Language Arts Patterns
Chapter 2: Teaching and
Assessing Language Arts
Teachers use four patterns of practice to involve students in meaningful, functional, and
genuine language-learning activities: literature focus units, literature circles, reading and
writing workshops, and thematic units.
Literature Focus Units
• Teachers and students read and respond to one text together as a class or in
small groups. Teachers choose texts that are high-quality literature selections.
After reading , students explore the text and apply their learning by creating
• Teachers choose five or six books and collect multiple copies of each one.
Students choose the book they want to read and form groups or “book clubs” to
read and respond to the book. They develop a reading and discussion schedule,
and the teacher participates in some of the discussions.
Reading and Writing Workshop
• Students choose books and read and respond to them independently during
reading workshop and write books on self-selected topics during writing
workshop. Teachers monitor students’ work through conferences. Students
share the books they read and the books they write with classmates during
• Students study social studies or science topics. They use the six language arts as
they participate in activities and demonstrate learning. Although content-area
textbooks may be used, they are only one resource. Students also identify topics
they want to study, so thematic units are authentic learning opportunities.
The Teacher’s Role
• The teachers role is complex and multidimensional. No longer are teachers
simply providers of knowledge, nor do they assign an endless of series of
worksheets and busywork. Instead, teachers understand that students’ literacy
develops most effectively through meaningful social contexts. These teachers
plan for instruction using the four patter of practice to meet the needs of their
students. Their goal is to help children develop communicative competence and
to excite them about literacy.
What About Teaching?
• You could say that everything a teachers does during the four patters of practice
is teaching, and in a sense it is. Although teaching is defined as providing
information, teachers do two kinds of teaching.
• One kind is direct instruction, where teachers teach mini-lessons in which they
explicitly present information, provide opportunities for supervised practice,
and then have students apply what they have learned through reading and
• The second kind is indirect instruction. Teachers use indirect instruction for
brief, on-the-spot lessons as they respond to students’ questions or when
students demonstrate the need to know something. These interactions take
place during whole-class activities, during conferences with students, and while
working with small groups.
• Teachers know that students vary------- their interests and motivation, their
background knowledge and prior experiences, and their culture and language
proficiency as well as their language arts capabilities---- so it is important to
allow for these differences as they plan for instruction.
• Differentiated instruction means shaking up what goes on in the classroom so
that students have multiple options for taking information, making sense of
ideas, and expressing what they learn.
• Differentation instruction is especially important for students who haven’t been
successful and who cant hanvle grade-level reading assignments.
5 Ways to Differentiate Instruction
• Offer choices- teachers offer choices when students select books to read in literature circles
and in reading workshop, and students often choose their writing topics and genres during
writing workshop. Students also make choices about the projects they create during literature
focus units and thematic units.
• Use small groups- teacher group students flexibly for literature circles, guided reading, writing
groups, and other instructional activities.
• Set up Centers-teachers set up centers with instructional material for students to practice
concepts their studying and to extend their learning.
• Integrate All Six Language Arts- teachers provide opportunities for students to develop
expertise in all six language arts, not just reading and writing. Because many students are
better able to understand and express themselves through the oral and visual language arts
than through the written language arts. Using all six language arts scaffolds their learning.
• Incorporate Projects-teachers have students create projects as the final step in literature focus
units and thematic units so that they have opportunities to explore topic that interest them
and demonstrate their learning in authentic ways.
Assessing Students’ Learning
• Assessing students’ learning in language arts is a difficult task. Although it may
seem fairly easy to develop and administer a criterion-referenced test, tests
measure language skills rather than students'’ ability to use language in
authentic ways. (pg.52)
• Traditional assessment reflects outdated vies of how students learn to read and
write and offers an incomplete picture of students’ language abilities.
• Tests focus on only a few aspects of what readers do as they read, what listeners
do as they listen, and what writers do as they write.
• Traditional assessment fails to use authentic language tasks or to assist teacher
in finding ways to help students succeed.
• Assessment should resemble real language use. A better approach is authentic assessment, in which
teachers examine both the processes that students use as they listen, talk, read, write, view, and
visually represent and the artifacts or products they create, such as projects and reading logs.
Students, too, participate in reflecting on and assessing their own learning.
• Authentic Assessment has five purposes:
• 1. to document milestones in students’ language and literacy development
• 2. to identify students' strengths in order to plan for instruction
• 3. to document students language arts activities and projects
• 4. to determine grades
• 5. to help teachers learn more about how students become strategic readers and writers
• Assessment is more than testing; it is an integral parto f teaching and learning. The purpose of
classroom assessment is to inform and influence instruction.
Monitoring Students Progress
• Teachers monitor students’ progress as they are involved in language arts
activities during literature focus units, literature circles, reading and writing
workshops, and thematic units, and they use the result of their monitoring to
inform their teaching. Four ways to monitor students’ progress are classroom
observations, anecdotal notes, conferences, and checklists.
Implementing Portfolios in the Classroom
• Portfolios are systematic and meaningful collections of artifacts documenting
students’ language arts learning and development over a period of time. These
collections are dynamic, and they reflect students’ day-to-day learning activities
in language arts and across the curriculum. Students’ work samples provide
windows on the strategies they employ as language users---readers, writers,
listeners, viewers, and talkers.
• Portfolio programs complement language arts instruction in many ways . The
most important benefit is that students become more involved in the
assessment of their work and more reflective about the quality of their reading,
writing, and other language use. In addition portfolios eliminate the need to
grade all student work. Portfolios are useful for student and parent conferences,
and they complement the information provided in report cards.
• Assigning grades is one of the most difficult responsibilities placed on teachers,
and teachers should use grades to encourage students, not to hinder their