Opinion
Classroom Technology Opinion

Literacy Design Collaborative Boosts Student and Teacher Learning

By Tom Vander Ark — January 25, 2016 2 min read

When Arturo Garcia decided to teach while earning money to attend veterinary school, little did he know that nine years later he would still be teaching
and on his way to become one of the three literacy leaders at Cigarroa High School, the high school from which
he graduated. On the Mexican border three hours south of San Antonio, Cigarroa High serves about 1300 mostly Hispanic students in south Laredo.

By the time students reach high school, the assumption is that they can read and write. However, as Garcia assigned science reading and writing to his
students, he found that they often performed poorly at one or both.

Seeking better literacy results, principal Laura Flores introduced the the CHS staff to the Literacy Design Collaborative
(LDC) two years ago with implementation support from SREB.

LDC is an open library of literacy lessons. Each lesson is teacher-created, standards-based, and peer-reviewed. Core Tools is LDC’s collaborative lesson
authoring environment.

Garcia’s first LDC training resulted in questions--the design-based work was different than most professional development he had experienced. He struggled
through module design and didn’t have enough time in the school year to implement it.

The first time he taught an LDC module he skipped key steps on the instructional ladder, again, due to limited time and it showed in student work product.
Garcia learned that both reading and writing must be taught, not just assigned, following a process for learning, and the emphasis on content must be
shared with an equal if not greater emphasis on thinking through reading and writing.

As Garcia began to implement LDC in his classroom, he found that LDC had a positive effect on his students, “By improving their literacy skills, the
students will be able to comprehend the content much better. This in turn will be of great benefit for performance in state assessment as well as for
college readiness.”

Garcia also observed that student learning is multi-faceted, and student engagement and motivation have a direct impact on student learning.

With LDC Garcia has also made discoveries about his own teaching. It turns out that designing engaging standards-based learning experiences is a powerful
professional learning experience. Garcia has become a facilitator of learning with LDC, extending his leadership skills not to his peers.

With LDC tools and SREB’s approach to professional development, Garcia will continue to co-lead school-wide literacy efforts at CHS.

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