My Active Literacy Project
“In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, man can attain perfection” – Plato
Last year our provincial leadership put in place an Education Sector Plan that set goals/targets for the year 2020. Within this sector plan the Hoshins were established. For those of you that do not know what a Hoshin is, simply put, it is a plan of action. Plan – Do – Act – Check. As our provincial leadership created goals and targets, each school division and school within the province set targets based on the Hoshins. The main Hoshins that we are focusing on in the next few years are; 1) increase First Nation & Metis graduation rates, and 2) implement a reading initiative at the grade 3 level. When I heard about the Hoshins and the Education Sector Plan at a staff meeting last Spring, I had a few thoughts running through my head, “What can I do, as a Physical Education teacher to support my students in these provincial goals”, and “How can I use Physical Education and Physical Activity to reach these goals?”. As a result, my research and plan of action began.
This Summer I read two amazing books; SPARK by John Ratey and Brain Rules by John Medina. If you have not had a chance to read these books, I strongly recommend it. Also, if you love giving presents to your staff and admin, both books would be a great gift! I learned a few important messages from SPARK and Brain Rules:
- In order for your brain to function at its best, your body needs to move.
- There is a biological relationship between the body, the brain, and the mind.
- Exercise improves learning on three levels (SPARK, 53)
- improves alertness, attention and motivation;
- allows nerve cells to bind to one another, which improves the ability to process new information;
- new nerve cells are developed from stem cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus plays a big role in forming memories which supports learning.
Why are these messages important to me? I have become more and more interested in the neuroscience of learning and I strongly believe that this information is key to my current research. This information shows me the benefits of movement on the body and the brain, and will be an important data piece when working through my project.
When the PEPLC project began, Joe McCarthy (@JoeMcCarthy09), and I started talking about how we were going to try to lead and facilitate our North American teams. I remember Joe telling me about the ZERO Hour program in Naperville and the book SPARK, and how they shaped his elementary LitPE and MathPE programs. I never thought much of it, as my focus that year was on Sportfolios and integrating tech into my classroom.
After the spring staff meeting and discussion of the Education Sector Plan, I knew I had to contact Joe once again.
Joe and I had a great Google Hangout and he explained his program to me once again – this time I was taking notes. From here the Active Literacy Project was born. Now I cannot take credit for the idea of this project (I just came up with the name). That credit goes to Joe, and his LitPE and MathPE programs. I am trying to model my approach and program similar to his.
The following statements are excerpts from Joe about his program:
Literacy Physical Education (LitPE) – Program designed to help students who are below grade level in reading, based on the state assessment.
- The program introduces comprehension, fluency, and spelling into movement activities.
- Data shows that students in the LitPE program have more than doubled their peers on the state assessment and up to 5 times the national average.
Literacy Physical Education is a program designed to help a specific grade level that is behind, based on the statewide reading assessment to each grade level standards. Our data shows that students who are in our 12 week class will more than double their peers and up to five the national average on the winter assessment. Students come to the gym every day, fifteen minutes for 12 weeks. Every class embeds fluency, comprehension and spelling into movement activities. Students in this class learn how to combat “learned helplessness” by the end of the 12 weeks. Students will use whiteboards, markers and towels as their learning tools. Paper and pencil is another option to use.
Learn more about Joe’s research on his school webpage.
My Active Literacy Project is an action research based project that will support elementary students who are below grade level in reading. I chose this Hoshin for my focus as this is where our students need the support. I feel it is my responsibility as an educator to support my students in their learning with programs that help them become successful. Based on the research, implementing movement into a program will improve alertness, attention and motivation for the students. This will provide the support for our students to learn. I was inspired to create the Active Literacy Project to create an environment where every child is successful in their learning, and as I know from research, these children will experience success through movement activity.
Here is what my program is going to look like…
It will be a 10 – 12 week program starting at the end of September (timeline details have yet to be hashed out). There will be pre-assessments and post-assessments completed to track where my students are at and their progress. We will use a variety of assessment tools to collect this data: RAD (Reading Assessment District), DLR (Diagnostic Leveled Reading) and Students’ Achieve data (report cards). The Active Literacy Program will run for 15 minutes everyday prior to the start of school (8:40-8:55am). The students will be participating in movement activities while focusing on reading, writing, spelling and comprehension. The Saskatchewan curriculum will be implemented into this program in the form of spelling words, grade level literature and more. I will be working with classroom teachers to discuss what they are teaching and build it into program.
I am very fortunate to have a principal who supports this project. After the Spring meeting, I gathered some data and went to his office ready to sell my idea. Immediately, without hesitation he approved the program – I didn’t even have to convince him!
Short/Long Term Goals
The Active Literacy Project will run from October to December. At the end of the program my goal is to present the data to my staff to show the growth and success of the students. The data will help me show that to have your brain function at its best, your body needs to move. My hope is that this will lead to implementing more movement into the classrooms to support our children in becoming successful learners. Based on the success the students will have in this 15 minute program, imagine the success in each hour long class if we can implement movement activities as a way of learning (This idea will evolve into its own blog series later on).
As we get into the project, I will invite my superintendents and director to visit our school to experience it in action. Within the next few weeks I will write a letter to our provincial leaders to come observe the Active Literacy Project. They will see how we are supporting our students to reach our provincial, division and school goals/targets by using movement activity as a key component in successful learning.
As Physical Educators we know that Physical Education and Physical Activity increase the focus to learn. This fact has been proven countless times in books, presentations, lectures, and in our own experiences. As Educators, we can take on leadership roles regarding provincial (e.g. state) initiatives. We cannot change the initiatives that are chosen, but we can show that Physical Education and Physical Activity can play an important role in addressing the problems the initiatives are created to tackle.
Do you have advice for me as I start my Active Literacy Project? Have you done a similar program in your school? I would love to hear about your experience in the comment section below!