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CASPER Literacy App

The ORT SA CAPE’s Literacy App is an innovative fun, game-like activity where learners can work independently in groups or alone. The aim of the Literacy App is to promote the development of reading with understanding and intentional writing. It has been designed to include Bloom's taxonomy verbs and de Bono’s concept of Thinking Hats. Each segment (colour) of the wheel represents a different aspect of thinking and provides Sentence Starters for the relevant questions from Grade 4 upwards. It integrates the key elements of language acquisition and literacy instruction with its focus on the What, Why, When, How, Where and Who.

Letter to Teachers and Parents

Congratulations on your choice of the CASPER Literacy App as a means of improving the Reading Skills of your learners and children.

This letter serves to explain the following:

What is the CASPER Literacy App?

The CASPER Literacy App is a tool teachers can use in their classrooms to improve learners’ reading practices and to help them become independent readers. It is colour-coded and simple to use. The upper wheel rotates to reveal your chosen ‘segment’.

You will notice the CASPER Literacy App is divided into 8 segments and there are four colours: purple, blue, orange and green. Each colour has two segments, one darker (guiding reading) and one lighter (guiding writing). These two segments are so placed on the CASPER Literacy App in order to emphasise the importance of teaching Reading and Writing hand-in-hand, as Reading and Writing should always be connected in the classroom. However, because you will be following only one sequence at a time, (e.g. Reading), you will, of course, skip over the following ‘segment’ (i.e. Writing) to continue to the next phase.

You will also see that there are questions in each segment. It is intended that users of the CASPER Literacy App will ask these questions of each other or themselves, when working with fictional or non-fictional texts. Once they feel they have responded to all the questions, they will then turn to the next segment in the series.

The CASPER Literacy App starts at the purple section. This is Petro the Predictor. The role of Petro is meant to help learners ask important questions BEFORE engaging in the text, about what they expect to read/write and what they already know about the topic. It is known that the better learners are at predicting outcomes and contextualising texts, the more effective Reading and Writing will become. Prediction does not only happen at the start of Reading and Writing: throughout the CASPER Literacy App, learners are asked to stop and reflect on what they have predicted, how accurate these predictions have been and then to predict further outcomes based on the evidence so far. Predicting before one begins to read/write is a bit like looking at a map before embarking on a journey: the more one knows about what to expect on a journey, the more exciting the experience as the journey unfolds.

After taking on the role of Petro, learners then move on to becoming Charlie the Clarifier. As the name suggests, the role of Charlie helps to make the Reading or Writing clearer, more understandable. Good readers and writers ask themselves clarifying questions before, and while they are reading or writing. Reflections such as, ‘I think that the author believes... because’ help the reader to make links between the text and his/her own prior knowledge and to make links within the text itself. When writing, learners need to think about how to help their reader/s make these links and to structure their own writing in a clear way. It is advised that learners take on the role of Charlie the Clarifier whenever they come across sections in a text that they are not too sure about.

Linked to Charlie is Qhama the Questioner. Qhama has a powerful role because it is Qhama who helps the learners engage meaningfully with the text and to constantly assess what they understand or do not understand. It is in this role that learners engage in higher order thinking by summarising, comparing, critiquing and adjusting.

Finally, after having taken on the previous roles during the reading/writing of texts, learners arrive at Sipho the Summariser. It is at this point that learners need to reflect critically on how accurate their earlier predictions have been, what they have learnt, what the experience has meant to them and, in writing, to gauge the quality of what they have achieved.

How to use the CASPER Literacy App in a classroom setting

A suggested approach is that learners view the activity as a game, working in groups of 4, and, starting with Petro, move through the various roles, (at their own pace), each one taking a turn to lead the questioning process. However, it is very important that teachers model the use of the CASPER Literacy App beforehand, using strategies like ‘think-alouds’ to share their own answers to these questions. Equally important is the need for teachers/facilitators to walk around the classroom checking and guiding learners, reminding them to engage fully with each role. They could actually have a competition to design paper hats to represent the different roles.

Another way of encouraging learners to take control of their own learning is to set up learning stations (i.e. different tables) which learners go to, to engage with a particular role on the wheel and, after a set time, move on to the next table. While it can be a bit chaotic in the beginning, learners quickly learn how to do it efficiently. However, the activity needs to be set up by the teacher beforehand and explained very carefully. Also, when using stations, it is important that learners stick to the set times and pack up the tasks carefully before progressing to the next station. Each station could have its own flag designed by learners.

It should be noted that these particular questions have been selected as prompts towards higher order thinking. Ideally, learners themselves (and teachers) can create their own questions to supplement the enquiry started by the wheel, sparked by the questions used by investigators across the world of Who, What, Why, Where, When, How, which we have included in the centre of the CASPER Literacy App.

In summary, this CASPER Literacy App, if used often and correctly, can enable your learners to internalise the reflective process so essential in learning in order to become strong readers and writers. Watch out on the website for more ideas coming soon!

Good luck and enjoy!!

Warm regards

Dr Lydia Abel

Director

CASPER Literacy is also available in a hard copy wheel format.

The wheels are R20 each for single purchases and R15 each if you purchase more than 20 wheels. Please contact us on 021 4488516 or caspers@ortsacape.org.za for more information. Schools can contact us for special deals.

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