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Mary Jo Meade limber.pine at earthlink.net
Tue May 1 13:45:07 EDT 2007

Hi all...

Here is more information on the Alternative Lens project...

Please let me know how you might use different features of the project
with the populations you serve.


The AltLens difference:

In Reading Don't Fix No Chevys / Literacy in the Lives of Young Men,
the authors describe teens who avoid regular classroom reading because
of its "schoolishness – that is, its future orientation, its separation
from immediate uses and functions, its emphasis on knowledge that is
not valued outside school." (Michael W. Smith, Jeffrey D. Wilhelm; 2002)

Most of the reading material that is currently aimed at struggling
adolescent/adult readers is bland, too general in scope ("Snakes," "The
Civil War"), and "schoolish" in the extreme. Alternative Lens will
build a bridge between textbook concepts and the real world by telling
stories that advance comprehension of classroom content but that are of
immediate interest to the generation they serve.

Classroom focus: semiconductors and light-emitting diodes (LEDs)
AltLens choices: articles based on
http://graffitiresearchlab.com/?page_id=6#video and

Pathway One – for students:

The first of the site's dual pathways will offer students an endless
buffet of compelling nonfiction articles that function as
alternatives/supplements to classroom textbooks. In these real-world
texts, students can read about subjects that interest them in an
environment that is unfettered, unwatched, and untested. Alternative
Lens will:

• Provide on-demand vocabulary help that will offer images, diagrams,
animations and interactives – in addition to simple word definitions –
to help cement comprehension.

• Foster student choice by offering a wide range of options for
additional information related to each readings package, including
links to short sidebar articles and multimedia features within the
library, links to other websites, suggested print resources, and
activities for home and/or school.

• Help build prior knowledge in students whose previous avoidance of
reading has prevented the development of age-appropriate knowledge

• Offer students deep learning experiences through "serious games"
developed with the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the
University of Colorado / Colorado Springs. (See the research of James
Paul Gee.)

• Honor all work. The site will foster literacy skills that will lead
to success in the trades and service careers as well as in a four-year

• Take a multicultural approach to story selection.

• Encourage students to use the site's online feedback forms to rate
readings packages and interactive features. Data collected could
include age/grade, gender, language spoken at home, the students'
assessment of story length, interest value and other variables.
Respondents' anonymity will be protected!

Pathway Two – for educators

The second pathway, for teachers and administrators, will provide:

• A search engine that allows teachers to search for readings and
activities by standard and/or benchmark

• An instant feedback function that allows teachers to rate the site’s
materials online. This will provide us with a constant stream of data
we can use to evaluate the usefulness of our materials in all content
areas, determine whether our reading-level ranges are on target, and
plan future content.

• Strategies for using the site’s multi-level readings in mainstreamed
classrooms that include both struggling and proficient readers

• Strategies for remedial-only or ESL-only use of the website

• Strategies for using the website to sustain the motivation to read
and learn in students who have struggled with failure

• Strategies for single-subject, grade-range, or whole-school use of
the website as one component of a broad reading and writing initiative

• Strategies for teaching literacy through content instruction, and how
to find a reasonable balance between the two

• Strategies for assessing reading comprehension and writing in the
content areas

• Suggestions for modeling the reading process for students

• Strategies for using the website to supplement required textbooks

• Web functionality that allows teachers and classrooms to network
across town, across the country and across borders. Students will be
able to debate issues that have regional or national implications, join
forces to preserve endangered food crops, etc.

• A wide assortment of creative, assessable reading-and-writing
activities, including single-student projects, group and class
projects, and creative alternatives to answering comprehension
questions and writing text summaries. These will range from quick
activities to deep and long-term projects, including portfolios.
Teachers will be invited to share activities that work well with their
students, especially activities that work with their hardest-to-teach

• Links to sites of interest to educators who work with adolescents,
adults, and literacy

• Nuts and bolts:
– Suggestions for using the site’s printable worksheets and graphic
organizers, and how to customize them
– Rights and restrictions (what they can and cannot do with the site’s
– How to suggest classroom activities and story topics

Text for English Language Learners:

• The text will be stripped of idioms and metaphors (American idioms
will be introduced as sidebars).

• Spanish cognates will be included wherever possible to increase the
comfort/confidence level of Spanish-speaking students and help them
develop fluency.

• Stories will feature a mix of short, very simple, declarative
sentences and more complex sentence structures, and writers will avoid
the use of passive voice.

• On-demand vocabulary entries will provide simple word definitions,
but many also will feature visual definitions (animations,
interactives, step-by-step diagrams, images) that will help enforce
comprehension. Sound clips of vocabulary pronunciation will be included.

• Vocabulary words will be repeated as often as possible within
readings packages.

• ELLs will be encouraged to use the site's instant feedback system.
Student interest data will inform the development of materials for this

Mary Jo Meade
Limber Pine Learning / Alternative Lens
2301 Stepping Stones Way
Colorado Springs, CO 80904
719 / 632-3978
limber.pine at earthlink.net
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