Lesson 1.1: Refresher on Effective Literacy Methods

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Questions to consider:
How can literacy be incorporated into a foreign language classroom? How do literacy methods fulfill foreign language standards?

Return to: Unit 1: Literacy Methods in the Foreign Language Classroom

Continue to: Lesson 1.2: Benefits of Adding Technology to Literacy Education

What are Literacy Methods?

Literacy methods are pedagogical techniques created by and for teachers that provide a simple procedure for instructing students in reading and writing. These methods can be applied in any content area and age level. They are designed to emphasize the higher thinking skills necessary to read and write fluently and train students to become better at analyzing and comprehending information. Some methods are designed specifically for partnering or group work, but all methods will reinforce independent reading and research outside of the classroom.

A Quick Word

As with any teaching strategy, literacy methods need to be modeled by the instructor before regular use in a classroom. Modeling shows students the expected performance behaviors and outcomes and provides the initial exposure to literacy skills that will be reinforced in the lesson.

Your assignment

Listed below are five literacy methods that are effective in a foreign language classroom. The title of each Literacy Method is linked to a file or website page that further elaborates on that specific method. When reading through these selected literacy methods, you will see numbers from 1.1-5.2 in parentheses next to the name of the method. This denotes which ACTFL standards are fulfilled by executing this technique. Underneath the title, there is a brief description along with images and/or video to demonstrate what each strategy will look like when implemented in a classroom. Please select two (2) literacy methods to compare and contrast: how would you use these methods in your own classroom?

You can use this online Venn Diagram maker to compare and contrast your literacy methods. To edit a circle (change the color/label with a title), double click in the circle. To add text inside the circle, press the "New Item" button in the upper left hand corner. When you are finished, please select the Share Final button and send it to shannenpobrien@outlook.com.

Courtesy of http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3780/9073676538_c794cda35c.jpg through https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ - no changes made

Context Clues (1.2)

Students are not expected to know what every word in an article is supposed to mean, but more often than not they stop their reading to look up one or two words that they do not understand. Looking up a word should be the last resort for a student, so what should they do instead?

When handing out a new reading to students, have them do a quick read of the information. Any words that they do not understand should be circled/highlighted/underlined for them to reference. Students then go back to the sentence in which it appears and uses one of the four devices (These should be posted up for all students to see):

  • Definition

Is the word defined in the sentence? Example: José es atrevido porque no obedece las reglas

  • Antonym (opposite)

Is the opposite of the word found in the sentence? Example: Marta es social y activa, pero Daniela es tímida.

  • Synonym (similar)

Are words with similar meanings used in the same sentence? Example: La modela esbelta lleva ropa pequeña y delgada.

  • Inference

Do neighboring sentences help describe the word? Todo el día está nublado. No podemos ver el sol.

Jigsaw (1.1, 5.1)

Jigsaw is a method that is ideal for small groups of 4, either having two pairs or each person work independently. The pair or individual receives one section of an article to read and become an expert on. They are responsible for explaining this section to the rest of the group. After 10 minutes of reading and note-taking, the group reconvenes and shares what they have with their members. Jigsaw receives its name from the act of all pieces of the puzzle coming together.

Jigsaw is a great method for having your students practice their speaking in the target language, as well as sharpening their listening skills. For novice students, focusing on one area of the text increases their exposure to written language and comprehension skills.

Jigsaws can be done with the same sections distributed to each small group, or taking a larger work and giving each group a different section to analyze. The former encourages students who have the same portion of the article to confirm their ideas with the rest of the class. The latter requires everyone to pay attention so that they can understand where their section falls into place to create the overall picture.

In a foreign language classroom, jigsaws can extend past close reading of a text in the target language. Other ideas include:

  • Cultures of countries (1 culture/group)
  • Grammar topics
  • Vocabulary
  • Current events of countries where language is spoken
  • Presentation of geographic region or country

What a Jigsaw Should Look Like

Save the Last Word for Me (1.2, 1.3, 5.1)

If you are looking to have your students focus on speaking in the target language, this method is ideal for more advanced classes. Students are placed into groups of 4 and all read the same passage. Depending on the duration of class, students receive 3-5 index cards each. After independently reading the article, each student writes a quote from the reading on one side of the index card. On the reverse side, they write one comment about why they selected this quote to share.

One student chooses one of their index cards and reads the selection from the reading to their group members. Each member has to comment on this excerpt, with the student who read their card explaining why they selected that quote for last. This repeats until every member has read each of their index cards.

It is highly possible that some students will select the same passage. If you do not want students to repeat, you can give a longer reading and have each student read a different section.

What Save the Last Word for Me Should Look Like

SQ3R (1.1, 5.1)

SQ3R is structured to assist students with studying information leading up to an assessment, but is also useful for focusing on reading comprehension. I will break down each part of the acronym:

  • Survey

Students do a quick skim of the article or reading, paying attention to the structure. The main goal here is to get a general overview of what is addressed in the passage.

  • Question

After skimming through the reading, students go back through and write down questions that they had from the first read-through. For students who have difficulties coming up with questions, they can use the section headings and rephrase them to ask questions. This way, students have to turn back to the text.

  • Read

Students go back and re-read the article with closer attention to detail. Their job is to look for the answers to the questions posed in the previous step and to fill the gaps from the first read-through.

  • Recite

To sharpen reading comprehension, students should try to answer their questions without referring to the text. A student's ability to do this demonstrates that they understand what was going on in the reading.

  • Review

This is the time for students to go through their notes and clarify anything they wrote down. If they were not sure of an answer, they can go back to the reading and jot down answers.

If you are looking to have students practice speaking skills, pair up students to read the article. They can practice speaking during the "Question," "Recite," and "Review" steps and also provide immediate feedback on answers to their partner.

More Information About SQ3R

Turn and Talk (1.2, 5.1)

As the title suggests, this strategy has students turn to a partner next to them and discuss the text. By having a peer working through the information with a student, both are able to clarify any confusion that they may encounter compared to if they were reading independently. There are several variations of Turn and Talk that are successful in a foreign language classroom:

  • Timed Reading

The teacher uses a timer to have students stop reading when the timer goes off and share one thing that they didn't understand or one thing that they learned in the section. This repeats until students complete the article.

  • Section by Section

If students are reading a longer article or passage, they turn and talk at the completion of a section. This repeats until students complete the article.

  • Reading out loud

Students alternate reading sections out loud, and take notes on each section upon completion.

Regardless of which adaptation you use in your classroom, students are sharpening their reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills.

What Turn and Talk Should Look Like

Reflection Questions

  • What are the advantages of grouping in methods like Jigsaw and Save the Last Word for Me in a foreign language classroom?
  • What are the advantages of using independent methods like Context Clues and SQ3R in a foreign language classroom?
  • Do the methods that I use to teach literacy align with the National Foreign Standards (5Cs)?
  • Which literacy method would be the hardest for me to implement? What are the steps I would take to adapt it into my teaching?


Area Education Agency 267. Retrieved November 20, 2016, from Save the last word for me instructions, https://www.aea267.k12.ia.us/system/assets/uploads/files/1154/save_the_last_word_for_me_instructions.pdf

Hahn, C. (2014, February 24). Save the last word for me modeling activity Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10z3GB3PoEM

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. (2008). Vocabulary strategy: Context clues (unfamiliar words [From foreign Languages]). Retrieved from http://it.dadeschools.net/Riverdeep/9-10IRedge/LA.910.2.2.1/LA.910.2.2.1%20(8)/Your%20Turn%20Activities/DR4_U24_Vocab-Strategy_Your-Turn.pdf

Jonson, J. (2013, June 11). SQ3R reading method Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dhcSP_Myjg

Lester, J. H., Head, M. H., Elliott, C. B., Pesek, D. D., & Trowbridge, J. E. (2002). Literacy & Learning: Reading in the Content Areas. Baton Rouge: Louisiana Public Broadcasting Television Network.

New Teacher Center. Turn and talk procedures and routines. Retrieved from http://old.newteachercenter.org/sites/default/files/global/documents/participation_structures/turn_talk_overview.pdf

Reiff, A. (2014, October 31). Jigsaw. Retrieved November 28, 2016, from http://activitiesintheforeignlanguageclassroom.weebly.com/blog/jigsaw

Teaching Channel (2012a, August 7). Jigsaws: A strategy for understanding texts Retrieved from https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/jigsaw-method#

Teaching Channel (2012b, October 11). Reading like a historian: Turn to your partner Retrieved from https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/increasing-student-collaboration