Archive for May, 2012

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.

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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.


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