I first came across the term active literacy in the book, Strategies That Work by Stephanie Harvey & Anne Goudvis. According to Harvey & Goudvis (2007), "[Students] weigh in with their opinions, thoughts, and ideas. They talk to each other, have inner conversations with the text, leaves tracks of their thinking, and converse in books clubs and [literature] circles" (p. 16). Therefore, active literacy requires participants to be engaged in meaningful and purposeful talk. In simpler terms, reading is thinking. This is why teachers often consider metacognitive knowledge, whereby students are aware and understand of their thought process. In reading, this means being active around implementing and using reading strategies to make sense of a text. However, that is not to say that active literacy is only limited to reading. In fact, it is applicable in content areas across the board.
The purpose of anchor charts are to move students toward independence, providing a reference point to remind them of the steps they have to follow. Mostly, anchor charts are temporarily placed in the classroom and then maintained in the students' book or journal. Choice Literacy states that there are three types of anchor charts: procedural, process, and strategy.
Procedural anchor charts are a recap of the routines and procedures of the classroom. The charts are often maintained for a longer period of time since they are referred to throughout the year.
Process anchor charts are a guide on how to work out a process. In writing, for example, it can be an outline of the writing process (e.g. brainstorming, drafting, revising editing, and publishing). In math, for example, it could be the steps required to a solve a problem.
Strategy anchor charts are for guiding students in developing strategic behaviours. While reading, for example, students may encounter a difficult word. They can use several strategies (e.g. stretch the word, chunk it out, or look at the pictures) to decode the word. Similarly, in math, many concepts can be solved using different strategies. Charts are helpful reminders for such concepts.
Read With A Question
This strategy is really handy for non-fiction texts that are often information heavy. Therefore, students should always read with a question in mind. Simply, this means discovering the purpose of the text early on. The title or even the first line of an article provides an insight into the purpose of the article. Teach students to actively think about these aspects of reading that support their knowledge and understanding. The newspaper article below, for example, serves a purpose — to educate Indian citizens about rise of air pollution in the country. In addition, here is an example of a lesson plan based on reading with a question in mind from The Comprehensive Toolkit series.
Read, Write, Talk
From Strategies That Work, this is one of my most favourite strategies. Here, students as readers have "an opportunity to think, record their thoughts, and then about their reading" (p. 82). Specifically, the teachers model "their own inner conversation with the text and jot down our thoughts in the margins of a piece of text and then give kids a chance to try it on their own" (p. 82). By doing so, students integrate thinking with STR (stopping, thinking, and reacting to information). This works really well for students in Grades 2 to 8 with an informational text. I would recommend modelling one paragraph of the text to the students by stopping, thinking, and reacting to the information. Then, I would jot down notes on the margins of the texts or use post-it notes to keep track of pertinent information. It takes a lot of modelling and a series of lessons, where teachers lift the text with students for them to really understand how to jot down succinct information. Otherwise, students would not know how to take clear notes that are brief and essential. Next, allow students to read the following paragraph and use the same process in pairs or groups. This is where the teacher can walk around to observe students' thinking with each other. The remainder of the text can be read alone while students continue to read, write, and talk (even if it is to themselves).
In the book, Content-Area Conversations, there four types of talk that are identified: teacher modelling, guided talk, collaborative tasks, and independent tasks. Teacher modelling includes all forms of talk where the teacher models the type of behaviour and strategies that they want their students to also inculcate. In guided instruction, teachers talk through questions, prompts, and cues. Although this is teacher-led Fisher, Rothenberg, & Frey (2008) explain that students here "use talk to to ask questions - of the teacher, of the peers, of themselves - as well as to clarify understanding, provide feedback to a partner, and reflect once more on their learning" (p. 17). In collaborative tasks, students are provided with the space to work with each other. Here, the process of talk "becomes critical when students discuss tasks or ideas and question one another, negotiate meaning, clarify their own understanding, and make their ideas comprehensible to their partners" (p. 17). Lastly, there are independent tasks where students self-talk as inner conversations. Students can also provide and receive feedback from others for independent tasks, making it a form of talk.
Specifically, turn-and-talk and think-pair-share are the most widely used and also the most simple form of purposeful talk that teachers can implement. These are forms of guided instruction where the teacher can work in small groups to facilitate the talk. Collaborative tasks can include group discussions or group work. The teacher can still work with one group if that requires additional support and guided instruction. In the language arts, Literature circles or the Jigsaw Strategy whereby students must implement the thinking process to read, speak, and write, can be considered collaborative tasks.
Text coding is a strategy used while reading where students leave tracks of their thinking. Students make codes or annotations on the text during the process. A star next to a sentence, for example, could represent the main idea of the text. A question mark could be used to point out something the student does not understand. The following is an example of text codes from Mr. Krambeck's resources:
If we want our students to actively think while reading, we have to model the thinking process to them. This think aloud with Steve Renfro is a clear example of how to model thinking aloud. TeachHUB explains, "The think-aloud technique helps students monitor their thinking and understanding of the text. This helps to improve students’ comprehension. As they think aloud, they internalize what they are saying, which helps them learn." As we model thinking aloud to our students, they start to understand how readers have to think about what they are reading and what they are learning.
Harvey, S. & Goudvis, A. (2007). Strategies that work.
Fisher, D., Rothenberg, C., & Frey, N. (2008). Content-area conversations. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Virginia, United States.