What Makes 5th-Graders Dig Deeply into Texts?

An information and technology literacy specialist shares how a combination of digital and print resources helped him and his students.

By Josh Jackson

Fifth-graders can sometimes have a hard time discussing and reflecting on text-heavy content lessons. Last year, two of our 5th-grade classes were EL clusters. More than a dozen students were English language learners and had difficulty with text comprehension. There were also 10 students with various learning disabilities who required differentiated instruction to facilitate learning.

To help these students learn in a low-anxiety environment, last December my K–5 Media classes started exploring the beta version of Capstone’s 1:1 literacy solution. As part of this exploration, I partnered with the 5th-grade teachers to pilot the pre-built lessons available from pivotEd, too.

pivotEd provides a slick solution for 1:1 schools like ours to help students break out important aspects of text, reflect using a variety of mediums, and embed visual clues to help the learning process. Themes of the lessons we used included Explorers, Communities Around the World, Forces of Nature, and Electricity.

pivotEd’s combination of digital and print resources gave me a variety of options at my fingertips so I could scaffold the material as I saw fit for my students. It also allowed me to quickly check for understanding through digital means, and follow up with any lingering questions by looking through the archived responses.

Other teachers also reported to me that they used the pivotEd lessons to introduce a variety of topics. One teacher noted that the program would be great to use with stations, especially with the higher-achieving students. She wanted to set them up independently in the program and have them work together with like-achieving peers.

Students really latched onto pivotEd. While using the program, students who tended to be quiet in class were able to reflect and collaborate much more with peers via digital means than they would have otherwise. All of my students were also able to transition the knowledge they learned in the 1:1 environment to hands-on activities in the class—pivotEd transitioned nicely into our FOSS Science Kits. With print and digital resources tied to hands-on work, the content stuck—that’s a big worry of some teachers.

When the new school year starts in the fall, I look forward to continuing our exploration and supporting the classroom teachers in whatever content and methodology they choose to best fit the needs of their students.

Josh Jackson is a K-5 information and technology literacy specialist and the STAR summer program coordinator at North Trail Elementary in Farmington, Minnesota.

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