Strategies for Teaching Literacy in Middle School

Here are six different teaching strategies to differentiate and help students deepen their understanding about a topic. Rather, than take a test or write an essay, the strategies below allow for student choice, alternative assessment, and critical thinking.

Anchor Activities – Carol Ann Tomlinson states, “Learning is a process that never ends.”  And yet, there is always one or two students who complete the assignment in record time and are looking at you like, “What should I do now?”  Anchor activities are ongoing assignments that students can work on independently.  The purpose of an Anchor Activity is to provide meaningful work for students when they finish an assignment or project.  Anchor activities examples include, offering word searches, addition research online, or creative writing assignments.  I know teachers who offer a menu of anchor assignments for each unit of study and when students complete two or more anchor assignments, they get additional points towards their unit grade.

Think-Tac-Toe – Also know as Menu Boards or 2-5-8 Projects, Think-Tac-Toe offer a variety of project choices to students.  Students do not complete one project, but have to complete three projects of their choice.  Sometimes, all students complete one of the same projects, like a unit test, and then can complete two projects based on the topic or type of assignment.  I have seen Think-Tac-Toe Boards created around Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence and others that are geared towards Bloom’s Taxonomy of Higher Level Thinking. Key with this strategy is choice and variety of different products.

RAFT– This writing to learn activity (created by Santa,1988) encourages creative thinking and motivates students to reflect in unusual ways about concepts they have read. RAFT is an acronym that stands for:

   · Role of the writer: What is the writer’s role: reporter, observer, eyewitness, object, number, etc.?

   · Audience: Who will be reading the writing: the teacher, other students, a parent, editor, people in the community, etc.?

   · Format: What is the best way to present this writing: in a letter, an article, a report, a poem, an advertisement, e-mail, etc.?

   · Topic: Who or what is the subject of this writing: a famous scientist, a prehistoric cave dweller, a character from literature, a chemical element or physical object, etc.?

Students choose one from the role, audience, format, and topic to demonstrate their understanding of a topic.

6 Thinking Hats –  The notion of six thinking hats comes from Edward De Bono (1985).  There are six metaphorical hats and each defines a certain type of thinking. You can put on or take off one of these hats to indicate the type of thinking you are using. The is a helpful tool for small group discussions.

Structured Controversy – Similar to a debate, a structured controversy looks are two opposing view points of a topic (perfect in a social studies classroom).  Teachers provide the documents to help students develop evidence to support a particular side of the argument. Students then participate in a controlled debate on the argument at hand.

Thinking Dots– Each student is given a set of activity cards on a ring, a die, and an activity sheet.  Each student rolls the die and completes the activity on the card that corresponds to the dots thrown on the die (that is, if a student rolls a “three,”she then finds the card with three dots on it and completes the activity written on that card). This is a fun way to do mystery questions and offer students different way to answer questions because they don’t know what they will have to answer.  Here is one example with literary devices I found online.


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