Your Literacy Toolbox



"If we talk about literacy, we have to talk about how to enhance our children's mastery over the tools needed to live intelligent, creative, and involved lives." ~ Danny Glover


One of my favourite professional books on literacy is "The Read-Aloud Handbook" by Jim Trelease. It's a fascinating read about how the power of simply reading aloud to your child is one of the most powerful things you can do to support literacy. It's a must read for every parent and teacher. However, when we talk about literacy in school there are many more aspects to a balanced literacy program that teachers need to develop in order to support the variety of learners in their class. I've always been a person who believes that teachers need to use every tool in their toolbox, or find new tools, in order to support all students. We should leave no stone unturned!

Last night as I was reading my Zite feed I came across an article that outlined how an educator can use Pinterest. My purpose in tweeting out the article was to show that Pinterest can be a venue for inspiration, not a site that you can model your literacy program from. You can see the tweet below.




I've  heard many teachers and others with a passion for literacy argue that using Pinterest is not what literacy should look like. That it can be viewed by some as the lazy teacher's way out of creating an authentic literacy program. That attitude has always confused me. As a learning technologies coordinator I would get push back from certain program staff about software that didn't meet their framework of what should be in a balanced literacy program. My view was that if a student benefited from a software program, why wouldn't we use it? The tweet I sent out last night and the conversation that followed reminded me of those same conversations years ago. 

I have been witness this year to many fantastic literacy activities that were inspired in part from Pinterest. It's a social media tool that can provide a visual representation of an idea or strategy that has been tried and tested in some classroom. Does that mean that teachers should base their entire literacy program off Pinterest? Absolutely not. But it also doesn't mean there isn't value in the work that other teachers have posted on their Pinterest site. A teacher visiting a Pinterest board can decide if the activity has merit and if it will work in their classroom. They most likely will take that idea and modify it to suit their needs. To me, it's no different than reading a professional book prescribed by board staff and implementing those ideas. Pinterest can provide inspiration for literacy ideas that will engage many learners. Why not take advantage of it. 

If you've used an idea in your literacy program from Pinterest I'd love to hear about it.

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  • Stephanie Cook

    The huge difference here is grabbing and copying someone else's work without grounding it in a rich understanding of pedagogy based in research and experience does not make for best practice. Even the most experienced teachers would tell you that you can never have enough of that and that this is not something grabbed quickly from a Pinboard. Wonderful ideas and inspirations, yes. But really not much without the work to learn the pedagogy behind it. Hard work. It just is not as easy as a tour through Pintrest.

  • David Fife


    I appreciate your input but I think many miss the point of getting inspiration. People are making judgements about the content of a post on Pinterest because it was taken from Pinterest alone, regardless if it is based in research or not. Even the most experienced teachers are getting ideas and inspiration from somewhere. Should we question every strategy, every teacher utilizes and ask for the research? My point is this - if students are engaged in a literacy based activity, and they are demonstrating growth, why are we questioning where it comes from? It's simply inspiration.

  • Aviva

    David, I like your thinking here and totally understand where you're coming from. I think my concern is the cutesy nature of Pinterest. If we're trying to create rich Language activities that align with student interests and inquiry areas of focus, can we find these ideas on Pinterest? If we do find some ideas to use (and I know that there are many), how do we ensure that we don't make them cookie cutter lessons, but target them to student areas of skills and needs? Thanks for giving me more to think about!


  • David

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Aviva! You make a great point about ensuring the ideas garnered from Pinterest aren't turned into cookie cutter lessons. It's just a starting point where teachers can take the idea and transform it into something with depth that meet the needs of students interests and needs. :)

  • Jen Aston

    This year, I played around with Pinterest. Originally, a team started a page to support a TVDSB initiative, but when that did not succeed, it was adapted into a space where coaches could all add pins. I've done a terrible job of curating and taking care of this, as Pinterest is just not my cup of tea. Our hope was to create original Thames Valley pins that we saw in classrooms, sharing the brilliance of TVDSB. I still think it's a good idea, but it has not flown (yet). But the reality is that it takes a lot more effort to create an original pin that it does searching and pressing the "pin" button. There is a high likelihood that what you would have posted exists already.

    Your post made me realize that I should check in with it.

    I get overwhelmed by Pinterest - it's too much visual for me. Twitter is my preferred medium for finding ideas.

    But just as our students should have choice when it comes to tech, the same can be said for social media. We all have our preferences and I think we need to makes sure we're connecting with people in those multiple ways. For example, some of the #fslchatter like Google Plus and started a community there. I'm a part of it and learning it too. Perhaps there should be a Pinterest page for #fslchat? We are curating resources on Google Drive in a shared folder.

    No matter what your medium, good ideas should be shared. I think some teachers use it more like a "bump up" strategy, adding it to what they already do. It's about inspiration and sometimes a small idea by someone else connects with something you already know and it grows.

    Those are just my two cents. I guess I'm a bit on the fence - I think Pinterest is great, it's just not for me!

  • David

    Hi Jen,

    Thanks for sharing your thinking. I agree that Pinterest is a highly visual social media site thaT might put people off. On the other hand it can also be attractive to some users for the very same reason. There are so many options to share ideas that it can be overwhelming. But the great thing is that there is so much out there, finding ideas for your classroom has never been easier.

  • Sarah Sanders

    I used this pin from Pinterest as an inspiration early in the year with my grade 1 students. When you click on the pin it feeds you to the following website:

    My students were struggling with "gelling" in the classroom and we were spending a lot of time focusing on friendship, building connections and problem solving. The post got my attention for the cool home connection piece for story retell and I was hopeful that if we took some time to explore a story in a new hands on way, that my students would be more engaged with each other.

    We read the story as our shared reading for the week. We worked on story retell and sequencing throughout the week. We acted the story out, wrote the sequence using graphic organizers and discussed the problem and solution in a group writing task. At the end of the week the students took home the little bag of play dough (one ball of yellow and one of blue) so that they could re-tell the story to someone at home (I also provided information about the book in the event the parents wanted to check it out at a local library).

    As a spin off of the exploration we used play dough to explore the colour mixing process. We used our experiences with yellow and blue makes green as a starting point. Student made predictions about what they thought would happen if we changed a variable (i.e. used more blue than yellow). Then we tried it out. They recorded their art/science exploration in their science journals. Observing and recording their predictions, what it looked like before and what happened after. We then discussed if our hypothesis was correct or not. We did this a few times changing the proportion of yellow and blue, then we moved on to exploring mixing the other colours (i.e. red and blue, yellow and red). This process took several days - They had so much fun with this activity and kept asking to try it in new ways! In the end we had created a whole spectrum of colours.

    We used our colour exploration with the play dough to build a writing task. I modeled the writing process first, then we did a shared writing of the task as a class. We worked together to add details to the writing. Then each student picked their favourite colour and wrote about how they "made" it. The students were then able to add details to the work, for example how the colour made them feel (i.e. relaxed or happy) and what they would like to have in that colour (i.e. a new pair of teal shoes). Since the inspiration was their own exploration my students were much more involved and motivated to work on the writing piece.

    Ultimately I used a Pinterest idea and made it fit where my grade 1s were at the time. Then because of the interest they showed in the colour mixing process of the story retell the experience and exploration took on a life of its own. My students loved the process so much they requested play dough be an option for "choice time" for the rest of the year.

  • David

    Hi Sarah,

    Thank you so much for sharing your classroom experience. I think it is so valuable for others to see how you have taken an idea from Pinterest and adapted it to suit the needs of your students. This is exactly what I hope teachers do when they find any idea that might be of interest. I also love that your students gave you feedback about their experience. Awesome work!