The clear source for literacy: tools, downloads, and strategies for educators
The Engaging Learners website is your source for lessons that have been specifically adapted to the Literacy & Learning Center model. New resources and products will be added weekly, so you'll want to check back often.
Resource: The Adolescent Brain
Active educational strategies – particularly those that incorporate a social element, like Literacy & Learning Centers – help middle school and high school teachers take advantage of a developmental stage in which their students’ brains are particularly adaptable and malleable. To quote cognitive neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, “It’s a fantastic opportunity for learning and creativity.”
Watch this short TEDTalk to see how Blakemore compares the prefrontal cortex in adolescents to that of adults, to show us how typical “teenage” behavior is actually caused by the growing and developing brain.
Lexicographer: Or Write Your Own Dictionary
A lexicographer is someone who writes dictionary definitions. In this activity, students gather their own list of unfamiliar or unusual words during independent reading and, at the vocabulary center, enter them into their own personal dictionaries.
When they keep a personal record of newly acquired vocabulary words, students learn vocabulary as an aspect of self-directed and self-regulated learning. They practice using context clues and reference materials to determine word meanings, and they explore the relationship between word forms.
Student readers often need to be reminded that they have a lot of tools at their disposal whenever they encounter an unfamiliar word or phrase. This graphic organizer helps them visualize what they already know about a word (how it’s being used in a sentence), and look for clues or hints as to its meaning. They make their own, well-reasoned guess about the word's definition and then check it against a dictionary definition. This activity is appropriate to help with vocabulary acquisition in any content area
This activity encourages students to look for context clues, explore what they know about word construction, and consider their own prior knowledge whenever they encounter an unknown word.
Students are given a chance to self-reflect on a resolution and form a personal opinion: Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, or Strongly Disagree. Then, as new information is read aloud, students are invited to re-examine their opinion and change their mind.
Students read, listen, and self-reflect. They learn to recognize the elements of an argument and identify claims through close reading, close listening, and inference. They use reasoning, consider evidence, and explore point of view, as they adjust their personal opinions based on new information.
Reading TogetherIdentifing claimInferencePoint of viewArgumentationELAMathematicsScienceSocial StudiesSpeak & ListenReasoning
Resource - Entrance Slip Strategy
In the first few minutes of class, students are asked to write one complete sentence In response to a prompt. Using Entrance Slips is like starting each class period with a short Writer’s Center.
Entrance Slip writing gives students an opportunity to engage in metacognitive thinking and routine writing, with one eye toward adapting their writing for a specific task, purpose, and audience. They’ll also practice grammar skills like capitalization, punctuation, and content-specific vocabulary usage – all in an authentic situation.
First, teams of students go on a walking trip inside the school, following the teacher’s pre-written directions. Next, teams write their own directions to a different in-school destination.
Students strengthen their skills in reading and writing directions, a type of informational text. They’ll practice close reading, and they’ll gain experience writing with attention to detail and task/ purpose/audience. They’ll also engage in productive small group conversation.
This activity is designed to help students learn to write effectively to a prompt. They gain experience in not simply saying what they believe the teacher or testing organization wants them to say. Instead, they learn to focus on (1) choosing a genre or style of writing that inspires them and (2) expressing themselves clearly.
Student writers practice producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. It is another opportunity to introduce a routine writing activity into each student’s week.
Students interview at least three sources on a relevant topic and write a short informational piece about what they learn from the interviews.
Students practice writing informative/explanatory texts that are tailored for a specific task, purpose and audience. They include details to ensure that their writing is engaging and accurate, and they develop editorial and revision skills. The interviewing process gives students a chance to practice conversation while identifying another student’s point of view.
Writer's CraftRevising and editingTask/purpose/audienceDetailsInformative/explanatory textELAMathematicsScienceSocial StudiesSpeak & ListenConversationPoint of viewReasoning
This activity helps students become more active readers by encouraging them to record their thoughts, comments, questions, and personal connections on sticky notes and placing them directly on or by the text that inspired the thought.
Student readers practice a simple, effective close reading strategy while engaging in independent reading.
This exercise helps students uncover what they already know about a familiar fruit and then write a deep, rich description of it. The trick is, they’re not allowed to mention the fruit by name.
Students practice sensory observations so that they can include precise and descriptive language in their writing. When they read their descriptions aloud and discuss them with their small group, they practice close reading, consider word choice, and conversation skills