Blast From the Past: Maximizing Student Engagement in Literacy Across the School Day

By Fran McVeigh

On Thursday, January 20, 2022, the #G2Great chat included a new format for this seventh year of its existence. Periodically this year we will have chats labeled as “Blast From the Past” as the following graphic explains.

                                 Original Wakelet from 4/9/15 (No blog post available)

Before this post begins to deepen our common understanding of “engagement,” let’s visit the term literacy and some basic concepts.

 What is literacy?

Jill’s definition in this tweet comes from the International Literacy Association.  Her question about creating space for students to develop these skills across all disciplines is equally important as it deals with “across the day.” 

The goal has not been to say that every teacher is a teacher of English/Language Arts (ELA), but instead to say, “How do historians read, write, talk and think?” “How do scientists read, write, talk and think?” “How do musicians read, write, talk and think?” The questions remain the same across the disciplines. 

Who is responsible for literacy?

Students need experiences during the school days and years that build upon each other. Their work needs both coordination and collaboration on the part of teachers. An example of this would be in the formatting of student work. The issue is not whether “all students need to use APA format to write formal papers” but what formats do our students need to be exposed to as well as use in order to be aware of the possibilities they will encounter in life.  As teachers have these discussions prior to reviewing course expectations, students will be less confused about differing course requirements across disciplines, days, and years.

How can we support literacy learning across disciplines every day?

And let’s not forget what literacy instruction across the day is NOT!

Engagement:  What is it?

Many definitions as well as misconceptions surround “engagement.” Ellin Keene has a remarkable book Engaging Children that was part of a chat here.

Her description is included in Mary’s tweet.

Judy Wallis adds another dimension to engagement.

And Jennifer Scoggin and Hannah Schneewind in Trusting Readers include opportunities for studying student engagement as well as Classroom Indicators for Engagement. (link and here)

Engagement in Literacy Instruction 

Engagement is NOT about cutesy games, fancy fonts and big displays for visitors. Engagement is NOT about entertainment.  Engagement is NOT about compliance. Those issues were mentioned in 2015 and remain true in 2022.

What IS Engagement?

Four key factors were highlighted in our #G2Great conversation. 

Engagement IS:

  1. Play
  1. Curiosity and Enjoyment
  1. Deep Immersion
  1. Both Visible and Invisible

Engagement in Literacy Instruction Across the Day is a relevant topic in 2022. How this will be accomplished and what it needs to look like will best be constructed by the teachers in their own school buildings. Some important criteria include: maximizing time in meaningful, continuous text, teachers sharing their own authentic experiences, and teachers modeling engagement. The collaborative conversations around definitions of literacy, coupled with teachers’ experiences with examples of student engagement including modeling, will set the stage for increased literacy learning for ALL. A timeless topic that deserves to be revisited on a regular basis and must also include voices of students: Engagement in Literacy Instruction.

Whether you attended the #G2Great Blast from the Past chat or not, think about your current understanding of “engagement.” When are you most engaged? What does it look like? What does it sound like? How can you ensure those possibilities for your students or faculty? What will you do differently? How will you make sure that students have a voice? It’s 2022 and time to take a serious look at the engagement of the students in your care!

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