“One of our school goals has been to increase academic literacy and discourse. With the help of the Success Foundation Grant, over 100 students have benefited from the purchase of 10 voice recorders and 10 headphone splitters bringing them closer to reaching these goals. This endeavor started with the identification of content vocabulary referred to as Tier 3 and high frequency grade level academic words referred to as Tier 2. These Tier 2 & 3 words are posted on the classroom wall as a reference during activities with Tier 3 terms evolving throughout the course. Students have been using these tools to record their discourse, presentations and then listen to their conversations prior to presenting, recording a video, or writing. When listening they provide each other with constructive criticism and identify their use of Tier 2 and 3 terms as well as words that could be improved (synonyms).When students began to listen to their conversations, they began to constructively criticize their own responses. Statements like “I can’t believe I sound like that” or “well what I meant to say was.” Something to remember is that we are our own toughest critic.
Students’ literacy increased over time as they are able to talk about a concept multiple times, reflect, receive feedback, and continue to practice prior to writing short responses to prompts or presenting. Furthermore, students’ confidence and speaking skills have improved. Early in the school year, several students were uncomfortable engaging in conversation but by providing a safe environment with sentence starters and a list of Tier vocabulary, students feel more comfortable engaging in academic literacy and discourse.
The voice recorders and headphone splitters have multiple other uses such as recording directions or explanations that help students upon returning from an absence or requesting additional help. When a student was working on her Caring for Our Watershed proposal for example, we met had a discussion and recorded our conversation so that she could take it with her for reference as she continued to work on her proposal. Students have requested to check out the voice recorders, for example, a student was studying the chirps of grasshoppers and was able to record the chirps and count them as part of the data. Furthermore, as students prepared for the Long’s Peak Science and Engineering Fair they played the role of judges and participants. After recording their presentation and responses to the judge’s questions, students reflected on their performance. In the words of a student “we use voice recorders to help us practice, doing this allows us to hear ourselves and see what vocabulary we need to change and what we are doing well. With the science fair occurring soon, these strategies made sure I was ready to present my project to the judges with confidence.” Students’ academic writing as displayed on their science fair boards was of quality and included multiple Tier 2 and 3 terms related to their category of study. Needless to say, students did phenomenally at the fair, they brought home 61 awards and 10 students advanced to state.
I truly believe this implementation has proven to be an effective strategy because students are able to acknowledge areas in need of improvement and problem-solve to make appropriate use of terms in future opportunities. This type of strategic approach can be implemented at various grade levels and subject areas. Honestly, it has been an amazing journey hearing students’ vocabulary grow over the course of the past months. All that students needed was to let their voice be heard!”
Dr. Yajaira Fuentes-Tauber, Teacher, Northridge High School