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March 18, 2021

Me and LDC: What is the Literacy Design Collaborative?

If we happen to meet by chance or even if you’re a close companion, the odds are good that I’ll bring up the Literacy Design Collaborative at least once in our conversation.

Some people obsess over reality TV or the latest diet trend. One of my fixations revolves around a framework for embedding rigorous literacy experiences into the classroom through a teacher-designed module, called LDC for short. I have been involved with LDC for going on five years now, and I’m just as excited about it today as I was years ago.

The LDC Framework

LDC is the “thing” that changed the way I think about teaching, and the impact it has had on my professional growth is tremendous. I finally understood the value of things, like creating clear writing prompts that are meaningful and relevant, planning instruction that teaches students valuable literacy skills leading to the prompts, and using student products to determine next steps for instruction and enrichment. LDC also opened my eyes to the extreme value of discipline-specific literacy for all students. (Read more of my LDC musings here.)

But what is this “LDC” thing? It gets mentions at conferences and in discussions about tools that permit teachers to address college and career readiness standards, but many people are still unfamiliar with the framework.

First off, that’s exactly what LDC is — a framework. By using templates to create rigorous and clear writing tasks, ELA, science, social studies, and technical teachers across the nation can all partake in grassroots work aimed at supporting students, while addressing vital literacy skills deeply connected to the disciplines. The big end product of the LDC planning process is called a module, and the teachers and coaches who author these modules decide on what content to target, the mode of writing, and the specific focus of that writing.

How LDC Works

Using a backwards design model, the culminating writing task is written prior to deciding what skills are needed to write products that meet expectations. Once the skills are identified, the instruction to teach those skills is designed, and this instruction ideally offers students a comprehensive literacy experience that is customized to fit the final writing product they will complete. The beauty of this framework is that the templates are designed so that they are strongly connected to the Common Core State Standards (and also to your state’s version of college and career readiness standards). Starting to sound like just the thing you need to address those demanding literacy standards? Read on!

Just as with other backwards-design frameworks, the LDC process doesn’t end at the writing stage. Teachers score student work using a common rubric fit for either argumentative or informational modes of writing. This rubric hones in on seven essential elements of writing: focus, controlling idea, development, organization, reading and research, conventions, and content understanding. Using a common rubric across schools, networks, and states opens the door to intense discussions about learning outcomes. One of the best things I’ve seen come out of LDC work is the amount of teacher growth during those conversations and the focus on what students need to be successful.

The Power of Online Collaboration

Currently, thousands of teachers across 50 states are involved in LDC and the numbers are growing and growing. The creation process is powered by an online platform called LDC Core Tools, which makes creation and collaboration even more powerful. Signing up for an account is free and fast, and users have access to the LDC Curriculum Library teeming with exemplar modules and lessons (called mini-tasks) that are ready for the taking. Users can even co-author modules and mini-tasks by using the collaboration settings to share creations.

Working with a coach? The coach can dive into modules and provide relevant and helpful feedback on the site. One of the best features of LDC is the presence of a national jurying, or feedback, team who collaborates to provide teachers with feedback and ratings to support teacher growth in designing modules and mini-tasks. Think of it as a very helpful internal peer review system at your fingertips.

Watch an LDC Module in a Science Classroom

When I was in my heyday as a science classroom teacher, I authored an LDC module called “Building Bridges” for my physics classroom. I used the LDC framework to create an engaging, literacy-rich experience for my students, and they were able to write formal lab reports following an investigation. Want a peek at the action? Check out these Teaching Channel videos to see students working within an LDC module specifically for a science classroom:

Literacy in Physics: Reading a Primary Source

Collaborating to Design and Build Stable Structures

Active reading is such a worthy experience for preparing for scientific investigations, and incorporating hands-on activities as precursors to the actual investigation is golden for emerging scientists. These are but a few of the types of experiences students have in LDC classrooms.

Speaking of students, what did they think about LDC? My students loved the times when we were working on LDC modules. They were excited about the work and enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with each other and get their hands dirty while they completed tasks, such as building bridges and investigating solar energy. Instead of hearing complaints about having to write essays and formal lab reports, I heard “ah-ha!” moments happening, and when we would finish a module they would always ask if we could do this again with another topic. That speaks volumes! My favorite comment from a student: a young lady told me that she wasn’t sure that she could handle reading and writing in college — she was a senior — but after we completed modules, she felt more confident about her reading and writing skills.


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