Active Literacy With iPads (and some other technology too…): Part 2

Gradual Release of Responsibility

Learning how to really implement a gradual release of responsibility model has been one of the most powerful things in my teaching career.  This model sets up a framework for how instruction gradually moves from teacher modeling to independent work.  It’s the middle sections that often get left out in the old lecture/worksheet method of teaching.  But with active literacy I am able to guide students through each stage.

1. Demonstration: In the demonstration phase we model for students what we want them to do and then ask them to pay careful attention.  This stage is filled with think alouds where we make the thinking that usually goes on in our head visible and audible to students. We read picture books and model jotting our thinking on post-its or we lift pieces of text and write them on chart paper so that we can share how we annotate the text.  I was thrilled when I was able to get rid of my old overhead projector in favor of a document camera which made it easier to me to share my thinking in a visible manner with my students.

So, how might we use the iPad technology in this stage?  Certainly, I did a lot of modeling when students were first learning to use the annotation features in iBooks.  I project the iPad using my document camera.  Although it’s slightly harder to see I’ve found that the projector adapter falls out easily ( a stark contrast to the plugs on the syncing cart which you can’t even get in…) and that students need to see my hands interact with the device.

Because my modeling lessons are filled with short turn and talk moments I pretty much need to do the lesson in real life.  However, I can envision scenarios where having a video lesson prepared would be useful.  For example, students with special needs, attention deficits, or students who simply need to see the modeling again would benefit from having a video of me on their device that they could access at any time.  With videos you can actually differentiate the modeling for groups or individual students as well.  In this case I might pair them up or put a small group at my round table so that they could discuss what they had seen.

2. Shared Demonstration: The shared demonstration phase is where we invite students to participate with us.  I am still doing most of the work here, but now students are participating and giving their ideas.  They are contributing to a class chart, helping me annotate or write post-it’s, and jotting their own thinking down on their copies of my text which will be shared with the class or in a turn and talk.

My fabulous teaching partner came up with a great idea to use one of the collaborative cork board or post-it apps for this.  You can use wall wisher or a similar type website if you’re using computers.  Students post to a collaborative class board or, if you can get it to work, they link up to another device and they create a collaborative board in partners.

What I like about this idea is that it engages ALL students in this phase of the learning.  There is something about adding to that collaborative board that ups the sense of accountability during the lesson.  Additionally, I think being able to see everyone’s responses would be very powerful information as a teacher and for other students.

3. Guided Practice: In guided practice the work is now turned over to the student.  I usually do this with the whole class text or a similar text to the one I just modeled with.  Often, I do stages 1 & 2 with the beginning of an article and have students finish the article in this stage.  My job is to assist students as they “try out” what they’ve just seen.

This stage is great for the iBooks functionality.  There are other apps that can be used as well which I’ll get into in a later post.  I also think that Edmodo is a useful tool to form a small group for discussion of the text.  I’ve noticed that the use of Edmodo or online discussions is good at promoting many ideas but perhaps not in depth ideas.  Use of several teacher prompts which students reply to, for example three questions that students simultaneously respond to, seems to help keep discussions at a slightly slower pace and more focused.

4. Independent Practice During independent practice students have the opportunity to try out the strategy on their own.  The text or scenario is similar to the one they’ve just encountered with support, so that they can easily apply the strategies.

So far I’ve been using the ibooks features for this stage.  Sometime I provide the text to the students through syncing, putting into a shared dropbox folder, or emailing it to the devices. (We’re also looking at an internal server option)  Other times I have allowed students to go to my class website which has a set of links to kid friendly reading sites like National Geographic Kids, Sports Illustrated Kids, Time for Kids, and more.

In order to put these internet articles into an Epub format I use the dotEPUB website.  It’s easy to install and use and will turn any internet article into a format that students can annotate and leave tracks of their thinking on.  When they’re done it arrives in my email inbox in an easy to read format.  I will say that installing dotEPUB on the student devices was a bit dicey because when they pulled their own articles off the internet it created a bit of a syncing nightmare for me!

5. Application to a New Context:  Of course the ultimate goal is for students to be able to transfer their skills into a new context.  We want them to be able to apply what they have learned in a variety of situations.  We also want to help them become meta cognitive about their processes and how they apply these strategies.

One way to do this is to have students create a short video diary or audio clip at the end of an independent reading session.  You could ask them to reflect on a specific strategy they had worked on that day or comment on their reading in a more general manner.  You might also provide students with new and different kinds of texts for them to practice their strategy in either through the iPad or in a traditional paper manner and then have them fill out a quick exit ticket via a google form.

I’ve found that students are most responsive when instructional methods are varied.  Although they will do an entire lesson on the iPad it’s helpful to mix it up.  I try not to use it for every stage of the gradual release in every lesson but to pick and choose depending on the topic, available resources and most importantly…what my students need!

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