A-C-E: Three Things I Learned While Teaching Literacy

Joanne-2-edit copy

by Joanne Hingley

Joanne Hingley has been teaching for over 20 years.  She loves following and applying research that represents best practices in the teaching and acquisition of reading, writing and numeration skills.  She is currently teaching a Literacy and Basic English class at TIES.

I have three ideas that I keep front and centre when I am teaching my Literacy students. They reflect beliefs that I have about teaching and learning and are relevant in both the real and virtual classroom.  I sum it up as ACE.

Arriving to Class Each Day is a Success

Arriving is to reach a place at a stage in a journey, and for my literacy students, a long and challenging journey preceded their arrival to their first English class.

I show that I am very happy to see my students every day. Regardless of their attendance or their timeliness in my ESL class, I see my students’ arrival as a SUCCESS, and I always have the same greeting… “Welcome, I am so glad that you made it!”

My hope is that my students feel welcome and supported in class, but also know that it is notable that they are attending English classes and are eager to learn how to read and write for the very first time. I recognize that they have previous obstacles, as well as present obstacles, and that these may make attending class difficult. Compromised health, finances, fluctuating work hours, care-giving responsibilities and long commutes are some of the daily challenges. I recognize these hindrances and I do not take my students arrival to class for granted.

Connecting Creates Community & Communication

Connecting is to join together to provide access and communication.

I want my lessons to support interaction between the students and provide opportunities for them to make connections with one another. This is what will lead to a sense of community in the classroom and increase communication between all of the participants.

A beginning literacy class can be a quiet place without some purposeful planning and design. I like to create lessons that include supportive, cooperative and communicative activities. This begins by making a 1:1 connection with each student, every day. “How are you? How is your family?”

Planning for lessons includes opportunities for students to work together in pairs, small groups, and large groups. Remember, the goal is to encourage numerous opportunities for connections, and ‘talk’ in the classroom.

Pair Activity

One of the pair activities that my students enjoy is using a ‘Tap Sheet’.

With this tap sheet, each student writes their home country in the empty box on the sheet. Then, partner A begins speaking while simultaneously tapping on the words on the page.

“Where are you from? Partner B then answers, while tapping, “I am from _______.

Sharing finished projects is also a great pair activity that promotes communication.  In this photo (right), the students share booklets that they have written about themselves.

Small Group Activity

Small group activities allow everyone to be involved in the task at hand.  These students are working together to arrange several number lines sequentially from 0-100. Next, they match number cards that represent multiples of fives.

Large Group Activity

The Language Experience Approach is an excellent large group activity that encourages talking in the classroom.

Our common experience was a trip to Heritage Park in Calgary, Alberta.

The students created a story about their excursion.  We were able to use this story for many phonological and phonemic awareness activities.   

We used a combination of digital images on the SMART Board, as well as printed photographs.  The students enjoyed holding photographs in their hands and using them for inspiration in their writing projects. 

We added digital books as well as soft covered books to our classroom library.

Engaging Creates Energy and Active Learning

Engaging is to occupy or attract someone’s interest or attention.

When everyone is engaged in their learning, the classroom becomes energized (and more fun!) The students are involved, and they are actively participating in their language acquisition. To achieve this, my lessons need to include many hands-on activities, games, songs, chants, realia, and movement.

The photos below are some examples of how I include active learning in my lessons. My goal is to keep the students engaged in their learning activities.

Going forward, I would like to develop more ideas to keep my students actively involved in their learning. I hope that this blog post might inspire teachers to share ways that they encourage active and engaging participation in their lessons.

3 thoughts on “A-C-E: Three Things I Learned While Teaching Literacy

  1. Great Blog Joanne! Perfect little way to sum up what goes on in literacy. I really like the pictures you added to the description because it gives me a visual of some great ideas I can do in my class that I haven’t tried yet!

  2. Lovely post. I love that you recognize that it might have taken each student a great deal to get to class that day. Great visuals in your post. I sure miss teaching those beginners.
    Another that I used to use is yes/no cards where each student has two cards, one with y-e-s and anther with n-o on it. I ask them questions and they hold up their cards to answer. It works well with beginners.
    Thanks for your post.

  3. I really liked your post Joanne. Given the challenges literacy students face in their personal lives and all of the familial, employment and other obligations they have, their attendance and participation in class is, like you said, not something to take for granted. Thank you for sharing your experience and insights into teaching literacy learners in engaging and motivating ways!

Leave a Reply