"Learner's Got Talent"!

Posted by Big Universe on Aug 6, 2011 7:28:50 AM

I am quite a fan of the reality television series, America’s Got Talent! If you haven’t seen it, this talent show features performers of all ages and talents competing for US$1million. Every Tuesday and Wednesday evening my family and I huddle around our TV like rabid sports fans to watch this show while we devour popcorn or ice cream (sometimes both!). You can imagine these evenings have been a fun family event!

As I have followed this show over the past several weeks, I’ve noticed the talent performers have characteristics similar to a community of learners in a classroom and the community of student learners on Big Universe. I feel all learners share the desire to “win” just like a performer. All learners want to be the best they can be!

There are many more similarities than what I have highlighted in this table:

Characteristics of a Community of Learners Classroom of Learners Big Universe Learners America’s Got Talent Contestants/Learners

Students are engaged and motivated to read and write through meaningful learning opportunities. For example, a student that likes dinosaurs will be motivated to read and write about dinosaurs.


Students are motivated to read and write using the online interactive books and variety of creative writing tools. As students work collaboratively with peers, their motivation to read more books and write increases. Contestants are engaged and excited to perform meaningful and purposeful talents.


Students make choices about the books they read and the pieces they write during independent reading/writing time.


Students have 24/7 access to choose from over 3,000 interactive books to read. Students choose who to share books with from their personal bookshelf. Students choose from several publishing tools to create books. Contestants choose their audition delivery, resources and appearance.



Students assume responsibility for their learning by completing a reading log or participating in guided reading groups. Students take prideful ownership over their online bookshelf and collection of published writing. Contestants are responsible for preparing their timed acts and fully completing their performance.
Risk Taking


Students take risks by choosing books with more complex text-lines or completing author inquiry projects. Students challenge their reading development by exploring higher-leveled books. Students learn new ways to navigate publishing tools to publish books. Contestants are encouraged to create challenging and innovative performances.
Response Students may respond to books by using a reading log, participating in peer book discussions, and sharing written responses with peers, family and others. Students respond to books by rating books, adding books to bookshelves and sharing books with friends, family and others. They can create book responses, write a book similar to what they have read, and share published pieces. Contestants respond to the judges and audience by using constructive feedback to make performance adjustments.
Time Students learn to balance their literacy block work time. For example, shifting from guided reading groups to computer activities or to independent reading time. Students learn to balance computer time in-and-out of the regular classroom. Students have 24/7 access to help them thoroughly complete independent reading and writing tasks. Contestants learn to balance the content shifts within their performance.
Opportunities Students may participate in buddy reading, book discussions, and independent reading and journal writing time. Students participate in purposeful and meaningful online reading and writing activities continuously. For example, students can share bookshelves, create learner profiles, and publish books for more than one school year. Contestants are given opportunities to collaborate with others in their talent division, utilize the show’s support services, and use independent practice time.
Assessment Students understand how they will be assessed and held accountable on a grading scale/scoring guide. Students progress through reading levels and complete comprehension quizzes. Teachers evaluate and track student levels of achievement. Students learn how to earn Accelerated Reader points. Contestants receive constructive feedback from judges. Audience participation (applauding) may indicate performance success. TV show viewers at home can call-in to request performers move to the next level.
Instruction Students learn how and when to use several strategic actions to process texts. A few examples of literacy strategies taught include:







Students learn how and when to use strategic actions to process online texts and publish interactive books. A few examples of digital literacy strategies learned include:





verifying information

Contestants learn how and when to use several audition strategies. A few examples of the performance strategies integrated throughout a performance include:




body language




Students learn reading and writing strategies and skills by observing teacher modeling. For example, students observe teacher think-alouds or small group strategy modeling. Students learn how to navigate through Big Universe from observing online program support, teacher modeling and peer/family support. Contestants observe competitors and former contestants to learn new ideas.


Tompkins, G. (2010). Literacy for the 21st Century. Boston: Allyn & Bacon/Pearson.

Topics: Personal Experiences

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