communities you are part of. Did you have trouble learning any of the discourses? Have you ever broken the written or unwritten rules in some way? Is there a way to show you are in or out of the group by using certain language? Your map should include the following:
Name of each discourse community
Audience: Who are the members of this community?
Purpose: What purpose do you write to members of this community? These include instructing, informing, entertaining, advising, persuading, etc.
Genres: In what ways do you communicate? (text messaging, email, etc.)
Conventions/values: What are the values of this community and the rules that you follow when you communicate with members of the community?
Specialized language: Provide a few examples of terms that would be used when communicating to members of this community
A 1 page written reflection
Good paragraph structure (topic sentence, supporting details and explanation, and a concluding sentence)
Grammar/spelling check before submission
Appendix B Literacy Autobiography Essay
A literacy autobiography is your story of reading and writing and their development and place in your life. Introduce your autobiography with an overall statement on reading and writing in your life. You might choose to use sources, but there is no source requirement. It is an “essay” which means an attempt. Your attempt in this assignment is to share your ideas on the place of reading and writing in your life. Use I, me, and my as pronouns.
In the body, you might develop your favorite authors/genres; books/websites that have impacted you significantly; writing projects you have completed, are working on, or have planned; your ideas about and attitudes toward reading and writing; a significant person, experience, class, or other influence that has impacted you as a reader or writer; a snippet of a favorite poem or self-written piece that you want to share and an explanation of why it is important to you; or choose other ideas on reading and writing to develop that you think important and relevant. Often, an autobiography has a chronological aspect, so you might consider developing the body of the paper through with early memories of reading and writing, then move through your years of schooling, and then discuss the role of reading and writing in your current life. Then, finish with how reading and writing might change for you as you continue through academics and into your career.
You might conclude with your goals/interests in relation to reading and writing in the present and future, how you see reading and writing in your future, or some other method.
Feel free to include a multimodal aspect in your literacy autobiography. You might have images, links, charts, tables, graphs, sound clips, or linked videos in the document.
Make this your best writing. In the “personal essay” genre, writers often show off their writing skills and speak in their authentic voice. Don’t be stuffy and “academic”. Be you. Include accurate topic sentences for your body paragraphs and conclusion and transition effectively between your paragraphs.
Appendix C Textual Analysis Essay
This essay is about your ability to develop a clear interpretation of a text based on the text itself and balance your own views with those of your sources through smooth integration of quotes and paraphrases with appropriate context for your remarks.
This essay is based on two of the readings on your class topic that you have reviewed in the class so far. It asks you to examine a text and interpret what an author means and your reaction to it or interpretation of it. Good analysts question their own assumptions, ideas, and interpretations too—your identity, your values, your culture, the genre/approach of the text you are working with, your current health and mood—all these things and more might move you to interpret the text in a certain way. A good analysis does several things:
It breaks down a text and answers questions.
It reflects on how and why the text is constructed as it is.
It considers the appeals that the author makes—emotional, logical, a mix of both, a values-based approach, a cart-toppling anti-establishment approach, a fear-based appeal, and so on.
Take one of the following analytic approaches (you might end up doing more than one):
Agree or disagree with what the authors say in specific passages
Identify a theme that you see running throughout the texts and offer your personal take on the issue
Identify places within the texts where more or less is needed—clarification, evidence, explanation, emphasis, or whatever
Compare what the authors say to another source that you bring into your essay or other information/viewpoints on the topic
Compare the sources in several ways: differences in their presentation of information and arguments; differences or similarities in viewpoints on issues that they both discuss; or other ways that you think of comparing and contrasting them
Discuss how a change in genre or presentation mode would help or hurt the texts
Talk about how the texts could be packaged and presented differently for a different audience that you identify; discuss what that repackaging would look like and comment on its anticipated effects on the audience
Discuss passages from the texts that sparked your interest and explain why
Offer a personal spin on a concept and/or argument from the texts
Note: You can mix a few approaches above; just use good topic sentences to tell the reader where you’re going.
Whichever approach you take:
Make sure to quote from the original source that you are using. Introduce your readers to the authors/sources you’re using. Use a signal phrase to set up each quote. Provide enough context from the original source for your analysis. Don’t just jump into your discussion. Set the stage first.
Make sure to choose specific passages from the text. You cannot analyze each entire text in this short essay. Go deep rather than wide. Despite this narrow focus, realize that you need to have a strong grasp of each source to do an adequate job of analysis.
Appendix D Annotated Bibliography
An annotated bibliography is a common college writing assignment. In it, you show your abilities as a reader, as a critical thinker, and as a writer. Show good summary skills and critical analysis skills.
The annotated bib begins with an accurate Works Cited entry, following MLA or APA format. A sample MLA works cited entry follows:
Jones, Christopher. Drilling in the Arctic Wilderness: A Choice for Tomorrow. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1993.
List the annotated bibliography entries alphabetically by the first word of each entry as they would appear on a Works Cited page (though no separate Works Cited page is required for this assignment). If an entry begins with the word “The”, ignore it and alphabetize by the next word. Indent the second and subsequent lines of each entry ½”, allowing the reader to see where a new entry begins.
The first paragraph is a summary paragraph, and the first line of the summary is indented five spaces. The summary must be objective, written from a third person perspective. The summary paragraph should highlight the main ideas from the source. Exclude your personal opinions of the text from this paragraph. Just report what is there. Aim for 6-12 sentences.
The second paragraph in the entry is a critical analysis of the source, which includes evaluating both the writing style (reading difficulty, organization of ideas, etc.), as well as critically analyzing the ideas presented by the author (including errors/strengths in logic; problems/strengths with evidence; qualifications of the author). Also, comment on how the source’s genre affects its language and presentation. Indent the first line five spaces. Comment on the quality of the source and its writing and the qualifications of the writer, not your opinion on the topic of the source. Aim for 6-12 sentences.
The Annotated Bibliography will end with four sources. You will do one at a time with different genres/types of sources. Three of the sources will be provided to you by your Instructor and will center on your class topic. You may do your own research and select your final source, again on the class topic. Continue to add each entry to the same document, which you will re-submit in the Annotated Bibliography folder in Blackboard four times. Correct errors and omissions from previous submissions with each new submission.
The annotated bibliography should be neat and well-organized. It should have complete sentences, proper paragraphs, and correct grammar, usage, spelling, and punctuation/mechanics.
See examples of the assignment in the Annotated Bibliography examples folder in Blackboard.
Appendix E Synthesis Paper
The Synthesis Paper is your opportunity to respond to the class topic and questions with the sources used in the class and any others you want to bring in. Speak in your own voice, but make sure your tone is professional, informed, and reasonable.
Use four sources with at least three coming from the class readings, though you can bring in other sources that you choose.
The paper is a 4-6 page “survey” or “argument” related to the class semester topic and questions.
If writing a survey, your purpose is to state how you think the sources in the course answered the course questions (they may not have answered each question so you will need to consider if and where they did answer the questions). Look at the major issues, opinions, positions, and/or personalities on your topic. Present the major ideas, opinions, or positions related to your topic in an objective, logical manner. Educate. Don’t persuade.
If writing an argument, your purpose is to defend a position on the class topic and questions using the sources presented in class (and any others you bring into the paper). Present your position in a fair-minded, evidence-based manner. Persuade. Don’t attack.
Provide a Works Cited page with your source citations documented according to MLA or APA standards. Provide at least one parenthetical citation for each source within the document wherever you use each source, whether you quote or paraphrase from it.
Integrate your sources smoothly by using a signal phrase to introduce quotes: According to one researcher on this topic, “Quote” (citation).
Feel free to bring in tables, graphs, charts, and visuals on your topic, though document your use of visuals according to MLA or APA standards.
Appendix F Theory of Writing Essay
As this class closes, write a 3-4 page essay about your approach and attitudes toward writing and how they have changed; how you see writing in your academic, personal, and professional life going forward; general comments on skills and resources needed to be a good writer; and the expectations of discourse communities you are a member of or anticipate joining in the future. For instance, how will you need to write as a biology major in college in terms of language, use of research, genres, and tone? An engineering major? A professional in business? A member of an organization? And so on.
You do not need to use any sources for this assignment, though if you use any sources, cite them in MLA or APA format. Feel free to bring in visuals, pictures, charts, graphs, audio clips, website links, or whatever, though document them according to MLA or APA standards.
Sarah Wolf, Grand Island Central Catholic, Grand Island, NE, ms.wolfgicc @ gmail.com
Phu Vu, Associate Professor of Teacher Education, University of Nebraska at Kearney, vuph @ unk.edu
According to Anderson and Jiang of the Pew Research Center (2018), 88% of U. S. teens have access to home computers and 95% to smartphones. This ease of access to technological devices, in turn, rapidly fuels digital consumption. While 45% of teens reported being online with virtually round-the-clock regularity, Anderson and Jiang noted that “roughly nine-in-ten teens go online at least multiple times per day” (p. 8) and the same number participate in video gaming. As a matter of fact, the percentage of teens who use the Internet on a near-constant basis has nearly doubled in the span of only three years.
Teens enjoy using technology not only in their personal lives, but also in the classroom to enhance their learning. Game-based learning (GBL), a pedagogical method in which games are incorporated into the curriculum in order to accomplish specific learning objectives, enables individuals to attain content mastery through various competitive, collaborative, and goal-oriented means. By combining gaming principles with purposeful instructional design, teachers can create an active learning environment that promotes academic interest/engagement and improves knowledge retention (Pho & Dinscore, 2015; Spires, 2015).
Specific to English language learning, researchers have found that the adoption of GBL can result in promising learning gains. In their study of nonnative and native English speakers interacting in the virtual world Quest Atlantis, Zheng, Wagner, Young, and Brewer (2009) discovered that GBL created a learner-centered environment in which participants worked together to complete educational quests in an atmosphere that felt more interactive and flexible to them than did the rigidity of a traditional classroom. As a result, their linguistic abilities were furthered in the areas of pragmatics, syntax, semantics, and discourse. To further examine how GBL impacts student performance, Zheng, Bischoff, and Gilliland (2015) examined nonnative/native English speaker educational interactions in the massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) World of Warcraft. The researchers ascertained that the collaborative nature of the MMOG and the richness of the in-game linguistic resources provided multiple contexts for the acquisition of both vocabulary and multimodal literacy skills. Furthermore, they noted that GBL provided participants with lexicogrammar opportunities that went beyond the offerings of a physical classroom.
However, Zheng et al. (2015) also stressed that educators must exert agency over the lesson development process in order to avoid academic stagnation in the digital era. The traditional teacher-centered instructional model favors the reduction of language concepts into clearly delineated units taught via rote learning. Yet this singular focus on content mastery limits the motivation to engage with the curriculum and the ability to perform higher-level cognitive processes. The GBL research conducted by Wu, Chen, and Huang (2014) determined that modern students—a generation highly influenced by Web-based multimedia—require active learning experiences that mirror real-world linguistic/communicative situations outside of the school setting.
One pedagogical resource that provides such active learning experiences is Kahoot—an online application launched in 2013. With Kahoot, students use digital devices to participate in multiple-choice quizzes in which they are pitted against their peers. After the conclusion of each round/question, they receive immediate feedback and points for correct answers, with the class leaderboard subsequently updated between rounds.
Although Kahoot is a relatively new means of instruction, studies have shown that this GBL platform increases students’ test scores and levels of classroom engagement. Iwamoto, Hargis, Taitano, and Vuong (2017) conducted an experiment in which two undergraduate classes received identical instruction during a unit on general psychology. One class (the experimental group) reviewed the lesson material via non-graded Kahoot quizzes during the last 10 minutes of the period, whereas the other class (the control group) continued with the lecture-discussion format of instruction. The day before the test, the experimental group spent the entirety of the period replaying all of the Kahoot quizzes from the unit; conversely, the control group completed a study guide as a class. After both groups were administered identical multiple-choice exams on the same day, the researchers discovered that the experimental group received significantly higher scores on the exam than did the control group. Moreover, results obtained from a post-exam questionnaire indicated that 71% of the experimental group’s members found Kahoot to have aided them in preparing for the exam.
Researchers across disciplines have made similar discoveries. For example, Plump and LaRosa (2017) found that more than 85% of students enrolled across twelve university business classes stated that Kahoot aided their conceptual understanding of course content and proved to be a positive and engaging experience. Furthermore, Wang and Lieberoth (2016) found that 90% of first-year information technology students at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, with both full and partial access to Kahoot, found educational value in their game participation and became more academically motivated in the content area.
Gaming/Learning Preferences Survey To measure how the data from the literature review is reflected in the classroom, we administered a gaming/learning preferences survey to a class of 40 sophomore English students taught by Sarah, the first author, at the private Grand Island Central Catholic High School in Nebraska. Phu, the second author, served primarily as a research mentor uninvolved in the classroom activities and without direct contact to the students.
The results of this survey informed us of the extent to which gaming is an essential part of high school sophomores’ personal lives. More than 80% of the students reported that they incorporate gaming into their weekly routine, with the majority desiring an entertaining means of interacting with their friends. Based on my hall duty and lunchroom monitor responsibilities, I am unsurprised by these findings because students are permitted to interact with their cell phones for recreational use during passing periods and in the cafeteria. I frequently observe them engrossed in gaming on their devices, sacrificing nourishment and/or an early arrival to class in order to make progress on a mobile level of their choice. When these devices run low on battery, panic-stricken students seek teachers out for permission to charge their phones in their rooms. Additionally, not a day goes by without discussions about mission quests/boss battles or competitive digital card games. Dance-offs that make use of various Fortnite choreographic sequences are regularly present at school dances, and the potential reception of video game console upgrades is a topic of fervent conversation during the holiday season.
In the survey that I administered, two-thirds of respondents also indicated partiality to demonstrating content mastery through gaming. As educators, it is imperative to acknowledge a paradigm shift in pedagogical best practices because traditional teaching methods must be amended in order to better meet the needs and interests of 21st-century learners. When the majority’s preference for learning does not align with the educator’s preference for teaching, instruction is not being designed to optimally promote academic success. Teaching the way students learn enables them to invest themselves more thoroughly in their education.
Post-Survey Reflection Analyzing high school sophomores’ educational and technological predilections led me to reassess the manner in which I taught Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery.” This unit culminated in two summative assessments: a text-to-text/text-to-world exploration project (in which students researched, analyzed, and evaluated the similarities and differences between aspects of “The Lottery” and various laws/traditions/persecutory practices) and a test over plot elements and literary structure. By preparing for the test, the class experienced factual concepts and textual interpretation in a manner providing a firm foundation for pursuing the upper-level elements of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
When previously presenting this unit, I noticed that many of the students struggled to fully engage with the content of the lessons. Whereas the exploration project of this unit has traditionally been viewed by sophomores as a highlight of the academic year, they tended to lack intrinsic motivation when reading and analyzing “The Lottery”: their involvement in lessons merely stemmed from a desire to pass the class, not from interest in the subject matter. As a result, grades on the test reflected the stagnant effort with which they approached the learning process.
Furthermore, their linguistic and literary abilities often required my attention in order to transcend from lower- to higher-order thinking skills. In fact, many students defaulted to a role of passivity when receiving information and needed prompting in order to actively engage with, examine, and communicate the deeper meanings of the text. For example, when asked to identify character names that take on additional symbolism, many ably located Graves (foreshadowing death) and Warner (portentous tragedy) but struggled to explore how said names possessed deeper levels of meaning. When asked to locate/cite/present textual information, such as providing two quotations predicting the end of the story, they required extensive scaffolding. Additionally, as they lacked confidence to share their answers, I was able only to solicit their verbal responses after providing substantial encouragement.
Objective: Implement GBL Based on a desire to promote content engagement and the digital learning preferences of my students, I decided to implement GBL as a means of accomplishing the following objective: given a 25-question test, students will be able to recall information from the short story with 80% accuracy. The selection of 80% as the desired level of proficiency stemmed from a pedagogical guideline published by the National Council of Teachers of English asking teachers to state desired performance levels for objectives at 80% (Peterson, 1975).
To actualize these objectives, Phu and I chose Kahoot in order to explore game creation in a manner not requiring prior coding knowledge or experience. Although we appreciate the idea of open educational resources, we often find that these pre-existing activities address neither the specific subject matter nor specific instructional contexts. The composition of learners in my classroom necessitated the incorporation of tasks that provide engagement through visual, auditory, and kinesthetic modalities. Kahoot enables students to read the content with which they are engaging, to hear the teacher provide an oral rendition of the question, and to interact with their peers in a competitive player vs. player or team activity while solving said question. Furthermore, designing a Kahoot facilitates the customization of both content questions that meet the educational needs of the students and time constraints for providing answers.
Our selection of Kahoot was also influenced by the cohesive nature and scholastic habits of my students. As a whole, they are one of the closest-knit groups that I’ve taught. Not only do they favor socializing as a large group, but they also strive to encourage each other to achieve academic success. Despite this strong bond, this grade boasts sizeable numbers of both introverted and extroverted personalities, thus I introduced an entertaining, technology-based activity that would appeal to both solitary and communal learning styles.
The mechanics of Kahoot foster student excitement and engagement in a manner that can be smoothly initiated and monitored. When beginning a round, the teacher selects customization options such as question/answer randomization, answer streak bonuses, and podium recognition for the top three finishers. After the teacher clicks either “classic” (player vs. player) or “team” mode, the class is presented with a welcome screen, projected from the master computer, that provides the game PIN. Once they enter the PIN and a moniker (with the teacher having the power to eliminate inappropriate choices), the teacher clicks “start” and play commences. Kahoot displays a question on the board for five seconds, then the students answer by pressing on the corresponding shape/color on their individual devices. Once time runs out, a checkmark appears next to the correct response with a bar graph of anonymous student responses. The five highest cumulative point totals are displayed on the scoreboard at the conclusion of each question. At the end of the game, the teacher privately receives data on student performance (see Figure 1).
I began by furnishing the students with a traditional multiple-choice pretest on “The Lottery” and stressing the importance of interpreting the results as a diagnostic baseline for their current understanding of the material rather than as a measure of their intelligence. In other words, I wanted them to set personalized goals for attaining content mastery by discovering what they did not yet comprehend. Afterwards, with the aid of a randomizer, they read “The Lottery” aloud together. Since they knew neither the order in which they would be called nor the frequency with which they would be asked to participate, they paid close attention to the text as it was recited. Before the end of the period, I assigned them study guide questions to complete within three days.
During the week-long duration of GBL, the Kahoot link was available on my sophomore English online weekly planner. Students therefore interacted with this resource on an independent basis. Every other day, they competed against each other on Kahoot during the last portion of class; on alternating days, they reviewed the questions with a partner. Because they tended to select answers swiftly without reading the question or the answers themselves (in order to earn a potential maximum of 1,000 points), I activated the “Answer Streak Bonus” option to encourage them to take their time and favor accuracy over rapid clicking.
In between each Kahoot round/question, the students asked questions in order to clarify their understanding of unfamiliar content. One such occasion emerged when those who incorrectly answered the question “What is Jackson’s main theme in this short story?” (with “the foolishness of blindly following tradition” being the correct answer) proactively queried their peers regarding the definition of the word “theme” and why the correct answer was the best selection out of the four possible options (with the other options “the value of human life,” “the need for change in a community,” and “the need for tradition in small towns”).
On the day of the posttest, they competed in a round of Kahoot as a means of studying for their assessment over “The Lottery.” Afterwards, I distributed the 25-question, multiple-choice exam. All of the students completed the task in under fifteen minutes and substantially improved their scores:
Discussion Using Kahoot brought about constructive results from both student and educator perspectives. As I currently teach at a 1:1 school, all of the sophomores possess a Chromebook. Since two-thirds of the class members are partial to demonstrating content mastery through gaming, they relished the chance to participate in Kahoot. Consequently, student interest and motivation/desire to succeed resulted in the pretest-to-posttest scores improving by 244.37%. Their avid engagement emboldened them to become active agents (as opposed to complacent bystanders) in the learning process. In other words, they became more confident in interacting with others, verbalizing their opinions, and asking for help.
Interacting with the Kahoot appealed to visual/auditory/kinesthetic modalities and thus aided students with diverse learning styles. Furthermore, presenting various setting and grouping options for the Kahoot (e.g., independently outside of class, with a partner during review time, and with the entire class at the end of the period) enabled both introverts and extroverts to experience the online platform comfortably. Removing barriers to learning by providing options for access and perception helped them grow in their ability to critically analyze literature: when I presented the information in a manner that the students could more readily comprehend, they mastered the information more expeditiously and possessed a stronger knowledge base from which to execute higher-order thinking skills. For instance, those with a confident grasp on the plot initiated class discussions on topics such as how “The Lottery” exemplifies satire, how the story’s theme of “the foolishness of blindly following tradition” is echoed in the real world, and why Jackson would use a cheerful/objective tone to narrate a story that ends with an execution.
From a teaching standpoint, being able to monitor participant behavior permitted me to discern between the mastered material and that requiring additional reinforcement. By walking around the classroom throughout the duration of the Kahoot, I could provide assistance and instruction and to redirect off-task behavior as needed.
Notwithstanding the success, an area of rectification lies in the domain of product testing. Although I spent hours generating and customizing the content, I could not preview the game from a student’s perspective. As a result, it was not until the students began inputting their usernames that I realized an error had been made: the background color of the video summary of “The Lottery” embedded on the welcome screen was almost identical to the color of the Kahoot font. Only by tilting the laptop could I view the usernames. In the future, integrating Kahoots into the development process should lessen the presence of such software bugs.
For teachers seeking to replicate this process, I would strongly urge them to provide access to the Kahoot outside of teacher instruction. When individuals are able to experience content at home and receive instantaneous feedback, knowledge retention and lesson engagement are greatly enhanced. Because the Kahoot link was posted on the English online weekly planner, the absent students could still interact with the material and keep up with their studies. Moreover, those who experience anxiety when interacting with new material in front of their peers have opportunity to grow in self-confidence and mastery on a timeline that best fits their educational needs.
Something as simple as copying/pasting a Kahoot URL to a Google Doc takes only a few seconds, yet this action can have a tremendous impact. For instance, with the institution of online access to class activities, I noticed that the attendance rate of one student, whose apprehension toward unfamiliar content often caused her to become physically ill and miss multiple, often consecutive days of school, started to sharply rise. This student found a sense of confidence within herself and realized that she could accomplish greatness through determination and ambition. She is determinedly strengthening her ability to communicate interpersonally and now desires to increase her involvement in extracurricular activities. Furthermore, I began to form more positive connections with students whose comportment had previously been less than desirable. One with a history of acting out because of impulsivity and hyperactivity and a general disinterest in literature transformed into a far more focused and motivated student. This self-styled “Lord of the Kahoot” (a nickname which he coined and highly favors) is presently my assistant during his free period. Another student had struggled significantly with completing homework and asking questions to clarify understanding—actions which resulted in significantly low assessment scores—but now completes her tasks with excitement and enthusiasm. To her, the English room is now an environment that caters to her learning needs and a haven where she feels valued and supported.
Although the 244.37% pretest-to-posttest score improvement demonstrates the benefit of GBL, what inspires me the most to continue are 1) the connections the sophomores made with the material and 2) the emotional maturation attained by various individuals. While test-score data provides concrete proof of scholastic advancement, changes in behavior provide further evidence of student growth. As the sophomores’ lockers are right outside my classroom, I frequently hear them socializing before and after school. During the implementation of GBL, I noticed that their mentioning ENG 10 began to evolve from reminders about deadlines/assessments into discussions about the content of “The Lottery.” Similar to the informal gatherings of John Keating’s students in Dead Poets Society, they would freely converse about the themes/concepts addressed in class in order to form interpretations and viewpoints about material that personally resonated with them.
Final Thoughts GBL activities such as Kahoot can provide a powerful foundation by which to foster scholastic achievement and engagement. While a positive correlation exists between academic gaming and student learning, teachers should never blindly assume that technology will instantaneously ameliorate curricular outcomes. By itself, technology is but a tool of incredible potential and seemingly endless possibility. The success of this instrument comes from the combination of digital resources with effective pedagogical practices. Teachers who use GBL in such a manner will ultimately better serve the needs of their students and provide a more grounded educational experience.
In addition, one potential factor that may have contributed to the students’ positive performances is that of novelty. This was the first time that this GBL activity had been introduced, therefore the novelty may have played a role in the higher posttest scores. Novel stimuli have been found to enhance visual perception (Schomaker & Meeter, 2012), and the resulting “novelty effect” has also resulted in greater rates of participation in GBL (Ku, Chen, Wu, Lao, A. C, & Chan, 2014; Ronimus, Eklund, Pesu, & Lyytinen, 2019). Follow-up assessments and implementation should provide evidence of whether the levels of excitement will remain consistent in subsequent GBL activities or will decline due to habituation.
Furthermore, low pretest grades may have resulted from students experiencing “The Lottery” for the first time during the in-class reading (as opposed to accessing/reading the digital copy of the story provided via the online class weekly planner), while the improved pretest-to-posttest scores may have resulted solely from reading and reviewing the text in class. To verify that student success resulted from GBL implementation, I could 1) survey the students for verification on whether or not they read the short story prior to taking the pretest and 2) teach the short story unit to different class sections of sophomore English via a variety of methods and compare the variance in test scores.
References Anderson, M., & Jiang, J. (2018). Teens, social media & technology 2018. Retrieved from the Pew Research Center website: https://www.pewinternet.org/
Iwamoto, D. H., Hargis, J., Taitano, E. J., & Vuong, K. (2017). Analyzing the efficacy of the testing effect using Kahoot on student performance. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 18(2), 80-93. Retrieved from the ERIC database. (Accession No. EJ1145220)
Ku, O., Chen, S. Y., Wu, D. H., Lao, A. C., & Chan, T. W. (2014). The effects of game-based learning on mathematical confidence and performance: High ability vs. low ability. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 17(3), 65-78. Retrieved from the Education Source database. (Accession No. 98543290)
Peterson, G. (1975). Behavioral objectives for teaching literature. Language Arts,52(7), 968-991. Retrieved from the ERIC database. (Accession No. EJ135954)
Pho, A., & Dinscore, A. (2015). Game-based learning. Tips and Trends. Retrieved from https://acrl.ala.org/
Plump, C. M., & LaRosa, J. (2017). Using Kahoot! in the classroom to create engagement and active learning: A game-based technology solution for eLearning novices. Management Teaching Review, 2(2), 151–158. https://doi.org/10.1177/2379298116689783
Ronimus, M., Eklund, K., Pesu, L., & Lyytinen, H. (2019). Supporting struggling readers with digital game-based learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 67(3), 639-663. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-019-09658-3
Spires, H. (2015). Digital game-based learning: What’s literacy got to do with it? Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy,59(2), 125-130. Retrieved from the ERIC database. (Accession No. EJ1072947)
Wang, A. I., & Lieberoth, A. (2016). The effect of points and audio on concentration, engagement, enjoyment, learning, motivation, and classroom dynamics using Kahoot!In T. Connolly & L. Boyle (Eds.), Proceedings from the 10th European Conference of Game Based Learning (pp. 737-748). Academic Conferences and Publishing International Limited.
Wu, C., Chen, G., & Huang, C. (2014). Using digital board games for genuine communication in EFL classrooms. Educational Technology Research and Development,62(2), 209-226. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-013-9329-y
Zheng, D., Bischoff, M., & Gilliland, B. (2015). Vocabulary learning in massively multiplayer online games: Context and action before words. Educational Technology Research and Development,63(5), 771-790. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-015-9387-4
Yuko Iwai, Department of Educational Studies, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, yiwai @ uwlax.edu
As we know, literacy is considered an essential tool leading students toward academic success, and without a solid foundation with strong teacher support, they struggle with understanding content in all subjects. According to McFarland et al. (2019), in 2017:
32% of the nation’s fourth grade students scored below basic levels of reading proficiency, and 31% scored at basic levels of reading proficiency
24% of the nation’s eighth grade students scored below basic levels of reading proficiency, and 40% scored at basic levels of reading proficiency
28% of the nation’s twelfth grade students scored below basic levels of reading proficiency, and 35% scored at basic levels of reading proficiency
We also know that teachers must understand their students’ backgrounds, personalities, reading levels, interests, and learning styles in order to recognize struggling readers, plan for appropriate interventions, and provide best practices. Struggling readers display various characteristics. For example, they typically experience difficulties in phonemic awareness and phonics skills and rely on a very limited vocabulary, which prevents full comprehension, thus they experience low motivation to learn. Others are often English learners (ELs) who need other types of interventions and support mechanisms.
While meaning-focused lessons improve struggling readers’ comprehension, teachers frequently implement skill-based lessons and passive learning methods such as worksheets and lecture, especially given the reality of high-stakes testing (Bolinger and Warren, 2007; Knapp, 1995). Many also lack confidence to teach struggling readers and seek more resources to gain knowledge and skills to support these learners (Vanden Boogart, 2016). Therefore, I offer four specific strategies and resources that classroom teachers can immediately apply to support struggling readers’ learning across the curriculum: (a) Hot Seat, (b) Ten Important Words, (c) 3D Responses, and (d) Semantic Feature Analysis (SFA). I used these strategies in my literacy methods class so my teacher candidates could learn the procedures and how to apply them across different subject areas. A range of my teacher candidates’ licensure tracks included early childhood, elementary education, and middle level education.
Hot Seat. A strategy asking students to role-play characters and be interviewed by the rest of the class.
Direct all students to read the same story and learn about the characters.
Select a student to play a main character and prepare opening remarks including key information and events from the story.
Direct the student to sit in a “hot seat” and introduce the character to the class. (e.g., “Hello! My name is Rosa Parks. I am the first person who did not give up my bus seat in Montgomery.”)
Invite classmates to interact with the character and ask questions. The student responds by impersonating the character.
Select a different student to summarize the main ideas from the interactions.
Tips and Application. This strategy is very interactive. Teachers can select multiple students and direct them to role-play different characters. This modification will enrich interactions and deepen students’ understandings of the story. Teachers can use biographies in order to examine history (e.g., characters from the Union and Confederacy during a Civil War unit) and can create costumes to make this strategy more interactive and authentic. Some students may not be able to come up with questions on their own during this activity, so providing suggested prompts may be helpful.
Benefits for Struggling Readers. A hot seat is a very useful strategy for struggling readers because it puts them into a situation requiring them to think about what characters from the story feel and sound like. Instead of answering reading comprehension questions on paper, this strategy empowers them to understand the story in a meaningful way.
Ten Important Words. Students select ten key words from a story or reading passage, discuss their thoughts and comments in groups or with the class, and create a summarizing statement.
While reading a passage, direct students to independently select and record the ten most important words.
Ask them to share their lists with their group or the class.
Assign them to write a one-sentence summary of the passage/reading selection and encourage them to use as many of their selected important words as possible.
Tips and Application. Teachers can use this strategy to empower students to summarize main events in a story, such as Kathleen Krull’s Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez. In social studies and science, teachers can use this strategy to investigate specific information such as historical events or science concepts, such as Nicola Davies’ Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes. Informational books typically contain complex words (Hiebert & Cervetti, 2012), and struggling readers find it difficult to read informational books. Focusing on key words helps students comprehend reading passages (Liebfreund, 2015). Some students may also struggle to write a one-sentence summary of the reading selection. To solve this problem, incorporate small group work instead of individual work; in small groups, struggling readers and writers experience reduced anxiety, feel supported by their peers, and work collaboratively to craft a sentence. Another suggestion is to use this strategy for a section from a passage rather than from a whole text.
Benefits for Struggling Readers. Ten Important Words supports struggling readers as it gives them a focus or task while reading. There are no right or wrong answers regarding which ten words they select, but they must share why these ten words are important to them. Hearing peers’ explanations and learning about different perspectives help struggling readers develop their reading comprehension.
3-D Responses. Students create three-dimensional objects to describe their understandings of a story or a text.
Direct students to read a story or biography.
Invite them to choose an idea, feeling, event, or character from the story.
Ask each to create a three-dimensional object from pipe cleaners, Play-Doh, aluminum foil, or any other material and share it with groups or the entire class.
Tips and Application. 3-D responses incorporate multi-sensory activities, and struggling readers and ELs learn better when they participate in visual, hands-on activities. Students select what to express after reading a passage, which increases self-autonomy. Even when several students read the same story or the same biography, each one will create and share a different sculpture. By sharing their works, they learn different perspectives and interpretations, which increases their reading comprehension. Teachers can use this strategy in different subjects including English Language Arts, science, and social studies.
Benefits for Struggling Readers. Struggling readers benefit from 3-D responses because this is a multimodal, hands-on activity. When I used this strategy in my literacy methods class, my teacher candidates introduced diverse perspectives based on the same story in a very meaningful interaction. Struggling readers, especially those who may not be able to express their thoughts and understandings in writing, can express them visually using this strategy.
Semantic Feature Analysis (SFA). This graphic organizer focuses on vocabulary and helps students understand how selected vocabulary on a topic relates to key features or characteristics of the text (Pittleman, Heimlich, Berglund, & French, 1991).
Select a general topic or concept from a reading (e.g., mammals, fruits, types of dinosaurs, polygons).
Make a list of typical elements related to the topic (e.g., square, rectangle, triangle, trapezoid for “polygon”).
List features or characteristics that some of the elements might have (e.g., three-sided, four-sided, convex, equilateral).
Encourage students to place a “+” in a grid in which a given element has that feature, a “-” where it doesn’t, or a question mark if they cannot determine a relationship.
Tips & Application. A semantic feature analysis is easy to implement. Teachers must carefully select a topic with sufficient and appropriate features or characteristics. Student and teachers can use it across different subjects including English Language Arts (e.g., characters from literature), science (e.g., types of clouds), and social studies (e.g., comparing and contrasting political leaders or the 13 colonies). To use this strategy effectively, teachers must carefully select a reading passage because some concepts and vocabulary words may contain ambiguous answers.
Benefits for Struggling Readers. A semantic feature analysis helps struggling readers visually “see” connections among related vocabulary words. Often, struggling readers experience difficulty identifying key words, so seeing key vocabulary words and their relationships provides them with context and background knowledge of the topic and story/text.
Resources How can teachers use innovative literacy strategies to support struggling readers? They are strongly encouraged to use technology and high quality children’s books effectively across the curriculum. The following include helpful, suggested resources.
Apps and Software. Utilizing technology resources improves struggling readers’ comprehension and increases motivation (Conn, Sujo-Montes, & Sealander, 2019). These resources provide different modalities, enhance ways to connect and interact with text, supply options to work at their own pace, and activate their prior knowledge by exploring images and information related to the topic and text they read.
Nearpod is a useful online platform that provides teachers with lessons on different subjects such as English Language Arts (ELA), science, math, and social studies. Teachers can modify pre-made presentations to accommodate their own students’ needs. Students can work on tasks on their individual screens and create their own presentations.
Wonderopolis offers teachers a number of reading resources on ELA, science, math, social studies, technology, and arts and culture. A reading passage is read aloud, and students follow along as it highlights the words. Included are key vocabulary words and their definitions as well as vocabulary and comprehension quizzes.
Popplet is an online mind-mapping tool similar to semantic maps on physical paper. It gives students a way to visualize their understandings by creating webbed outlines of content and by brainstorming or mapping their ideas and knowledge components for papers and presentations.
Sock Puppet is an interactive online tool. Students work with their peers to create a puppet show to demonstrate their understandings of a lesson or to create a quick summary from a selection of a reading passage.
Vocaroo is a tool for students to record their voices on a selection of reading passages, to record their own summaries of reading passages, or to create other voice recordings for their own digital products.
StoryKit is a tool to create electronic storybooks. This tool includes functions to draw on a screen, attach photos, and add sound effects.
Trade Books. Teachers must carefully select trade books appropriate for all students. Richeson (2019) used trade books for her fifth graders’ social studies project on Abraham Lincoln, and they examined and engaged in critical text analysis and more complex writing. Frye (2009) used trade books in her social studies lessons and found that struggling readers increased their comprehension. The resources presented in this section have received endorsements by experts.
Literacy. The International Literacy Association provides lists of children’s books on Children’s Choice, Teachers’ Choice, and Young Adults’ Choice by the International Literacy Association (ILA) and Children’s Book Council (CBC). Children’s Choice includes recommended book titles that children themselves evaluated and classified into three groups: beginning readers (Grades K-2), young readers (Grades 3-4), and advanced readers (Grades 5-6). Teacher’s Choice includes a list of children’s books for the same three groupings classified by teachers. Young Adults’ Choice provides a list of adolescent children’s books reviewed by adolescents.
Math. The California Department of Education provides an option to search for mathematics at targeted grade levels. The search will result in a list of recommended books as well their annotations.
Social Studies. A search on the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) website will provide a list of trade books published since 2000, carefully selected by a Book Review Committee organized by the NCSS with the collaboration of the CBC.
Five Tips for Teachers
Provide a safe learning environment. Struggling readers experience many anxieties and low motivation due to difficulties in learning. Create a warm, welcoming, and safe classroom community. Teachers need to show all children they care about them. Set and explain norms in the beginning of a school year so students know their teacher’s teaching philosophy, guidelines, and routines. Assure students that it is acceptible to make mistakes while engaged in learning. Respect all students, get to know them well, and learn about their interests. All of these actions will equip teachers to select reading appropriate passages and texts that challenge students in developmentally appropriate ways.
Offer one-on-one or small group instruction as often as possible. This type of instruction empowers teachers to adjust the instructional pace appropriate for struggling readers and can contribute to reducing the number of struggling readers (Simmons, Kameénui, Stoolmiller, Coyne, Harn, 2003). Small group instruction also provides students with increased opportunities to interact with their teachers and peers and to work successfully on tasks.
Use multisensory activities. Struggling readers including ELs learn when they read and interact using multimode activities. As shared in this article, increase opportunities for students to do craft work (e.g., 3D response strategy) and use visual aids and auditory support to remember both content and key vocabulary. In general, struggling readers do not fare successfully with traditional worksheets and quizzes.
Provide enough time and remain patient. Struggling readers need longer processing time than other students. In particular, beginning and intermediate ELs need extra time to process information as they read. They often think in and rely on their native language to transfer information into English or vice versa. Teachers might feel some ELs are not responding to their questions because they are quiet for a while before answering. However, the teachers need to keep in mind that ELs process with at least two languages, especially in the beginning stage of their English learning. Waiting enables them to process and use their native language and knowledge before translating to and responding in English.
Offer a variety of strategies. After a thorough meta-analysis of studies on reading comprehension, the National Reading Panel (2000) concluded that students remember what they studied and improve their comprehension when teachers use a variety of strategies. Teachers must use different strategies appropriate for struggling readers’ learning styles, reading levels, interests, and reading goals.
Conclusion To support struggling readers, teachers must know them well, plan best practices and interventions, and implement these using multisensory modes. Struggling readers typically come to school with low motivation for learning. Therefore, teachers must carefully select reading passages or texts that interest them and are appropriate for their reading levels. Teachers also need to keep in mind that struggling readers, including ELs, encounter challenges in many subjects and that incorporating literacy in these subjects assists their learning. Hands-on literacy strategies improve learning in ELA, math, science, and social studies. Be creative, be innovative, and be supportive in lesson delivery. Literacy is essential for academic success.
References Bolinger, K., & Warren, W. J. (2007). Methods practiced in social studies instruction: A review of public school teachers’ strategies. International Journal of Social Education, 22(1), 68-84. Retrieved from the Education Source database. (Accession No. 507973003)
Conn, C. A., Sujo-Montes, L. E., Sealander, K. A. (2019). Using iBook features to support English language learners and struggling readers. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 35(5), 496-507. https://doi.org/10.1080/10573569.2019.1579128
Frye, E. M. (2009). Integrating instructional-level social studies trade books for struggling readers in upper elementary grades. Illinois Reading Council Journal, 37(4), 3-13.
Hiebert, E. H., & Cervetti, G. N. (2012). What differences in narrative and informational texts mean for the learning and instruction of vocabulary. In E. B. Kameenui & J. F. Baumann (Eds.), Vocabulary instruction: Research to practice (2nd ed., pp. 322–344). Guilford.
Liebfreund, M. D. (2015). Success with informational text comprehension: An examination of underlying factors. Reading Research Quarterly, 50(4), 387-392. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.109
McFarland, J., Hussar, B., Zhang, J., Wang, X., Wang, K., Hein, S., … Barmer, A. (2019). The Condition of Education 2019 (NCES 2019-144). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2019144
National Reading Panel (2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Retrieved from the ERIC database. (Accession No. ED444126)
Pittleman, S. D., Heimlich, J. E., Berglund, R. L., & French, M. P. (1991). Semantic feature analysis. International Reading Association.
Simmons, D. C., Kameénui, E. J., Stoolmiller, M., Coyne, M. D., Harn, B. (2003). Accelerating growth and maintaining proficiency: A two-year intervention study of kindergarten and first-grade children at-risk for reading difficulties. In B. R. Foorman (Ed.), Preventing and remediating reading difficulties: Bringing science to scale (pp. 197-228). York Press.
Vanden Boogart, A. E. (2016). A mixed methods study of upper elementary teacher knowledge for teaching reading to struggling readers (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses A&I database. (UMI No. 10037652)
Adam Sprague, Bellin College, adam.sprague @ bellincollege.edu
“They’re just not speaking right,” “They just can’t write,” and “Please fix them before the assignment is due,” are common pleas for help from faculty members in the health professions that I receive regularly as the only professor at my current campus who teaches English or Communication courses. Clearly, this rhetoric is concerning for any student but is particularly problematic when targeted at non-native English speaking (NNES) students. Note, the major challenge cited by faculty is not the content itself but that NNES students have difficulty demonstrating profession-specific academic literacies like writing and speaking at a level that matches their monolingual peers.
What makes these requests unattainable is the fact that academic literacy in its broadest sense is not just a linear, cognitive activity. Sure, it does involve the production of text, but it, more importantly, also includes the interpretation of texts within specific social contexts. Leki (2007) defined the term as “interpretation and production of academic and disciplined-based texts” (p. 3). It involves learning the “genres of language used in the learning of academic subject matter in formal schooling contexts” (Richards & Schmidt, 2013, p. 2). This means that the level of academic literacy required changes based on the program of study. For a student to succeed, then, students in the health professions must master not only generalized academic literacy (Carter, Ferzli, & Wiebe, 2007) but also the specialized language of nursing, radiology, or sonography, for example (Carter & Rukholm, 2008; Woodward-Kron, 2008).
This is no quick-fix task, rather this a large-scale issue that college administrators must have a direct means of addressing–simply passing off a NNES student to a peer tutor or English professor because a faculty member does not believe it to be their job to teach language simply does not work and immediately others the student into feelings of inferiority. Skeptics of my claim may point to successful graduation rates among their NNES students. However, a college takes a great risk by not addressing these issues as students without adequate academic literacies will undoubtedly experience greater difficulties in becoming successful in their profession, which may reflect poorly upon the degree-granting institution. Crossman (2014) notes that NNES “take longer to graduate, [are more regularly] placed on academic probation, and . . . withdraw more often than their monolingual peers” (p. 3).
Therefore, academic institutions at all levels must ensure they have the proper writing and speaking admission requirements measures in place as well as a well-considered academic support network for NNES students. The purpose of this paper is not to champion any singular approach to addressing this problem (as all institutions have their own unique affordances and restraints) but to offer a multitude of possibilities that push past problematic solutions like a single course or peer tutor, which quite simply is never enough. Oral communication skills have gained increased importance with the ever-increasing multicultural nature of healthcare settings–a major challenge for NNES on the job (Candlin & Roger, 2013; Lum, Dowedoff, & Englander, 2016, Sedgeqick & Garner, 2017); however, oral communication skills remain overlooked as they are almost never required courses within health profession programs and the vast majority of Health Communication courses and textbooks have students writing, not speaking, and analyzing workplace hierarchies and how the industry is represented in the mass media instead of practicing and roleplaying how to communicate with patients and colleagues or write a patient chart. This also means that we are not teaching NNES students the genres of writing they will actually need to perform after graduation.
Purpose of Writing Education This naturally brings us to a much larger question. What is the overall purpose of academic writing in higher education? The historical viewpoint is writing helps us determine who is literate and who is not (Karach & Roach, 1993, p. 238). This has changed, though, as our discipline has evolved into writing across the curriculum programs with the goal of helping students gain writing skills for post-graduation (Leki, 2007). In fact, in nearly every class, writing is the primary way in which students are evaluated (Hyland, 2006). To highlight this point, Graves, Chaudoi, Ru’auni, & Lasiuk (2009) found that nursing students regularly wrote as many as nine projects in any given course across thirteen different genres with the two most common being reflective writing and research-based essay/report writing. But does reflective writing and evidence-based practice syntheses prepare NNES students for the actual writing they will do on the job? The answer is, overwhelmingly, no.
Yanoff and Burg (1988) reported that the most important writing tasks for healthcare professionals include writing a patient’s history, physical examination reports, progress reports, and discharge summaries. We can easily see that the rhetorical situation surrounding these writing tasks is vastly different than that of reflective and research papers, which means a NNES student would need to think very differently to succeed with these writings than they did during their college education. This clear and obvious realization led Yanoff & Burg (1988) to call for a drastic change to curricula in medical schools to teach such writing. However, nothing has changed. Reflective writing and research papers remain the norm for students majoring in the health professions (Lavelle, Ball & Maliszewski, 2013; Mann, Gordon, & MacLeod, 2009, Van de Poel & Gasiore, 2012).
Writing Challenges Facing NNES Students, According to the Students So, what do NNES students regularly struggle to overcome? Kilbride and D’Arcangelo (2002) surveyed 146 students and found that language support was not sufficient for their linguistic needs. What is more, other NNES students have found that schools do not even provide students “access to the support necessary for their academic success” (Crossman, 2014, p. 40). Moreover, education requires students to master contextual conventions particular to the discipline, which is essentially impossible without adequate language education and support (Myles, 2002, p. 2). NNES nursing aide students in Canada found it nearly impossible to understand linguistically dense texts and slide presentations from their professors and found it just as difficult to keep up with the rapid colloquial speech and discipline-specific terminology used (Duff, Wong, & Early, 2002).
This is a major issue of concern as the medical field is dense with technical and specialized rhetoric that adds an increased layer of complexity to listening, reading, and writing. Scholars have found that healthcare majors are exposed to technical jargon 37.6 percent of the time versus just 16.3 percent of the time for other majors (Chung & Nation, 2003, p. 253). Diaz-Gilbert (2004) compounds the problem as he found that this difficulty is only part of the problem as NNES students lack the fundamental knowledge of health-related vocabulary on which the majority of students’ conversations are based–and such terms are not explicitly taught in class. Weaver and Jackson (2011) also found that NNES students reported that the major problem for them was understanding the course content and keeping up with lectures. NNES students also reported that the types of writing assignments they are assigned did nothing to improve their oral communication, and there was no transparent connection to practice (Lum, Dowedoff, & Englander, 2016). This disconnect between classroom and practice becomes even more frustrating as numerous studies have shown that writing assignments take NNES students four times longer to complete than monolingual students (Muller, Arbon, & Gregic, 2015). This lack of satisfactory linguistic support has been directly linked to higher frustration levels for NNES students, which then leads to students having more difficulty completing their degree requirements on time or at all (Alvarez & Abriam-Yago, 1993, Donnelly, McKiel, & Hwang, 2009; Murray, 2011, 2012).
Admission Requirements as Solution? There are some possible solutions to consider prior to student admission. One possible solution may be to reassess who we admit to our schools. By reevaluating how struggling NNES students performed on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), for example, may be a good starting place (or even starting to require students to take it). If NNES students are reporting that there is not enough support on campus, and your campus does not have the means to offer better support, administrators may want to consider raising their minimum TOEFL requirements to lower student and faculty frustration and improve the odds of student success. The use of profession-speciﬁc language tests and/or other strategies is needed but currently this is not a common program admissions practice.
Another option might be to require the documentation of prior education in English at secondary schools or recognized institutions of higher education. Some schools require 3 or 4 years of postsecondary education. Others consider prior living situations as well. NNES student applicants can provide proof of language ability by demonstrating a prior education in an English-speaking country for 3-6 years.
Many schools will require NNES to submit an essay to accompany their application. Such writing submissions vary in nature. Some schools require an essay between 1,000 and 2,000 words, while others have students perform timed writings (usually around 30 minutes) that they submit to the college or university. At the very least, a low stakes admission requirement could be to simply have students complete a language self-assessment survey that is submitted along with the student’s application.
Other Post-Admission Solutions We have established the need for increased support for NNES students majoring in the health professions in this article and also evaluated some possible pre-admission solutions. However, there is much we can do post-admission as well. First, we must admit that a single writing course and a single communication course for NNES students is simply not satisfactory given the specialized needs of NNES. If NNES are admitted to a health professions major, we must at least give them a 2-course writing and speaking course sequence to help them develop the niche skills required to succeed. Another option would be to attach a 1-credit writing workshop to courses within the program to better assist these students. Yet another method of support would be to include a language support center like a Writing Center. To combine a Student Success Center or Career Center with a Writing Center would be unwise as they would not offer the discipline-specific rhetorical knowledge that a Writing Center could that was dedicated to the health sciences. In fact, many universities have moved to a writing-in-the-disciplines approach where Writing Centers are housed in each major building on campus (Humanities, Health Sciences, Fine Arts, etc.) to provide more focused assistance with assignments that the tutors are more intimately familiar with.
Discussion The information above paints a clear picture of why it is impossible to enact a “quick fix” when working with a NNES students majoring in the health professions because the ability to converse and express meaning that is only implicit, appropriate, and comprehensible to a particular social context is essential to professional discourse and to engage in safe practice (Jeﬀries et al., 2017; O’Neill, Buckendahl, Plake, & Taylor, 2007). All health professionals not only require the ability to use technical and everyday language but must also possess considerable cultural and pragmatic knowledge so that they can use appropriate rhetoric to communicate with a range of health professionals, patients, and their families (Sedgewick & Garner, 2017).
This article has also highlighted the fact that successful NNES students must master not simply a generalized academic writing skill but discipline-speciﬁc writing skills; that is, “writing that reﬂects the writing conventions of the discipline, refers to the relevant literature, and ultimately enables a writer to assume membership in a particular discourse community” (Carter & Rukholm, 2008, p. 134), however the majority of health profession majors continue to emphasize the importance of written reﬂections and generic research papers. For NNES to succeed, it is clear that writing tasks must be developed in tandem with learning the advanced and technical English required by the profession (Crawford & Candlin, 2013; Jeﬀries et al., 2017). These academic writing assignments are perceived to have a tangible impact on students’ academic success and their competence to practice in their respective professions.
Moreover, the academic literacy demands within large health professions programs such as nursing, radiology, and sonography are specialized, requiring their students to possess a high level of general English literacy as well as discipline-speciﬁc language skills and knowledge. Because academic literacies are embedded in speciﬁc academic contexts, an increased understanding of the particular ways of constructing meaning, making judgments and determining what counts as valuable knowledge contributes to improved higher education programs (Tapp, 2015, p. 714). The process of developing academic literacy, through a variety of discipline-speciﬁc writing assignments, is a key socialization strategy to prepare health professions students to enter practice in employment settings.
I have also shown that there is an interconnected role between admission protocols, students’ English academic literacy development, and program learning experiences. Admission policies, especially those concerning English language ability, represent institutional and program gatekeeping strategies to ensure that prospective students have the required academic and linguistic ability to be successful (Parmar et al., 2015; Pill & McNamara, 2016). This article has suggested that current admission requirements may be too low or incongruent with the high levels of literacy demands expected within these specialized programs. Further research is needed to determine the relationship, if any, between higher completion rates (and eventual licensure) and the initial language entry requirements of their schools.
Conclusion The research evidence presented within this article indicates that even when meeting the pre-admission language requirements, further significant, discipline-specific language support is essential for NNES students majoring in the health professions. Tapp (2015) concluded that undergraduate NNES students ﬁnd the development of academic literacy to be diﬃcult and that universities have a responsibility to provide access to contextualized academic literacy practices (p. 715). If this is the case, higher education institutions and educators need to adopt a more transparent, comprehensive approach, which includes making learning expectations more explicit as well as providing increased, discipline-specific learning support, especially for those with significant language challenges. As discipline-speciﬁc writing support carries the most eﬃcacy for students (Bazerman, Adair, & Debora, 2005; Gimenez, 2008), I urge readers to pursue further investigations in an effort to understand to what degree institutional eﬀorts are supporting NNES students’ writing development in the health professions.
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Wete, R., & Hawken, S. J. (2016). Measuring gains in an EMP course and the perspectives of language and medical educators as assessors. English for Speciﬁc Purposes, 42, 38–49. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.esp.2015.11.002
Woodward-Kron, R. (2008). More than just jargon—The nature and role of specialist language in learning disciplinary knowledge. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 7, 234–249. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeap.2008.10.004
Yanoﬀ, K. L., & Burg, F. D. (1988). Types of medical writing and teaching of writing in US medical schools. Journal of Medical Education, 63(1), 30–37. Retrieved from the ERIC database. (Accession No. EJ364999)
Starting with Educator Effectiveness Cycles As a new teacher, you’ll begin your own cycle depending on when you enter a district. You’ll be on a summary year typically every three years, when you’ll be aligned with an educational leader who will help you through the process. During this time, you’ll have a minimum of two mini-observations with feedback, plus frequent and professional conversations surrounding your goals. If this is not your first time through the cycle, the observer will also look at progress through the (generally two) supporting years leading to the current summary year.
Supporting years are similar to the summary year in that you’ll create, submit, and continually revisit your SLO and PPG. A building leader will also conduct a minimum of one mini-observation during the cycle.
How to Shape the Student Learning Objective Contextualize the SLO in an academic standard in which student learning is the main focus. Remember that the objective doesn’t begin and end with a goal: it should incorporate new methodologies of teaching that you feel free to explore through trial-and-error.
It’s also important to remember that not all students must achieve a specific number on a test or scale in order to be deemed successful as a whole. Actually, the requirement is that you must progress the learning forward in order record successful teaching. Base these targets on data from previous years and milestones within the current academic year to make sure that they’re attainable for each student subset.
Your goal should also include a plan for documenting student growth. Think about what’s already being done in your classroom to mine this evidence and data, which you’re often already recording in your gradebook or other living and breathing document that you reference frequently throughout the year. Make sure it’s easy to use and as practical as possible so it can be done efficiently. Keep track of evidence of student learning in both formative and summative assessments as well as evidence of new instructional practices that seem to be successful in aiding student growth. Discuss this evidence collection at each weekly meeting with your support team.
A Word on Team SLOs. Team SLOs can be beneficial in helping each teacher on your support team work toward a common goal and share ideas and successes as well as failures for the benefit of learning from each other. Keep in mind a truly collaborative mindset: Employing group think rather than supporting creativity will result in a loss of individual responsibility for the SLO.
This Is About You, the Teacher. One key point of an SLO is for teachers to identify weaker areas of practice and discover how those can be improved to impact student learning. It’s not focused solely on the lowest scores on a baseline assessment. The idea is that all students, not just the lowest scoring, are able to show progress as a direct result of improved teaching practices. Therefore, the SLO must to include new teaching practices to try during the upcoming school year. Keep it to a few at first and move forward from there based on the results.
Questions to Ask When Determining Strategies
What am I doing or not doing that is leading students to the current data reality?
What part of my teaching practice might be contributing to these results?
What evidence do I have to support my answers to the questions above?
What instructional actions can I take to move student learning forward? What do I need to start or stop doing?
Do I have a colleague or mentor who could help me identify ways I might improve instruction?
In addition to coaching/mentoring, what kind of learning do I need and where can I get it? (Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction)
Narrowing a Focus: Endurance. Leverage. Readiness. An SLO should align with a specific grade-level academic standard, and the options can be overwhelming. Consider the following criteria to narrow an emphasis on learning (Reeves, 2002):
Endurance – Knowledge or skill useful across a lifetime (e.g., reading, explanatory writing, problem-solving)
Leverage – Knowledge or skill of value across disciplines (e.g., research process, reading and interpreting graphs, critical thinking)
Readiness (for the next level) – Knowledge or skill necessary for the next grade or next level of instruction (e.g., concepts of print, balancing an equation)
Evidence Sources. WDPI also recommends teacher-created assessments as opposed to standardized tests for baseline or interim data to determine growth for the SLO. There are a number of reasons why students would perform inauthentically on standardized tests, and instead be more likely to perform authentically on an assessment created by their teacher. WDPI believes that using teacher-created assessments will aid students in the understanding and development of assessment literacy for educators as part of their own growth and learning. At a minimum, give these types of assessments at the beginning, middle, and end of the year or SLO timeline. Also, give formative assessments throughout the SLO cycle to collect data pertinent toward the objective.
WDPI has an excellent list of questions to consider when thinking about the type of evidence sources one might use for the classroom. CESA 6 also recommends CommonLit as a mentor text database and assessment tool.
WDPI recommends asking these questions as you think about evidence sources:
Do I currently have an assessment that will authentically measure a given focus area?
If not, can I, or my team, design an assessment to measure it? (commonlit.org)
For every potential assessment: Is it
Valid: How well does it measure the learning targets?
Reliable: Can this assessment provide accurate results regarding students’ understanding of the targets?
Are my practices equitable?
Is there a process to ensure that students performing at similar levels receive similar scores, regardless of who scores the assessment (e.g., common rubrics, training)?
How will I monitor student learning along the way to measure the impact of the strategies without waiting for the middle or end of interval?
When will I analyze the student data, in relationship to evidence of my practice, to know whether my strategies are working?
Who will I involve in this ongoing analysis and reflection?
Adjust When Necessary. Many teachers learn best through research and development, so understand your ability to adjust and change the goals of the SLO when appropriate as long as the data and rational can support it. Assessment and continuous improvement on your part is just as important as assessment and continuous improvement on the student’s part.
The Professional Practice Goal The PPG is your opportunity to invest in a topic of research or practice that you’ve been interested in learning about with the justification of actually applying it to your daily work — plus the added benefit of support from your team. The PPG should align with at least one aspect of the Danielson Model for Framework for Teaching, which is divided into four domains:
Planning and Preparation
Professionalism. Educators should select one area of improvement to focus on during the Educator Effectiveness cycle.
Questions to ask when developing a PPG
What are my strengths/challenges as a teacher?
How is my practice reflected in the Framework for Teaching rubric?
What am I interested in learning/doing/improving?
Does it make sense for me to connect my PPG to my SLO?
Are there strategies to learn that will support my students’ progress toward the SLO?
Where can I build in meaningful networking and collaboration with colleagues? (Wisconsin Council Teachers of English)
A PPG that supports an SLO might be to research and test different methods of delivering to students multimodal texts such as podcasts, NPR interviews, YouTube videos, TED Talks, news articles, scholarly journals, and mentor texts in order to discover which is most effective in reviewing key ideas and in demonstrating an understanding of multiple perspectives through reflection and paraphrasing (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6.1.D). A PPG that does not align with an SLO might be researching new methods of classroom discipline and management by tracking effective approaches throughout the school year with different students.
When Considering Both SLOs and PPGs Data-Informed, Educator-Developed Goals. You have the autonomy to create and develop your own goals based on data both from outside sources and your own classroom experience. Much of the Educator Effectiveness Plan revolves around using the Danielson Model for Framework for Teaching, an incredibly helpful resource in understanding the basic expectations of an effective educator that you should reference for creating goals as they relate to your SLOs and to your PPG.
Student Population. You have the autonomy to select what type of student population you would like to work with or that might benefit best from new approaches. For example, you might be interested in several sections of one class type, like English 11, or you might select only one section to hyperfocus on for a particular reason. A separate option to attempt closing the achievement gap might be selecting students labeled special needs or English Language Learners to work with during the course of the year.
Integration with District and School Priorities. WDPI encourages educators to be strategic about planning SLOs or PPGs around the school or district level goals. Different districts will approach this in different ways, but it’s important to understand that your ownership of the goal will ultimately make it more successful and increase personal investment and excitement, rather than as a goal created and imposed upon you. An effective goal could be a balanced collaboration between the school’s and educator’s mission, vision, and values. For example, your principal and leadership team might identify literacy as a priority area for the school. In that case, develop your SLOs based on your subject area, grade-level, and student data; incorporate instructional strategies that address the identified content/skills within a literacy context; and use a common writing rubric as one method of assessing subject-specific content/skills within a literacy context. This will help with your classroom goals and with your school’s overarching goal.
Foundation of Trust. Your Educator Effectiveness Plan will not be truly successful unless you and your evaluation team have set a foundation of trust. Clear expectations and directions surrounding goal setting and feedback from observers are of the utmost importance for creating an environment in which the least amount of stress is inflicted upon educators. Student learning happens through mistakes, so in turn you also need room to grow through your own potential mistakes. The understanding that you won’t be penalized for these mistakes allows growth; the alternative is creating goals that are safe and almost guaranteed to be attainable in order to not be scrutinized or punished.
A foundation of trust also assumes that you’re using methods that have been researched and proven effective based on data informed results. An orientation session should happen between you and your observer or principal at the beginning of the Educator Effectiveness cycle to ensure optimal success.
Topics for Discussion During the Orientation Session
the evaluation criteria, or what rubric the evaluator will use to evaluate the teacher
the evaluation process, or how and when the evaluator will observe the teacher’s practice
the use of evaluation results
any remaining questions or concerns (Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction)
Rapid or Mini-Improvement Cycles. The expectation of professional educators is that you’ll meet at least weekly with a team to discuss your progress with both the SLO and PPG. This accounts for the smaller cycles within each larger cycle timespan. The purpose of these frequent and smaller meetings is to ensure that the span of your Educator Effectiveness Plan is both continuous and manageable. The mini-improvement cycles give you and your team a chance to make purposeful changes to the curriculum, which will immediately have a positive impact on targets.
Completing the SLO & Critical Attributes At the end of each cycle, you will self-score on goal setting, assessments, practices, progress monitoring, reflection, adjustment of practice, and outcomes. The evaluator will use this feedback as part of the EEP score for the year along with observations and perhaps team feedback. Again, what should be focused on is the opportunity to grow as an educator and become better at the craft year after year.
Reference Reeves, D. (2002). The leader’s guide to standards: A blueprint for educational equity and excellence. Jossey-Bass.
Dan Schwartz, Wisconsin Teaching Fellow, dschwartz5 @ mac.com Lecturer, Business Department, Buffalo State College
One of my first postings was at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. The school had been opened as one of the first “environmental universities” in an “arboretum” in a town that made a lot of toilet paper.
One of the first folk I met in Green Bay was a guy who came to be known as “Larry the Legend.”
Larry entered UWGB in 1968. Twenty-seven years later, when I arrived, he was still trying to get his degree. Every time he got close to graduating, they’d pull the rug out from under him by changing the graduation requirements.
In class, Larry was brilliant. When he spoke, all those assembled hung on his every word. He’d evidently put some of all those years of working other jobs and rambling around to good use.
As his professor, I also began to count myself as one of his students. I frequently sought his advice about things. Years later, I even consulted him when I became an education department chair at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Larry is one of a few folks I know who seems to have been everywhere before I got there. When I mention I’ve done time in Green Bay, folks often say, “Oh, you must know Larry Laraby.” When I mention Anchorage, it’s the same deal. Larry was up to good there, too.
Larry was one of the students I referred to as my ’27 Yankees. It was an English Education class, and I swear every student in that class was a genius of one sort or another. I used to sit in the back of the class watching their practice lessons and think, They all can’t be A students. There’s got to be a B in there somewhere… But there wasn’t a B in the bunch. They’ve all gone on to bigger and better things, and whenever I meet someone who knows one of them, he or she is referred to as some kind of master educator. Some of them have even gone on to become department chairs and administrators.
And the worst part of it is, I knew each one was already great when they first entered my classroom. They all would have been successful without me.
I helped Larry challenge some courses and wrote some letters to get him credit for some of the courses he’d taken over those twenty-seven years.
When I left UWGB, they threw me a freakin’ sheet cake party. They asked me what my greatest accomplishment was while I was at GB. I told them, “Getting Larry the Legend out of here.”
Larry went on to become chair of the English department at Green Bay’s legendary Notre Dame High School, and later to teach in the Green Bay public school system where he pioneered an alternative education program for students experiencing difficulties.
Two years ago, Larry received Green Bay’s highest teaching award.
The social media tributes from his students began rolling in, and I continue to read them on Facebook.
Larry retired last year. Folks begged him not to leave. He said he knew it was time.
My father often said one of the saddest things is when you outlive your kids. I feel something similar when one of my students exits early.
Larry recently announced he has cancer. The prognosis is not good.
When I heard, I cursed the inflexible bureaucrats — the kind, former Buffalo Bills coach Marv Levy famously called “over-officious jerks,” — the kind who kept Larry out of the classroom all those years.
Madison Gay Gannon, College of Community Innovation and Education, University of Central Florida, Gannon.madisongay @ gmail.com
Elsie Lindy Olan, College of Community Innovation and Education, University of Central Florida, Elsie.olan @ ucf.edu
With the growth of technology, and, thus, research on its impact on society, the term “digital citizenship” continues to grow and take on more meaning. Digital citizenship encompasses all the expected behaviors and self-regulations that would make an individual successful in the digital world. Many of the behaviors that should be occurring in the real world, like sharing opinions politely and respecting others’ belongings, are basic skills that students have been taught for decades. However, it is critical that they are intentionally taught how those appropriate behaviors should transfer from daily life into the online space.
Many researchers and organizations have developed different frameworks that define the components of digital citizenship. Ribble and Bailey (2007) built a framework consisting of nine components that have since been modified as their research has deepened. Nonetheless, their framework laid the foundation for the concept of digital citizenship to take root. While digital citizenship has been defined in a variety of ways, researchers emphasize the importance of quality digital citizenship education to meet the needs of our twenty-first century learners (Hollandsworth et al., 2017; Ribble et al, 2004).
In some cases, digital citizenship education can be tied to funding. However, many educators are not trained how to do this effectively when obtaining their degrees or in current professional development trainings (Ribble, 2012). We still see this as an issue: Madison (author 1) received no digital citizenship education training in her undergraduate classes between 2013 and 2017 and has not received professional developments in her time teaching in public schools since graduating from her undergraduate studies. During her time as a graduate student, there was an emphasis for the need of digital literacies, but after researching digital citizenship, she realized that there was a lack of guidance and resources. She shared with Elsie (author 2) how there was a need in how to help middle school students navigate the digital world as a whole, going beyond multimodal texts and other digital literacies.
Current digital citizenship education is not being implemented properly. Many students are receiving isolated digital citizenship instruction that prevents them from adequately applying those skills later in the digital world. Digital citizenship education should be authentic and implemented across content areas so that students are versed with the skills they need to enter the current workforce. Reading about these inadequacies of digital citizenship education, and seeing it in her own school, made me curious about how the lack of digital citizenship education is impacting youths’ self-efficacy in the digital age. Even more so, we both wanted to figure out how to better incorporate digital citizenship skills into a middle school English classroom.
Unfortunately, many educators believe that their responsibilities stop at warning their students of cyberbullying, predators, and other unsafe possibilities in the digital world. However, if schools continue to push students to put their cell phones away, then they are not learning how to properly balance technology use, which could impact their success in the real world. In this essay we report on the subscales of Reasonable and Critical Decision Making and Academic Self-Efficacy as a major component of the following research questions:
What are youths’ levels of digital citizenship?
What are youths’ levels of self-efficacy?
What are the relationships between youths’ levels of digital citizenship and youths’ levels of self-efficacy?
We began by researching instruments that would allow us to identify the digital citizenship and self-efficacy levels of 7th grade students, ranging from 12 to 14 years old, who took part in the survey. The participants were found through convenient sampling as participants in a volunteer-based after school “boost camp” through the Social Studies Department at Madison’s school. While the school’s 2018-2019 demographic data has not been posted publicly, the National Center for Educational Statistics reported for the 2016-2017 school year that the school in which the study was conducted, Indian Trails Middle School in Winter Springs, Florida, enrolled a total of 1,175 students. The population’s ethnicity was less than 1% American Indian/Alaska Native, 3% Asian, 8% Black, 25% Hispanic, less than 1% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, 61% White, and 3% with two or more races. There were 576 male students and 599 female students. Finally, 380 students (32%) were eligible for free lunch and 81 students (7%) were eligible for reduced lunch. These numbers give a picture of the demographic of the school and thus the participant pool in this study.
We decided on Kim and Choi’s (2018) Digital Citizenship Scale (DCS) consisting of 18 questions distributed between 5 sub scales:
Ethics for Digital environment
Fluency for Digital environment
Reasonable/ Critical decisions
Self-identity in digital world
We also used Muris’ (2001) Self-Efficacy Questionnaire for Children using three sub scales–academic self-efficacy, social self-efficacy, and emotional self-efficacy–with 8 items in each subscale.
After administering the measurement instruments to the participants as an online survey, we completed two types of data analyses: descriptive statistical analysis and correlational statistical analysis (both Pearson and Spearman correlations dependent on statistical assumptions). From these analyses, we identified a subscale of the Digital Citizenship Scale that all teachers could imbed in their daily instruction: Reasonable and Critical Decision Making in the Digital World. The results indicated that students’ mean score in this subscale was 3.95 on a 5-point scale with a standard deviation of .49. While this is above average, the importance derives from the correlation this subscale has with students’ self-efficacy. The Digital Citizenship subscale of Reasonable and Critical Decisions had a strong correlation with Academic Self-Sfficacy, rs = .302, n = 69, p = .012. This finding is important because the correlation shows students who value making reasonable and critical decisions in digital spaces also conveyed a high regard for their academic potential.
We realized that while many of the participants recognized the importance of making reasonable and critical decisions online, their responses did not accurately portray if they knew how to do that effectively. For instance, the items focusing on Reasonable and Critical Decisions were as follows:
Students should express their emotions reasonably through communication when problems or inconveniences arise in the online digital environment.
Students should express their opinions online and learn and share their expertise.
Students should act in accordance with appropriate decisions when communicating in an online environment.
Students who agreed with the statements above also rated themselves highly on the items focusing on Academic Self-Efficacy:
How well can you get teacher to help you when you get stuck on schoolwork?
How well can you study when there are other interesting things to do?
How well can you study a chapter for a test?
How well do you succeed in finishing all your homework every day?
How well can you pay attention during every class?
How well do you succeed in passing all subjects?
How well do you succeed in satisfying your parents with your schoolwork?
How well do you succeed in passing a test?
If students who recognized and valued the benefits of making reasonable and critical decisions online also had high academic self-efficacy, then it would be worthwhile for teachers to provide them with an environment that fosters those skills in both the classroom and in online spaces. The majority of the population that I serve has access to devices and digital resources at home and has cellular devices on the school campus. Having the digital world around them constantly does not translate to their knowing how to use it. So, it is up to teachers to show them how to use these resources to heighten their ability to make critical decisions online.
How should digital citizenship skills be taught? Ribble (2008) recommends a four-stage framework on how to teach digital citizenship briefly summarized by the following:
Create awareness by engaging students with examples of being technology literate as well as examples of technology misuse
Provide frequent guided practice where students can explore and take risks while using technology
Model and demonstrate appropriate technology use from adults and allow a dialogue between adults and students to promote learning
Provide feedback and analysis on how students are using technology and how they can improve technology use in all aspects of life (p. 16). (See Figure 1)
Jones and Mitchell (2008) recommend that digital citizenship education be separated from digital literacy education and cyber-bullying prevention to “instead be focused on using Internet resources to have youth (1) practice respectful and tolerant behaviors toward others and (2) increase civic engagement activities” (p. 3). Ribble (2008) recognizes that this practice is not limited to teachers, but should also be implemented at home and in the community. Again, students must be given authentic learning experiences on how to use technology appropriately and how to navigate the digital world.
In this study, we defined digital citizenship education as embedded instruction and real-world practice within all content areas that specifies how to appropriately behave in and navigate the online world in order to prepare students to be successful members of online communities. Unfortunately, many schools are not one-to-one with devices and, in many cases, the devices get pulled for testing. For instance, our students have approximately eight laptops that teachers may share and use in station rotations. However, they are pulled for various tasks throughout the quarter such as subject area exams, PSAT, FSA, District Level Writing assessments, infrastructure trails, and county surveys. The classrooms do have a projector that connects to the teacher’s desktop, which tends to serve as the sole access to digital resources on a daily basis.
Regardless of the lack of availability of devices per student, it is critical that teachers find ways to incorporate online skills in their regular classroom. Just as we saw in our own classrooms, it is not enough for students to learn how to write emails, type, practice Microsoft Office programs, and build résumés in their computer electives. The problem was that these skills were not being translated into content area classes. For example, my students sent a number of emails that frequently needed feedback so they would learn how to communicate appropriately and effectively in that space, despite having isolated instruction on writing professional emails in an elective course. For example:
Many of those assignments are part of a required elective in middle school. While these electives are meant to build students’ skills in the digital world, they rush through the required assignments because they do not see how these outdated tasks will translate to the real world.
Translating Classroom Instruction to the Digital World Initially teachers can incorporate questioning that allows students to begin thinking about how their behaviors can be replicated in the online world. For example, if your students are determining an author’s purpose of a text, a follow-up question would be, “What changes should the author make if this were shared on a different news platform or modified into a tweet? How would the word choices impact the new audience?” These types of questions would allow the conversation to progress to establishing norms of appropriate communication and sharing opinions online. When I implemented these types of questions and digital language in my classroom, I found that students were highly engaged in these discussions because the critical questions were more relevant to their digital lives.
Then, English teachers who want to focus on reasonable and critical decision making can intentionally modify their current methods of instruction that allow students to apply classroom discussion behaviors to the online environment. To begin, teachers could provide role-playing opportunities that require students to establish appropriate norms when communicating online while experiencing different scenarios. These scenarios could range from how to deal with an offensive post from a peer on social media to making decisions about what photos should be posted of oneself or friends. Breaking down these realistic and often problematic situations that occur when communicating on the Internet would provide a foundation that would allow them to make more critical decisions online. To progress to step two in Ribble’s framework, teachers can create a classroom blog for students to practice the appropriate behaviors when responding to discussion posts connected to current content.
In a unit on social/class and coming of age, I created a similar scenario when creating discussion posts on the novel The Outsiders and on nonfiction texts that my 8th-grade standard level class had been reading. The class was expected to answer, with evidence from multiple texts, the following essential questions:
How do societal divisions affect communities?
How does one’s environment impact his or her identity?
What determines loss of innocence and entrace into adulthood?
Prior to starting this discussion, I showed the class the flowchart by New Tech City (2014) (see Figure 2). Many were reluctant because they claimed that if a peer posted something that offended them, then they would just keep scrolling. However, I emphasized that the last row where they’re asked to listen, respond, affirm, and contribute to online discussions is important because it allows them to add their thoughts and opinions to the conversation. They were then asked to write an extended response to one of the following three questions:
Was the herd behavior more of an obstacle or comfort for the Greasers and Socs? How does herd behavior impact our daily lives?
In context of the article “On Revenge,” is revenge ever justified? Do you think revenge is justified in today’s society?
Can education improve a person’s situation? Explain.
After writing their responses, they responded further to each other by using the method proposed in the last line of the flow chart. Below are some of the posts (Figures 3 and 4) that they made with names and images removed to protect their identities:
Elsie and I found that by asking students to respond to each other using this method, they were more inclined to think more deeply about their peers’ posts in order to know how to respond and determine what they wanted to add. Although their responses seem brief, they show more evidence of critical thinking than their previous responses of “I agree” that occurred before being shown this method. By using this response technique, they added their own thoughts and posed critical questions that go beyond simple affirmation. This is just one way to incorporate Ribble’s second step to teaching digital citizenship.
To meet step three, teachers should provide model answers or scenarios with the post that guide students toward meeting the expectations when responding to others with conflicting few points. We found it beneficial for this stage to occur multiple times and in multiple ways when implementing digital citizenship education. Finally, allowing students to reflect on the experience would further establish effective online behaviors in order for them to determine their strengths and areas of improvement. When teachers plan lessons, if they strive to incorporate any of these steps, dependent on the students’ needs and targeted learning goals, then they will be supporting students’ abilities to make critical and reasonable decisions in the digital world.
The embedded instruction does not have to be solely online. Rather, it should have students consider how it would translate to the digital world. Take this lesson for example: Begin by providing the class with opinion or informational articles and prompt them to discuss the main claim or stance in each one and how effectively it came across. Depending on standard of focus, steer the conversation toward the diction and how it impacts the tone, or if the language is too vague or too technical for the audience. Then discuss the types of arguments and the reasoning and support that the author provided. This type of analysis requires comprehension, but it also meets the expectations of state standards. Finally, through a digital extension, require the students to post responses to the article to the comments sections. Doing this would expose them to communicating critically online and require them to practice delivering clear and appropriate communication beyond the classroom environment. This type of lesson strengthens English lessons because it bridges the gap between the digital and real world for our 21st century students. The implementation of digital citizenship instruction, particularly within the subscale of reasonable and critical decision making online, can broaden instruction from just standards and testing to real world benefits.
Kim, M., & Choi, D. (2018). Development of youth digital citizenship scale and implication for educational setting. Educational Technology & Society, 21(1), 155–171. Retrieved from the Academic OneFile database. (Accession No. edsgcl.524180837)
National Center for Education Statistics. (2018-2019). Common Core of Data, Indian Trails Middle School. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/
Ribble, M. (2008). Passport to digital citizenship: Journey toward appropriate technology use at school and at home. Learning & Leading with Technology, 36(4), 14-17. Retrieved from the ERIC database. (Accession No. EJ904288)
Ribble, M. & Bailey, G. D. (2007). Digital citizenship in schools. International Society of Technology in Education.
Ribble, M., Bailey, G. D. & Ross. T. W. (2004). Digital citizenship: Addressing appropriate technology behavior. Learning & Leading with Technology, 32(1), 6-9. Retrieved from the ERIC database. (Accession No. EJ695788)
Trista E. Owczarzak, School District of Oakfield, towczarzak @ oakfield.k12.wi.us
I am a 30-year-old English teacher in the small, rural school district of Oakfield, where approximately 150 students matriculate in grade 9-12. The view from my classroom is the sheep farm across the street, and our student parking lot pushes up against a corn field. Oakfield is a small farming community where pretty much everybody knows everybody. Franzak, Porter, and Harned (2019) point out that “rural schools span the gamut from well-funded to under-resourced, from high-achieving to those in danger of being taken over by state departments of education” (p. 3). Oakfield fits into that spectrum as a high-achieving district, earning a Significantly Exceeds Expectations or Exceeds Expectations rating from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) since the 2016-17 school year. Funding for the district is supported by the community through the passing of operational referendums.
An advantage of working in a school of this size is the opportunity to get to know students really well by the time they are seniors and gearing up to graduate, and I’ve discovered that many have not experienced and understood issues outside of our own small community. In the words of Crowe (1998), they are “typical teenagers: egocentric, unfamiliar with many of the ugly realities of the world, and prone to simplistic notions of right and wrong, good and evil” (p. 124). I want to use the literature in my class to expose them to issues and cultures outside of only what they find in their neighborhood. I also want to stretch their critical thinking skills to perhaps experience being in “someone else’s skin and help them see the world from a different point of view” (Crowe, p. 124). Luckily, young adult literature allows us to do just that.
Background of Unit This unit came to be after some shifts and changes in course requirements and offerings for our seniors. What was once one required semester of English 4 and one of Communications became either AP English or Senior English as a year-long course. When Senior English was created, I had the freedom to make curricular choices, so my goal became to choose “culturally responsive” units relevant to my students, units “using the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of reference, and performance styles of ethnically diverse students to make learning encounters more relevant to and effective for them” (Gay, 2018, p. 36). In fact, the DPI promotes diversity by using “culturally responsive standards, instruction, and assessment” (“Culturally Responsive Education”).
Creating such units that my students would find interesting and relevant was no simple task! In an attempt to get students to read more, especially when motivation to read was lacking, I came up with a unit that incorporates choice in reading, research skills, and communication. My choice to focus on young adult literature specifically was driven by my belief that teens respond well to books about characters similar in age and dealing with problems common to teenagers in general. Moreover, as Glasgow (2001) argues, “Young adult literature provides a context for students to become conscious of their operating worldview and to examine critically alternative ways of understanding the world and social relations” (p. 54).
Organization of Unit When I have taught this unit, I have offered the option of a number of topics for groups including mental illness, drug use/abuse, modern slavery, and crime/justice (see Appendix A). Based on what students have already read and learned through other classes, I am adapting the offerings to also include immigration and war/conflict. Olan and Richmond (2016) argue that even preservice teachers must learn to “consider and (de)construct their own identities as readers while preparing to teach literature in secondary schools across the United States and beyond” (p. 11). What’s more, as mental illness is estimated to affect one in five Americans (NIMH, 2019), the importance of discussing issues such as depression, substance use disorder, and suicide through young adult novels is especially necessary, as Richmond (2019) argues. Allowing students to choose a topic to read about and study helps to invest them in the topic and its importance.
I divide the students into groups of three to five, and each group chooses a social issue topic to read about and discuss. From there, they have the freedom to choose any book that incorporates or connects to the topic. They are encouraged to choose from lists that I have created but are welcome to find other titles as well.
Class time is used for reading, discussion, and working on the research project. Attendance is sometimes a concern, especially in the spring when sports teams travel and tend to miss class more often. As a result, I do not assign specific discussion days, but I allow each group to create a calendar and plan ahead for when they want to discuss their books and topic, as long as they meet a certain number of times. Plus, the skills of planning ahead and time management are important to practice before they are out of high school. I expect them to come prepared by having read and prepared questions or connections to discuss. Each author treats the social issue subject differently in each novel, which lends itself well to discussion regarding authors’ choices and attitudes toward the subject.
The Final Project In addition to reading and discussing a variety of novels, the groups conduct research and present it to the class. Rather than write a research paper, they create an extensive research outline. Essentially, they are doing all of the research and organization required in a research paper without having to write the information into complete paragraphs. I find that finding relevant research and organizing ideas is important for all students, regardless of their plans for the future.
The research outline must include 1) an overview of the issue including its history and background both globally and within the United States, 2) different perspectives of the issue, 3) connections with the reading, 4) possible existing solutions, 5) barriers to the solutions, and 6) what can be done. I require them to evaluate multiple sources for credibility and create an outline including citations formatted in MLA style and a works cited page. They must then present their information using effective speaking skills. The assignment sheet for their research and presentation outlines the required elements of the assessment (see Appendix B).
Challenges In creating and implementing this unit, I faced a number of challenges. One that I imagine is similar for many teachers is obtaining enough books. The organization of this unit helps with that challenge, as I am not looking for an entire class set or even a small group set of one text. In order to get the titles that I wanted to offer or add to my master list, I raided our school library, my colleagues’ libraries, and our local public library. I was also lucky to have the support to order a few more as needed. I recommend starting small and with only a few topic groups to limit the number of different titles needed at once.
The first year that I taught this, I borrowed titles and copies from my fellow English teacher, who usually assigns them for a modern slavery unit in English 10. The seniors that year had come through before the modern slavery unit was created, so I could use the same texts. I have since phased that option out, but at the time it gave me enough options and books and bought me time to figure out additional topics and lists for future years.
Of course, content can certainly be a challenge. I rarely have any pushback from parents of seniors regarding what novels they should read. If I completed this unit with a younger grade, I would likely send a proactive email to parents regarding content possibilities. Another barrier may be the administration’s attitude towards teaching young adult literature. Olan and Richmond (2016) found that preservice teachers can reduce the concerns of administrators by providing research on the number of other rural schools in the area reading and teaching young adult literature.
Another challenge during the first couple years was classroom and time management. I encouraged my students to read and work on this project, expecting them to use the class time provided. Maybe it was senioritis. Maybe it was other classes taking priority. Maybe it was laziness. No matter the cause, I struggled to get them to read, research, or work on their project during class, so many fell behind. After that first year, I tried to structure class a bit more effectively by including mini-lessons more often on topics pertaining to research or certain social issues. I would print out articles or have students search for articles connected to the issue they were focusing on in order to practice or assess certain reading skills, to serve as a prompt for writing assignments, or simply to discuss.
Another challenge is to invest students enough to act on their issue. Each year I talk to them about getting involved and volunteering or raising money locally to help mitigate the issues they researched. Unfortunately, because of a number of reasons, very few have taken that active role outside of class and am hoping this changes over time.
Outcomes Through the texts that they read and the research they completed, they had an opportunity to see beyond the walls of our high school and outside of the edges of our small town. They learned about issues extending far beyond their everyday experiences. In some cases, those who had rarely, if ever, read an entire novel found themselves finishing more than one novel in this unit. The social issue topics are very real and relatable, and students engage with them. Reshaping my curriculum has led to an increase in reading of young adult literature and relevant research. This unit has become one of my favorites to teach and is a unit that will continue to be taught in my Senior English classes.
References Crowe, C. (1998). Young adult literature: Finding common ground: Multicultural YA literature. Discoveries: some new or overlooked YA books worth reading. The English Journal,88(2), 124-126. https://doi.org/10.2307/821713
Franzak, J.K., Porter, H.D., & Harned, C. (2019). We’re rural not dumb: An examination of literacy sponsorship. Journal of Language & Literacy Education, 15(2), 1-22. Retrieved from the ERIC database. (Accession No. EJ1235180)
Gay, G. (2018). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice. Teachers College Press.
Glasgow, J. N. (2001). Teaching social justice through young adult literature. English Journal, 90(6), 54-61. Retrieved from the ERIC database. (Accession No. EJ629207)
Olan, E. L., & Richmond, K. J. (2016). Conversations, connections, and culturally responsive teaching: Young adult literature in the English methods class. English Leadership Quarterly, 39(2), 11-15. Retrieved from the Education Source database. (Accession No. 118891439)
Olan, E. L., & Richmond, K. J. (2017). Disrupting the dominant narrative: Beginning English teachers’ use of young adult literature and culturally responsive pedagogy. The Journal of Language & Literacy Education, 13(2), 1-31. Retrieved from the Education Source database. (Accession No. 129583757)
Richmond, K.J. (2019). Mental illness in young adult literature: Exploring real struggles through fictional characters. ABC-CLIO.
Drug Use/Abuse Dope Sick by Walter Dean Myers A Piece of Cake: A Memoir by Cupcake Brown Far From You by Tess Sharpe Lifeline by Abbey Lee Nash Crank by Ellen Hopkins Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks Smack by Melvin Burgess Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff Beneath a Meth Moon by Jacqueline Woodson I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L Sanchez The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas American Street by Ibi Zoboi The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
Mental Illness Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green Turtles All the Way Down by John Green Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman Cut by Patricia McCormick Burn Journals by Brent Runyon The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky Lisa, Bright and Dark by John Neufeld One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey Starved by Michael Somers It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L Sanchez Dear Evan Hanson by Val Emmich
Crime and Justice The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas Dear Martin by Nic Stone How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon When I was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds Always Running by Luis Rodriguez All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely Monster by Walter Dean Myers Scorpions by Walter Dean Myers The Juvie Three by Gordon Korman Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers Snitch by Allison Van Diepen
Modern Slavery Sold by Patricia McCormick Diamond Boy by Michael Williams Stolen by Katariina Rosenblatt Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan
War and Conflict The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini Refugee by Alan Gratz Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini Little Bee by Chris Cleave A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick
Immigration American Street by Ibi Zoboi Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card by Sara Saedi The Border by Steve Schafer Denied, Detained, Deported: The Dark Side of American Immigration by Ann Bausum Disappeared by Francisco X Stork The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande The Good Braider by Terry Farish La Linea by Ann Jarmillo Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed Out of Nowhere by Maria Padian The Radius of Us by Marie Marquardt Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas
Appendix B Global/Social Issues Project (Semester 1 Final Project)
Objective: To analyze a global issue by describing the details, comparing perspectives, determining realistic solutions, and supporting your thoughts about the issue.
Research a specific social justice issue to understand the history, progress, and future of the issue
Write a properly cited research outline
Give a presentation to inform and inspire to take action
Background: You have already begun your research on a social issue by reading novels based on that topic or theme. You will continue to do more research on the larger issue, beyond your specific book, and also the specific details surrounding the topic of your novel.
Part 1 – Written Research Outline: As you complete your research, you are to create a detailed outline of the information that you find that is relevant to your topic. Consider this the first step to a longer research paper, but we will not take the next step of writing the actual paper. Much, if not all, of the information included in this outline will become part of your presentation.
Part 2 – Presentation: Groups have some choice as to how the information will be presented. The presentation will be based on the contents of the written outline. The presentations must be at least 7 minutes long.
Give an oral presentation with handouts or posters
Make a video on the issue
Conduct/record an interview with someone that works/ is affected by the issue (this option would be along with a shorter version of one of the other options depending on the situation)
Topics to be Addressed: Numerous topics should be addressed in researching and presenting on your topic:
An overview of the problem/issue a. What is the problem? Where does it exist? When did it begin? What people or groups are directly involved? Specific names, dates, and locations are expected, if available.
b. Why does (or should) this matter to us?
Different perspectives (views) about the problem a. What are the causes of the problem? Does everyone see it as a problem? Historical sources may be used to determine facts and opinions about the problem.
b. What seems to be society’s perception or attitude toward the subject? How is the attitude similar or different in the US compared to other countries? Different groups of people (politically, socioeconomically, culturally, for example)?
Connection with readings a. How was the subject treated in the novels you read or by different authors? What seems to be the author’s attitude toward the subject? How integrated was the topic into the novel (main focus? Side story? Background?)
b. Are there other articles or news stories written about the topic? Read some as a group and discuss. This could connect to the perspectives mentioned above.
Possible existing solutions a. What has been tried so far in an effort to resolve the issue?
b. How have experts/others associated with the issue suggested fixing the problem? What makes the suggestions different? Based on the background of this issue, what do you predict will happen in the future?
Barriers to existing solutions a. What human, environmental, and/or geographical barriers stand in the way of fixing the problem?
b. What can be done to address these barriers in order to move along on solving the problem?
c. Given what you have learned, what do you think would be the best solution to the problem?
What to do a. What can we do to help raise awareness or play a role in solving this issue? Are there organizations already that help with this issue? Are there any local organizations, businesses, fundraisers, etc that address the issue?
b. In our school, what can be done? How could you raise awareness? I encourage you to do some of these things!
Documentation of Sources: All sources must be documented using MLA Format. In your outline, include in-text citations along with the information or quotes and a Works Cited page at the end of the outline. Every source that you use must have its own citation. www.easybib.com or www.citationmachine.com are fantastic and easy tools that assist in creating citations for the sources you use while writing your outline and presentation.
Plagiarism: Not citing the sources you used or directly copying and pasting information will result in completion of an additional alternative assignment and a disciplinary report to the office. It is a serious offense to pretend others’ ideas are your own.
Research outline will be scored on:
Inclusion of information – enough information, variety of information, validity of information
Organization of information – maintains logical format/organization
Use of paraphrased and quoted information
Sources – use of multiple sources to support information, correct citations (in-text)
Works Cited – correctly cited sources, at least 5 sources (not including novels)
Presentation will be scored on:
Voice – volume and projection; pronunciation and enunciation; intonation and emotion; speed, pacing, and pauses
Body language – Facing audience, posture, eye contact, gestures, placement of notes (use of notecards)
Introduction – provides clear, strong beginning to presentation; grabs attention, previews main points
Organization – main points are organized, clear, and supported; includes all required information
Clarity – clearly shares information with class, explains necessary information
Conclusion – clear, strong closure; reviews main points, offers solution or call to action, has clear ending
Audience considerations – utilizes words, images, audio, video, and interactive elements to engage audience interest and deepen understanding; addresses what the audience should think, feel, see, and do during and after; prepare for questions and answers
Professionalism – prepared, practiced, professional, and polished
Division of work within groups: I will discuss with each group their plan for “dividing and conquering” this project. That being said, I expect all students to put forth equal effort and pull their weight within the group. I reserve the right to score students differently based on their involvement and the work each individual completes. Ultimately, though, this is a group assignment and I expect that you work well as a team.