What is a Literate Environment? "Construction of a literacy program starts with the students. The program should be based on their interests, their abilities, and the nature of the community in which they live" (Gunning, 2008, pp. 533-534). “The classroom community should feel safe and respectful so students are motivated to learn and actively involved in reading and writing activities. Perhaps the most striking quality is the partnership that the teacher and students create: They become a „family‟ in which all the members respect one another and support each other‟s learning” (Tompkins, 2010, p. 116).
Getting to Know Literacy Learners As kindergarteners, most of my students are developing as literacy learners. Unfortunately, for some, this is their first exposure to reading. Being able to determine the noncognitive aspects of each student provides critical additional information. Assessments are only one piece of the puzzle; observations, conferences, and familial history are all factors in what creates a literary learner. As each puzzle piece is placed, the big picture begins to form so that individualized instruction can occur and student success can be achieved. "By linking assessment and instruction, teachers improve students learning and their teaching" (Tompkins, 2010, p. 75).
Key assessments include: Phonics (upper and lowercase letter identification and sounds) Phonemic awareness (rhyme, long vowels, blending, initial and ending sounds) 36 high frequency words Concepts of print (front and back cover, holds book, title, turns pages, identifies a letter, word, and sentence, identifying the job of the author and illustrator, and directionality). Letter identification and sounds guide daily instruction. DIBELSConnections are made in handwriting, calendar, and in letters of the week to help increase awareness. Coordination with the ELL instructor occurs to further support ELL students. This ensures that they are receiving proper support and instruction based on their level of English understanding.
"We are surrounded by text whose primary purpose is to convey information about the natural or social world. Success in schooling, the workplace, and society depends on our ability to comprehend this material. Yet many children and adults struggle to comprehend informational text" (Duke, 2004, p. 40).
It is important to becreative in my lessonplanning. To create units Hardthat expose my studentsto all aspects of literacy. InformationalVarying text selectionsfrom linguistic to Linguisticsemiotic and from Semioticnarrative to informationalwill give them wellrounded literary Narrativeexperiences. Integrating Easytechnology is animportant part ofplanning my lessons anddelivering my instruction.Often I must think Laureate Education, Inc., 2011outside of the box, becreative, or seekcollaboration.
Interactive Perspective “Interactive texts teach students how to read and write” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). In order to access students‟ comprehension I pulled each student and asked them a series of questions related to the two fictional narrative texts and asked them to retrieve one fact learned from the informational text, Amazing Monkeys. Out of my 10 students all scored a 4/4 on the comprehension assessment and were able to retell at least one fact that they had learned about monkeys.
"Comprehension strategies can be important to a reader because they have the potential to provide access to knowledge that is removed from personal experience" (Stahl, 2004, p. 598). Upon completion of the assessments, I was able to circulate around the room and take anecdotal notes as students read with their partners. I was able to document students‟ knowledge of the high- frequency words “I and see”. I was also able to see how they interacted with their partner and if they were displaying all of the characteristics of good readers.
Critical & Response Perspectives “Using critical literacy helps pull the power from the author and makes it an equal relationship between the author and the reader by allowing us to see the texts from all angles, not just believing what is written down” (Molden, 2007, p.51).
Activating my students schema has become apart of our literary routine. Before we begin abook, we take time to have a grand conversationon our topic. During this lesson my studentswere introduced to National Geographic YoungExplorer magazine.They will continue to build upon the conceptsthat animals like people need food to live andgrow. Some get their food from plants and someget it from other animals. They will see thatanimals unlike people depend on theirsurroundings for their food and water. This willbe accomplished by reading the bi-monthlypublication of National Geographic YoungExplorer.
Conclusion As I continue to supplement my curriculum with the wonderful text selections available I am seeing growth in my students and my teaching practice. Informational text can be enjoyed just as much as fictional narrative if given a chance. My students are learning to analyze texts and to become critical thinkers. These are important skills that they will continue to hone throughout their academic careers. Teaching these skills at the beginning will enable them to become efficient in both critical and response perspectives leading to their ultimate success.
ReferencesBodden, V. (2010). Amazing monkeys. Mankato: Creative Paperbacks.Duke, N. (2004). The case for informational text. Educational Leadership, 61(6), 40–44.Gunning, T. G. (2008). Creating literacy instruction for all students (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Analyzing and Selecting Text. [Video webcast]. In The beginning reader: PreK-3. Retrieved from http://www.courseur.comLaureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011c). Interactive Perspective: Guided Reading. [Video webcast]. In The beginning reader: PreK-3. Retrieved from http://www.courseurl.comMolden, K. (2007). Critical literacy, the right answer for the reading classroom: strategies to move beyond comprehension for reading improvement. Reading Improvement, 44 (1), 50-56.National Geographic Kids. (n.d.). Chimpanzees. Retrieved from http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/animals/creaturefeature/chimpanzee/Schroeder, L. (2010). Little chimps big day. New York: Sterling Publishing Company.Sprick, M. (2004). Monkey Business. Longmont: Sopris West.Stahl, K. A. D. (2004). Proof, practice, and promise: Comprehension strategy instruction in the primary grades. Reading Teacher, 57(7), 598– 608.Tompkins, G. E. (2010). Literacy for the 21st century: A balanced approach (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.