Our Instructional Approach to Literacy

Reading

Our simulations offer a broad range of typical workplace texts, such as legal and medical case reports, data and research reports, multimedia presentations, and emails on a wide range of subjects. Because our learning games put students in a central job role in which they see the direct results of their decisions in real time, they are invested in reaching game goals—and they can only reach those goals through close reading.

At Classroom, Inc. we believe that struggling students can improve their literacy skills when they are presented with authentic, real-world tasks that empower them, give them choice, engage their attention, and are relevant to their lives and futures. Our workplace-based learning games do just that. Literacy is a pillar of both Classroom, Inc.’s programs and its research base (Scientific Research Base, 2005).

 

Classroom, Inc. uses the CORE Literacy Library, Teaching Reading Sourcebook, as a guide. We focus on CORE’s three critical elements of reading comprehension:

  • The reader. We motivate students with real-world content and engaging gameplay;
  • The text. We carefully control for qualitative and quantitative dimensions of text complexity (e.g., Lexiles, and CCSS Text Complexity Scale);
  • The task. Our programs ensure that students are reading for a relevant and engaging purpose—solving workplace problems.

We utilize and embrace these CORE reading strategies:

  • monitoring comprehension
  • connecting to world knowledge
  • recognizing text structure
  • answering questions
  • summarizing
  • constructing mental images
  • understanding vocabulary through contextual analysis

Finally, CORE’s general recommendation to scaffold instruction is also critical to our games’ pedagogical approach.

The transition from state-based and other sets of academic standards to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has been a natural one for Classroom, Inc., as our programs have historically focused on the three CCSS Key Shifts in English Language Arts:

  • Regular practice with complex text and their academic language
  • Reading, writing, and speaking grounded in evidence from texts, both literary and informational
  • Building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction
  • In the spring of 2011, Classroom, Inc. received a Next Generation Learning Challenges grant from the Gates Foundation to help prepare students for the CCSS. That grant resulted in the innovative reading game The Sports Network 2. In the summer of 2013 we were awarded a second Gates Foundation grant for their Literacy Courseware Challenge to come up with a unique solution addressing reading and writing for middle schoolers. Building upon key CCSS for ELA, our solution, After the Storm (ATS), is both skills and content rich.

Another CCSS key goal, building college and career readiness, continues to be a hallmark of our work as well.

See Complete ATS Approach to Reading

Writing

In formulating its writing strategy, Classroom, Inc. used two main research sources—Alliance for Education’s 2010 Writing to Read and its 2006 revision of Writing Next. Both sources stress the connection between reading and writing—how proficiency in one influences proficiency in the other.

The reading-writing connection is intrinsic to the design of all our learning games. Students always respond to text in writing, and they do process writing in offline projects. And our newest game, ATS, reflects and builds upon these recommended elements of effective adolescent writing instruction from Writing Next:

  • Prewriting, in which students engage in activities designed to help them generate or organize ideas for their composition
  • Writing Strategies, which involves teaching students strategies for planning, revising, and editing their compositions
  • Summarization, which involves explicitly and systematically teaching students how to summarize texts
  • Collaborative Writing, which uses instructional arrangements in which adolescents work together to plan, draft, revise, and edit their compositions
  • Specific Product Goals, which assigns students specific, reachable goals for the writing they are to complete
  • Study of Models, which provides students with opportunities to read, analyze, and emulate models of good writing
  • Writing for Content Learning, which uses writing as a tool for learning content material

As they progress through ATS, students use writing to demonstrate understanding of key game texts, as well as analyze and form judgments about what they’ve read.

In the comprehensive online writing activities in ATS, students receive direct instruction on a CCSS-linked writing strategy, identify key strengths of a model of the type of writing they’ll be doing, and receive support stepped out for each part of their writing. Throughout, students draw upon the informational text in the unit to cite evidence for the main ideas or claims in their writing. In ATS’ offline writing project, students work in teams to develop their own magazines, through a series of lessons devoted to prewriting, drafting, revision and feedback, editing, and publishing.