________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 19 . . . . May 11, 2007


Leap Into Literacy: Teaching the Tough Stuff So It Sticks!

Kathleen Gould Lundy.
Markham, ON: Pembroke Publishers, 2007.
128 pp., pbk., $24.95.
ISBN 978-55138-212-8.

Subject Headings:
Effective teaching.
Active learning.


Review by Gina Varty.

**** /4


Leap and the net will come.

If effective literacy teaching is your goal; if you and/or your students have been tentative (i.e. looking too longingly) before leaping into lessons; if you have been hoping to discover some way of "teaching the tough stuff so it sticks"; your prayers have been answered. The net has arrived!

Through this highly readable resource, new and experienced teachers will find the means to expand the space of possibles and possibilities, awaken a questioning attitude, create new worlds, deepen understanding, and promote active learning.

For in this book, you will be introduced to proven strategies that engage students in literacy activities. Students work with texts in a hands-on manner and often find themselves "inside" the stories, poetry, and other kinds of material, interpreting events, becoming characters, questioning relationships, refining their ideas, mining words, phrases, and larger texts for meanings, patterns,  and personal connections, and subsequently achieving fresh understandings. As students work from entry points that intrigue them to culminating in tasks that allow them to discover that they are learners with lots to contribute in classrooms and beyond, they will without realizing it, "leap into literacy."

And you as a teacher will leap too, for joy. Not only does this book serve as a safety net providing active, experiential and inclusive ways to meet the needs of all your students, but it also serves as a parachute, one that is packed full with proven strategies and techniques to ensure a challenging, yet safe landing.


Kathleen Gould Lundy's enthusiasm for creativity in teaching is contagious. With over 30 years experience in teaching and the arts, she uses examples taken from her own classrooms or from teachers in her training. Through relating successful engagements and those providing learning experiences for the teacher, she reminds readers that teachers are learners too. "We are, each one of us, a work-in-progress."

     Inspiring and insightful margin quotes are scattered throughout the book. Most of the activities were used with students in grades seven through twelve. However, by using the reproducible sheets for Overheard Conversations, Making Wonder Machines, Assessment Techniques, or the other activities described, and the extensive bibliography, elementary school teachers through to those teaching college writing classes will find simple and effective resources for their classrooms.

     The author provides 10 chapters full of suggestions for active, imaginative, differentiated literacy instruction (with extremely catchy and appealing chapter titles and subheadings).

1  Lay the Groundwork
       - nurturing a sense of excitement and anticipation
          ~ working from strengths, challenging choices, face the space, set the mood. 
2  Greet the Group 
-  open communication
          ~ firm safe foundation, group work, co-operative games. 
3  Scan Your Plan 
-  imaginative, flexible and transformational
          ~ classroom management tips for affirmation and control. 
4  Make Your Words Sing
  -  gaining confidence with words
          ~ respond to and through poetry, and soundscapes. 
5  Stage the Page
  -  interacting with text confidently
          ~ chants, choral reading, readers theatre, presentation. 
6  Mine for Meaning 
-  critical literacy, complex texts
          ~ making a metaphor, tinker with text, graphic novels. 
7  Inside Images
-  interpreting visual messages
          ~ deconstructing magazine ads, movement and stillness. 
8  Immersed in Role 
-  the language of context
          ~ The Expert Game, writing in role for new insight. 
9  Transcripts, Objects, and Artifacts 
-  sources of fascination
          ~ what old photos can tell, significant objects. 
10  Take Time to Integrate 
-  authentic curriculum connecting
          ~ planning integrated units, "I am From..." and Beyond.


     The author concludes with Final Words: One Eye on Reality, Another on Possibility. The reality is that teaching the tough stuff so it sticks is a challenge, especially "if we limit our definition of school literacy to activities related to words on a page and a pen in the hand." However, through using the simple techniques in this book to encourage students to grapple with problems that interest them, share their understanding with others through creative representations -- drama, movement, visual arts and music, anything is possible. For, if students are actively engaged in co-operative work, with an empathetic adult guiding, teaching and encouraging them, they will willingly leap into literacy without looking, knowing that they have a parachute or that the net will come. With this book, that is more than a leap of faith!

Highly Recommended.

Gina Varty is a librarian, currently providing library services at Inglewood Elementary School in Edmonton, AB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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