SUMMARY: Combining traditional and new literacies in a 21st century writing workshop

Bogard, J. & McMakin, M. (2012). Combining Traditional And New Literacies In A 21st-Century Writing Workshop. Reading Teacher, 65 (5), p313-323. The terms ‘literacy’ and ‘to be literate’ are evolving as a consequence to our new age… The Knowledge Age.

How can our primary classrooms enter the 21st century, in a way that is beneficial to the children’s learning?

The New London Group (1996) is credited with coining the term multi-literacies and have set out to broaden our understanding of what it means to be literate by attending to multiple modes of representation and the importance of cultural and linguistic diversity.

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Jennifer M. Bogard (a third-grade teacher at Central Elementary School, South Berwick, Maine, USA, an adjunct professor and doctoral student at Lesley University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA) and Mary C. McMackin (a professor in the Language and Literacy Division of the School of Education at Lesley University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA) set out to…
Learn how to integrate easy-to-use technology into stages of the writing process in order to enhance how elementary students plan, write, and create digital stories.

They wanted to explore the ways in which ‘new literacies’ e.g. Coiro, Knobel, Lankshear, & Leu, 2010; Mills, 2010; could augment traditional literacy practices in order to enhance their students’ learning. Although there is a lack of research on this topic in lower primary years, it is becoming increasingly evident that technology could support literacy learning.

Bogard and McMackin decided to investigate the use of technology (new literacy) blended with “time-honoured literacy customs (e.g. graphic organisers) for story writing though digital storytelling (see: Hull & Nelson, 2005). Digital storytelling, aka… … “multimodal storytelling” (Vasudevan, et al, 2010) is the “wide range of digital and non- digital composing” (p. 447).

Their 5 step process:

1. Planning e.g. graphic organiser – story map.

Picture 370

2. Developing stories through recorded oral rehearsal -> technology tools introduced: photo booth (photos), tune talk (audio), live scribe pulse smarten (contains a camera and microphone to capture what students say and draw). Use of sketching, symbols and arrows to show order of events. – reflective.


3. Listening, critically thinking and conferring -> Oral planning = “play around with the words.” “collaborative writing” is 1 of 11 elements of effective writing instruction recommended in Writing Next (Graham & Perin, 2006), a meta- analysis that showed that collaborative arrangements have a “strong positive impact on quality” (p. 16).


4. Creating storyboards simple graphic organizers that contained three parts: (1) the narration, (2) sketches, and (3) the media list.

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5. Producing digital stories -> using iMovie, photostory.

MAC229.main_imovie.trailers_1-580-90Photo Story 3

Moving from a traditional literacy practice to the iMovie can provide children with what Ranker (2008) referred to as a moment of “textual punctuation” (p. 214), that is, natural stopping points that provide authors with opportunities to reflect on what they need to do to achieve their goals. Sharing was spontaneous as students called “Come hear this!” while making their movies. Sharing also involved a wider audience as writers burned their digital stories to compact discs and brought them home for family members to view.

Shaping and reshaping literacy opportunities:
* Graham and Harris (2007): suggested that student’s will be more engaged if the writing’s purpose is authentic and has a real audience.
* However, not all planning results in high-quality writing.

*** Recorded oral rehearsal and digital storytelling are proving to be particularly powerful.
Some author strategies that they suggested, that could be achieved through technology:
* zooming in on meaningful moments
* drafting strong leads
* incorporating true details using thought shots (thinking) and snapshots(feeling) (Lane, 1992)


Coiro, J., Knobel, M., Lankshear, C., & Leu, D.J. (2010). Handbook of research on new literacies. New York: Erlbaum.
Graham, S., & Perin, D. (2006). Writing next: Effective strategies to improve writing of adolescents in middle and high schools. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.

Hull, G.A., & Nelson, M. (2005). Locating the semiotic power of multimodality. Written Communication, 22(2), 224–261. doi:10.1177/0741088304274170

Mills, K. (2010). A review of the “digital turn” in the new literacy studies. Review of Educational Research, 80(2), 246–271. doi:10.3102/0034654310364401

Ranker, J. (2008). Composing across multiple media: A case study of digital video production in a fifth grade classroom. Written Communication, 25(2), 196–234. doi:10.1177/0741088307313021



3 thoughts on “SUMMARY: Combining traditional and new literacies in a 21st century writing workshop

  1. Thanks for this post. I find it relevant to my middle school writing workshop classroom. I’d like to link to this post in an upcoming post I’m writing for the International Reading Association’s Technology in Literacy Education Blog.

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