Congratulations on your choice of the CASPER Literacy App as a means of improving the Reading Skills of your learners.
This letter serves to explain the following:
What is the CASPER Literacy App? (Hereafter referred to as CASPER App).
The CASPER 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 App is divided into 8 segments and there are four colours: green, red, yellow and blue. Each colour has two segments, one darker (guiding reading) and one lighter (guiding writing). These two segments are so placed on the CASPER 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 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 App starts at the blue 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 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.
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 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 App.
Good luck and enjoy!!
Dr Lydia Abel
Tel: 021 448 8516
Fax: 021 448 6910
Cape Town Science Centre
370B Main Road