Visible Learning for Literacy: Deep Literacy Learning

According to MENSA, only about 2% of the population are considered geniuses. Fisher, et al. suggest that at some point in their childhood, each of these geniuses had a teacher that provided learning experiences that were relevant and meaningful to them. That may be the case, but whether or not someone is considered a genius we know that students will learn more when they can take their surface level learning and apply it to something that is relevant to them.


In thinking about the differences between surface and deep learning, it really comes down to how and why learners are learning. Deep learners interact with content and ideas to make connections between concepts and knowledge. So how do we help our students achieve deep learning?


The text gives a few examples for deep learning acquisition such as concept mapping, discussion and questioning, and close reading.

In our Facebook group, we talked about how discussion can be difficult in a K-1 classroom. I've found that questioning works well with K-1 kids in small groups. Obviously questioning is a big part of your whole group lessons, but as far as reaching that "deeper" level I think its necessary to work with a smaller group. I know many students that are struggling to comprehend things (the text suggests discussion benefits them most) are less likely to speak up in a whole group setting. I think if you take a topic with a group of 3-5 students and question and model your expectations of the discussion, they will be able to move on to that deeper level of learning fairly easily as the year progresses.

I also think its important to remember that deeper learning for a K-1 student looks very different than deep learning for a 5th grader. For instance, I wouldn't expect a kindergartner to be able to explain how engineers design and build structures to withstand tornado damage, but I would expect them to be able to tell me what a tornado is (surface) and how a tornado can effect us (deep).


If you find it hard to come up with challenging questions on the spot, check out these 96 leveled question stems! The first two levels relate to surface learning. To reach that deeper level, we need to be guiding our learners (yes, even kindergartners!) with level 3 and 4 questions.

Want to read more reflections on our summer book club?
Chapter 1: Laying the Groundwork for Visible Learning for Literacy
Chapter 2: Surface Literacy Learning

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