Monthly Archives: August 2008

Every Four Years

I’m gathering materials for a session I’m doing next week at the Studywiz Spark Users Conference and I’ve run into a bit of a problem. It’s a one-hour (not nearly enough time) workshop to show participants how they can use Studywiz to support literacy across the curriculum. The “supporting literacy” part is not the problem; Studywiz certainly is built to support reading, writing, listening, speaking, inquiry, and all the technology skills that fall under that huge umbrella we call “literacy.” It’s the content that’s causing me problems.

I decided to create a unit in Studywiz on the elections. Although elections happen every year (and local elections sometimes more than once a year) people really pay attention during a Presidential election year. It’s one of those “teachable moments,” or rather, a real-life event that is rich with teachable moments. I thought I would use this content to do a little proselytizing about gathering a lot of reading material for a topic rather than relying on just one reading for everyone (usually a text book). My experience has been that most 8th grade Social Studies classes have kids whose reading abilities span a wide range and we test these kids so much that it’s not hard for a teacher in any content area to get a pretty good picture of how diverse her or his class is. And online learning environments like Studywiz make it easy for teachers to gather all kinds of readings and other materials on a topic and either allow kids to choose which sources they use to learn the content, or match kids up with readings that are in their comfort zone.

So, I set off on my quest to find reading material with Lexile measurements ranging from around 400 to 1400 that would help kids learn more about the elections, particularly the race for President. I headed to MARVEL first because I can search the databases by Lexile and I did find some articles but the pieces written for lower reading level were obviously written for young children and I knew 8th graders would not find them very engaging and probably would be embarrassed to be caught reading them.

Then I heard (probably on NPR) about plans to release comic book biographies of John McCain and Barack Obama. They won’t be out until October but I hope they are engaging and thought-provoking and serious about this very serious topic. I hope they are well-written and intellectually rigorous and they appeal to everyone, not just our struggling readers.

So now I’m on a quest to find other sequential art products we can use to teach about the election process. There must be more out there. Maybe someone among the millions of readers of this blog will know of some and can make some suggestions.

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