Creating rigor relevance and relationships through
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Creating rigor, relevance and relationships through:. Literature themes Service learning projects Project-based learning.

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Creating rigor, relevance and relationships through:

Literature themes

Service learning projects

Project-based learning

Adapted from: Dorothy Dendy Smith, et al. Literacy Beyond Picture Books: Teaching Secondary Students with Moderate to Severe Disabilities, Thousand Oakes: Corwin, CA., 2008.

  • Look for materials with the following attributes:

  • A compelling storylineand credible characters

  • Topics and issues which readers can make personal or emotional connections

  • Supportive formatting that includes illustrationsand appropriate text placement on the page/screen (line spacing is more important that type size, some types are more readable than others)

From “Hooking Struggling Readers: Using Books They Can and Want to Read”  in Reading Rockets website by Lori Rog and Paul Kropp (2001)

  • Look for materials with the following attributes:

  • Careful introduction and reinforcement of difficult vocabularyand concepts(no difficult word should be used only once, and every difficult word should be presented in such a way as to be its meaning is clear.

  • Straightforward plot development (avoiding flashbacks, time shifts, and confusing changes in point of view)

  • Simple sentencestructures

From “Hooking Struggling Readers: Using Books They Can and Want to Read”  in Reading Rockets website by Lori Rog and Paul Kropp (2001)

Service learning is…

An instructional practice that combines:

  • meaningful community service and

  • personal reflection

  • rich learning experiences


  • personal responsibilities,

  • relationships and

  • communities.

Quality standards for service learning

  • Link to curriculum

  • Youth voice

  • Meaningful service

  • Partnerships

  • Diversity

  • Reflection

  • Progress monitoring

  • Duration and intensity

The Five Step Model: IPARD/C

  • Investigate

  • Prepare

  • Act

  • Reflect

  • Demonstrate and celebrate

Animal shelter project


  • Introduce students to reasons why there are so many pets in animal shelters.

    2. Prepare

  • Contact animal shelter for guest speaker to talk about role of animal shelters.

  • Collect materials to make dog biscuits.

    3. Act

  • Make, market and sell dog biscuits.

Animal shelter project continued

4. Reflect

  • Write journals and draw pictures about the topic

    5. Demonstrate/Celebrate

  • Present funds from biscuit sale to animal shelter. Display photos of project on school bulletin board.

Your turn!

How could you stretch a current activity your students do into a more robust service learning project?

Use the sample planning tool to explore this idea.

Project-based learning

Students interact with the curriculum through a meaningful question.

Project-based learning

  • Exploration of a philosophical question (e.g. What is a healthy community?)

  • Investigation of a natural phenomenon

  • Problem-solving scenario (e.g. real or fictitious)

  • Examination of a controversial issue

  • Challenge to:

    • design a product

    • develop a plan

    • produce an event

    • create a work of art, multimedia or writing for a particular audience or purpose

Driving question

Open-ended questions that students exploreor that captures the task they are completing

Need to know

Students see the need to gain knowledge, understand concepts and apply skills in order to answer the Driving Question and create project products.

Voice and choice

Students are allowed to make some choices about:

  • Products they create

  • How they work

  • How they use their time

Revision and reflection

  • Use feedback to consider changes

  • Think about what and how they are learning

Public audience

  • Present their work to other people, beyond their classmates and teachers

Rigorous learning experience

(think “main course” versus “dessert”


Your turn!

Develop potential driving questions around one or more of the following types of activities:

  • recycling bottles

  • baking cupcakes

  • planting spring bulbs

  • Halloween party

  • sewing stuffed animals

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