―Learning to read and write is one of the mostimportant and powerful achievements in life‖(National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1998,p. 11).
CREATING A LITERACY-RICH ENVIRONMENT Getting to Know Literacy Learners Selecting Texts Literacy Lesson: Interactive Perspective Literacy Lesson: Critical and Response Perspectives Final Reflections
GETTING TO KNOW LITERATE LEARNERSLearners are diverse and multi-faceted. Cognitive skills, including phonics skills, phonemic awareness, sight word recognition, fluency, and comprehension Noncognitive factors, including motivations, self-concepts, interests, and attitudes Personal backgrounds and prior literacy experiences
Teachers must understand personal, cognitive, andnoncognitive aspects of their learners, in order to createdifferentiated learning experiences that meet the needs ofdiverse students.Benefits of getting to know learners: match texts and instruction to student interests and abilities, help students make connections to texts, build confidence by allowing students to share expertise, build rapport by showing personal interest in students (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009b).
In the classroom . . . Getting to know students – Casual conversations during play time and observations of connections my students made during discussions gave me insight into their personal lives and previous literacy experiences. Cognitive assessments – The Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA; Beaver, 1997) allowed me to assess my students’ skill levels in the areas of phonics, fluency, and comprehension. Noncognitive assessments - The Children’s Motivation to Read Survey (Mazzoni, Gambrell, & Korkeamaki, 1999) allowed me to gather information about my students’ reading activities, attitudes about reading, and reading confidence.
At home . . . Talk with your child, explore the library together, and share experiences with your child to better understand your child’s interests, to develop interests, and to build knowledge of the world around them. Write a letter to your child’s teacher sharing your child’s interests, personal background, and perceived strengths and needs to help the teacher better understand your child as both an individual and a learner.
SELECTING TEXTSLiteracy MatrixClassifying andchoosing texts inorder to ensure a rich Linguistic Hardand varied literacyenvironment Narrative Informational Easy Semiotic (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009c)
Teachers must provide access to texts that are filled withboth pictures and words, contain both information andstories, and vary in levels of difficulty. Choosing texts along the continuum of each dimension of the literacy matrix ensures balance in instruction, helping teachers to think about learning goals and how texts can help individual students reach these goals (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009c).
In the classroom . . .When designing a unit on Harriet Tubman, I chose texts with bothlearning goals and learners in mind. Making text connections and building subject matter knowledge: Harriet Tubman by Abigail Fitzwild (2006) is an informational text containing facts and photographs of primary sources. Understanding perspectives: The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map to Freedom by Bettye Stroud (2005), a book filled with colorful illustrations, is a fictional account of a young girl’s experience on the Underground Railroad. Decoding skills and making connections: George Washington Carver by Katherine Scraper (2002), Lend a Hand by Sue Graves (2005), and Who Helps? by Judy Nayer (2000) are leveled readers; each individual text was chosen according to the reading abilities of first grade students reading below, on, or above grade-level. Building background knowledge: Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad is an informative website created by second grade students (http://www2.lhric.org/pocantico/tubman/tubman.html).
At home . . .When visiting the bookstore or library, encourage your child tochoose a variety of books: Books with mostly illustrations, mostly text, and a combination of the two Story books and information books Books that can be read independently, books requiring support, and more difficult books that are great as read-aloudsHave a variety of reading materials around thehouse, so your child can see you reading books,magazines, newspapers, and resources on thecomputer.
LITERACY LESSON: INTERACTIVE PERSPECTIVEWith an understanding of learners and texts, teachers areprepared to choose the instructional tools that connect texts andlearners, with the aim of developing important reading strategiesand skills. Goals of this perspective include helping students become accurate and fluent readers and writers, develop the ability to comprehend text, become strategic, metacognitive readers and writers (Walden, 2011).
Teachers want to develop readers and writers who cannavigate the literacy environment independently.Students must develop cognitive and metacognitive strategies. Cognitive strategies, like using sentence context or making text connections, are the tools students use to understand and comprehend text. Metacognitive strategies, such as monitoring and evaluating, help students think about their thinking and how to best use cognitive tools to help them navigate text.Students must develop both sets of strategies, if theyare to become proficient readers and writers (Tompkins,2010).
In the classroom . . .A unit on Harriet Tubman provided a vehicle for interactive lessonsthat promoted students’ ability to decode and comprehend text andgrow as strategic readers. Interactive read-aloud – I chose to read–aloud an above grade- level informational text to allow all students access to important facts and ideas about Harriet Tubman. I modeled making text connections, explained the importance of these connections to helping readers understand text, and provided opportunities for students to make their own text connections. Guided reading lessons – Instructional level texts that shared themes with the read-aloud text were chosen to support a below grade-level lesson on short vowel patterns and on and above grade-level lessons on using sentence context to decode unfamiliar words.
At home . . . Support your child when reading unfamiliar words, but encourage them to use their knowledge of how words work, illustrations, and story context to help them decode words independently. Read-aloud to your child often, so as to provide a model of fluent reading. Stop during reading to share what you are each thinking, make predictions, and share connections to the story. The talk that accompanies reading is just as to After finishing a book, take the time important as the reading itself. recall story details, share favorite parts, identify new wonderings, and even imagine new endings.
LITERACY LESSON: CRITICAL AND RESPONSIVE PERSPECTIVESThe critical and responsive perspectives ask students to connectpersonally with text. Critical perspective – Students critically, examine, judge and evaluate text. Response perspective – Students react to text and respond in meaningful ways. (Walden, 2011).
Teachers must give students opportunities to makemeaningful connections to text. Reading and writing areactive endeavors that allow learners to grow in theirunderstanding of both text and themselves. The critical perspective values each individual’s personal perspective and asks learners to question, examine, and debate in order to make meaning of text and its potential impact on their world (Molden, 2007). This generates deeper involvement with the text. The response perspective asks students to respond to text in meaningful ways; the result is unique interpretations, as students combine what they already know with new discoveries (Laureate Education, Inc, 2009d). This leads to a deeper understanding of both texts and the processes of reading and writing.
In the classroom . . .An exploration of a fictional text allowed students to examinetext from multiple perspectives in order to understand asignificant historical period and its importance in the readers’lives. Subtext strategy – While reading aloud a fictional account of a young girl’s journey on the Underground Railroad, students used drama to help them imagine what characters might have thought or said. This activity, called the subtext strategy, helps students make personal connections, develop inferencing skills, and understand perspectives different from their own (Clyde, 2003). Written response – Students were asked to write a poem, with each line prompted by a question word, that allowed them to communicate both factual knowledge and emotional responses to the material explored.
At home . . . Literacy development is nurtured by responsive adults (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009a). Engage children in discussions. Respond enthusiastically to children’s prompts and invite them to join you in conversations. Encourage your child to keep a journal. They can draw pictures, write words, and/or compose complete sentences to help them remember special events or favorite times together. When solving childhood conflicts, guide children in seeing the situation from others’ perspectives. Encourage your child to ask why; then have them predict why before looking for an answer together, using resources like the library and the internet.
FINAL REFLECTIONS ―One of the best predictors of whether a child will function competently in school and go on to contribute actively in our increasingly literate society is the level which the child progresses in reading and writing‖ (National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1998, p. 1).Educators and families must work together to createliteracy-rich environments in which children aresurrounded by the support, activities, and materials thatwill help them grow into confident, active, andenthusiastic literate adults.
REFERENCESBeaver, J. (1997). Developmental reading assessment. Parsippany, NJ: CelebrationPress.Clyde, J. A. (2003). Stepping inside the story world: The subtext strategy—a tool for connecting and comprehending. The Reading Teacher, 57(2), 150–160.Fitzwild, A. (2006). Harriet Tubman. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Graves, S. (2005). Lend a hand. Parsippany, NJ: Celebration Press.Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009a). 2: Perspectives on earlyliteracy [DVD]. The beginning reader, PreK–3. Baltimore, MD: Author.Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009b). 6: Getting to know yourstudents [DVD]. The beginning reader, PreK–3. Baltimore, MD: Author.Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009c). 10: Analyzing and selectingtexts [DVD]. The beginning reader, PreK-3. Baltimore, MD: Author.Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009d). 22: Response perspective:Reading- writing connection [DVD]. The beginning reader, PreK-3. Baltimore, MD:Author.
REFERENCES (CONTINUED)Mazzoni, S. A., Gambrell, L. B., & Korkeamaki, R. L. (1999). A cross-culturalperspective of early literacy motivation. Journal of Reading Psychology, 20,237-253.Molden, K. (2007). Critical literacy, the right answer for the reading classroom:Strategies to move beyond comprehension for reading improvement. ReadingImprovement, 44(1), 50–56.National Association for the Education of Young Children. (1998). Learning to readand write: Developmentally appropriate practices for young children.Washington, DC: Author.Nayar, J. (2000). Who helps? New York: Newbridge Educational Publishing.Scraper, K. (2002). George Washington Carver. Pelham, NY: Benchmark EducationCompany.Stroud, B. (2005). The patchwork path: A quilt map to freedom. Cambridge, MA:Candlewick Press.Tompkins, G. E. (2010). Literacy for the 21st century: A balanced approach (5thed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.