Here are a few examples of projects that accomplish this:
1) ‘Kids in the News’ involves students in going online to do short research on and track (as part of a portfolio), news items in which students are the focus. These items often include: students arrested for a crime, students whose rights in the United States or internationally are challenged, and students who lead as young citizens. For each item students create a short summary and take a position on the social/legal issue and perhaps create a graphic or interview an adult with expertise (i.e. School Dean, local police, local official). Literacy tasks include: reading a range of texts, research into a social issue or connected legal issue, discussion, short informational writing, interviewing, and perhaps argument writing. The materials that students produce are often shared with adults through a web site or blog that provides opportunities for readers (peers, adults, and experts, both members of and outsiders to the school community) to comment.
3) ‘Functional Documents - Student Oversight’: Many adults cannot or do not read small (or even large) print on coupons, ads, nutrition labels, over the counter prescription drugs, merchandise receipts, and instruction manuals for equipment they acquire. Students collect from their own kitchen shelves and bathroom cabinets, as well as school cafeteria discards, packaging as well as labels and advertising circulars which offer opportunities to focus on word use details such as danger warnings, (deceptive or verifiable) claims for efficacy, side effects notices, dosage limits, etc. Students create a print guide for citizens that alternatively clarifies and provides improved factual healthy use requirements, limits for over counter drugs, and details the false, misleading, or commonly misunderstood advertising and (questionable) claims on labels, coupons and circulars on which they choose to focus. This print guide can be posted on line and expanded throughout the year by a team of student oversight observers. This fosters authentic research, text engagement, reading for real use of functional documents, and analysis of purpose, topic, and actual use of products. Developing a guide to post online is an immediate citizen-consumer proactive action that contextualizes students as community resources and contributing citizens.
Fun Literacy Projects for Powerful Common Core Learning (Information Age Publishers, 2015). She is the founder of the Writing Institute, which has served 134 schools. Dr. Reissman developed the projects cited in this article in collaboration with Ditmas Middle School teachers Angelo Carideo, Michael Downes, David Liotta, and Amanda Xavier.