Beyond Worksheets – Literacy Tools for Thinking Kids

CIS of Chicago gathered community partners for a morning-long training on strategies for integrating literacy skills into school-based curriculum.

Training objectives: 

  • Participants recognize key age-appropriate literacy skills that can be used in school-based programs
  • Participants practice literacy integration tools for use in their own curricula

Literacy Integration for grades K-4:

Presenter: Mary List, Children’s Literacy Initiative

Read-aloud is an effective way for facilitators to engage students in literacy skills. When a facilitator reads a book or shorter text aloud to students, they can: introduce new vocabulary, model reading strategies, or use the text as a prompt for discussion questions and idea exploration. The Children’s Literacy Initiative website has a treasure trove of resources available free for educators. Registration is free and then members have access to lesson plans, articles and strategy recommendations.

Resources for Read-Aloud:

Literacy Integration for grades 5-12:

Presenter: Dr. Kelly Vaughan, Purdue University Calumet

Dr. Vaughan discussed literacy through the lens of the Common Core State Standards, reading comprehension and vocabulary development for older students. She shared both theory behind literacy integration, as well as practical tools for skill development in the classroom.

Dr. Vaughan’s Power Point presentation: Literacy Integration – Dr. Vaughan

More Tools for Thinking Kids

Our community partners are full of great ideas, and we asked some of them to share the literacy integration strategies they use in the classroom.

  • Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, Caleb Probst
    • Program description: The “Empowering Young Men Young Women Toward Ending Sexual Exploitation” program engages students in reducing and eliminating sexual violence, exploitation and trafficking. During the four-session program, youth will have a safe environment in which to discuss healthy relationships, violence prevention and social and personal responsibility. The program empowers students to take concrete actions against sexual exploitation.
    • Literacy integration strategy: Students review key vocabulary words like objectification, gender inequality, and sexual violence. They receive pre-selected magazine advertisements and assess them for evidence of implied messages about inequality, exploitation and violence. This activity builds skills around not only understanding the many forms of sexual violence, but also evaluating the content of diverse media (a Common Core anchor standard) and understanding the arguments and claims of a text.
  • Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, Brenda Fineberg
    • Program description: The CYSO works to train classroom teachers on integrating music and musical skills into everyday activities during the school day.
    • Literacy integration strategy: A simple name game can be used to create classroom community, vocabulary development, public speaking skills and phonemic awareness. See Brenda’s activity “Zacodie-Codie” and how it can be used to teach sight words, help bilingual speakers, and develop vocabulary. Zacodie-Codie activity and application
  • UNICEF, Marshaun Montgomery
    • Program description: The TeachUNICEF program immerses students in important global issues via the sharing of stories and the examination of various media sources. Students develop deeper understanding of global issues by reading stories of children around the world, debating controversial issues and advocating for human rights.
    • Literacy integration strategy: UNICEF has created multiple materials for use in the classroom, including a magazine on global issues produced specifically for children. Students can read the stories and connect the issues highlighted to the issues here in our communities. Students can also research and take positions on various human rights topics and debate them in the classroom.
  • Cook County Farm Bureau, Diane Merrion
    • Program description: The Ag in the Classroom program is designed to introduce 4th grade students to the agriculture industry.
    • Literacy integration strategy:
      • Students learn to read food labels and interpret the information: Food label activity
      • Students use a “cootie” to review important information learned in a lesson: Nutrition cootie example
      • “Tassle to table” activity: Students review the chronology of the journey of a food item from planting to production to distribution to table. (See picture above.)
  • Respiratory Health Association, Kateri Nelis
    • Program description: Fight Asthma Now (FAN) is an asthma management program which teaches students about warning signs, asthma triggers, proper administration of medications and responding in an emergency.  They also receive a workbook (asthma action plan included) and spacer (a tool to better administer their medications) at no cost.
    • Literacy integration: Students read information on asthma management and work with the instructor to fill in vital information on a graphic organizer.
    • Graphic organizer for summarizing signs of asthma.
      Graphic organizer for summarizing signs of asthma.

Questions about literacy integration in your school-based program? Contact Katrina at CIS of Chicago:


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