Literacy in the Early Grades
by Gail Tompkins
Becoming an Effective Teacher of
Principle 1: Effective Teachers
Understand How Children Learn
Traditional Idea Based on the
That is… Children learn to read by learning a
series of discrete, sequenced skills.
For example, children must begin learning to
read by first knowing the alphabet, then the
sounds, then how the sounds combine, then
words, then sentences, then comprehension,
Teachers provide direct instruction
Teachers motivate students and control
CHILDREN ARE PASSIVE LEARNERS
Teachers have ALL of the knowledge
and it is up to them to transport that to
Recognize the Five other
Constructivist Learning Theory
Sociolinguistic Learning Theory
Children are active, engaged learners.
Schema Theory - Children relate new
information to prior knowledge.
Children organize and relate information in
Inquiry Learning – Collaboration is more
conducive to learning than is competition.
Asking questions, seeking answers, creating
Thought and language are related.
Focus on the zone of proximal development
and scaffold instruction.
Sociocultural Theory – Reading and writing
are social activities that reflect the community
Situated Learning Theory – Learning as you
do; becoming an apprentice.
Critical Literacy – Language is a means for
social action and students become agents for
social change (see pg. 8)
Interactive Models – Reading and writing are
interactive, meaning-making processes.
Transactive Theory – Comprehension is seen
as an interpretation of the interaction between
the reader and the text.
Strategic Behaviors – Goals that direct
thinking such as visualizing, organizing, and
revising as well as metacognitive strategies
such as monitoring and revising (fix-up
How did you learn to read?
Think back about your first experiences in
school…. Which one of these models
(behaviorism, constructivism, interactive,
sociolinguistics, reader response, or critical
literacy) were used? There may have been a
few models used.
Principle 2: Effective Teachers
Support Children’s Use of the
Four Cueing Systems
Phonological or sound system (aka
Syntactic or structural system
Semantic or meaning system
Pragmatic or social/cultural use system
We’ll go over these cueing systems later in
more depth, but look at p. 10 in your text.
Principle 3: Effective Teachers
Create a Community of
Think about how traditional classrooms
How did they look?
What did this mean or say to the
learners in those communities?
Characteristics of a
Community of Learners
Safety – promotes in-depth learning and nurtures physical
and emotional well-being
Respect – mutual respect, zero tolerance, non-threatening
environment where children feel free to take risks
High Expectations – all children can be successful
Risk-Taking – explore new topics, try different things, develop
higher-level thinking skills
Collaboration – working together
Choice – children make choices within the parameters set by
the teacher. Choice = motivation!
Family Involvement – involve parents early on and create a
Principle 4: Effective Teachers
Adopt a Balanced Approach to
Literacy – viewed comprehensively, involving
both reading and writing
Explicit Instruction – on grade level as well as
differentiated and assessment driven
Authentic Application – lots of opportunities to
practice newly learned skills
Reading and Writing Strategies – applying
cognitive and metacognitive strategies
Oral Language – opportunities to talk and
Tools for learning – reading, talking, and
writing are tools for content-area learning
Components of a Balanced
Reading-students participate in a variety of opportunities to read
and be read to.
Phonemic Awareness & Phonics-students are taught to
manipulate sounds and apply the alphabetic principle to decode
new words .
Strategies & Skills-students are taught and shown multiple ways
of understanding what they are reading through problem
solving, monitoring, and automatic actions.
Vocabulary-students are given opportunities to use and
understand words they come across in their reading and
through listening to books being read aloud to them.
Comprehension-students use reader factors (comprehension
strategies) and text factors (text structures) to understand what
Components of a Balanced
Literacy Program continued
Literature-real children’s literature, as well as textbooks are
used in the classroom. Students have access to a variety of
texts, written on various levels.
Content-Area Study-students use reading and writing to learn
about other subject areas, such as social studies, math,
science, etc… Reading and writing are used in REAL situations
Oral Language-students are given opportunities to work with
their classmates and teachers while using discussions and
conversations to deepen their knowledge about what they are
Writing-journaling, writing process, poems, reports and papers,
etc.. are used in REAL ways.
Spelling-apply what they know about spelling and progress
along a developmental continuum until they become
Principle 5: Effective Teachers
Scaffold Children’s Reading
Model reading and writing.
Shared reading and writing-this is a class activity in
which the teacher demonstrates productive reading
and students follow what is modeled.
Interactive reading and writing-teachers scaffold
students during this process, teachers interact with
students and then students interact with each other,
sharing what they are reading and writing.
Guided reading and writing-this is mainly small group
instruction, based on needs and strengths of
Independent reading and writing.
Principle 6: Effective Teachers
Organize Literacy Instruction in
Literature focus units
Reading and writing workshop.
Basal reading programs.
Principle 7: Effective Teachers
At your table groups, talk about what this
might look like and how you, as the
teacher, can make this a reality in your
Partner with Parents
Principle 8: Effective Teachers
Link Instruction and
Determine Reading Levels – plan instruction
based on each student’s need
Monitor Progress – assessment should be an
ongoing process, adjusting instruction as
Diagnose strengths and weaknesses –
assess and plan instruction based on both
Document Learning – formal and informal
assessments, portfolios, anecdotal notes,
Does what you have learned
from Ch. 1 differ from your
experience in the
What might you do
differently in your own