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How Literacy Curriculum can Turn Curiosity into Understanding and Help Kids Contribute to a Better World

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    EL Education

“The Four T’s framework is anchored by the question “How can we best combine topics, task, targets, and texts to engage students with worthy content in a way that supports them to learn about the world, master standards, become literate thinkers, and create work that matters (and often contributes to creating a more sustainable and equitable world).”

EL Education’s Katie Shenk shares how why every educator should know about the four T’s and incorporate them into their classroom. Read more here, or below.

Turning on Curiosity Motors

We all know children who become “obsessed” with sharks, rockets, butterflies, or dinosaurs. Their interests push them into books that seem too long, too hard, or more complex than they would choose if their own curiosity weren’t driving them like a motor. When students get into this zone, they really dig in, even when the going gets tough. They read and read and can talk about their topic for hours. In other words, these children are reading—and getting better at reading—because they are sucked in by the content they are reading about. Literacy curriculum that builds on students’ natural curiosity to teach students reading through compelling content is highly engaging for students and, often, inspiring for teachers. When the content is about rain forests or bees or water access, learning to read also has the benefit of inspiring students to be environmental changemakers who can use their words and actions to make the world a better place.

Too often school isn’t the place where students’ interests are nurtured. Texts are disconnected or treated shallowly, and topics may shift from week to week. In EL Education Schools (and in our open source K-5 English Language Arts Curriculum), we walk students into the content with the intention of turning on their curiosity motors. We build curiosity through high-interest topics, texts, and collaborative tasks, and we find that once students are hooked, they engage much more deeply in the content and key literacy standards of reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

We use a simple framework — The Four T’s: Topic, Task, Target, and Text — to design a literacy curriculum that gives all students access to challenging content and engaging learning experiences. Many of the topics help students explore the natural environment and human’s role in sustaining a healthy Earth. But even if you don’t use our curriculum in your classroom, you can design your own literacy unit using this same framework.•

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