Global Literacy Community Grants from Worlds of Words

By Readingintheborderlands

FYI–I got this in my email last week. This is a wonderful opportunity!

Global Literacy Community Grants for September 2012- May/June 2013

Worlds of Words is excited to announce the availability of $1000 grants for literacy communities to explore the use of global literature to build international understanding. Global literature provides an opportunity for teachers and students to explore understandings about global cultures that go beyond surface information to explore the values and ways of living within those cultures. The current public interest in global education creates a potential space for innovation within K-12 classrooms.  Engaging in that innovation within a professional community provides support and challenge through dialogue and shared explorations. The funding for these grants was made possible by the Longview Foundation for Education in World Affairs and International Understanding

Due:  August 15, 2012

Send your proposals to and

Wonderful iPad Apps

This semester students in READ 6306 each wrote a course-related post for this blog.

By I. Martinez

In this blog piece, I chose to write about iPad apps that can be used by secondary school teachers and their students. Many of the apps are free, some are free with the option to purchase an enhanced version, and some are for a nominal fee. I have also included apps that can be used in social studies and science because of the integration of writing in those subject areas. All in all, I think you will be impressed with how powerful the iPad is in the educational arena.

 99 Words-The 99 Words app uses a carefree method of introducing book writing. This application allows students to join another author to write a book until 10 chapters are completed. Two students can pair up to write a story with this app, or students can write stories with an unknown author who already has an existing story in the making. Oh, and by the way, that’s not my coffee mark, that’s actually how the settings page looks!



Notability-This is a fantastic app that helps students in the preparation of writing. This app allows you to create your own notes or import a PDF and annotate it. You have the option of using handwriting, typing, importing pictures, and recording.

As a teacher, I can receive my students’ papers by email in PDF format, import them into Notability, and write directly on their PDF papers all of my corrections, comments, and suggestions. I can also record a reminder, or encouragement within it, then email it back to the student. I will no longer have to wait until I am face-to-face with a student to explain my notes. Likewise, students don’t have to wait in class until I have time to speak with them about their papers. And I don’t feel like I’m doing twice the work-first by reviewing and grading and second, by conferencing, which can now be done with audio recording on the paper. When I email it back to the student, I have an option of emailing back the annotated PDF as paper only or paper and audio.

Lists for Writers/Storyteller: These are simplistic apps that help the student to brainstorm all the constituent parts of a story. These apps supply ideas on character attributes, the setting, and the plot to help students decide on the focus of their literary piece. If the students do not have access to an iPad, the teacher can simply project the screens with the Eiki and a $40.00 connector. The students can then view the different ideas for character, setting, and plot creation, then brainstorm amongst themselves.

TitleHelper, Character Prompts &  A+Writing Prompts: These apps can be utilized by both teacher and student. These apps will help students who need additional help in coming up with ideas, or just knowing how to start. TitleHelper helps to generate possible titles give a list of “patterns”, and Character Prompts leads students through the different attributes of a potential character. And from both a teacher and a student perspective, these prompts are not boring, for example, a writing prompt can be something like this: A love triangle between an elf, a wizard and a human change the world.

Dragon Dictation & Speak it! : These apps are wonderful for students with special needs, or teachers with tired eyes. Speak it! is also a good app in that whatever you paste onto its desktop will be read back to you. This of course paired with a set of headphones could help students with visual impairments. Teachers could also download free copies of ebooks, Gutenberg selections, or any text that is copyright free into Speak it! and students with visual impairments can listen to the automated voice read back. Unfortunately, the text itself cannot be enlarged within this program. My search for both reading text and enlarging text thus far has been unsuccessful. Dragon Dictation allows students to dictate onto it as it creates a written text that can then be emailed to the teacher; however the student must have good enunciation or the teacher will receive students’ work that is unintelligible. Otherwise, this is a great app to use with students who have dexterity problems.

SimpleMinds, iThoughts HD & Idea Sketch: These apps can be used as both a study aid or a writing aid. They allow students to create graphic organizers for a variety of purposes. SimpleMinds and Idea Sketch are the simplest giving the students quick maneuverability of the process, but iThoughts, though more complicated, allows for the importing of images into the graphic organizer, the pasting of text, and also allows for two separate unrelated concepts within a single web. This could help in teaching compare and contrast of two or more story plots, or compare and contrast of two or more characters and their attributes, etc.

myMemoir: This app uses multiple journals to allow the budding writer to add text, photos, and video to personalized journals and publish them with ePub, and it is also an open eBook standard, meaning it can be opened by any eBook reader.



 MoodWorks Creative Writing: I am really excited about this app. This application was developed by a teacher from Humboldt State University who is also an international poet and workshop leader. The app takes students through interesting practice exercises daily. For example, for teaching dialogue, this app will list several practice dialogue options such as: a teenage girl telling her mom that she is pregnant, or someone trying to talk their way out of a speeding ticket, or two thieves planning out how to rob a house, etc. The students are instructed to practice writing a dialogue and then share it with a partner to discover if their dialogues sound natural, if they make sense, and if they are interesting. I really believe this app to be a must-have for any writing teacher.

 ScriptsPro and Elite Prompter: These apps work in tandem. The Scripts Pro app allows students to write their play in screen play format with each character’s lines while the Elite Prompter is a teleprompter that will display the character’s lines in enlarged text. Teachers can also use this in conjunction with an Eiki to enlarge text further.

Blog docs: This app allows the entire class or an individual student to post text as a blog HTML along with added images, handwriting, and multiple partner signatures. This app allows you to draw on top of images and also incorporates splashes of text colors.

Writer’s Studio: This app allows for writing, drawing, painting, importing of images that you can scale and rotate, and audio for narration or character dialogue. After completing a literary piece, it can be viewed on Apple TV via airplay, it can be published instantly on YouTube or emailed  as a .mov file. This would be a great app to motivate an entire class to write a class mini book and then have it published on YouTube, and it can also be sent to parents via airplay or email.


Khan Academy: This app allows viewers quick access over 1000 instructional videos. Most of the videos are involving mathematics, but some are on art history.

Educreations:  This app works as a recordable whiteboard for your very own lesson creations. If you wish to share your lesson(s) with the rest of the world, you can do so on the app, or upload it to Facebook, embed it into your blog, your website, or email it.

Before beginning a series of tutorial lessons, you may want to open a teacher account and log your students onto that account. This action makes your lessons private and it also allows for any published student work to be available for review online. Also, the lessons that are public have been neatly organized by subject area.

SparkNotes: Yes, it’s wonderful. It has literature, Shakespeare, poetry, philosophy, drama and short stories.






NatGeoToday: This app is from the National Geographic Today. It features beautiful pictures, information and videos which can all be used to assist students in finding interesting research topics for social studies.

Assessment Binder

This semester students in READ 6306 wrote a course-related post for our blog.

By Selia

An endeavor that I have undertaken this semester has been to create a way to authentically assess my students. The purpose of this assessment would be to analyze the data collected and use it to help develop a plan of intervention for the child.  I know that it seems like a daunting task but it is something that I need to do to ensure that my students reach their fullest potential.  The reason that I have chosen to incorporate the use of authentic assessment in my classroom is because I feel that the weekly tests that I give my students are not showing me a true picture of what my students have learned or what they need more help with.  I hope that through the use of different authentic assessment methods that I will be able to gain a better understanding of the strategies that my struggling students have and which ones they need help with.

I plan on taking anecdotal notes of my students, administering running records, and using miscue analysis forms to assess my students’ strengths and weaknesses.  All of this will be done by kidwatching.  This idea was taken from Gretchen Owoki and Yetta Goodman’s Kidwatching. 

To keep my data at hand and organized, I created a binder that I will call my “Pensieve.” I will use this binder to keep track of the data that I am collecting on my students.  This idea was taken from Gail Boushey and Joan Moser’s The CAFÉ Book.  The binder is separated into two parts. The first part will be the “teacher” section and the second will be the “student” section.  The teacher section will have blank calendars and checklists to plan what assessment is to be used on a given day and a way to track which students have already been assessed.   The student section will have divider for each student and all of the data collected on that student will be in that location.  This will make it easier when it comes time to analyze the data because I will not have to waste time looking for the notes that I took. Some of the data that will be in the student section of the “Pensieve” will be: anecdotal notes, a reading interview, and a reading checklist. I know and accept that my “Pensieve” will undoubtedly change throughout the school year. I think that this will be a positive change because I cannot expect to do the same thing over and over if I expect to get different results.

I have begun to implement some of the ideas that I have learned about in my classroom and I like the results that I am seeing.  I will not lie, it takes time and practice but it is definitely worth the extra effort. I am confident that if I take the time to implement the plan that I have created that I will be successful in helping my students more than I ever have before. I don’t expect to be successful on the first try but I do know that I will be successful.

Both of the books that I used for ideas are invaluable tools for using authentic assessment in the classroom.

Fun and Interactive Learning Through Read Alouds in a Bilingual Classroom

This semester students in READ 6306 each wrote a course-related post for this blog.

 By Gracia T. Garcia

The benefits of reading to children have been extensively researched in both home and school settings.  Research results constantly show that reading to children in their preschool years help them to become readers themselves (Parkes, 2000).  Joe Hayes offers us a wonderful tool that can be used to engage students during read aloud.  This book offers nine great stories: Rain, Válgame Dios!, One Day, One Night, Sky Pushing Poles, Yellow Corn Girl, The Earth Monster, Yellow Behind the Ears, and The Cricket.  These are all stories from the southwestern United States culture.  Studies have shown that storytelling may be an important step for developing English competence.  This book provides teachers with a great tool that could be used for telling stories to their students as it offers multiple pictures that can be used to see what body language and facial gestures could be used during reading or storytelling.  As a read aloud this book helps the teacher by providing the opportunity to demonstrate what good readers do as they read.  Students can easily pick up fluency by reading these stories since they are repetitive and they add on.  At first, students see the intonation that the teacher uses as the story is read according to the situation.  The pacing changes as the teacher reads and makes pauses in comas or stops at other punctuations marks. 

Joe Hayes offers these stories in a way that all students can take part in the telling as they are read.  Side notes explain how Hayes gets the students involved and lets them add more as the story advances.  He does an amazing job of weaving English and Spanish together to tell these tales.  The use of both languages provides English Language Learners with the opportunities to make connections to their new language.  Later on, students can use the book for clarification on unknown vocabulary in English or Spanish.  This book also brings pride to Spanish students as they see how their language is valued as it is used during instruction time to help with fluency.  According to Pat Johnson, fluency is the grouping of words, the pacing changes the reader uses at different points of the story, the intonation, the rise and fall of the voice, the excitement of expression the reader brings to bear on the meaning of the text—all this was easily learned by students through a read aloud (Johnson, 2006).  “The first purpose of shared reading is to provide children with enjoyable reading experiences, to introduce them to a variety of authors and illustrators and the ways these communicators craft meaning, and to entice them to want to be readers themselves.  The second, equally important purpose is to teach children systematically and explicitly how to be readers and writers themselves” (Parkes, 2000). 

 Johnson, P. (2006). One child at a time: Making the most of your time with struggling readers, K-6. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers

Parks, B. (2000). Read it again!: Revisiting shared reading. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers

Achievement Gap

 This semester students in READ 6306 each wrote a course-related post for this blog.

By Isai Cabrera

The end of another academic school year is vastly approaching, and when I reflect on another year, I can’t help to wonder what gains my students achieved.  Did I do my part on closing the ever so widening Achievement Gap?  When I first stepped on campus of University of Texas-Pan American I was a passionate undergraduate ready to tackle the world.  I was keen on studying Mexican American Studies and was in the middle of my program.  Until I stepped into Professor Guerra’s class I was enjoying learning about La Raza, I finally realized what my calling I was destined for. What better way to impact young Mexican Americans than by actually trying to make a difference in their education?  When Dr. Guerra presented us with the statistics of Mexican American graduating from high school, 50 percent, and the number for graduating the University, 6 percent, I understood how I could make a difference.

The National Center for Education Statistics website describe the achievement gap as follows An achievement gap refers to the observed disparity on a number of educational measures between the performance of groups of students, especially groups defined by gender, race/ethnicity, ability, and socioeconomic status. The achievement gap can be observed on a variety of measures, including standardized test scores, grade point average, dropout rates, and college-enrollment and -completion rates. By definition this means that in the Valley the majority of Mexican American students fall or lag behind their counterpart in the classroom.  When I began my first year of teaching one of my heroes is my mentor, friend, and 1st principal Jeremy Beard, this man was the one responsible for making sure that I knew exactly what the achievement gap meant to our students. My principal made sure that all the staff understood the grim reality of what happens when we don’t educate our students.

In the article “The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools” by McKinsey & Company, Social Sector Office outlines the cost of our inaction or failure to close the achievement gap. If the U.S. had closed the achievement gap in recent years between those in better performing nations the Gross Domestic Product in 2008 could have been 1.3-2.3 trillion.  If the U.S. could have closed the gap between black and Latino student performance and white student performance the GDP in 2008 would have been 310-525 Billion higher.  Close the gap between low-income and higher income the GDP would have been 425-710 billion higher. That is a lot of money a lot of us could use right now.  Forget about banks and houses the impact of the achievement gap in the U.S. is the equivalent of a permanent national recession.  This demonstrates how we vital we as teachers must be and consider how we can do our part in closing the achievement gap.  Every teacher plays an indispensable role in our students’ academic journey.  I know that we fight the wave of anesthetize from administrators and the state of Texas that states we need to concentrate our full power, energy, and wealth of knowledge to a High Stakes Test.  As teachers, we need to make our classroom Literacy rich environment so that we set up our students’ future for success, so we can set up the Rio Grande Valley’s economy for success, so we can set up our country’s economy for success.

 When I look at the last year in my classroom, I know that a textbook being the center of my room was not the most ideal plan, even if that text book was Pre AP created-a prestigious curriculum.  I should have provided more novel based units, more short stories based weekly reading, more current event article based daily readings. I allowed the powers to be to oppress my knowledge of what a successful Literacy based classroom looks like, and I fell short of taking it upon myself be a more effective teacher.  I recommit myself to make it my goal to close the achievement gap, no matter what my administration forces me to do.  When I close my door to my classroom I am the one in charge.

Increasing Motivation to Read and Research at the End of the Year

This semester students in READ 6306 were required to contribute a blog post on a topic related to the course content.

By S. Schelstrate

A recent reading motivation study conducted in a Florida middle school by Kelley and Decker (2009) found that reading motivation declined with grade level.  Sixth graders were more motivated to read than seventh graders and seventh graders more motivated than eighth graders.  Researchers also noticed a difference in sex, as female students tended to view themselves as readers more often than male students.  The study postulated that lower standardized test scores seemed to correlate with lack of reading motivation; although, a full study into this trend was not completed.  In a similar study conducted by Mucherah and Yoder (2008) test scores and reading motivation were measured.  Researchers concluded that specific motivation characteristics, such as reading for social reasons or desire to read difficult material, did affect test scores.  Students who chose only to read socially (ex: with friends) were shown to have lower scores than those who preferred varied and complex stories (Mucherah & Yoder (2008).

As we wind towards the end of the year it becomes more and more difficult to get students interested in anything besides socializing and watching movies.  Their constant cries of “But the test is already over” drown out any pleas for following the curriculum and preparation for next year. It is even more complicated when the curriculum calls for having students write a research paper the last six weeks. However, there are ways to keep students motivated to learn and even to read without resorting to extrinsic motivation.  Here are some methods I have tried that have kept even the struggling readers engaged up until the last day of school:

1. Have students conduct research on a person of interest to them.  My one rule is that they must have at least one book about the person they pick (so that I can show them how to cite sources for both a book and database article).  This is where having a really diverse classroom library comes in handy.  You might also check books out from the public library and bring them into the classroom.

2. Have students perform research on scary stories, ghosts, or haunted houses.  I have an excellent book I use for this called Unexplained by Rupert Matthews.

3. Have students carry out research on their favorite poet.  Remind them that songs are poetry too!


4. Have students make a glogster or prezi (PowerPoints are also acceptable, but glogsters and prezis they can access and work on from home) on their topic and present it to the class. (;  I made an account under my name and have all the students use it which makes them very easy to grade)

 5. Have students use Moviemaker and develop a movie about their topic using the information they found in their research and present it to the class.

 These research projects can take anywhere from three to five weeks depending on access to labs and disruptions (field trips, awards ceremonies, etc.).  Because they tend to choose topics of interest to them many share the same desire to know more about the topic and pay attention; however during the presentations I have a rubric for each student to rate the others to ensure they respect each other and listen. 

I usually begin with the biography research as it is the easiest.  Once they get the hang of citing sources, taking notes, and writing an outline, then I move to either the scary stories or poetry research.  As an 8th grade teacher I can usually get in two of these research projects before the year ends.  The first I call practice—where I spend a lot of the time guiding them and the second is more of an individual project.  Using these ideas, even though it is the last few weeks of the school year, I have less discipline problems than other teachers, more students reading and even students staying after school to finish their projects!


Kelley, M., & Decker, E. (2009). The current state of motivation to read among middle school students. Reading Psychology, 30(5), 466-485.

Mucherah, W., & Yoder, A. (2008). Motivation for reading and middle school students’ performance on standardized testing in reading. Reading Psychology, 29(3), 214-235.









This semester students in READ 6306 were required to contribute a post that in some way related to the content of the course.

By Chris

Research has shown how important is it to incorporate real-life experiences with classroom activities for effective instruction.  There are various ways to help the literacy process along which involves using what children already know or are familiar with.  One way to accomplish this is by using environmental print.  Environmental print is the print and images that surround us and is found in our daily lives. 

At home print can be found on toy or game labels, on a favorite book, or cereal box.  Around the community it can be found in places where people shop such as fast food packaging material or a shopping bag.  At school, functional print, a type of environmental print, may be the sign for the office, the exits, or signs for the bathrooms.  It can also be found on traffic and community signs, food packages, logos, labels, billboards, clothing labels, and newspaper advertisements.  The list is almost endless.  It’s everywhere! 

Why Should I Use It?

Because environmental print includes symbols that create meaning, children have the ability to read print from the environment even before reading print in books.  Teachers should recognize that there are many types of literacy found in the home that students are exposed to such as receipts, comic books, bills, and pamphlets or brochures that are not normally seen at school.  Students might not be as familiar with school environmental print, perhaps the type needed to experience success, as with home environmental print and so students are missing out on making connections between home and their school experiences.  In response to a survey about a study involving teaching beginning reading skills with environmental print one teacher commented: “The students’ interest is there because the activities involve things that the students know and they are noticing the letters and sound are everywhere—not just at school.”  

Who Can Use it?

 Some people might think it is just for parents to use at home, or for pre-K and Kindergarten teachers but it can also be used with other grade levels.  Get creative with webs, diagrams, and graphs.

What Can I do with It?

There are many activities that can be used in the classroom which incorporate environmental print.  Students can bring in literacy artifacts (such as cereal boxes, movie guides, or personal cards) from home and present them to the class by demonstrating how they are read.  These are then displayed around the classroom.  Students can create a simple “All About Me” book with item brought in from home.  They can also use the print to make comparisons or find differences in print. 

Other activities:

  • Make an alphabet using letters found in the local community
  • Use the alphabet from the previous activity to create a book
  • Create a bulletin board of lists like: places we like to eat, things we like to eat, signs we can read
  • Use labels and logos to create graphs
  • Create Christmas or birthday wish list from newspaper/catalog cutouts
  • Create a graph using weather symbols

 To keep items organized, sort out environmental print in four ways: (a) by subject matter or themes (businesses, community), (b) by types (boxes or labels), (c) by literacy skill (color word examples), or (d) by a specific activity (travel, recipe books).  Keep in mind when using environmental print that some parents might be opposed to using or focusing on brand types such as Pokémon or other labels such as those from fast food restaurants.  

A good resource, Reading Is All Around Us: Using Environmental Print to Teach Beginning Literacy Skills, lists other activities.