X: A Fabulous Child’s Story – Literacy Skills Review

Whether you’ve arrived here as part of the larger Gender Representation Unit, or while searching for a strong short story to use with your students, X: A Fabulous Child’s Story by Lois Gould is perfect for your classroom.  A copy of the story can be purchased online or downloaded from The Gender Centre (currently the fourth link from the top at the time of posting).

 

What’s the Story About?

This is the story of a baby named X.  The game is raised Gender Neutral; the parents refuse to tell anyone the sex of the child.  While this causes problems for X when X goes to school, other children soon see the benefit in being more like X.  As, is often the case, it is the parents who worry.

While this story is a work of fiction, it connects to many real-life examples, some of which were inspired by this piece.

 

A Focus on Literacy Skills

This story will refresh student’s knowledge when it comes to writing Point Evidence Evaluation paragraphs.  It will also focus on the following Literacy Skills:

Inferring

Students will be asked to make and support inferences about the parents in the story, as well as the other community members.  They will be challenged to use the information presented to them in the text, as well as their own person knowledge, to make a strong educated guess about motivation.

Questioning

Students will identify question types, focusing on both Literal and Evaluative.  They will then have to write a response in P.E.E. format, explaining if they would want to raise a baby X of their own.

Summarizing

Students are offered limited room to summarize a large amount of information.  This will help demonstrate the need to only add specific details while avoiding all unnecessary information.

Visualizing

Students are asked to recreate a part of the story, paying attention to how all five senses are activated during that moment.  Students will create a stronger understanding of the characters when considering what taste they might be experiencing, and what sounds would stand out to them.

Connecting

Students will be asked to make Text to Text, Text to World, and Text to Self-connections with the story.  By doing so, they will work to create meaning, and develop a strong foundation for future discussions.

 

 

Related Articles

Parent’s Keep Child’s Gender Secret – Toronto Star, May 21, 2011

Baby Storm Five Years Later – Toronto Star, July 11, 2016

 

 

Downloads

X – A Fabulous Child’s Story – Literacy Skills – 2018.pdf

X: A Fabulous Child’s Story (from The Gender Centre) – Direct Link

Gender Lesson: The Gender Box

By confronting prejudices and allowing students to speak openly about their experiences, the foundation developed from from The Toy Box is strengthened with shared experiences and concepts. Students will look further into the gender normative roles they may feel they need to fulfill.

This lesson is part of a large mini-unit on Teaching Gender Representation in the Media.  It can be used as a stand alone piece, or part of a larger conversation.

Minds On

Display two images in your classroom.  One of a young boy, and the other of a young girl.  You are free to use the following two images, or search for your own.  Alternately, you can use my The Gender Box – Minds On Handout.

 

Ask students to make notes about the following:

  • Write two things you think each person enjoys playing with
  • Write two joys you think each person will be good at when they grow up
  • Write two words you’d use to describe each of the people

Ensure you do not lead your students to give gender normative responses to the props.  Be prepared to fully discuss their answers, making note of gender-normative ideas for a future discussion.

Debriefing the Minds On

Once students have had time to make their notes, they should pair up with a few elbow partners and compare notes.  They should highlight similarities they share with their partners.  Next, partners should attempt to find an overlap between how they described the male character, and how they described the female character.

Allow students an opportunity to share their responses with the entire class, and take note of any commonality or different opinions that are raised.  You will want to return to those when you debrief the lesson’s focus.

 

Focus

During the Minds On part of the lesson, students probably raised a few gender-normative ideas, be in in the toys they are assumed to like, the jobs they were assumed to excel at, or the words used to describe the individuals.

Dividing the Class

Now, divide your class into groups.  You may choose to divide the class randomly or break them up so students are equally distributed by gender.  It is also possible that you might want to divide the class in half by gender for this activity.  How you split your class can change the dynamics of the lesson.

Once you have two large groups, they will each need a space in the room to congregate.  Should you have an exceptionally large class, you may want to create three or four groups.

Thinking in Groups

In their new groups, students should be instructed to divide a sheet of paper in half.  One half of the chart will represent males, and the other half will represent females.  You are, of course, free to use my Gender Box Handout instead.

On the male side, students should write everything they think males like.  On the female side, students should write everything they think females like.  You should allow students five minutes to fill out their chart.  Telling students that there will be a prize (be it a pencil, a sticker, or simply bragging rights) for the students in the group that has the most words on their chart is often a great way to motivate them.

During this time, students will often talk about what they are writing down, and this can cause conflict.  Advise students to keep writing, and that the more they talk, the less they’ll get down.  Also, advise them that they’re giving their peers more ideas which will detract from their chance of winning the prize.

After five minutes pass, tell them to share their ideas with the group.  If someone says the same word (or a similar word) as what they have on their sheet, they should circle it.

This sharing will take some time, and – again – there will be conflict as students disagree with each other.  Constructive conflict can be an excellent learning tool.  Ensure that students are not belittled or demeaned for their ideas.  Explain that while everyone may not disagree, all ideas are valid at this stage.

A Public Record

Your two large groups should now be invited to areas where they can write lists in big letters.  If you have two chalkboards, this is a perfect place to direct them.  Large chart paper can also be used.  Each group may require two sheets.

On the public record, students will recreate their Male and Female charts, writing down every circled word their group members have come up with.  If at least two people thought it made sense to have a word under male, it should be added to the male side of the public record; the same should be done for the female side.

You are free to allow each group to add up to five more words they think belong, even though two or more people didn’t write them.

Taking Control of the Conversation

Once students have created their Male and Female public records, they should return to their seats.  At this point, you should look at the two public records, and circle the words that appear on both male lists and the words that appear of both female lists.

Next, place a star beside any circled words on the male side that also appear on the female side.

You can start your discussion by talking about why the starred words appear on both sides.  See if there’s a common thread that links them together.  Normally there will be very few starred words.  Highlight the idea that if so few words appear between the two lists, then we must have very different ideas of what it means to be male, and what it means to be female.

At this point, you can talk about how these ideas are often with us from birth.

Use this opportunity to connect the words on the board, to the thoughts students had about the two children from the Minds On discussion.  This will show that he allow these ideas to influence our ideas of people regardless of their age.

Grouping the Terms

There are often a number of different types of words on the board.  You can group them into the following sections (or create your own).

  • Clothing (Skirts vs. Cargo Shorts)
  • Acceptable Relationship Partners (Boys vs. Girls)
  • Activities (Hiking vs. Cooking)
  • Chores (Garbage vs. Laundry)
  • Types of Media (Violence vs. Fantasy)

You may also find that sexual content appears on these lists.  Often the male list will list pornography, sex, or specific body parts.  Rarely do these things appear on the female list.

Be sure to highlight the different ideas students have when it comes to all of these categories.  Feel free to have a brief discussion about where they got their ideas, and how they know that males are supposed to like one thing, while females are supposed to like the other.

Bringing Disagreement Forward

Now is the time a number of students will have been waiting for.  Allow them to point out the words that they think should absolutely NOT be under the male or female headings.

Students will have an opportunity to share their ideas with each other, and debate whether the categorization is right or wrong.  This is often the part of the discussion when sexual content is challenged, with some students claiming that those things should be under both categories, while others claim they shouldn’t be under either.

As the teacher, it’s your job to moderate this discussion and allow that all voices are respected.

Once this discussion has run its course students should be asked to further think about where their ideas of gender norms came from.

 

Consolidation

Students should take a scrap of paper to use as an Exit Slip.  These slips will be collected by you as they leave the classroom.  On the slip of paper they should write at least one sentence explaining how the following four things can influence, and enforce gender norms:

  • Television / Video Media
  • Magazines / Print Media
  • Parents / Friends
  • Religion / Culture

You may also wish to use my Gender Box Exit Slip for this part of the assignment.

 

Intersectionality

While Intersectionality should not be ignored, it is something best discussed once a strong foundation already exists.  There are a wealth of articles available to delve into at The Mary Sue; they can help lead future discussions.

If you feel your students have the necessary foundation to understand intersectional feminism, you can use my Slightly Modified Gender Box Handout.  The one difference is the column to the side.

While they fill out the main box the same as described above, they should be challenged to come up with another label relating to either:

  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Race
  • Ability (Physical / Mental)
  • Sexuality
  • Gender (Cis vs Trans)
  • Religion
  • Socio-Economic Status

In the side box, students will fill out words that describe someone who would be identified as both the box’s gender, as well as the newly assigned label.  Students may wish to use a label they identify with, as an opportunity to express their own ideas or frustrations.

You may wish to specify a label, or category for the entire class to look at, or you may wish to ensure each large group has representation from all eight of the above categories.

 

Next Steps

After learning about The Gender Box students will have a strong foundation for discussing X: A Fabulous Child’s Story – Literacy Skills Assignment.  This story will be used to assess a number of literacy skills while reinforcing and growing concepts discussed in both The Gender Box and The Toy Box.

Or, you may wish to move on to the next lesson, The Past is Present, which examines gender messaging in both contemporary and historical advertisements.

Downloads

Gender Box – Minds On.pdf

Gender Box – Handout 1.pdf

Gender Box – Handout 2.pdf

Gender Box – Exit Slip.pdf

 


PART 1: Gender Representation in the Media

PART 2: Lesson – The Toy Box

PART 3: Lesson – The Gender Box

PART 4: Lesson – The Past is Present – Part 1

PART 5: Lesson – The Past is Present – Part 2

PART 6: Lesson – Annotating Texts

PART 7: Lesson – Gender R.A.F.T.

PART 8: Lesson – Reshaping Roles

PART 9: Final Thoughts

PART 10: Gender Representation – Resources

 

Gender Lesson: The Toy Box

Regardless of age, everyone has a memory of a toy that they loved when they were a child, or a toy they wanted but they were never given.  The things we play with help determine the people we grow into.  This lesson focuses on separating boy toys from girl toys while pausing to take a look at why we sorted the objects the way we did.

This lesson is part of a large mini-unit on Teaching Gender Representation in the Media.  It can be used as a stand alone piece, or part of a larger conversation.

Minds On

On the board, display a picture of a toy box.  You can either use a projector and take a moment to draw a chest using a chalkboard or whiteboard.  Chests aren’t hard to draw.  Rectangles are your friend here.  Add the words “Toy Box” to the image.  Below the image write the words, “What’s in the box?”

There should be a clear instruction on the board that students should consider what toys they had in their toy box when they were children.  On a sheet of paper, students should be encouraged to either make point form notes or draw quick sketches, of their favourite childhood toys.

After five minutes have passed, students should be asked to turn to an elbow partner and discuss their favourite toys.  These groups may organically grow larger as the discussion brings in other neighbouring voices.

Before you move on, honour the student’s voice and time by asking them to share their opinions.  Be sure to draw all voices into the conversation.  While some students may be more eager to share, work to bring every voice to the centre of the conversation.

It goes without saying, that this is a great opportunity for you to discuss your favourite toys as well.

Focus

Now that the students have talked about their favourite toys, you’re ready to start looking into the gender messaging inherent in the toys we play with.

Building a Collection

Your first step will be to form a collection of toys or images of toys.  I have used both models with my students, and while hands-on toys can work well with small groups, teachers in larger classrooms may find it easier to manage images displayed through a projector.

When looking for images, I would also suggest teachers use Pixabay as their first stop.  If you’d like, you can use the six images below as a start to your collection, or you can run a smaller version of this activity with those images alone.

 

 

 

Collection Suggestions

I suggest that you get some tricky toys that will have students questioning their choices.  For example, Lego vs. Lego Friends, or a toy kitchen with a washing machine attachment, versus a toy kitchen with a BBQ attachment.  I also use images of female and male soldier dolls to juxtapose barbie and ken.

Another favourite image of mine is the Nerf Rebel crossbow, which is a pink and purple dart-firing weapon.

Running the Lesson

The lesson is broken into three parts.  The first is categorizing the images, the second is discussing their choices, and the third is reflecting on the similarities.

Categorizing the Images

  1. Ask students to draw a T-Chart on a sheet of lined paper, or provide them a copy of the The Toy Box handout.  They should label one column “Brother” and the other column “Sister”.
  2. Display the first image, or toy, for students to see.  Ask students to think about the toy and decide if they would give it to their imaginary fraternal twin brother, or imaginary fraternal twin sister for their birthday.  At this point you will have many students saying, “I’d get it for either!” but insist that there is only one in the shop, and they must decide: does it go to the brother or the sister?
  3. Students will write the name of the toy on their T-Chart.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have gone through all of the images.  I recommend using at least 12 images.
  5. Once students have sorted each image into a column, draw your own T-Chart on the board, and ask students to raise their hand if they decided to give the toy to their brother, and then ask students to raise their hand if they decided to give the toy to their sister.
  6. Record the name under the column with the most amount of votes.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 for all of the toys.
Possible modification

If you were using real toys, you could give them to a group of students, and have them sort them into two groups – or, better yet, have them create a line where the ones they would definitely give to their brother is at one end, and the ones they would definitely give their sister is at the other end.  They will still need to create a line that breaks the toys into two sections, but by thinking about which ones are closer to being gender neutral, you will have an opportunity to delve deeper into the next part of this lesson.

 

Discussing their Choices

You will now have a list of toys categorized as being for boys or for girls.  There will undoubtedly be some descent in your classroom.  Some students may become incredibly vocal about how they disagree with the order, or that this activity was sexist.

Use those comments to open the discussion, and allow students a voice to explain why they either agree or disagree.  You should do your best to remain neutral in this conversation, allowing students to voice their opinions.  Highlight some key concepts that you will want to return to in later lessons, but do your best not to influence their thoughts.

Once the discussion has run its course, you can proceed to the next part of the lesson.

 

Reflecting on the Similarities

Students should now be asked to look at all the toys of the different lists.  In small groups, challenge them to find similarities between the items.  Some concepts that often float to the surface is that the toys in the brother column are often “active” where the user engages in some creative active play, interacting with the world, while toys in the sister column are often more “passive”.  Violent toys are often in the brother column, while fluffy toys find themselves in the sister column.  Colours are often grouped together as well.  The presented gender of the toy normally influences the column.

Once students have created their lists of adjectives that describe each side, ask them to read them to the class.  You will add these words to a new T-Chart on the board.

Once all students have shared their ideas, ask the class to find words and concepts that overlap between the brother side and the sister side.  There are often very few overlapping ideas.  Next, discuss the terms that are on each side.

You can now ask the class, “what is the difference between the brother and the sister?” which will lead to some deeper discussion but will ultimately return to the concept of gender.  At this point, talk about how there must be something about their gender that made them think the brother would like one thing and the sister the other.

Have them extrapolate that those terms are not only describing the toys, but also cultural assumptions about Gender Normative expectations for boys and girls.

Once that idea has been introduced, you can move on to the final part of the lesson.

 

Consolidation

Ask students to write a P.E.E. Paragraph, or draw a picture, or in some other way communicate how those gender-based expectations have affected their lives.  They can express either positive or negative examples.

Let them know that you will be discussing their pieces at the beginning of the next class.

 

Next Steps

I suggest using The Toy Box to lead directly into a lesson about The Gender Box.  You are, of course, free to use this as a stand-alone lesson or skip to a different lesson you find more appropriate.

 

Downloads

Toy Box – Brother Sister Handout.pdf

 


PART 1: Gender Representation in the Media

PART 2: Lesson – The Toy Box

PART 3: Lesson – The Gender Box

PART 4: Lesson – The Past is Present – Part 1

PART 5: Lesson – The Past is Present – Part 2

PART 6: Lesson – Annotating Texts

PART 7: Lesson – Gender R.A.F.T.

PART 8: Lesson – Reshaping Roles

PART 9: Final Thoughts

PART 10: Gender Representation – Resources

Teaching Gender Representation in the Media

There are few things more important than teaching students to view the world through a critical lens.  “How individuals construct their social identities, how they come to understand what it means to be male [or] female … is shaped by commodified texts produced by media for audiences that are increasingly segmented by the social constructions … gender.”1

The questions teachers have is rarely, Should I teach Gender Representation in my classroom? and more often How do I teach Gender Representation in my classroom?

How Do I Teach Gender Representation in my Classroom?

There are a number of different approaches.  This multi-part series will focus on a variety of methods.  You are free to choose one that works for you, and work it into your classroom, or you may choose to develop a larger unit that incorporates all aspects of this series.

How will these lessons be organized?

Lessons will be presented in the order I find they are best sequenced in a classroom environment.

What are the different lessons?

It’s always good to have an idea of where we’re going.  Please read the various lessons and their descriptions to determine which pieces work best for you.

1. The Toy Box

Regardless of age, everyone has a memory of a toy that they loved when they were a child, or a toy they wanted but they were never given.  The things we play with help determine the people we grow into.  This lesson focuses on separating boy toys from girl toys while pausing to take a look at why we sorted the objects the way we did.

Key Concepts
Gender Normative Roles
Who enforces Gender Normative behaviours
How marketing helps set the stage for who we become

 

2. The Gender Box

Building off of the foundation from The Toy Box we look further into the gender normative roles students feel they need to fulfill.  By confronting prejudices and allowing students to speak openly about their experiences, the foundation is strengthened with shared experiences and concepts.

Key Concepts
Gender Normative Roles
Who enforces Gender Normative behaviours
How Gender Normative roles have affected students
Possible Extension
Looking at Intersectionality

 

X: A Fabulous Child’s Story – Literacy Skills Review

Having developed a strong foundation of gender normative behaviour and thought, students may be prepared to read a short story, and review a number of their literacy skills.

Key Concepts
Literacy Skills: Inferring, Questioning, Summarizing, Visualizing, Connecting
Point Evidence Evaluation Paragraph Writing
Possible Extension
Gender Neutral Children in Real Life

 

3. The Past is Present [Part 1 / Part 2]

By examining a number of historical and contemporary advertisements, students will begin to see how ludicrous modern messaging is when primed through the problematic advertisements of decades past.  Students will then have an opportunity to examine advertisements that they experience through the same lens.

Key Concepts
Media Analysis
Literacy Skills: Comparing
Analyzing different forms of texts

 

Introducing The Media Triangle

While this lesson doesn’t require specific connections to Gender Normative media, it will highlight the importance of viewing all texts through three lenses: Audience, Text, and Production.  Students will then apply these concepts to a variety of pieces, before readying themselves to fully explore Gender Normative texts.

Key Concepts
Media Analysis through multiple lenses
How production influences messages and meaning

 

4. Using the Media Triangle to Annotate Advertisements

Building on the concepts from the last lesson, students will choose specific advertisements, analyzing them through all three sides of the Media Triangle.  Students will then present their findings to the class, allowing all students to take an in-depth look at a variety of contemporary texts and the problematic nature of their messaging.

Key Concepts
Annotating visual texts
Possible Extensions
Using digital tools to annotate static texts
Using digital tools to annotate video texts

 

5. The Gender R.A.F.T.

Students will consider the reasons behind Gender Normative behaviours, and create a R.A.F.T. (Role, Audience, Format, Topic) letter that will help them formalize their thoughts.

Key Concepts
Identifying Main and Supporting details
Synthesizing complex topics into a succinctly written piece

 

6. Reshaping Gender Normative Roles

Students will be challenged to explore their personal space, school, community, and beyond.  During their explorations, they will identify both positive and negative messaging, while seeking to understand how to create lasting impact and change

Key Concepts
Text-to-Self and Text-to-World connections
Predicting the future role of Gender Normative behaviours
Becoming agents of change in their environment

PART 1: Gender Representation in the Media

PART 2: Lesson – The Toy Box

PART 3: Lesson – The Gender Box

PART 4: Lesson – The Past is Present – Part 1

PART 5: Lesson – The Past is Present – Part 2

PART 6: Lesson – Annotating Texts

PART 7: Lesson – Gender R.A.F.T.

PART 8: Lesson – Reshaping Roles

PART 9: Final Thoughts

PART 10: Gender Representation – Resources


Footnotes

1. GENDER, RACE, AND MEDIA REPRESENTATION: Dwight E. Brooks and Lisa P. Hébert

Converting Twine 2 Stories to Android APK Apps for the Google Play Store

In our last part you learned how to write a Choose Our Way tale with Twine 2, and share it on a website so that it could be shared with people outside of the classroom.  Now you will learn how to transform your Twine 2 story into an Android APK App file which can be played on Android phones and tablets.

Examples:


 

Examples of apps made using this method can be found at: Sammi’s Quest: Google Play Store

Free Demo can be downloaded to your Android Device Here: Sammi’s Quest: Vol. 1 – The Wandering Ogres (Demo)

The Full Version can be purchased for your Android Device Here: Sammi’s Quest: Vol. 1 – The Wandering Ogres (Full Release)


CONVERTING TWINE 2 STORIES TO ANDROID APK APPS FOR THE GOOGLE PLAY STORE – A Step by Step Tutorial

Introduction:

This tutorial will teach you how to create a Choose Your Own Adventure Android App.  It’s easier than you could imagine.  To create your app you will need to use:

  • Twine 2
  • Adobe PhoneGap Build

While it may seem difficult, at first, you should be able to build your first Android App in less than two hours.

Creating your story with Twine 2

Twine 2 is a web-based Choose Your Own Adventure program.  You can access it here:  https://twinery.org/2/

The Basics of Twine 2

This tutorial is focused on converting a finished Twine 2 story to Android APK, however I will include some basic information for creating a Twine 2 story.

  1. When editing your first page, you create options by writing [[Go to the fountain]]. This will create a link reading [[Go to the fountain]] and a new page called Go to the fountain.This is not the best way to do things, as you may want to have a number of options send the user to that location.
  2. If you want the displayed link to look different than the page reference you need to write it like this [[Go to the fountain|Fountain]]. This will display the text “Go to the fountain” as a link to a page titled “Fountain”.This allows you to have another page reading [[She ran to the fountain|Fountain]] that also takes the user to the same location.
  3. For more information about creating a Twine 2 story feel free to read this tutorial: http://www.adamhammond.com/twineguide/

Once you have created your Twine file select Publish to File. This will download a file titled StoryName.html  This file is your complete story.  You can open the file and play through your story in a web browser.

If that’s all you want, you’re good to stop.  However, if you want to convert it to an Android APK keep reading.

Preparing your Story for Phone Gap

Once you have your StoryName.html file you need to prepare a folder for it.  This folder will eventually be Zipped, and uploaded to Adobe Phone Gap Build for conversion to APK.

  1. Create a directory named WWW. Do this by Right Clicking on your desktop, selecting New/Folder, then naming it WWW.
  2. Copy StoryName.html to your WWW directory.
  3. Rename StoryName.html to index.html. You can do this by right clicking the file, and selecting Rename.  Then, type in index.html
  4. Finally, you will need to create a config.xml file. This is what provides the information about your app to Android.  To do this, right click in your WWW directory, and select New Text Document.  Leave it named New Text Document.txt
  5. Open the file, then copy and paste the text below into that document (you do not want to copy the numbers on the left hand side):
<?xml version='1.0' encoding='utf-8'?>
<widget id="com.YourName.AppName" version="1.0.0"   
        xmlns="<a href="http://www.w3.org/ns/widgets">http://www.w3.org/ns/widgets</a>"
        xmlns:gap="<a href="http://phonegap.com/ns/1.0">http://phonegap.com/ns/1.0</a>">
    <name>Your App Name</name>
    <description>
        Replace this line with a description of your app.
    </description>
    <author email="your@email.com" href="<a href="http://your.website.com/">http://your.website.com</a>">
        Your Company Name
    </author>
    <content src="index.html" />
    <access origin="*" />
    <preference name="DisallowOverscroll" value="true" />
    <preference name="android-minSdkVersion" value="14" />
    <preference name="phonegap-version" value="cli-6.3.0" /> 
    <preference name="orientation" value="default" /> 
</widget>

Modifying the config.xml

You will need to add your own personal information to the config.xml file.  Make the following changes:

  • On line 2 change com.YourName.AppName to your information. (i.e. com.JonSmith.CoolAlienStory)
  • On line 5 change “Your App Name” to the name of your app.
  • On line 7 change “Replace this line with a description of your app.” to a description of your app.
  • On line 9 change “your@email.com” to your e-mail address
  • On line 9 change “http://your.website.com” to your website link, or leave blank.
  • On line 10 change “Your Company Name” to your company name.

Final steps in Adobe PhoneGap Preparation

  1. Next select File and choose Save As. Name your new file xml  This new file must be saved in your WWW directory.
  2. Finally, navigate back so you can see your WWW directory icon.
  3. You need to ZIP this WWW directory. To do that right click the folder icon, and choose Send To then Compressed (zipped) folder.  This will create WWW.ZIP
  4. You will need to upload this WWW.ZIP folder to PhoneGap Build.

Using Adobe PhoneGap Build

Once you have prepared your ZIP file, it’s time to upload it to Adobe PhoneGap Build, and convert it to an app.  To do this please follow the next few steps.

  1. Navigate to https://build.phonegap.com
    This is the website that will convert your file to an app.
  2. Click “Sign In” in the top right, then select “Sign up for a new account”.
  3. Choose “Completely Free” then select an option to create an account. I recommend using Google as your sign in option.
  4. Once you have signed in, you will be taken to the main page. There you will see an option called Upload a .zip file.  Click on this, navigate to your zip file, and it will upload.
  5. Once you have uploaded your ZIP file, you will notice a number of things are automatically filled out. (The name of your app, the summary of it, etc.)
  6. You will now see an option called Ready to Build. Click on this button and the file will build.  This can, sometimes, take a while.
  7. You will notice a QRC when the file is built. This QRC can be used to link other people to your APK file.  You will also notice a little android icon over the Update Code button, or a blue button with a down arrow beside the word APK.  Clicking on this icon will download the APK file, which can be installed onto android devices.

Updating your Story

If you want to change something in your Twine 2 story, you can re-edit it using Twine 2, and then Publish to File again.  Once you have exported the new StoryName.html file you need to:

  1. Override the previous html file in your WWW directory.
  2. Re-ZIP the entire directory.
  3. Navigate to Adobe PhoneGap Build and click on Update Code.
  4. Select the new ZIP file you just created.
  5. Click Upload and your new APK will be created.

Note: You may find it helpful to create a new .ZIP file, rather than overriding the original, so you don’t lose copies of your previous versions.  I suggest dating each ZIP file as YYMMDD.TIME – StoryName (i.e. 171011.1344 – Sammi’s Quest)

Common Errors

  1. Ensure that there are no blank lines at the top of your CONFIG.XML file
  2. If you have added the code for app icons, ensure the icons are in the correct directory
  3. Confirm that the icons are the correct size
  4. Check to see if you have renamed your story file to html
  5. Make sure you have a xml file that conforms to the requirements
  6. Double check that you have added a png file that fits the required size

 

Personalizing your App

There are a number of ways you can personalize your application.  The easiest ways to do this are by adding a Splash Screen that displays when you start up the app, and by adding a personalized icon to be displayed on your Android device.

Adding a Splash Screen

  1. To create a splash screen use any photo editing software to create an image file that is exactly 360×480 pixels. Save this file as png in your WWW directory.
  2. Add the following lines to CONFIG.XML before </widget>
    <plugin name="cordova-plugin-splashscreen" source="npm" spec="~3.2.1" />
    <preference name="SplashScreenDelay" value="3000" />
    <preference name="ShowSplashScreenSpinner" value="false" />
    <preference name="FadeSplashScreen" value="false" />
    <preference name="SplashMaintainAspectRatio" value="true" />
    <preference name="SplashShowOnlyFirstTime" value="false" />
    <splash src="splash.png" />

Adding an Icon

  1. To create an icon for your application you will first need to create a folder named res in your WWW directory
  2. Inside the res directory, create a new directory named icon.
  3. Inside the icon directory, create a new directory named android.
  4. Now you will need to create your icon file.
  5. To create your icon, first create a high resolution file using an image editing program. Create the icon to be 1024×1024 pixels.  Save this file as png
  6. Direct your webbrowser to https://resizeappicon.com/
  7. Select Upload file, and wait for the icon to upload and be displayed.
  8. Scroll down the page until you see the heading Android. Click on All.  This will place check marks beside all the Android icon files.
  9. Scroll to the bottom of the file and click Download Selected.
  10. This will download and AppIconResizer ZIP file. Open this zip file, and move all the png files from the zip to your WWW/res/icon/android
  11. Since your config.xml already points to this directory to find the icon files, once you copy these files you’re ready to re-ZIP your WWW directory, and upload it to PhoneGap Build.
  12. Add the following lines to CONFIG.XML before </widget> :
<platform name="android">
     <icon density="ldpi" src="res/icon/android/ldpi.png" />
     <icon density="mdpi" src="res/icon/android/mdpi.png" />
     <icon density="hdpi" src="res/icon/android/hdpi.png" />
     <icon density="xhdpi" src="res/icon/android/xhdpi.png" />
     <icon density="xxhdpi" src="res/icon/android/xxhdpi.png" />
     <icon density="xxxhdpi" src="res/icon/android/xxxhdpi.png" />
</platform>

A little bit More

There may be a few more things you need information about.  Hopefully this section covers them.

Creating iPhone Apps

You’ve done most of the heavy lifting already.  All that is required to make this an iPhone app is to add a little bit of information to the XML file.  To learn more about that process read the following website: http://docs.phonegap.com/phonegap-build/configuring/preferences/

Downloading your APK to an Android Device.

You can select the “Download” option to save the APK file to your computer, and then transfer it to your device if you want.  However, there is a far easier way.

You can scan the QR code with your phone or tablet, and it will download your app.

If you don’t have a QR scanner on your android device you can download one here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=me.scan.android.client&hl=en

Navigate on your device to the download directory, and install the APK file. You can now enjoy your story in app form, and distribute it to your friends.

Hosting your App on the Google Play Story

If you’d like to host your story on the Google App store, you will need a developer account. For information on that can be found here: http://support.andromo.com/kb/distributing/how-to-put-your-app-in-google-play or by reading the official Google documentation.


Long Story Assignment

Preparing for the long story assignment, I suggest you familiarize yourself with the snowflake method of writing. I created a handout that uses the snowflake method, adapting it for the needs of a Choose Our Way tale.  Once students have planned their story using this method, they can complete the assignment.

Requirements

  • Be between 2000 and 5000 words long
  • Have at least six endings
  • Have at least ten pages where the reader can choose a direction
  • Be converted to Android APK using Adobe PhoneGap

Handout: The Snowflake Method for COWtales

Handout: Twine 2 Long Story Assignment

Next Steps

Now that you know how to use Twine 2, and convert Twine 2 files to Android APKs you’ve reached the end of these tutorials.  If you’d like information on how to upload your app to the Android Play Store, the official documentation can point you in the right direction.

In the next, and final part, you can access all the handouts that have been posted along the way.  You are free to distribute them for non-commercial use.


PART 1: Introduction to Choose Our Way tales

PART 2: WRITING CHOOSABLE PATH STORIES WITH
STUDENTS

PART 3: USING TWINE 2 TO CREATE DIGITAL CHOOSABLE PATH STORIES

PART 4: CONVERTING A TWINE 2 STORY TO ANDROID APP APK USING ADOBE PHONE GAP

PART 5: Twine 2 / CHOOSE OUR WAY DOWNLOADABLE RESOURCES

Using Twine 2 to Create Chooseable Path Stories

Twine 2 is a piece of software that allows you to create Choose Our Way tales.  In our last parts you learned about palm stories, familiarized yourself with the basics of choose our way tales, and then learned how to write basic choose our way tales.  Now we’ll look at how to digitize those tales using Twine 2.

 


Examples of apps made using this method can be found at: Sammi’s Quest: Google Play Store

Free Demo can be downloaded to your Android Device Here: Sammi’s Quest: Vol. 1 – The Wandering Ogres (Demo)

The Full Version can be purchased for your Android Device Here: Sammi’s Quest: Vol. 1 – The Wandering Ogres (Full Release)


The Basics of Twine 2

First, direct your browser to https://twinery.org/2/

If you’ve never used Twine 2 before, it will redirect you to https://twinery.org/2/#!/welcome I suggest you click on tell me more and step through the information presented there.  The most important thing to remember is how Twine 2 saves your files.

How Twine 2 Saves Your Files

Twine 2 saves stories to the browser cache.  This means that you don’t need to log into an account to use it.  However, it also means that the stories you write on one computer will not be available on another computer unless you manually save it.

Saving the story is simple.  Either click on the cog image or the story name and select “Publish to File”.  This will save your file your story as an HTML file which can be saved to cloud storage, a network drive, or USB key.

You can copy this HTML file to another computer, and load it by using the “Import From File” option.

Writing with Twine 2

Twine 2 creates one page as a default option.  You can write in that page as you would anything else, however, the difference between linear stories and Choose Our Way tales comes when you add branching options.

[[Writing text in brackets]] creates links to new pages.

Example:

Page Name: Untitled Passage

Once upon a time there was a boy who went to the beach.

[[He built a sand castle]]
[[He ran into the water]]

This will create two new pages, one named “He built a sand castle” and another called “He ran into the water”.

From there, you can create more branching choices, or connect them back to one another.

Example:

Page Name: He built a sand castle

The boy made the greatest sand castle anyone had ever seen.  After it was complete…

[[He ran into the water]]
[[He rewound time and went into the past|Untitled Passage]]

The following link [[He rewound time and went into the past|Untitled Passage]] allows you to create a link that has text that says one thing “He rewound time and went into the past” that links to a different page “Untitled Passage” (To the left of the | is the text, and to the right is the page link.)

This story can end by simply not having any branching choices in on your final page.  While this example story will only have one ending, you should feel free to create multiple endings in your work.

Example:

Page Name: He ran into the water

As he was splashing around in the water he looked up in the sky.  A great ship sailed above him through a sea of clouds.  It was at that moment that the boy woke up.

The end.

Let’s not kid ourselves, it’s not a great story – but it’s a story that allowed for some reader participation.  It’s an acceptable place to start.

Further Reading

You can find additonal information for writing Twine 2 stories at the following links:

A Total Beginners Guide to Twine 2.1

Twine 2 Guide

 

 

Lesson 4: Your First Twine 2 Story

Before you write your first Twine 2 story, you will need to create an outline for your story.  This lesson will build from the framework created by running the Palm Story Lesson.

Twine 2 Story Outline

Once your students have completed the Palm Story, your students should create a Twine 2 story using the following flowchart pathways.

Day 5 - Palm Story to Twine 2-2.jpg

 

Twine 2 Story Example

An example of a complete Twine 2 story, based on the outline created from running the Palm Story Lesson can be seen below.

Day 5 - Palm Story to Twine 2-3.jpg

The above example has multiple endings, and a number of pages where readers can choose which direction they’d like their character to head.  With this story, the reader has agency to become a fully realized active participant in the narrative.

Sharing a Twine 2 Story

Once the story is complete, it can be hosted on philome.la which will allow students to share their story with anyone who has an internet connection.  The only requirement for uploading a story to philome.la is a twitter account, which can be created using a school or personal e-mail address.

 

The Twine 2 Assignments

You have been learned how to write with Twine 2, as well as how to create a branching story using a flow chart outline.  Now you’ll need to decide if you want your students to create a short story using the program.

Short Story Assignment

First use the Palm Story Lesson for the ideation stage of planning.  It will prepare the students for this assignment.

Requirements:

  • Be between 500 and 1250 words
  • Have at least three endings
  • Have at least five pages where the reader can choose a direction

Handout: Twine 2 Short Story Assignment

 

Student Examples

Medieval Adventure

To Live or To Die

The Files

The Boys are Back in Town

Rest in Peace

 

 

Next Steps

Now that you have familiarized yourself with Twine 2, and have learned how to have your students write a short COWtale in your class, you can move on and see how to write a longer story, as well as how to convert that story to an Android APK file that can be played on compatible phones or tablets.

 

 


PART 1: Introduction to Choose Our Way tales

PART 2: WRITING CHOOSABLE PATH STORIES WITH
STUDENTS

PART 3: USING TWINE 2 TO CREATE DIGITAL CHOOSABLE PATH STORIES

PART 4: CONVERTING A TWINE 2 STORY TO ANDROID APP APK USING ADOBE PHONE GAP

PART 5: Twine 2 / CHOOSE OUR WAY DOWNLOADABLE RESOURCES

Writing a Palm Story: Ideation for Creative Writing

Palm Stories are short stories that students write using nothing more than the palm of their hand, and a little bit of imagination.  Teachers ask students to close their eyes and picture a number of different things, making point form notes along the way.  At the end of their meditative journey, they will have the framework for a detailed story.

 

Running a Palm Story

The first things teachers need to do is ensure their students have something to write with, and write on, in front of them.  Next they need to ask their students to close their eyes.  This is a large ask, and requires teachers to have already created a caring environment that fosters trust.

Teachers will act as a guide through the story, instructing students to take notes along the way.  Alternately, teachers can provide their students with my Palm Story Handout to aid in the ideation process.

Handout: Palm Story Notetaking Sheet

 

Every Journey Begins…

Teachers need to ask students to look at their hand.  They should find one of the major lines on their hand.  They should then look for another line that passed through the first.

Students should then draw those two lines as a quick sketch.  If using the Palm Story Notetaking Sheet they can draw it in the space provided.

The Road

Ask students to look at the major line on their hand and envision it as a path.  They should then take a moment to close their eyes and picture the path.  They can envision it as a dirt road, an asphalt highway, a raging river, or even a pathway made of clouds that rests high above the world.  There is no limitation to where their story is set, or what their path looks like.

Once they’ve envisioned the road, ask them to look around and take in their surroundings.  What do they see?  Is it peaceful, or post-apocalyptic?  Are they in a fantasy forest, or a gritty urban centre?

Next, ask them to listen carefully and take note of what they hear.

Once students have had enough time to fully picture their surroundings they should pause, open their eyes, and take notes about what they heard and saw.

The Protagonist

The next time students close their eyes, rather than looking around, they should look down.  They should see their own feet, view their hands, or pull back and look at the protagonist in the third person.

Does the protagonist look like them, or are they someone different, entirely?  Next, becoming the protagonist they should be asked to consider what the protagonist wants.  What are the things that drive them into action, or make them pull away in fear?

After being given a few moments, they should make notes about the protagonist.

The First Steps

With knowledge of the protagonist and the path, students should be asked to close their eyes and begin their journey.  They should be asked to look around as they move through their world – note that I didn’t say walk through their world.  For all we know, they could be flying, swimming, or moving in a vehicle – while taking careful note of the sights, sounds, and experiences.

After some time, let them know that they suddenly see something!

The Item

Students should be informed that they see an item on the ground.  They’re not sure what it’s used for, but it’s definitely something interesting.  Even though they can’t be sure what its exact purpose is, they have a few good ideas.

Students should be asked to open their eyes and take notes about what the item was, and what it could be used for.  You may also want to ask them to draw a quick sketch of it.

At this point, redirect their attention at the line on their hand.  Tell them that soon they will be coming to the other line that crosses through it.

The Crossing

The other line on their hand is a crossing.  Something that is difficult for them to pass.  Perhaps it is a river, a checkpoint, a wall, or a crevasse erupting with flames.

They should be picturing this problem, when they realize how to overcome the issue.  Gaining the ability to pass the crossing, they will continue on their way.

All goes well until they seem something on the horizon.  As they get closer they realize that they’re not alone.  Just before them is…

The Other

The other in another character.  It could be a wise bearded man (I’m partial to those), or a talking rabbit.  It might be a little girl in a white dress, or a teenage boy in a flannel jacket.  Once again, it could be anything.  Though the protagonist has never seen this character before, they feel as if they know something about them.

The protagonist feels as if they know what the other desires.  Just as they pass this character, the character leans towards them and says just one thing.  That one line of dialogue would prove immensely useful to the protagonist.

Students should be asked to open their eyes, take notes about what the character looked like, what they wanted, and most importantly what they said.

Walking for some time, the protagonist has almost reached the end of the line of the student’s hand.  Soon they will reach the end of their journey.

The End in Sight

Before them looms the thing towards which they had been journeying.  Is it a concert venue?  A place of enlightenment?  A treasure chest full of cursed gems?  Maybe it’s a cat cafe where the protagonist can enjoy a latte while cuddling cute marmalade kitties?

As they reach the end, they suddenly become aware of why they’d needed the item all along.  With its use, they reach the end of their journey.  However, there are always new things on the horizon.

Students should pause and take notes about what the end was, why they were there, and how they reached it.

Distant Mountains

Finally, students should close their eyes and take a moment to appreciate the efforts of their protagonist.  They should enjoy the moment of denouement.  But, of course, things can’t stay the same forever.  Even though things seem well know, they should consider two things they experience in their journey that led them to feel as if a change would soon be coming.

Writing those final notes down, students should open their eyes and appreciate a palm, well journeyed.

 

Sharing the Stories

Sometimes I like to pause during the palm journey and allow students to share different parts as they make their way along the line on their hand.  I give them a chance to talk about their path and hear from other students what the paths before them look like.

Other times, I allow the students to complete the journey on their own.  Some teachers may find music helps the experience, though others may decide that they don’t want to influence the students’ visualizations with auditory stimuli.

 

Writing the Story

Students will now have the following elements:

  • A Protagonist
  • A Setting
  • An Important Object
  • A Rising Action blocking their way
  • A Secondary Character
  • A Line of Dialogue
  • A Destination

With these elements, you can ask them to chart them on a plot graph, or just allow them to dig in and start writing their own story with this new framework.

 

Possible Roadblocks

This is a very powerful activity, but there are a few things that can hold students back.  As I mentioned previously, feeling comfortable closing their eyes in an important step, but it is not the only possible concern.

An Inability to Visualize

Some people do not have the ability to visualize.  When you are asked to close your eyes and picture an apple, you can probably flip through an album of different apples from smell and yellow, to large and green.  But take a moment to appreciate that this is a gift that not all possess.

If asked to picture yourself canoeing on a lake as a loon calls out, you may be able to see the mist rise and hear the paddle splash as it enters the water.

Your students might not be able to do this.

How do People Know?

The easiest way to know if you have this ability is to think about when you read a book – when you read, do the words come to life like a movie playing in your head, or do you simply see black and white text in front of you as you read each and every sentence?

Some students may respond by saying, “it’s obvious that they see the book like a movie,” while others will be shocked that their peers have a personal holodeck inside their own brain.

Full disclosure

There are multiple levels of visualization.  Some can transport themselves to a strange world through the power of imagination, others can only hear sounds, or see objects, while some can do nothing at all.

I am one of the people who has no ability to visualize.  I’ve tried, I’ve practised, but I can’t even picture a green square with my eyes closed.  All I see are the rapidly changing blues and blacks as my brain tries to process what it is literally seeing.

I mention this because even though I can’t see or hear things in my mind, I can still think creatively, and this palm story still works wonders for my own creative writing ideation.

This is something to be aware of though because some students feel like they’re missing out on something.  They may need to be encouraged to participate even though it will be different for them – just as it is for me.

 

Downloadable Resources

Palm Story Notetaking Sheet

Alligator River: Point Evidence Explanation Paragraphs

Point Evidence Explanation paragraphs have all three requirements for supporting an opinion.  The point is what the writer believes, the evidence is what the writer is using to prove their belief is true, and the explanation is an explanation of how the evidence supports the point.

I use the following activity as a diagnostic to assess Reading and Writing knowledge.  It is also a great icebreaker to get students interacting with and challenging their peers.

 

Point Evidence Explanation Examples

For Example:

Point: Ivan is the worst person in “Alligator River”
Proof: He refuses to help Abigail even though they are friends.
Alternate Proof using Quotations: “Ivan did not want to be involved at all in the situation.”
Explanation: Friends are supposed to stand up for one another and help each other in times of trouble.  As Abigail’s friend, Ivan is the only person who should have supported her throughout the entire ordeal.  That he refused to help his friend shows that he is the worst person in the story.

PEE Paragraph (without embedded quotation):

Ivan is the worst person in “Alligator River” because he refuses to help Abigail even though they are friends.  Friends are supposed to stand up for one another and help each other in times of trouble.  As Abigail’s friend, Ivan is the only person who should have supported her throughout the entire ordeal.  That he refused to help his friend shows that he is the worst person in the story.

PEE Paragraph (with embedded quotation):

Ivan is the worst person in “Alligator River” because he refuses to help Abigail.   Even though they are friends, Ivan “did not want to be involved … in the situation” (Alligator River).  Friends are supposed to stand up for one another and help each other in times of trouble.  As Abigail’s friend, Ivan is the only person who should have supported her throughout the entire ordeal.  That he refused to help his friend shows that he is the worst person in the story.

 

Introducing Point Evidence Explanation Paragraphs

Note: I don’t normally include stories that I don’t have the license to here, but I have tried to discover the author of Alligator River for some time, coming up short with each attempt.  It appears on countless websites, each time unattributed.  If anyone knows the author please inform me in the comments.

Read the story Alligator River aloud to your class.

Alligator River

Once upon a time there was a woman named Abigail who was in love with a man named Gregory. Gregory lived on the shore of a river. Abigail lived on the opposite shore of the river. The river that separated the two lovers was teeming with man-eating alligators. Abigail wanted to cross the river to be with Gregory. Unfortunately, the bridge had been washed away by a heavy storm the previous evening.

So she went to ask Sinbad, a riverboat captain, to take her across. He said he would be glad to if she would consent to go to bed with him before he takes her across. She promptly refused and went to a friend named Ivan to explain her plight. Ivan did not want to be involved at all in the situation.

Abigail felt her only alternative was to accept Sinbad’s terms. Sinbad fulfilled his promise to Abigail and delivered her into the arms of Gregory.

When she told Gregory about her amorous escapade in order to cross the river, Gregory cast her aside with disdain. Heartsick and dejected, Abigail turned to Slug with her tale of woe. Slug, feeling compassion for Abigail, sought out Gregory and beat him brutally. Abigail was happy to see Gregory getting his due. As the sun sets on the horizon, we hear Abigail laughing at Gregory.

Debriefing the Story

Students should be asked to consider the choices made by each of the five characters: AbigailIvanSinbadSlug, and Gregory.

Think

I structure this by first giving students five minutes to fill out a chart that ranks each of the characters from best to worst.  This is a purely subjective ranking but it helps get thing thinking about the events of the story.

Once I establish that they will be filling out this chart I read the story again so that they are listening with intent, seeking out main and supporting details.

It is important that students work on this chart independently.  They will have the opportunity to share with their peers in the next stage.

Once students have had time to fill out their chart, I break them into groups

Pair (and then some)

Students are split into four groups.  In these new groups, all members must agree on a new list.  Often times there are disagreements and strong opinions.  Students become passionate about their choices, as well as their reasons.

Once they have their lists, you can move onto the sharing step or combine two of these groups to make a larger group before sharing as a class.

Share

Each group will write their rankings on the board.  First they will silently compare them, or become angered by the differences.  After there has been an opportunity to read the lists, students will explain their rationale for the choices that they made.

I find that it can be helpful for teachers to write their own list on the board, after students have discussed their own.  At this point the teacher can mention that they have their own reason for the choices that they made, but they are no more correct or incorrect than any of the student lists.

Ultimately, the important thing is that everyone can support their reasons.  This leads us directly to an explanation of Point Evidence Explanation paragraphs.

Writing a P.E.E. Paragraph

Using the prior examples as exemplars students should be instructed to write  P.E.E. Paragraph explaining who they think the worst character in the story is.

Students should then swap paragraphs and highlight the Point in yellow, the Evidence in green and the Evaluation in blue.

If you do not have access to highlighters, underlining, circling, and starring the different sections is also effective.  However, I find that by highlight the entire paragraph it’s easy to visually identify problematic paragraphs.

Students should quickly see that the order of the three sections is consistent in each paragraph and that the Evaluation makes up the bulk of the writing.

Common Problems

Often times students will simply want to write their point assuming that everyone understands it.  Some might also often evidence to support their point, but without their explanation, the reader is left the infer and make the connection themselves.  Writing a P.E.E. Paragraph ensures that the writer fully communicates their ideas to the reader.

A Second Paragraph

Once students have peer edited each others’ work, and you have identified common problems, you can ask the students to write a second paragraph explaining who they think the best character in the story is.

At the end of this assignment, you will have strong evidence of their writing ability and their ability to support their opinion with textual references.

 

Next Steps

After discussing this story you can point out the various opinions students had about the characters and their actions.  By telling them that a large discussion occurred based on a story that is only half a page long, they will be prepared for the challenge of discussing longer texts in Literature Circles.

I also use this activity as a starting off point for encouraging students to write their own Choose Our Way tales.

Finally, I have included a handout that has questions relating to four of the ten key literacy skills: Connecting, Comparing, Predicting, Inferring.

 

Downloadable Resources

Alligator River – Story and Chart Handout

Alligator River – Literacy Skills Questions

 

Overview of the Ten Key Literacy Skills

These ten key literacy skills are used in every classroom, regardless of subject or grade area.  Using these, or slightly modified, headers on your assignment sheets will help students understand that the skills exist from one subject area to the next.  It will also help you chunking your assignments so they are easier for students to process.

Summarizing

When you summarize an article, you are selecting only the most important pieces of information that are needed to fully communicate the author’s ideas. By looking at the highlighted passages you and your group have constructed, you may find you have already identified Main and Supporting details, required for a successful summary.

Determining Importance

An article can have more than one Main Idea.  The Main Idea is the focus of the article.  It is supported by Supporting Details that answer “how”, “what”, “when”, or “where”.  The Main Idea is often stated in the topic sentence of a paragraph, or group of paragraphs.  The more specific details that follow are the Supporting Details.

Inferring

When you infer, you are reaching a conclusion on the basis of evidence and reasoning.  An inference is an “educated guess” that is supported by your own personal knowledge as well as specific details from the text.  You are making an assumption based on the facts you have in front of you, as well as your prior experience.  An inference can be about something that has happened, or that will happen in the future.

Predicting

Predicting allows you to form expectations about what is to come.  Predicting requires that you use prior knowledge and information from the text to form an opinion about a text’s meaning, content, or intended audience.

Connecting

There are three main types of connections: Text to Text, Text to World, and Text to Self. Remember, a text can be – but is not limited to – a book, an article, a song, a video game, a painting, etc.  A Text to Text connection requires you to draw specific links between the assigned text, and another text of which you are familiar. A Text to World connection requires you to draw specific links between the assigned text, and events occurring in the world around you. A Text to Self connection requires you to draw specific links between the text, and your own personal life.  Specific examples must be used from both sources when creating a textual connection.

Visualizing

Visualizing is the act of creating an image in a readers mind.  The image should stimulate as many of the five senses as possible: Taste, Touch, Sight, Sound, and Smell.  By visualizing a reader can enhance their connection to a text, or create stronger inferences.

Comparing

When you compare like, or unlike, things you are identifying details in each of them.  Those details allow for a better understanding of the compared things.  By knowing what the thing is like or what it is not like you will be able to better focus your thoughts.

Questioning

There are three main types of questions – Literal, Inferential, and Evaluative. Inferential questions require you to use personal knowledge, combined with knowledge from the text to answer them. Evaluative questions ask your personal opinion, which must still be backed up with specific examples from your life. Literal questions require you to restate, in full sentences, information that is directly stated in the text.

Annotating

You may annotate by writing directly on a text, or using sticky notes to arrange and re-arrange your thoughts.  Annotations force you to identify details and consider the text as an artefact.  They also allow you to return to a familiar text at a later date, with your notes already collected.

Synthesizing

By combining ideas from your text, with ideas from additional texts, as well as your own prior knowledge you can come to a new, fuller, understanding of a topic.  Synthesizing allows you to combine knowledge from multiple sources allowing for new insights into a topic.

Stop and Think

Rank each of the key literacy skills in order of importance, from 1 to 10.  Write a brief sentence explaining why #1 is the most important, and #10 is the least important.

Consider how students use these skills in your classroom, then consider how they use them in their daily lives outside of the classroom.

Finally, question if you explicitly teach these skills, or if you assume that students should already be aware of them.  Recognizing that students need to have these skills explicitly refreshed each year, determine how you could modify existing assignments to allow for literacy skill chunking.


PART 1: LITERACY SKILLS – AN INTRODUCTION

PART 2: OVERVIEW OF THE TEN KEY LITERACY SKILLS

PART 3: LESSONS FOR TEACHING LITERACY SKILLS

Literacy Skills – An Introduction

Literacy Skills are transferable skills that permeate cross-curricular lessons from kindergarten to post-secondary classrooms.

Students use these skills to process each text they encounter, be it a map, a math problem, a song, a blue print, a short story, a painting, or any number of other things.

Many students fail to recognize that they use the same skills to understand a tutorial for replacing a dishwasher as they do for identifying the author’s message in a short story.  By specifically naming the skills, students will realize the transferable nature of literacy skills and activate the same techniques when applying them.

The Ten Key Literacy Skills

The following literacy skills are those most often called upon in a classroom setting:

  1. Summarizing
  2. Determining Importance
  3. Inferring
  4. Predicting
  5. Connecting
    • Text to Self
    • Text to Text
    • Text to World
  6. Visualizing
  7. Comparing
  8. Questioning
    • Literal
    • Inferential
    • Evaluative
  9. Annotating
  10. Synthesizing

Stop and Think

Consider how you use three of those skills and how they are used in your classroom.

If you are not sure what the skills are, jot down an idea of what you think the skill means, and how you use it in your classroom.  Once you have a brief idea of how the skills work, and how they are presented in your classroom, feel free to delve a little deeper in Part 2.


PART 1: Literacy Skills – An Introduction

PART 2: Overview of the Ten Key Literacy Skills

PART 3: Lessons for Teaching Literacy Skills