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Water Literate

A Unique Resource for the Literacy Hour

Elementary, Middle

Description

This ESD resource is especially appropriate for incorporating sustainability themes into English Language Arts at the lower middle school grade levels.  It uses issues related to water availability and development in rural Tanzania as a basis to enhance skills in reading and writing, especially persuasive language and writing with purpose.

The resource contains pictures, guided reading of non-fiction text, poetry, real life testimonials, sample debates and song to encourage students to reflect, view, listen, respond and communicate opinions on important environmental and sustainability issues in the developing world. Specific topics include water availability, clean water, the effects of tobacco farming on soil and water collection, and how the quality of life of people is greatly diminished when obtaining clean water is difficult.

Lesson plans are designed for both whole class and group work. Students are given various creative writing opportunities as they reflect on these issues including diary writing, newspaper reports, and composing poetry. The final exercise is the writing of a persuasive letter to an influential person explaining the need to purchase a hand pump for a village in Tanzania.

The major language arts outcomes- speaking/listening, reading/viewing, and writing/representing  are addressed in some form and exercises are included which examine mood, style, word choice, vocabulary, connectives, metaphorical phrases, phonetic language, imagery, and writing from different perspectives.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • persuasive letter writing
  • responding and reflecting on written and media text
  • reading/viewing and analyzing/evaluating text
  • speaking/communicating thoughts and ideas
  • listening critically to the ideas and points of view of others
  • writing/representing ideas and points of view

Strengths

  • good background/case studies are provided
  • the resource deals with current issues
  • it encourages empathy and promotes citizenship
  • there are a variety of writing preparation activities
  • lessons are suited for both whole class and group work
  • resource is easy to use, but some British expressions   like "petrol", "queue", and "blighted" will need to be explained.

Weaknesses

  • assessment tools must be developed by the teacher
  • resource has no student handouts or activity sheets for gathering and reflecting on information
  • no authentic action experience beyond letter writing is suggested
  • no links to additional teacher resources are provided
  • the resource is written for a British audience so there are some references to the British government that teachers must convert to a Canadian context
  • no suggestions for modifying material for struggling learners are included

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

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  • Alberta
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    • Grade 3
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        • Writing: Ideas and information can be articulated accurately and imaginatively through the use of writing processes and an understanding of the author’s craft.
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        • Comprehend & Respond
        • Comprehension: Text comprehension is supported through applying varied strategies and processes, and considering both particular contexts and universal themes.
        • Explore thoughts, ideas, feelings, and experiences
        • Respect, Support and Collaborate
        • Writing: Ideas and information can be articulated accurately and imaginatively through the use of writing processes and an understanding of the author’s craft
    • Grade 6
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        • Explore thoughts, ideas, feelings, and experiences
        • Oral Language: Listening and speaking form the foundation for literacy development and improve communication, collaboration, and respectful mutual understanding.
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  • Manitoba
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        • Language as Exploration and Design
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        • Reading & Viewing
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        • Access and Explore
        • Clarify & Extend
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        • Explore Thoughts, Ideas, Feelings and Experiences
  • Nova Scotia
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        • Listening and Speaking
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        • Access and Explore
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        • Explore Thoughts, Ideas, Feelings and Experiences
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        • To use Language to communicate and learn
        • To write self - expressive narrative and information -
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        • To use Language to communicate and learn
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        • To use Language to communicate and learn
        • To write self - expressive narrative and information -
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        • To use Language to communicate and learn
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  • Saskatchewan

Themes Addressed

  • Human Health & Environment (1)

    • Quality of Life
  • Human Rights (2)

    • Poverty
    • Social Justice
  • Water (2)

    • Water Quality
    • Water Use

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

The view of life in Tanzania focuses on the perspectives of women and workers currently taking action on water issues.The resource clearly states that it is not a substitute for geography as it does not present images that give a balance view of life in Tanzania or Africa at large.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

The resource describes social problems created by economic and environmental issues surrounding accessing safe drinking water. When lack of funds makes bringing potable water closer to homes difficult, the quality of life for those individuals is greatly affected.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Satisfactory

The students are asked to interpret and reflect on visual images, poetry, personal testimonies, non-fiction guided reading text, sample debates and songs. These activities all give a perspective on water availability issues and act as writing preparation tools which provide opportunities for discussion, writing and representing thoughts and ideas.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Satisfactory

Although the persuasive letters are a part of the lesson it remains the discretion of the teacher as to whether to mail them or not.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Satisfactory

Students will reflect on why it is important to care about the issues presented. There are some opportunities presented for values clarification but more time is needed to express and identify their own beliefs.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Very Good

Empathy for people whose quality of life is greatly affected by water availability issues is fostered. Students are asked to reflect and respond to this in their writing.

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Satisfactory

This being a language arts based unit, the out-of -doors experience is not an essential element. The resource encourages the students to use the "power of the word" to facilitate solutions to the problem.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Satisfactory

Every community has issues with the delivery of clean water into homes whether it be boil orders, infrastructure costs, chemical treatment, and general taste/quality. All people need clean water, so it is a local issue.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Satisfactory

Water value and availability issues are discussed through past stories, and present problems. The future is seen as positive only if help arrives from outside Tanzania to aid in the purchase and implementation of water pumps.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

By interpreting, reflecting, and responding to different types of materials, the students are exposed to water problems in Tanzania. Although the final activity is focused on persuasive letter writing, there is enough background information for students to study more topics on developing world water issues and become involved in promoting aid in other ways.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Satisfactory

The resource is mostly language arts based with some application in social studies, art and music.

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Satisfactory
Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Good

Writing preparation activities are varied and address both cognitive and affective domains. Viewing, listening, reading, and responding opportunities are given. No accommodations are suggested for students with learning difficulties but guided reading groups could be adjusted to deal with this issue. It is up to individual teachers to modify expectations for those students with special needs.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Poor/Not considered

This resource, being language arts based, focuses on responding and reflecting on media and written text.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory
Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Poor/Not considered
  • There are no marking rubrics or suggestions for evaluation given.
  • Although there are lots of reflective type questions, few answer keys are provided. It is up to the teacher to create tools to evaluate student achievement.
Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory
Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Very Good

Stories and real-life testimonies are provided as both visuals and written descriptions which give authenticity to the exercises.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Satisfactory

The activities in this resource are largely teacher directed but with the varied writing activities provided it would be easy for the teacher to give the students many more options for reflecting, responding and acting on various text.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.