Rick Wormeli

Rick Wormeli

One of the first Nationally Board Certified teachers in America, Rick brings innovation, energy, validity, and high standards to his presentations and his instructional practice, which includes 30 years teaching math, science, English, physical education, health, and history, and coaching teachers. Rick's work has been reported in numerous media, including ABC's Good Morning America, Hardball with Chris Matthews, National Geographic, and Good Housekeeping magazines, What Matters Most: Teaching for the 21st Century, and The Washington Post.

With his substantive presentations, sense of humor, and unconventional approaches, he's been asked to present to teachers and administrators in all 50 states, Canada, China, Europe, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Australia, the Middle East, and at the White House. He is a seasoned veteran of many webcasts, and he is Disney's American Teacher Awards 1996 Outstanding English Teacher of the Nation. He won the 2008 James P. Garvin award from the New England League of Middle Schools for Teaching Excellence, Service, and Leadership, and he has been a consultant for National Public Radio, USA Today, Court TV, and the Smithsonian Institution's Natural Partners Program and their search for the Giant Squid.

He lives in Herndon, Virginia with his wife and two children, one in high school, one in college, where he is currently working on his first young adult fiction novel.

Bring Rick Wormeli to your school!
Contact Dru Tomlin, Director of Middle Level Services
1-800-528-6672

Beyond Cool Garb

T-shirt literacy and social justice education for diverse adolescent learners.

Graphic T-shirts have always had a special place in my life. One of my favorite pieces of clothing in my closet is an old "Schoolhouse Rock!" T-shirt. The shirt features the old PBS television show's classic logo along with some of the show's memorable characters, such as the train conductor of the "Conjunction Junction" and iconic "Bill" standing on the steps of Congress.

Although the image has faded and certain parts of the shirt have become paper-thin, the shirt remains a personal treasure. The shirt not only represents one of my favorite series, but also advocates for enhancing students' knowledge of academic content through arts integration; it serves as a visual reminder that learning can be engaging and is a unique conversation starter.

Similarly, I treasure T-shirts that build awareness of and support humanitarian issues. My "cause T-shirts" remind me that graphic T-shirts are more than cool garb, but can actually contribute to positive social change.

People have worn T-shirts since the 19th century, but in recent years graphic T-shirts have increasingly become a medium for self-expression and conversation, particularly for young adolescents. Whether through social activism, iconic portraits, retro memory-stirring designs, or current representations of ideas in pop culture, words and images on graphic T-shirts embody 21st century literacy in a global context.

This article will illuminate what I refer to as "T-shirt literacy" and provide information about a project originally created for middle level students. The article will also demonstrate how T-shirt literacy can be an effective approach for promoting multiliteracies and social justice education among diverse adolescent learners.

Preparing Middle Level Students for the 21st Century

Young adolescents are growing up in a rapidly changing, global society. Curriculum and instructional practices need to provide students with opportunities to develop 21st century skills and utilize creativity while meeting the many challenges faced by adolescent learners in an ever-changing landscape.

During my first year of teaching middle grades English language arts, I quickly realized the importance of engaging learners in projects that were relevant to their lives, nurtured creativity, and provided opportunities to apply knowledge and develop global skills.

In an effort to design a multiliteracies project for diverse young adolescent learners, I designed a 21st century multidimensional project that spans content areas, which I termed, "T-shirt literacy." The project has continued to evolve over the years.

Today, as a social justice teacher educator, I continue to facilitate this project in the classroom in teacher preparation courses and professional development workshops.

Supporting Diverse Learners

Although the nation continues to become increasingly diverse, research findings demonstrate that the current U.S. public school system presents many barriers for minority students. This opportunity gap begins in elementary school and drastically widens in middle level schools.

Dominant cultural values and dispositions are often perpetuated through curriculum and instructional practices in public schools. Research findings by many prominent education scholars—including Apple, Nieto, and Spring—demonstrate how schooling in the United States, through its biased ideologies and structures, serves to maintain hegemony. There is an urgent need to address the needs of diverse, socially marginalized students in classrooms across the country.

It is vital to provide middle level students with opportunities to collaborate and express themselves through creative mediums, including technological tools. This T-shirt Literacy Project can engage diverse learners and encourage collaboration and creativity. Moreover, this project actively promotes social justice by empowering students to find and use their "voice" to positively impact their communities.

T-shirt Literacy Project

The T-shirt Literacy Project includes an eight-phase process, which can easily be altered to meet the needs of students. Educators are encouraged to review the following guidelines and adapt them accordingly.

T-Shirt Literacy steps:

  1. Discuss literacy and the influence of language in both words and images.
  2. Share graphic T-shirts and the many roles of graphic design in society.
  3. Brainstorm relevant social issues and formulate compelling questions that aim to advance equity and justice.
  4. Research topics related to your question.
  5. Develop ideas for advocacy T-shirts based on findings (a minimum of three ideas are recommended) and select one design idea to further develop.
  6. Critically self- and peer-evaluate T-shirt designs, and revise accordingly.
  7. Create your design.
  8. Celebrate learning by sharing T-shirts in multiple formats.

Useful Tips

Teachers may need to adapt the third phase of the process to best meet students' needs in different content areas. For example, a math teacher may ask students to brainstorm geometric terms and concepts after completing a geometry unit. Similarly, a science teacher may want to have students address specific environmental issues.

For the fifth phase, students might find a T-shirt design template or draw their own T-shirt. Encourage students to create many designs and play with words and images as well as the juxtaposition of words and images.

Providing students with multiple artistic mediums during the fifth phase is important. In addition to providing students with graphite pencils, crayons, colored pencils, oil pastels, paints, ink pens, felt-tip markers, other materials such as magazines, scissors, and glue are also useful for those who may prefer to collage their designs.

With the availability of various technological tools such as Photoshop and its variants, phase seven is a wonderful extension of basic T-shirt literacy. Phase seven enables students to develop important technological and collaborative skills.

The eighth phase—public sharing—is a vital part of this teaching and learning process. Involve students in the planning process for the public sharing of their T-shirts, and encourage them to take leadership during the planning and implementation of the culminating activity. Students appreciate having an authentic audience and it makes the project even more meaningful. Three ways we have shared our completed T-shirts that have proved successful include:

  1. Hanging T-shirts on a clothesline in the classroom, in the school, or in the community.
  2. Coordinating a "T-shirt Literacy Showcase" at the school or in the community. We invited family, friends, administrators, teachers, staff, students in other classes or grade levels, and members in the community to view our work.
  3. Collectively sharing the digital T-shirt designs using a digital presentation application (e.g., Prezi, VCASMO, or Haiku Deck). Consider sharing the digital compositions in different publication venues and platforms such as on the class or school's website or Facebook account.

It is critical to provide students with opportunities to engage in intellectual discourse about their beliefs and to provide assignments with authentic audiences, extending beyond their classmates or the teacher.

Conclusion and a Graphic Invitation

Participating in T-shirt literacy experiences provides students opportunities to take ownership of their learning. Furthermore, it is an effective way to illuminate 21st century literacy and promote social justice education while reinforcing and enriching academic content.

T-shirt literacy also serves as an effective medium for civic engagement and artistic expression for young adolescents. In addition to sparking conversations and memories, graphic T-shirts can shed light on identity, beliefs, and agency.

Graphic T-shirts can be an invaluable teaching and learning approach for diverse middle school learners, making graphic T-shirts much more than cool garb!


Rajni Shankar-Brown, Ph.D., is an associate professor, director of education graduate programs, and the Jessie Ball duPont Chair of Social Justice Education at Stetson University.
rshankar@stetson.edu

Published in AMLE Magazine, April 2017.
Author: Rajni Shankar-Brown
Number of views (588)/Comments (0)/
Tags: Literacy
Crystal LaVoulle

Crystal LaVoulle

Dr. Crystal LaVoulle believes that learning is a lifelong endeavor and educators must continuously strive to increase their knowledge and understanding along with the students they teach. As the Executive Director of the LaVoulle Group, an international educational consulting, Dr. LaVoulle is an international consultant, committed to educating the world's children through Intelligent Leadership. Leading educators in critical examination of quantitative and qualitative data, Dr. LaVoulle addresses school climate and teacher retention issues through Collaborative Conversations©, a support program for school leaders. Her professional workshop series, Chronicles of Teacher Effectiveness©, offers classroom teachers needed support with instructional strategies and assessment. Innovative projects like Read, Write, Rhyme Institute©, bring educators and entertainers together to engage in intellectual discourse about art and education.

Dr. LaVoulle is an active member of the educational community, contributing to K-12 and post-secondary research and presenting at the AMLE Annual Conference, National Title I; National Youth At-Risk; Georgia Read, Write, Now; and the Georgia Council of Teachers of English conferences. Earning a doctorate in reading, language and literacy from Georgia State University, a Master of Public Administration in Policy and Education from the University of West Georgia and received her bachelor's degree in sociology from the University at Stony Brook. Dr. LaVoulle has 20 years of educational experience working with a diverse range of middle, high school, and post-secondary teachers and students.

Bring Crystal LaVoulle to your school!
Contact Dru Tomlin, Director of Middle Level Services
1-800-528-6672
dtomlin@amle.org

Sue Vansant

Sue Vansant is a 27-year veteran of education, having taught at both the middle and high school levels. She is a former National Board Certified Teacher in English-Language Arts, however, Sue has taught every academic subject. Sue’s expertise is engaging instructional strategies and best practices that work with middle grades students. For more than 10 years, she has conducted workshops on a variety of topics for schools and school systems in Georgia and across the United States. Her approach to educational workshops is serious and candy-coated with lots of humor. Her workshops are truly exciting.

Bring Sue Vansant to your school!
Contact Dru Tomlin, Director of Middle Level Services
1-800-528-6672
dtomlin@amle.org

Chris Toy

Chris Toy

Chris Toy has spent 30+ years serving as a teacher, principal, university instructor, consultant, presenter, cooking instructor, and writer. In addition to being a certified Apple consultant, he has worked internationally with dozens of school districts, hundreds of schools, and thousands of educators providing exceptional workshops on leadership, teaching, and learning, resulting in greater student engagement and academic achievement. His interactive style reflects his belief that teachers and leaders must model what they expect from students, colleagues, and faculties.

Listen to a podcast interview of Chris Toy:

Bring Chris Toy to your school!
Contact Dru Tomlin, Director of Middle Level Services
1-800-528-6672
dtomlin@amle.org

Jill Spencer

Jill Spencer

High energy and student-tested strategies that can be applied across the curriculum are the hallmarks of Jill's workshops. Jill actively involves the audience in her sessions, ensuring they leave with a good sense of how strategies can be applied in different situations. She is passionate about creating learning environments for students that capture their interests, take advantage of their energy, and help them develop the skills and knowledge they need to be successful. An early advocate for incorporating digital learning in curriculum and instruction, she served on the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) Design Team (one-to-one computing for all 7th & 8th graders).

A former teacher, she now works with educators across the US in the areas of literacy, leadership, effective instructional practices including technology integration and differentiation, and curriculum development. An avid blogger, she writes about exemplary teaming practices at Teaming Rocks! (http://teamingrocks.wordpress.com/) and is a contributor to the Bright Futures blog (http://brightfutures4me.wordpress.com/).

She is also the author of Everyone’s Invited! Interactive Strategies That Engage Young Adolescents, Teaming Rocks! Collaborate in Powerful Ways to Ensure Student Success, and Ten Differentiation Strategies for Building Prior Knowledge. Her articles have appeared in publications from NASSP, NAESP, AMLE, and MAMLE. Jill's website, http://jillspencer.net, has links to her handouts, pictures from her sessions, comments from participants, and examples of her workshops.

Bring Jill Spencer to your school!
Contact Dru Tomlin, Director of Middle Level Services
1-800-528-6672
dtomlin@amle.org

Allen Seed

Allen Seed

Allen Seed teaches middle level education and curriculum courses at the University of Memphis. Prior to his work in higher education, he taught grades 4-8 for more than 18 years. He enjoys working with middle schools and is currently involved in implementing a new middle school licensure program that includes a year-long residency. He has presented and written extensively about middle school improvement including flexible block scheduling, collaboration, and experiential education. One of his lifelong goals is to make learning fun for middle school students and workshop participants.

Bring Allen Seed to your school!
Contact Dru Tomlin, Director of Middle Level Services
1-800-528-6672
dtomlin@amle.org

Sharon Faber

Sharon Faber

Sharon Faber has more than 40 years of experience as a teacher, building and district administrator, university professor, consultant, and author. She is the author of How to Teach Reading When You’re Not a Reading Teacher, How to Teach Academic Vocabulary, three staff development guides on literacy and leadership, reading, and discipline with the brain in mind, and joint author of Interactive Learning.

An internationally known speaker, Faber has delivered keynote presentations and conducted workshops for educators at all grade levels throughout the United States and Canada. She has presented at ASCD conferences and conferences of many other national organizations. She is noted for her high energy, sense of humor, and the practicality of her presentations.

Faber is president of Faber Consulting and a member of the AMLE and ASCD faculties. She received a bachelor's degree in English and Education from Midwestern State University, a master's degree in educational leadership from the University of Texas at San Antonio, and her doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Virginia.

Bring Sharon Faber to your school!
Contact Dru Tomlin, Director of Middle Level Services
1-800-528-6672
dtomlin@amle.org

Bobb Darnell

Dr. Bobb Darnell is president of Achievement Strategies, Inc. and an advocate for high student achievement and daily professional growth. He served as director of staff support for more than 1,700 staff members in a northwest Illinois school district and taught for more than 25 years. Bobb has served on the board of trustees for the National and Illinois Staff Development Councils, Illinois International Branch of the Dyslexia Association, and has been a member of numerous national and state task forces and committees. He is the author of ASCD's 2002 action tool kit—A Guide for Instructional Leaders, and has written four staff development guides for Wavelength's award winning educational comedy videos. Bobb's work on the 21st Century Instructional Leader is featured in ASCD's 2010 PD Quick Kits.

Dr. Darnell is an internationally known speaker who has delivered keynote presentations and conducted workshops for educators at all grade levels. Bobb's high-energy workshops are filled with "edutainment" and practical ideas about Common Core State Standards, formative assessment, data-driven instruction, literacy improvement, and intervention strategies. He helps administrators and teacher leaders fine-tune their knowledge and skills for leading school improvement initiatives. Teachers and administrators can easily sense his enthusiasm for continuous improvement, job satisfaction, and lifelong learning. He is truly committed to helping teachers build high performance classrooms and develop responsible and self-directed students.

Listen to a podcast interview of Bobb Darnell:

 

Bring Bobb Darnell to your school!
Contact Dru Tomlin, Director of Middle Level Services
1-800-528-6672
dtomlin@amle.org

Judith Conk

Judith Conk

Judith Conk is an educator who has taught and administered at all levels of education from preschool to graduate school in a career that spans almost 40 years. Working in both urban and suburban settings, the school systems she has led as a principal, assistant superintendent, and for 16 years, superintendent, have won recognition for their outstanding educational programs that recognize the individual in each student. She presently heads her own educational consulting firm, Consulting for Results, with varied national and international partnerships spanning PreK-University level education and concentrating on leadership, teaching and learning, middle grades, and the arts. She also serves as an adjunct professor for University of Massachusetts - Amherst.

A frequently requested speaker, author, professional developer, and school coach, Mrs. Conk has spoken and written on a variety of topics. She has worked extensively with schools in the area of curriculum development for the 21st century. She served on the national selection committee to select the Disney Teacher of the Year. She was awarded the prestigious Distinguished Service Award for Educational Leadership from the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, following a similar award at the county level. Mrs. Conk also received a Governor’s Award in Arts Education as Outstanding Superintendent of the Year.

Bring Judith Conk to your school!
Contact Dru Tomlin, Director of Middle Level Services
1-800-528-6672
dtomlin@amle.org

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