At Central Park in Durham, tradition dictates that the week before Halloween is dedicated to what is called “Literacy Week.” Every year, each class takes on different literacy-related activities across subject areas and celebrate reading, writing, and expression. While I’ve only been at Central Park for 1.25 years, an example of activities might include:
-Graphing non-fiction in math
-Guest authors visiting during social studies
-Poetry creation in ELA
-Reading in the park in science
By Thursday, the Regulator Bookshop on Ninth Street will have warmly thrown open its doors to our school, allowing students to peruse the shelves and search for fascinating literature alongside Duke students. Finally, on Friday (usually the last school day before Halloween) students are given an opportunity to dress up as their favorite characters from literature. It’s all great fun!
…that is, until that magical age when it suddenly isn’t. Middle school – the time when the tradition loses its luster, social pressures creep in, and individuality is breaking out. There will always be a core group of students who are all in on dressing up as Hagrid and “dropping everything to read!”, but if Literacy Week is going to keep its magic, we are going to have to reimagine what magic looks like for middle schoolers.
This is where I brainstorm some ideas for reigniting the spark of Literacy Week for our 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders – and where I call in for backup (no more lurking on this blog!) Our middle school students are more connected, native to the digital world, stimulated, and arguably curious than any generation before them – and yet students are already beginning to groan or cringe at the simple mention of “literacy.” At the same time, while students are messaging, Snapchatting, Instagramming, hunting for Pokemon, and Vining a significant portion of their day (check out this (slightly dated) article from CNN), they are feeling more stress and social pressures at younger and younger ages. So with connections to the digital world that will only increase as time passes, and interest in literacy that is seemingly only decreasing as they grow up, how do we bring together the two in a balance that connects students to digital literacy?
My first idea for my sphere of influence (science class) is to shake off the notion that reading in nature is the only way to engage students in Literacy Week. I’m thinking it’s time students took their many talents, be it drawing, acting, video editing, writing, calculating, etc., and put them to use creating, rather than just consuming. We recently tried out this crazy cool app called Goosechase that coordinates student groups as they compete in scavenger hunts using digital tools like phones and tablets. Why not have students jump on Goosechase and construct pieces to a non-fiction piece on our subject matter? Students won’t just read about ecosystems under a tree (though I still love reading under trees!) – they will collaborate, discuss, debate, create, and present their findings in new, exciting ways!
What would you do if you had two hours of to make Literacy Week a little more digital?