Literacy Design Collaborative Boosts Student and Teacher Learning

Learner Experience, Learning, PreK-12

When Arturo Garcia decided to teach while earning money to attend veterinary school, little did he know that nine years later he would still be teaching and on his way to become one of the three literacy leaders at Cigarroa High School, the high school from which he graduated. On the Mexican border three hours south of San Antonio, Cigarroa High serves about 1300 mostly Hispanic students in south Laredo.

By the time students reach high school, the assumption is that they can read and write. However, as Garcia assigned science reading and writing to his students, he found that they often performed poorly at one or both.

Seeking better literacy results, principal Laura Flores introduced the the CHS staff to the Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) two years ago with implementation support from SREB.

LDC is an open library of literacy lessons. Each lesson is teacher-created, standards-based, and peer-reviewed. Core Tools is LDC’s collaborative lesson authoring environment.

Garcia’s first LDC training resulted in questions–the design-based work was different than most professional development he had experienced. He struggled through module design and didn’t have enough time in the school year to implement it.

The first time he taught an LDC module he skipped key steps on the instructional ladder, again, due to limited time and it showed in student work product. Garcia learned that both reading and writing must be taught, not just assigned, following a process for learning, and the emphasis on content must be shared with an equal if not greater emphasis on thinking through reading and writing.

As Garcia began to implement LDC in his classroom, he found that LDC had a positive effect on his students, “By improving their literacy skills, the students will be able to comprehend the content much better. This in turn will be of great benefit for performance in state assessment as well as for college readiness.”   

Garcia also observed that student learning is multi-faceted, and student engagement and motivation have a direct impact on student learning.

With LDC Garcia has also made discoveries about his own teaching. It turns out that designing engaging standards-based learning experiences is a powerful professional learning experience.  Garcia has become a facilitator of learning with LDC, extending his leadership skills not to his peers.

With LDC tools and SREB’s approach to professional development, Garcia will continue to co-lead school-wide literacy efforts at CHS.

This blog is part of a series brought to you by Literacy Design Collaborative (Sign up for your free account at oretools.ldc.org). For more, stay tuned in April for the final published Smart Bundle, Getting Smart on Teachers as Collaborative Curriculum Designers, and the accompanying podcast and infographic.

For more on LDC, check out:


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Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is author of Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and Learn Capital and serves on the boards of 4.0 Schools, eduInnovation, Digital Learning Institute, Imagination Foundation, Charter Board Partners and Bloomboard. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.