In my last blog post I said I’d be back to share my favorite instructional strategies that I’ve found to work for my students. I discussed how, with the shift to Common Core, some teachers feel the pressure to find the perfect curriculum. There isn’t one. However, several years ago I spent a week and a half going to trainings on Guided Language Acquisition Design, better known as GLAD. This experience changed how I teach, giving me the power to integrate any content with language. Have you heard the phrase, “we’re all reading teachers?” The integration of literacy skills and content is a big emphasis of CCSS.
GLAD isn’t something you can buy and put on a shelf. GLAD is a model of best instructional practices that have been melded together to create a process that is effective in teaching content, language and literacy skills to students of all ages. It’s based on years of brain research. Not a single strategy could be considered ‘boring.’ No one person or company created GLAD, but Marcia Brechtel is a leader of the project. If, as you read, you become more interested, I’d highly suggest reading her book Bringing It All Together. It’s an easy read that will really outline some of the strategies for you.
In my 4th grade classroom, we study explorers, specifically Lewis and Clark. Now, I could bring out the text book, read the pages, and assign the comprehension questions at the end. However, we all know this is ineffective instruction for all kids if we’re trying to meet CCSS. Additionally, how disengaged do you think ten year olds would be by this process?
In my experience being GLAD-trained, I remember thinking, “I do this. I do this, too.” Then it hit me – I don’t do all of these strategies in sequence as intended. My district is phenomenal in the fact that it supports GLAD and provides our building with a part-time GLAD coach. After taking my Lewis and Clark unit to her, she was able to help my teammates and I revamp it so that it would meet the language goals of our ELLs and the content goals of ALL students.
I started taking the text apart and presenting it in meaningful ways to students. The students were part of the learning process, using academic vocabulary with me. The content was broken into chunks that were presented graphically, then in written form. We did a variation of jigsaw reading, where each group member became an expert in one area of content (in this case regions Lewis and Clark explored). Our reading groups dissected complex text, both for language and comprehension. We incorporated chants, whole body movements, and engaging classroom management techniques. I modeled writing both narrative and informational text for the students. For each instructional activity, students did the same thing in teams, and then independently so that they never got to the independent part without being ready and confident.
The unit that I teach about Lewis and Clark results ALL students being able to, independently, read grade-level texts and write an expository essay summarizing Lewis and Clark’s journey, discussing the importance of exploration, and analyzing the effects the journey had on the Pacific Northwest. They can also draw a map of the excursion and give a speech to their peers about their work. Here is what I find most interesting. I learned about GLAD much before CCSS was adopted in Washington State. Project GLAD boasts, “30 years of data and personal testimony to its effectiveness,” on its website. Common Core hasn’t been around anywhere near 30 years. However for 4th graders, this hits many of the CCSS, but leads to quite masterful work under these two:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.9 – Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgably.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.2 – Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
I didn’t have to change a thing (well besides those tweaks teachers are always making to improve their practice) to align my unit to CCSS. The nature of these strategies already had my students performing at these high standards.
It’s impossible for me to describe each strategy to you in depth in one blog post. If you’re reading and wondering, “How can I get my hands on this NOW?” here are a few resources that you might find useful. In fact, there are many districts out there that are posting entire units and all of the instructional materials they’re creating for free!
- Spokane Public Schools has units already written.
- GLAD Resource Book describes each strategy and gives pictures!
- Upland Unified School District hosts videos on their site of teachers using GLAD strategies.
I encourage you to look into these strategies more and give some a try. Using GLAD strategies has helped my students access grade-level content knowledge, demonstrate mastery of ELA CCSS, and enjoy being the classroom (I mean really enjoy it!). While I find the most impressive parts of GLAD to be the writing activities towards the end of a unit, each instructional strategy is effective on its own, so find what might work for you and give something a try. You’ll be GLAD you did!
I grew up here in Western Washington, wanting to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. As the oldest child in my family, I had plenty of opportunities to "practice" teaching my younger siblings. I enjoyed this. They may not have. :) When I'm not working, I enjoy outdoor activities with my husband and our two Australian Shepherds (whom are far too spoiled for their own good!). I also love spending time with my family, being an auntie (to the cutest kids ever to grace this planet!), hosting dinner parties for friends, crafting, taking photographs and shopping.