WriteReader: Flipping the Script on Literacy

There’s been a lot of research on literacy. Study after study about what to teach and when to teach it and, after that’s resolved, how to teach it. It seems like we’re honing in on the content aspects and developing a better understanding that the what/how axis isn’t as important as the “how.” That is, our pedagogy for developing literacy skills in children is of paramount importance. There are any number of startups seeking to provide the resources to support early literacy efforts, but not many are willing to step back and reframe the entire question.

WriteReader, a popular Danish application, has made the jump across the pond and is seeking to change how Americans think about the process of learning to read and write. Namely, they think that perhaps the best way to learn how to read is by writing. It may seem like an odd concept at first, but their research (completed by researchers who worked for the Danish Department of Education) showed dramatic, impressive results.

By allowing young learners an informal learning environment where they are free to experiment with the written language based on their knowledge of the spoken language, students gain confidence and exposure to the world around them and the ways they are processing it. This goes beyond test scores and multiple-choice and instead focuses on something that many educators believe has been stripped out of education: play for learning.

The way WriteReader uses this is by giving students a place to write and means for honing and perfecting their writing. Students can learn to read by writing a book. This kind of experimentation and expression has been shown to facilitate the kinds of language construction and learning gains that have been sorely missing from some learning environments.

There’s a lot of talk these days about makerspaces and students being in charge of their learning and the freedom to fail. We’re increasingly aware of the need for students to be content creators and not just content consumers. So, the only question that remains for our youngest learners?

What are your students going to write about today?

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Greg Garner

Greg Garner is a Digital Innovation Coach for the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation in Raleigh, NC. While much of his work is focused on leadership and capacity building, Greg cares deeply about kids' education and is relentless in doing everything he can to improve their learning opportunities. He is passionate about pedagogy, innovation, and technology. Connect with him on Twitter: @classroom_tech.

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