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  • Writer's pictureScott Cameron

Free Literacy Blocks

I’ve been thinking a lot about all the challenges of this past year, but also trying to learn from it. I tried book clubs for the first time in an attempt to provide students with the no pressure option of reading diverse writers from different time periods, including James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, Kamila Shamsie, St. John Mandel, Jhumpa Lahiri, Jane Austen, Toni Morrison, Tracy K. Smith, Sophocles, Ralph Ellison, and Charles Dickens. However, I felt like I was piling on more reading, and I think many students struggled to keep track of the characters and plot details from weekly reading sessions.

So next year, my students will participate in free literacy blocks, where they meet weekly to either read texts of choice or free write. And by read, I also mean watch or listen to videos or podcasts. It should give them the opportunity to connect literature to the world they live in – the world of their personal experiences or the world of the news. They can interview people and listen to stories or discuss ideas and philosophy.

Here are the guiding principles:

1. The clubs should offer weekly time all year to write independently on a topic of choice or genre of choice and time to read sources related to their topic.

2. Students should work on a single goal or project but be able to change or expand the goal of the project at any time. Students can work outside of school on the project, but it is not required.

3. Teachers offer students texts or sources, but students can research and discover their own material online or in a school or classroom library. Sources can be novels, poems, songs, essays, photographs, graphics, statistics, news articles, short stories, podcasts, videos, or anthologies.

4. Students should share an online document that contains notes, citations, and all their writing. Students can write personal narratives, journals, essays, short stories, poems, a novella, or songs, or create a podcast or recorded interview, a graphic or visual essay, video essay, or short film.

5. Weekly sessions should include time to collaborate with peers and the teacher for the purpose of brainstorming and coming up with new ideas.

6. At the end of the year, students produce a final product that brings together their work. This could be a visual, auditory, or graphic representation of their independent study.

Scott Cameron

English language arts teacher

Teacher's Workshop, professional development for secondary ELA teachers

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