Thursday, September 30, 2010

My Favorite Resources for Supporting Active Learning


Burke, J. (2000). Reading reminders: Tools, tips, and techniques. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers.
Burke, J. (2003). Writing reminders: Tools, tips, and techniques. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers.
As the titles indicates, each book is a reminder of the things we know are good instruction for readers and writers, yet sometimes forget. Burke is a practicing teacher and writes for teachers. Each book includes 100 tips, techniques, and tools to help secondary teachers teach reading or writing. Both are easy to read and use, as each tip is about 2 pages long and often includes a template and student examples. Especially nice is his explicit link between theory and practice, as he sites the support for each idea. My favorites include his section on vocabulary development and vocabulary squares (reading) and how to create a culture of writing and explanation of the genres of writing. You can find sample chapters of each books here:

Buehl, D. (2009). Classroom strategies for interactive learning (3rd ed.). Newark, DE: International Reading Association
I have purchased each edition of this book and worn out my old ones. Buehl was a social studies teacher and reading specialist at Madison East High School and compiled this compendium of content area reading/writing strategies over the course of his time working with students. The third edition has expanded to include recent understandings of comprehension and how to teach for comprehension. The second half of the book includes 45 strategies which focus on instructional strategies, ways of thinking and characteristics of effective readers. Each strategy is explained, modeled, and has a template for student use. My favorites include: Discussion Web, Magnet Summaries, and RAFT.

Tompkins, G. (2008). 50 Literacy Strategies: Step-by-Step (3rd Edition). Prentice Hall.
Like Buehl's book, I have bought and worn out each edition of this book. Although geared more for elementary students, I have found the ideas to be highly adaptable for middle school and a few for high school. Like others, Tompkins explains, models and provides student examples of each of the 50 strategies. I especially like the Open-Mind portraits, in which students draw a portrait of the character and then, using a second paper, draw and/or write about the feelings and thoughts of the character, which can be revealed by opening the portrait. Another favorite is Plot Profiles, in which students graph the important events of a book and rate them for excitement/tension.

Wilhelm, J. D. (2002). Action strategies for deepening comprehension: Role plays, text-structure tableaux, talking statues, and other enactment techniques that engage students with text. New York: Scholastic.
This is one of the books in Scholastic's Theory and Practice series, which are all great books that link theory to practice in a clear and concise manner. This particular book encourages teachers to help students literally embody text through drama, tableaux and other enactment techniques. Each chapter focuses on a technique and gives a little of the theory, but really expands on the practical aspects of the technique such as how to plan for and introduce it to students, assessment and multiple ways to adapt the technique. With the addition of real life examples and voices from the field, this book truly achieves praxis.

Burke, J. (2002). Tools for thought: Graphic organizers for your classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers.
Yes, another Burke book – but so worth it! This is a great complement to Buehl's Classroom Strategies. As the title suggests, this is all about graphic organizers for content area reading and writing at the secondary-level. Although most of the examples come from English classes, most can be adapted for other content areas. The “tools” he provides are graphic organizers that are generic enough to be adaptable to many situations and are more about the thinking processes than the particular reading or writing task. Having introduced many of these tools to my students, over time, I saw their independent use of the strategies to help organize their thinking outside of my classroom. Some favorites include: Episodic Notes (story-boarding), Target Notes (identifying the main point of inquiry and elaborate on it), and Think in Threes (to expand diametric thinking).

Bromley, K. DeVities, L.I. & Modlo, M. (1999) 50 Graphic organizers for reading, writing and more. New York: Scholastic.
Targeted at grades 4-8, this book provides templates and examples of typical graphic organizers for Language Arts such as T-Charts, KWL Chart, Coat of Arms, and Venn Diagrams. This is great for making large posters (laminated) for the classroom as there is ample space to write. Although the templates are elementary looking, I have adapted many of the ideas for high school. One of my favorites is Getting Into Character Map, in which students draw the character and label the body with the various thoughts, feelings and actions of the character (located by the eyes, ears, mouth, heart, hands and feet).

Cerveny, C. & LaCotti, M. (2003). 35 Learning tools for practicing essential reading and writing strategies: Mini-lessons with reproducible bookmarks, checklists, strategy cards, trifolds and more. New York: Scholastic.
Geared toward grades 4-8, this book provides many templates for creating posters or handouts to remind students of important strategies when reading/writing. I've photocopies the Discussion Starters bookmarks on card stock and was amazed at how many of my middle-schoolers requested them. There are bookmarks for writing also, but I found they were more helpful enlarged into posters to develop a consistent language about responding to reading through writing, such as the RARE answer to a question that Restates, Answers, Revists for examples, and Explains.

Silberman, M. (1996). Active learning: 101 strategies to teach any subject. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
The author begins with a very brief overview of the theories behind active learning and moves quickly into the strategies, which cover all aspects of a lesson from grouping, team-building, assessment, discussion, and reviewing. Grounded in practicalities, each strategy gives an overview, a bullet procedure list, and variations. Some of my favorites include Jigsaw Learning (helping students teach students), Bumper Stickers (summary of learning), and Lecture Bingo. Many of these strategies can be adapted to any age level, including college, and especially useful for teachers moving to a block schedule.


Instructional Strategies for Engaging Learners – Guilford
This site has three links: Activating Strategies, Cognitive Strategies (comprehension and retention), and Summarizing Strategies. Each link has about a dozen strategies and each strategy includes a description, procedures and examples. My favorite summarizing strategies include Final Countdown and Shaping Up Review, which I have used from middle-school to college level.

Glossary of Instructional Strategies
Being a glossary, there isn't much of an explanation, but there are 1271 strategies or methods listed with brief definitions and some have links to more information.