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literacy plan

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literacy plan

  1. 1. Nicole Corneau December 10, 2015 Making Meaning Professor Stearns Literacy Plan  Introduction My comprehensive plan for teaching literacy in a Fourth Grade Classroom involves a strengths-based teaching approach in which every unique student has opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and make personal connections to reading and writing. I will involve hands-on activities and student choice to ensure that students are engaged in literacy instruction. I believe that literacy development hinges on a child’s confidence and ability to understand the way which words and sentences combine to convey meaning and information. Nine and ten year old students are at a crucial time in their education where they are becoming self-critical, saying things like, “It’s boring” and “I can’t do it” (Northeast Foundation for Child Development). To respond to these developmental needs I will focus heavily on building confidence and helping students find the joy in reading and writing. I will use a holistic and interdisciplinary approach to teaching literacy in which I connect learning across all subjects, including reading, writing, science and social studies. I will scaffold literacy skills first through modeling in the Reading and Writing Workshop, then support students in developing skills independently, tracking progress from one lesson to the next. By employing this “I do it, we do it, you do it” approach, I will meet my students needs by making sure that no one is forced to attempt a skill or activity before they feel ready to do so. Finally, I will assess student progress through both formative and summative assessments, and will provide opportunities for each student to demonstrate their knowledge by adapting assessments to each child’s unique needs. I will use these assessments to guide my teaching. As Fletcher and Portalupi (2001) state, assessment should be used “to make informed decisions about future instruction” (pg. 103). By allowing each student to effectively express their knowledge, I will gauge what each student is able to do and alter instruction accordingly.  Instructional Environment My literacy classroom will be a welcoming and enriching space where students are exposed to many different texts and modes of learning and have comfortable areas for both independent work and collaboration with peers. Research has shown that the physical layout of a literacy classroom can have significant impacts on supporting students comfort and confidence in literacy (Reutzel and Clark, 2011). My classroom will have a clear, accessible, and organized layout where students can move about and easily locate any materials they may need. Smooth transitions from desks to the rug and to meeting areas will save time, and having students aware of exactly where they should be will eliminate waiting time and disciplinary issues. I will have the center of my literacy classroom be a carpet space with a set of smaller carpet circles around the edge of the rug. A small rocking chair for myself and a large pad of brainstorm paper will be at the front of the carpet near the whiteboard or chalkboard, where all students will be able to see me and what I am writing. A word wall will also be displayed near my chair during units. Each student will have their own carpet circle where they are assigned to sit. I will assign seats
  2. 2. thoughtfully and place children next to classmates who they can be productive with and in an area that students can clearly see what’s going on. I will make sure that students with special learning needs or who need extra support are seated closest to my chair in the circle. Nine and ten year olds can grow very competitive but have also reached an age where they can successfully collaborate on schoolwork (NFCD, 2005). A safe, noncompetitive classroom environment allows children to take risks in their writing, a skill essential for growth (Fletcher and Portalupi, 2001).Because of this, I will ensure that my classroom is an environment where students support, rather than compete with, their peers. For small group instruction and conferencing, I will have a half circle table located towards the back of the classroom where I can meet with four or five students or individuals. This table will be separated from students sitting on the rug so that small groups will not be distracted by what the rest of the class is doing. Students’ desks will be in learning communities of four in the center of the classroom, and the meeting rug and classroom library will occupy one corner of the class. Next to this rug, on one wall, will be a large shelf of non-text materials that students need for literacy. I will have bins holding clipboards, writing utensils, paper, student journals, art supplies, blank graphic organizers, student writing portfolios, and “phones” – pieces of PVC pipe which students can speak into to hear their own reading. Clipboards will be used when students do work together on the rug or if they need to move around the classroom during projects. Portfolios and Journals will be clearly labeled with student names and used habitually throughout the year to collect students’ exemplary work. Since fourth graders can struggle with confidence and require positive affirmation (NFCD, 2005), journals and portfolios will be a great tool to help students build self-esteem as writers. In addition to these supplementary materials I will have an extensive, enriching, and easy-to-access classroom library which will be the center of my literacy instruction. As Ruetzel and Clark (2011) assert, “The hub of an effective literacy classroom is the classroom library”. My library will be a place where every student can find a book that meets their needs, catering to both their personal reading level and interests. The classroom library will be composed of four parts: A section of “book bins” with personalized “just right” books that each student can use during independent reading time, a regular set of books organized into fiction and nonfiction, a reference section with dictionaries, thesauruses, and other helpful books, and a “Wonder Center” table based on the given unit of study we are working on. The Book Bins will be organized in a row with each student’s name on it and will have four or five books that a student has chosen from the library and had approved by me as a book that is not too easy or too challenging. In a Fourth Grade classroom, students will be at all different levels, with some reading long chapter books and others on shorter easy-readers. The general library will be split into nonfiction shelves and fiction shelves, and organized by the authors’ last name. I will organize the books in this way because this is how libraries are often organized in middle schools and high schools, and I want students to be familiar with this format so that they are ready for the future. I will include books covering a wide variety of topics, and get to know my students’ interests so that I can find books which are relevant to their lives. I will include books from a diverse variety of authors and which include stories about all types of family structures and cultures. If a student in my class is going through a unique or emotional situation, I will include fiction stories which deal with this
  3. 3. topic or subtly include a book on the topic in my student’s book bin that week. My nonfiction texts will cover a variety of topics, from science, to history, to sports, to engineering, and they will be relevant to student’s learning in other classes. The Wonder Center will be a holistic, cross-curricular display which incorporates literacy, hands-on “artifacts”, and technology in a topic of study that my class is focusing on. Interdisciplinary units will be a key component of my literacy plan because I believe that reading, writing, and research can support students’ understanding of science, history, and even math. The Wonder Center will be home to four computers which will be lined up against the wall and situated next to the Wonder Center display table. An example Wonder Center could be based on a science unit about Plate Tectonics and Physical Geography, a Next Generation Science Standard for Fourth Grade (NGSS, 2012). I would have on display several nonfiction texts, at varying levels of difficulty about this subject. There would also be a physical diorama of an ocean floor or mountain range that students can touch and manipulate, and a “Question Bin” with small scrap paper that students can write on to pose questions about plate tectonics. Developmentally, nine-year-olds “want factual explanations and enjoy scientific exploration” (NFCD, 2005). I will monitor the questions that students put in the bin and use them as a kind of formative assessment or way to gauge student interest. Finally, there will be a list of websites and games having to do with physical geography that students can explore on the computers during down time. The Wonder Center will expose students to explore multi-modal literacy, while allowing students who are more engaged through visual and sensory learning can have an opportunity to increase their understanding.  Instructional Strategies and Content 1. Word Work One area of study which I will focus on in the Fourth Grade Classroom is word work, which involves spelling, phonics, and vocabulary instruction. Nine-year-olds “love language and word play” (NFCD, 2005), so this content area will not only be important for the development of reading and writing skills but to student’s enjoyment of literacy as well. Word work in fourth grade will involve students learning how to spell and encode and decode more difficult words with various letter sounds and phrases (Templeton & Gehssman, 2014). Spelling skills will allow students to not only use more sophisticated words in their own writing, but to understand higher level texts with longer and more difficult words. Students at this point will also be learning how to manipulate the words that they already know, changing tenses of words or understanding how one root word can be changed to form a new family of words. For example, we may do a study on the root word “com”, which means “with”, and study how that word can be expanded into a family of words like community, communal, communicate, common, ect. Since fourth grade students will have many sight words at this point in literacy, and will have mastered most basic phonetical skills, they will be able to move into a higher level exploration of spelling and word play. A Fourth Grade word work unit will focus on more than simply how words are spelled, but how words work – how they are related, how they can be broken apart and altered, and how their meaning can be changed with different tenses or prefixes and suffixes.
  4. 4. Vocabulary is another large part of the word work content area, and is essential to the development of both reading and writing skills. When students learn advanced and sophisticated vocabulary, they will be able to make their writing more accurate and descriptive, and they will be able to understand new vocabulary words in texts. Fourth-graders will also be learning domain-specific vocabulary words which link to other units of study. The Common Core calls for fourth graders to “Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform or explain about a topic” (Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts). Vocabulary units will also allow me to cater to student needs by studying vocabulary that is interesting to students while still meeting state standards. For example, if many of my students have a passion for sports, I may do a vocabulary unit on “Descriptive Adjectives about Athletes”, such as “agile”, “deft”, or “flexible”. To teach word work units, I will use several key strategies including word sorts, word walls, and Mini-Lessons. Word sorts will be used to help students group words by either common sounds or spellings within the words or group words by categories based on their definitions. Word sorts will be conducted over several days, beginning with a whole class investigation of the words and progressing to an individual sort or spelling test. This type of gradual, several day sort will be used to ensure that students understand and can talk about the words that they are studying before trying to sort the words independently. Word walls will be used to display families and groups of words in a unit. For word walls, I will use pictures in addition to words to help my visually-oriented students or English Language Learners. I will also employ technology to teach word studies, using digital, interactive word walls or inviting students to research families of words on computers. These computer-based strategies will keep students engaged and interested in word study while promoting their digital literacy skills. Finally, I will use some of my Writer’s Workshop mini lessons to teach vocabulary instruction as it applies to students’ writing. For example, I may devote a Writer’s Workshop to using descriptive language and show students in a mini lesson how to replace a word like “tired” with “exhausted” to improve their writing. 2. Writing My writing instruction will focus on many content areas of study, but hold a special emphasis on informative and descriptive writing pieces. As Fletcher and Portalupi state, writing is a “bundle of skills”, and my students will need to combine many skills and techniques to create sophisticated writing pieces. The skills I will be teaching include pre-writing and planning, selecting a topic, conducting research, writing stories, vocabulary use, sentence and paragraph structure, creating introductions and conclusions, using dialogue and character development, discussing opinions, and supporting statements with evidence. Students will write fictional stories which are interesting, descriptive, and use many different literary tools. All of students’ creative writing will be on topics of their choice. My literacy instruction for fourth grade will also focus heavily on research, informational and creative writing, and interdisciplinary learning. It is especially important to me to teach literacy skills that will begin to scaffold the king of critical thinking they will need in their secondary education. During writing time, I will teach students about the process of choosing a topic, collecting information
  5. 5. or planning out a story, writing a piece, then revising and editing. Whenever possible, I will assign students writing projects which connect to another area of study or connect to student choice. For example, fourth grade students are called by the Common Core to conduct short research projects and write reports (CCSS, ELA). If I was doing a science unit on marine life, I could allow students to choose a marine animal to conduct a project on. I would also invite students to present their research and reports to the class to begin to scaffold their public speaking skills and fluency. During this unit, The Wonder Center which I described in my classroom layout will be a key component of tying together interdisciplinary learning, perhaps with photos of marine mammals and stuffed animals. For writing instruction, my main instructional strategy will be Writer’s Workshop. My Writer’s Workshops will be hinged on the principle of Gradual Release of Responsibility – the “I do it, we do it, you do it” format. I will also incorporate student choice into the workshop at every opportunity. As Fletcher and Portalupi state, “student choice is the crucial fuel that drives a healthy workshop” (2001, pg. 23). These strategies are developmentally responsive and allows the teacher to give varying levels of support or independence based on students’ abilities (Templeton & Gehssman, 2014). I will scaffold skills that students can keep in their literacy “toolkit” for the rest of their education and critical thinking skills that they can apply to all subjects. For each new concept I introduce, I will model a skill through an interactive workshop, provide students with opportunities to practice the skill collaboratively or with assistance from me, then have students practice the skill independently. This strategy allows me to differentiate instruction for students who may need extra support. While students are working independently, I can pull some students aside for more explicit modeling or guided practice, and assign further extensions of a skill to students who are finished with work early. I will use discovery circles for reading nonfiction texts, book clubs for fiction texts, and frequent peer editing for writing instruction. I think that collaboration with peers allows students to hear unique perspectives they may not have otherwise thought of, or accept constructive criticism in a friendly, low-pressure environment. During Writer’s Workshop, I will begin with a mini lesson where I explain a clear learning target, such as “Today, we will edit our writing pieces to look for grammatical and spelling mistakes”. I will begin mini lessons by recapping what we have already learned about a topic and asking students what they know already or can predict about how to use this skill. I will also pose a question like, “Why do we need to edit our writing?” so that students understand how this skill will support their overall literacy ability. In the mini lesson, I will model the skill out loud for students, asking questions as I go, then do a hands-on, collaborative activity practicing the skill as a group. For editing, for example, I may give present a paragraph on the board with several errors, and ask students to pair up and come to the board and edit one of the mistakes. Following the mini lesson, I will allow students to practice the skill independently in their learning communities or work with a partner depending on the topic of the lesson. During this time, I will be monitoring the engagement and understanding of the class and conferencing with individual students. Finally, I will conclude my writing time with a share when a few students can present their work to the class. Share time is not only key to developing students’ confidence
  6. 6. and public speaking skills, but will also serve as a type of assessment for me at the end of a Workshop (Fletcher and Portalupi, 2004). 3. Reading Fluency and Comprehension In Fourth Grade, my reading instruction will be broken into two sections, reading fluency and reading comprehension. Fluency is students’ ability to read quickly and accurately, and read out-loud with expression. There are only two strategies which are generally used to teach fluency, which are modeling and practice. To read more quickly, students simply need to practice independent reading time, and to read out-loud quickly, students need to read out-loud often to peers and teachers. Comprehension is another component of reading instruction which involves students being able to follow a story in a fictional text and understand what is going on, or comprehend and synthesize the information provided in a non-fiction text. My units of study within comprehension will involve following plots, understanding characters and dialogue, analyzing fiction texts for greater meaning, navigating non-fiction text features, and gathering facts from non-fiction texts. Reader’s Workshop will be my main tool for reading instruction, and will begin with either a mini lesson or a read aloud. Mini-lessons may involve skills like using a glossary in a nonfiction text, where I would model the skill then invite students to explore glossaries independently. For read-alouds, I will often use guided and interactive read-alouds so that I can teach comprehension skills. During the read-aloud, I will model a skill for students, such as making predictions, and keep it interactive by asking questions throughout the reading. I will then allow students to discuss the read aloud in pairs or guide the class through another story as they practice the skill as a group. Finally, I will conclude Reader’s Workshop with independent reading time where students can practice the comprehension skill we have worked on. Independent reading time is extremely important since frequent practice is the most effective tool for reading development (Gehsmann &Templeton, 2011). For some reading blocks, I will split students into book clubs and discovery circles and provide discussion questions will improve their comprehension. Developmentally, nine and ten year olds are beginning to be less selfish and able to be good listeners as well as speakers (Northeast Foundation for Child Development, 2005). Group conversations will not only support students’ understanding of the text, but build their communication and verbal skills. In Fourth Grade, it is important that students begin to understand nonfiction texts and how to draw information from them. When teaching nonfiction texts, I will use strategies like graphic organizers and concept maps to support students’ ability to pull important facts from a book or article. It is also important that students gain a wider range of tier two vocabulary words to support both their writing and comprehension of non-fiction books. I will focus read-alouds on vocabulary instruction, often vocabulary that has to do with another unit of study. I will support students’ visual and multimodal literacy by studying news sources, online resources, and other video and print sources. I will incorporate technology into my lessons very thoughtfully and use it to increase student engagement or expose students to new types of texts (i.e. online blogs and news sources). In addition to scientific nonfiction, I will incorporate historical fiction into my Reading Units so that students can understand history while still being engaged in a fictional
  7. 7. story. I plan to expose students to many types of text that may not always include books. For example, if I were working on a history unit of the Civil Rights Movement, I may use a Reader’s Workshop to analyze a speech from a famous leader and pick out key vocabulary within that speech to study. Overall, my students will develop literary skills which will help them to analyze texts and think critically.  Assessment For my assessment of literacy, I will use a combination of formative and summative assessments which test not only for performance and standards-based skills, but also my own learning targets for students. I will work to create assessments which are accessible to all types of learners, and offer projects, presentations, and other assignments which can demonstrate understanding in a less formal way. High-stakes, formal tests can cause anxiety for students and are only one specific way of showing knowledge. Nine and ten year olds can be prone to anxiety and worrying, so I want to emphasize formative assessment and help students to track their own progress in a stress-free way (NFCC, 2005). I will find creative ways to test for student’s proficiency in the Common Core Standards and keep careful track of student progress to guide my instruction and planning. My formative assessment plan will include observation, written notes, student self- assessment, group discussions, and a wide variety of projects and presentations. I will be constantly assessing if students are engaged during group projects, and monitor the types of questions students ask of me and one another. I will frequently ask questions during lessons the gauge how much understanding has gone on. For students who are English Language Learners I will provide accommodations in assessment, such as extra time to work on a test or project or allowing them to answer quiz questions in their native language. For students who may have learning disabilities, or trouble with writing, I will provide them with opportunities to do a different version of an assignment or verbally explain their knowledge to me in a conference. Conferencing “put kids into an active stance” (Fletcher and Portalupi 2001), allowing the students to take control over their own learning and express their thoughts. I will provide varied assessments that include art, public speaking, writing, making posters and displays, performance, or verbal descriptions. By offering many different modes of assessment, I will allow students who may not excel on a traditional test to have a window to express their learning. One example of an important Common Core Standard for Grade Four is the following: “Students will write opinion pieces on topics of texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information” (Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy). The key here is that students can not only state their opinion, but that they understand how to back up a statement with examples and evidence. I would provide students choice in an opinion writing assignment, and work on the topic for several mini lessons. To assess students for this standard, I would rely heavily on conferencing and collaboration. During conferences, I would ask students, “What is your opinion, and why is this your opinion? What reasons do you have for stating this opinion?” This would allow students to explain their understanding of providing evidence and support. I could also ask students to explain their opinion piece to a partner and discuss their supports, monitoring dialogue and checking to see if students are making the connection between
  8. 8. offering an opinion and backing it up with information. Of course, a summative assessment would be a graded opinion writing piece, but I would use the aforementioned formative assessment techniques to monitor students and make sure that they are proficient in the skill before assignment a summative writing piece.  Read-Alouds For my Fourth Grade Literacy Plan, I will use nonfiction and informational texts as well as longer fiction chapter books for instructional read-alouds. Read-alouds will focus either on reading strategies, such as making inferences or navigating nonfiction text features, or on vocabulary instruction. I will select books which are relevant to students’ lives and to other content areas. I will read books which include diverse ways of life and expose students to other cultures or styles of writing. Fourth Graders are called by the Next Generation Science Standards to work on engineering and the scientific process. Therefore, I may select a book like The New Way Things Work by David McCauly. This book has a host of engineering domain-specific vocabulary as well as interesting pictures and graphics. This read-aloud could be coupled with an engineering project which students conduct in science class. Another book which I may use for a read-aloud is a fiction story that can be used both as a mentor text and a connection to another unit of study. Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson is a historical fiction novel about a young girl living in a planation as a slave who creates a quilt mapping the Underground Railroad so that she can be re-united with her family. The story will be engaging to young readers since it is told through the eyes of a child. Students like to read books about children like them, since they can relate to the characters. This story can be used to model character development for young authors, since it has wonderful descriptions of Clara’s thoughts and feelings. The story could also be linked to an interdisciplinary unit about history and the abolition movement. Another, more advanced, novel which could be used in a fourth grade classroom is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. Since this is a chapter book, I would most likely have students do some of the reading independently and some together as a class through reader’s theater or myself reading out loud to them. This book is full of compelling characters and interesting dialogue, so I could model reading out-loud with expression and have students practice this skill. The story also serves as a mentor text showing students how they may use humor in their stories. The story is also about the life of a child on a farm, a topic which may be relevant to my students’ lives based on where I am teaching. When introducing chapter books, I will constantly try to provide students with stories that are about children like them or other topics which they find interesting.
  9. 9. Works Cited Ray Reutzel & Sarah Clark. 2011. Organizing Literacy Classrooms for Effective Instruction – a Survival Guide. The Reading Teacher. 65 – (2). Templeton, S. & Gehsmann, K. (2014). Teaching Reading and Writing: the Developmental Approach. Boston: Pearson. Ralph Fletcher & JoAnn Portalupi. 2001. Writer’s Workshop – The Essential Guide. New Hampshire. Heineman. Child Development Pamphlets. 2005. Northeast Foundation for Child Development. Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts.
  10. 10. CONTENT STRATEGIES ASSESSMENT CONNECTIONS Reading Fluency  Read-alouds  Modeling  Independent/Group Reading Practice  Reader’s Theater  Listening for fluent/ expressive reading  Read alouds that connect to students’ lives Writing  Writer’s Workshop  Mini Lessons  Peer/Individual Editing  Sharing  Student Choice  Discovery Circles  Conferencing  Standards-based assessment of student writing  Journals and Portfolios  Self-assessment  Projects  Observation  Research-based science writing  Historical writing  Wonder Center Word Work  Word Walls  Word Sorts  Embedded vocabulary instruction  Read-alouds  Students’ vocabulary use in writing  Independent sorts  Science and other subject domain- specific vocabulary Comprehension  Reader’s Workshop  Modeling  Read-alouds  Book Clubs  Discovery Circles  Technology (Visual literacy)  Reading conferences  Comprehension assessments (graphic organizers, story maps)  Observation of discovery circles and student discussions  Learning science and history through nonfiction texts