Perspectives on Whole Child Literacy

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Fulfilling Students' Potential Through Engaging Literacy Practices

Categories: Books, Authors, & Movies, Curriculum & Access, Education & Teaching, Educators, General, The Digital Age, Webinars

Blog Author: Kate Stewart


Our featured edwebinar speaker on December 3rd, Dr. Evan Ortlieb, believes there is a book for everyone… every learner… we just have to hook them. And his talk, Fulfilling Students' Potential Through Engaging Literacy Practiceswill help you do just that with practical, hands-on teaching strategies that you can implement right away in your classes. As a leading researcher in this area, Dr. Ortlieb’s focus is on re-engaging learners and motivating them towards reading and writing fluency. He highlighted the erosion of engagement from 1st grade through 6th grade for multiple reasons, including the move from picture books to chapter books as students age. However, as Dr. Ortlieb explains, all is not lost when students see literacy as a means to learning, communicating, and interacting with peers. 

This is an instrumental interview to watch as Dr. Ortlieb provides practical solutions based on his own teaching experience and research. His Attraction Theory, which is a model to engage learners, could be put to use in a classroom right away. Our favorite example of a reading engagement strategy was the use of “jolts.” Implementing a jolt targets an emotional response in the learner and challenges his or her existing knowledge on a topic. Take the mudskipper that Dr. Ortlieb spoke on, which is an amphibious fish that walks, eats, and courts on land. You could envision the students’ surprise while reading about the mudskipper and learning that a fish could survive out of the water! The goal is to “jolt” the students into wanting to learn more and to be inquisitive since research shows inquisitiveness relates to high proficiency learning. Another strategy presented and discussed was the Ortlieb Experiential Survey to better tailor lessons to your specific classroom demographic. What we loved most about this talk is how educators will walk away with numerous new teaching methods to try with their own students. 

Dr. Ortlieb also spoke about how to use the in-between spaces outside of the classroom and other modalities, such as video and Learning Ally’s human read audiobooks, to keep students engaged: “Multimodal spaces are the easiest way to encourage jolts. Learning Ally has an incredible database for audiobooks… The in between spaces are an opportunity, not just when you are at school or you’re home, but in between those spaces, I think, should be built upon and opportunized as possible learning opportunities.” The Templeton Twins, by Ellis Weiner, is brought to life by Learning Ally’s audiobook solution. It is a perfect example of a “jolt” story, which when paired with the human read audiobook experience, will keep struggling readers engaged in the material. Listen to a short clip here

To watch the full webinar for more ways to re-engage your students in reading, please click here.

Our Presenter


Dr. Evan Ortlieb is a Professor and Director of the Manhattan Campus in the School of Education at St. John’s University in New York City. He also coordinates the PhD in Literacy program. He is an internationally recognized leader in the field of literacy education with previous work experience in the multicultural milieus of Australia and Singapore and whose expertise centers on empowering disenfranchised readers and writers, preparing literacy teachers, and differentiating literacy instruction for native and non-native English speakers. He has published over 130 manuscripts that substantiate some of his contributions to the field. 

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