The digital world is at times too fast-paced for me. Reading…I am actually a close and careful reader. When reading print text I tend to read and savor every word and rarely skim. I am afraid of missing something. I read everything in grad school two or three times. Digital text is more meant to be skimmed and I wonder what we are losing–though, oddly, I prefer digital text over print. When I read a print book, I feel compelled to read everything–the text itself, the back cover, the author’s note, the preface…. I love words. I study them.


I am a big fan of “Do-it-yourself” (DIY) media as a crucial tool in my work as a professor. Although it’s a bit of work to create my own tools such as YouTube videos, I find it to be highly worthwhile. Click here to see my YouTube channel.

Although, I do draw on ready-made videos that are available via YouTube and elsewhere, I often find myself making my own videos to share with online teaching and also face-to-face teaching in work as a teacher educator. I make my own for these reasons:

1. I believe it enhances credibility when I can draw on my own professional wisdom, experiences from my former classroom teaching and work as a specialist and overall knowledge to share what I know, in addition to the research base I draw on to share teaching ideas. For instance, as a former bilingual teacher, I can keep these learners in mind as I share ideas for literacy instruction.

2. I think it personalizes learning to have the presenter in the video match the instructor of the course. This doesn’t always have to be the case, but it helps to have a personal connection to a mentor. If I know someone personally, they can be more of a mentor to me, so I would imagine the same to be true with online learning–it helps to have the personalized connection.

3. I agree most with my own thoughts! This sounds like a tautology, but when I view others’ videos, I don’t always agree with what they say or believe and so there are little to no “caveats” when I create my own media.

4. D.I.Y. Media can be created as “just in time” learning to best meet the needs of students. A video can be created to clarify a concept, etc.

5. It helps to model use of technology to teachers.

Teaching-by-video, while not entirely “new” is still an emergent technology, given that they can be so easily and readily created. It also creates a curiosity for me, as to what might be the best use of teaching by video, videoconferencing, and other instances where the teaching medium goes beyond text-and-email. I am a technophile, of course, not for it’s own sake, but for the advantages and potential learning opportunities it can provide for me and my students.

Someone recently mentioned to me the concept of teaching by hologram. That would potentially be a whole new facet of online/virtual teaching to explore, when the cost wouldn’t be a burden!

Dr. Semingson’s Favorite Materials for Elementary Literacy Learning!

*These are based on my eight years of teaching in public schools. I was also a bilingual/ESL teacher for years and a bilingual reading specialist! I taught mainly upper-grades, but the list includes books for all ages as I worked with students in K-6th grade as a reading specialist.

Favorite Authors for Read-Aloud in Primary-Grades (fiction): Mem Fox, Kevin Henkes, Cynthia Rylant, Carmen Lomas Garza, Bill Martin/Eric Carle, Doreen Cronin, Mo Willems, David Shannon, James Marshall, Margaret Wise Brown, Jane Yolen, Joseph Bruchac, Denise Fleming, Don & Audrey Wood, Leo Lionni, William Steig, Paul Galdone, David Wiesner (wordless books), Alma Flor Ada, Lois Ehlert, Donald Crews, Anthony Browne.
Favorite stories for read-aloud and/or writing instruction:

Quick as a Cricket by Don and Audrey Wood (teaching simile/figurative language)

Hailstones and Halibut Bones (poetry)

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant (memoir, personal narrative)

In My Family/En Mi Familia by Carmen Lomas Garza (memoir, vignette writing, author/illustrator, diversity)

Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold (personal narrative)

Coming on Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson (personal narrative)

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson

Wilma, Unlimited by Kathleen Krull

Stellaluna by Jannell Cannon

The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles

Rosa by Nikki Giovanni

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein

The Wall by Eve Bunting

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell

Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh

It Looked Like Spilt Book (emergent readers)

What! Cried Granny by Kate Lum and Adrian Johnson

The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen (writing with detail; poetry)

Black Cat by Christopher Myers


Favorite Non-fiction authors and series (all elementary grades)

authors: Seymour Simon, Gail Gibbons, Doug Florian

Brothers in Hope The Story of The Lost Boys of Sudan by Mary Williams and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Dear America series

Immigrant Kids by Russell Freedman

Math Curse by Jon Scieszka


Favorite Books for Upper-Grade Readers

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Circuit by Francisco Jimenez

Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Maniac Mageeby Jerry Spinelli

Lizard Music by Daniel Pinkwater

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson  by Bette Bao Lord


Graphic Novels for Independent Reading: Captain Underpants series, Babymouse series


Good Literacy-Related Websites for Teachers:


American Library Association (good booklists)

Mem Fox’s website


Reading Rockets


Donors Choose




Writing Fix

International Reading Association

Children’s Choices (IRA)


So, literacy topics that have been on my mind…

1. What are the future of bookstores? To be honest, I don’t go to them anymore, not even for the coffee! I try to read digital books and text read via my phone.

2. If you’re a Generation X-er, you grew up with clunker computers (Apple 2E), primitive video game systems (Pong), and typewriters (LOL). These are antiques to kids today. What does the future hold for them?

3. In terms of higher education, we’re moving towards digitized textbooks, e-reading, and online learning. Is the world ready for engaging in best practices in these areas?

There’s so much to learn about technology and literacy. I’m trying to keep up with it all!

These are suggestions for new and future teachers that I will provide. Is there anything else I should include?

Possible goals beyond the class

  • Continue to learn about text gradients and the types of text available along the continuum of readability.
  • Learn what books and authors are popular for children and young adults. Read these texts.
  • Learn more about digital reading and writing.
  • Read good teacher blogs and start compiling links and resources from them.
  • Find good “hub” websites and magazines that are good “go to” places for teaching ideas (e.g., Scholastic, Mailbox).
  • Find good authors for the teaching of writing. Read Craft Lessons and Non-fiction Craft Lessons for ideas. Mentor Texts is also a good book. Explore good non-fiction texts and authors. Discover what topics inspire you so you can use them to model inquiry and research of non-fiction text with students.
  • Discover your own favorite children’s authors that you will be passionate about sharing with your students. Know these author’s bios and texts well.
  • Consider starting your own book club so you can participate in the same process as you hope to include in your future classroom.
  • Explore your writerly life. Write daily (even if only for a few minutes) in a journal, diary, blog, etc.
  • Learn more about e-readers and digital reading. Download and read some digital books, both for children and for adults.
  • Explore books that represent cultures and languages other than your own.
  • Consider joining a literacy organization as a student (e.g., International Reading Association or National Council of Teachers of English). Explore their websites for details and resources.

We all have beliefs and ideologies about teaching and learning. Some of these beliefs are based on what we formally learning in school, e.g., in our textbooks and lectures from formal schooling, books and articles we explored on our own, and training from workshops/seminars, etc. Other beliefs are formed from our own past and experiences with schooling–both good and bad. Some of our beliefs are formed by the collective culture of the field we practice. For instance, in teaching there are expressions I have heard in different states, across time and distance. They are familiar to educators and hold their enduring wisdom. I often repeat them in my own university classroom. They ring true and often relate to locating curricular items that will help us get the job done:

“Don’t reinvent the wheel.”

“Beg, borrow, and steal.” (I don’t endorse the third part!)

Beyond these platitudes, I would suggest that we all need to have a highly developed guiding philosophy that informs our own teaching practice. It is often suggested that these beliefs and practices should be research-based. But is everyone truly informed about “the research”? Beyond that, there are debates within the field of education as to “what works”. To complicate matters, teachers (and their students) are largely evaluated based on a few measures such as standardized test scores. Some districts may prescribe or highly structure curriculum. None of this is news, but I think in the midst of things, we might overlook the development and articulation of our own beliefs and the analysis and self-awareness of where these beliefs come from.

My beliefs about teaching of reading and writing include the following:

As far as my theoretical orientation towards literacy learning, I  believe in a “comprehensive” approach. [Has this term replaced “Balanced literacy?”]. What this means to me is that I believe in a developmental approach to literacy learning (e.g., as described by Jeanne Chall in her 1983 text Stages of Reading Development). The stage model includes more of a holistic approach at the emergent/early stages of reading and writing, while suggesting that building a solid and explicit knowledge of the “code”  of reading is needed. Chall’s stages reflect what I’ve seen and experienced as a classroom teacher and reading specialist.

Knowledge Base of Beginning Reading

I believe that as educators, we need a very solid understanding of the skills involved in the reading process. This means truly understand what phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, phonics, and the concepts of emergent literacy mean and how to teach them effectively. I do agree with Louisa Moats that “Teaching Reading IS Rocket Science.” I also highly value the research synthesis described in Marilyn Jager Adams’ “Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning about Print.” As Chall describes in Learning to Read: The Great Debate (1967; 1983), both phonics and the reading of whole, connected text are important. I had the chance to visit the Jeanne Chall Reading Lab at Harvard as well as her own special collection, and was completely impressed with the legacy of her research. Here is a Prezi I made on Chall: http://prezi.com/uhf03b4rmnvd/jeanne-s-chall-and-the-great-debate/.

Others whose work on literacy I greatly admire (among others, and in no particular order) Catherine Snow, Peter Johnston, Judith Lindfors, Gunther Kress, Colin Lankshear, Michelle Knobel, Michael Pressley, Marilyn Jager Adams, Mem Fox, Kathy Au, and others).

I also believe in meaningful literacy tasks in reading that develop fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. These are all integrated aspects of reading.

Alternatives to Guided Reading

I believe the reading workshop approach (e.g., as described by Calkins and Atwell) is a useful alternative, or, in addition to guided reading. It provides flexibility and a framework for developing and scaffolding reading development while also indivdualizing learning for each student. However, I also would suggest, a good reading workshop is informed by extensive modeling and scaffolding and the use of the gradual release of responsiblity model (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983).

Other beliefs about the teaching of reading, writing, and language development

Lots of modeling! (Vygotsky)

Learning should be intentional, purposeful, and meaningful. However, there is a place for skills instruction.

Always make the purpose of the learning clear and explicit to students. Alert them to the “what, why, when, and how” of the skill, strategy, etc. and how it relates to other learning.

I really like the idea of intertextuality in learning, or fostering connections across texts. I try to emphasize this in my literacy education courses.

Reader response (e.g., Rosenblatt, 1978; Langer, 1990) is valuable and a crucial aspect of literacy learning. I value the “book club” (e.g., Raphael and colleagues) experience and include it in my literacy education courses.

The writing process is complex and idiosyncratic. I use a lot of materials from Ralph Fletcher on connecting reading and writing and teaching through the writing workshop model. There are many resources about writing workshop and the writing process.

I think we don’t share literacy knowledge and resources enough. There are ways to do so, with technology.

We need to integrate technology in meaningful ways across literacy learning. This means educating ourselves more as educators.

We need to focus on what is meaningful and coherent about literacy instruction and less on “cute” and “frou frou”. Education is about helping to develop citizens for a democracy who can think, read, write, and make informed decisions. Critial literacy should be infused throughout the curriculum and providing forums for students to have a voice, while equipping them with skills.

We need to know the research. It would be great to have a more “digestable” format to share reading research for teachers and to also have more forums for teachers to share action research themselves in peer-reviewed forums. I know in the business community they have info on the latest trends for business leaders in a shorter, abbreviated format. We need something simliar for busy teachers, e.g., a realistic way to translate theory into practice, seriously. And, it would be good to have forums to discuss this research! This would be for everyone, not just folks enrolled in formal classes or grad school, etc.

More soon! These are just some of the thoughts I have. Please comment! All thoughts are welcome. We need to talk more about our beliefs about reading.


Most of our lives are or are going digital. I am open to this and embrace technological changes in the present and future.

Here are some of the ways I use digital tools in my daily life and my beliefs.

1.. Communication: text, email (work and email) is mostly online. Discussion boards on online classes, blogs, etc. My phone rarely rings!

2. I read digitally: iPad, Kindle for iPad, iBooks, read on the internet (websites, etc.), blogs.

3. I write digitally: Word, Notes on iPad, text messaging, blogging, videos on YouTube, Facebook.

4. Teaching: most of my preparation for teaching is done online. I communicate to students mainly through email (!) and also our course management software “Blackboard” announcements, etc. I post handouts electronically and link them to online resources like articles, websites, and podcasts. Even my on-campus classes use Blackboard quite a bit. I teach with YouTube videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/peggysemingson?feature=mhee

Our Master’s degree in Literacy Studies is 100% online.

5. Scholarship: nearly all the scholarly journals I read are online and located through online databases. I still locate books in the library. Manuscripts are submitted electronically.

6. I think digitally in interactive and dialogic ways.I think visually and how pictures interact with text and words. My thinking has always been multi-modal with sights, sounds, images, and dialogue.

7. Althought I own records (nostalgia), I primarily listen to digital fiiles and online streaming radio.

8. I am indifferent to bookstores and hard copies of text going away. I am open to the demands of the marketplace and evolving trends in technology.

9. Some thinkers who inform my own thinking about technology: Lawrence Lessig, Ray Kurzweil, Don Leu and colleagues in literacy studies, James Gee, Colin Lankshear, Michele Knobel, Colin Harrison, and more. I will update this later.

10. I am not sure doc programs are training doc students enough to teach online. This should be required preparation and training in all doc programs everywhere.

I wonder what the future holds for education, both K-12 and higher ed.

Questions I have:

How prepared are educators to teach digital tools to K-12 and  higher ed students?

What changes will we see in the near and far future in terms of teaching and online instruction?

What will happen to the publishing industry, bookstores, and libraries as we know them?

Technology Goals:

  • Do more “real-time” teaching online. This includes using conference tools (like Adobe Connect, which I’ve used a little bit) and real time chat (never tried that with teaching).
  • Keep up with writing relevant blog posts on my literacy blog
  • Learn more about video production and editing
  • Learn more about digital photography and how it might be useful to teaching
  • Ramp up use of YouTube channel.
  • Read more about technology.
  • Write more about technology (research, articles, manuscripts).

For further reading:


More to come. These are initial thoughts….