Category Archives: EDUC 513 – Teaching Language Arts and Reading

513 – Taking A Broader Look: Reading Literacy Education

“When literacy educators become more politically involved, they have more influence on the legislation that affects their own lives and their students’ futures.”

I was very interested to read this article by Edmondson about the importance of understanding the politics of education.  I often feel like the political aspect of education is beyond my control, and that I must simply roll with the punches in terms of new legislation. 

I completely understand what it means when the article discusses “trends” in education.  It seems like there is always a new

The Jeep analogy, while somewhat of a stretch, did manage to illustrate what’s been going on in the education system…temporary fixes for real problems.  The real issues with literacy are often overshadowed or ignored…quick fixes will not remedy them.  We must take a broader look at what the big picture problems are.  One statement in particular stood out to me.  It read, “There needs to be an explicit rsistance to policies that do not reflect the values of educatiors and the communities in which they teach.”  So true.

The article outlined three important things to remember and look for when presented with proposals for new policies in education. 

  1. Follow the money
  2. Who are the players?  Where did they come from?  What are their values?
  3. Who is likely to benefit?

It is interesting to think about all of the behind the scenes information that is completely left out when education proposals are presented to educators.  it is important that educators and all members of society take a critical stance and take care to really examine what kind of legislation is being passed.

Although this artile was a far cry from the typical texts we have been reading for our methods courses, I thought it was a good way to wrap up our final semester of “real” classes.  We are slowly moving into the real world of teaching and it is important for all of us to realize that it is about more than what books you read or what activities are in your lessons.  We are a part of the big picture, too.



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513 – Working with Struggling Readers and Writers

Hello everyone!  I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday!

In this week’s reading, Flint ch. 12, the author explores what it means to be a struggling reader and/or writer.  Of course, as teachers, we recognize that these students are 1 or more years behind grade level, but there is much more to their situation.  There are many different ways in which students struggle with reading and writing.  Some have difficulties with cognitive processing while others have problems with motivation and attention.  It is our responsibility to find the source of these students’ difficulty and cater our instruction to meet the students’ needs.

This concept is clearly apparent in my placement classroom.  Almost a third of the students in our class would be described as struggling readers, and they definitely have varying issues when it comes to literacy.  My CT and I try to identify the students’ needs and create guided reading lessons to speak to some of these.  Also, the reading specialist and the ESL teacher both pull students out to work on reading and writing skills.  But there are still other issues that cannot be addressed with these methods. 

Thankfully, this chapter provided quite a few examples of classroom strategies for struggling readers and writers.  Some of them I recognized from my own classroom, and I hadn’t even realized their beneficial purpose!  We do numerous read alouds each day, and I never realized how beneficial these are for struggling readers.  My class does not use the buddy reading system on a regular basis, but I wish they did.  I think my CT has tried it, but with little success.  It probably depends greatly on the individual students in your class.  It is a great idea, though, and I would like to maybe try it again next semester during my full-time teaching. 

This chapter also discussed the four popular reading intervention programs, which were interesting to see fleshed out, especially the Four Blocks program.  I also enjoyed looking at the analyses with my case study in mind.  I recognize that his motivation often lags because he is slower at completing tasks than his classmates.  This discourages him from pushing harder to succeed.

I have really enjoyed these posts.  They have made me think critically about the Flint text and how it is applied to “real-life” in real classrooms.


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513 – Intermediate Readers and Writers

I was excited to read this week’s Flint chapter, because it focused on intermediate and advanced readers and writers in the classroom.  As teachers, we know it is our job to help those who are struggling with literacy development, but it is also our duty to encourage the other students to continue to grow.

In my classroom, I have definitely seen the tell-tale signs of students reading without comprehension.  The boy who “reads” his 50-page chapter book in one day (I am in 2nd grade, btw), or the girl who completely makes up the plot of the book when asked to describe what’s going on in Henry and Mudge.  It is quite heartbreaking to see students miss out on the joys of Junie B. Jones and other such engaging texts, simply because they cannot get engaged in the reading.

As always, I enjoyed Flint’s interspersed lesson ideas and classroom activities that foster a love of reading in the classroom.  The little example at the beginning about the teacher and the boys with their comic books, however, seemed a little unlikely.  I cannot see any of my male students using their reading time to make lists of anything, let alone adjectives describing a character in a book.  Now I completely agree that, as teachers, we must create interesting literacy tasks which both engage and focus learners, but it is not always as clear-cut.  When students are off-task during literacy in my placement classroom, they are usually talking or doodling or staring off into space.  I realize that it is my job as their teacher to figure out what interests children in my class and how I can use those topics and ideas to form my classroom lessons and activities…but that is no easy task.  Finding the right balance for a particular classroom, I think, takes a good amount of trial and error…and lots of tweaking!  But that is all part of being an effective teacher!


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513 – Reading to Learn

This week, we focused on Flint Ch. 11, titled, “Reading to Learn:  Using Nonfiction and Electronic Media to Support Literacy Development.”  I was interested to read this chapter and see how teachers can effectively use texts and resources other than fiction to reach their students.

I was particularly struck by the comment, “Children are more deeply engaged in their work when the work isn;t broken up into small time clocks for different subjects (324).”  I don’t believe I have ever seen a classroom that wasn’t bound by a strict schedule, either mandated by the principal or the teachers themselves.  It makes sense that students will ask more cross-discipline questions in settings that aren’t bound by titles such as “Math” or “Reading time.”  This idea, howerer, seems quite unreasonable to me.  Teachers must follow a schedule to keep the kids on a routine and to make sure they allot the appropriate amount of time and attention to all of the different subjects.

It was interesting to learn what exactly constitutes a true inquiry-based curriculum.  Many of the components we have been learning about in our education classes as “best practices” that we should implement in our classrooms anyway.

Again, I enjoyed the Invitation to the Classroom boxes and the other ideas scattered throughout the chapter.  That is one of my favorite aspects of the Flint text…all of the examples of how to make the information real in your classroom! 

I have seen the idea of using “twin texts” in my placement classroom.  The students were learning about fiction and nonfiction, and they went to the library and found fiction and nonfiction books on the same topic.  Then they read their selections individually and compared and contrasted them in their reading journals.  I think this is a great strategy for reading all sorts of texts in the classroom, but it needs to be implemented throughout the curriculum, rather than solely when learning about fiction and nonfiction.

I was pleased to see websites presented as authentic literacy forms for students.  In this informational age, students needs to know hoe to use all sorts of electronic media to gain information from the world around them.  The invention of the SMARTboard was a great start to bringing authentic technology to instruction.


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513 – Literacy Blog

upsidedownI am a huge advocate for the support of early literacy development in children.  My parents tell me that when my sister and I were babies, we didn’t have a lot of toys or dolls…just books.  I think that experience, being read to every night and pretending to read ourselves helped build the foundation that allowed us to become fluent in literacy.

In Flint Ch. 6, I learned about how  children’s various literacy experiences prior to entering Kindergarten can shape their literacy development.  The chapter stressed the importance of teachers and caregivers early in a child’s life, but also the experiences they have outside of school.  For the past couple of years, I have been babysitting for two little girls, ages 3 and 5.  I have noticed the three year old imitating the writing of her older sister, using conventions such as titles or captions that she wouldn’t have known otherwise.  Since neither child could read when I first started babysitting for them, it was amazing to see the older “reading” to the younger sister, with the book upside down or turning multiple pages at a time.  It is obvious that these girls had a firm foundation in literacy from being read to at night or at their daycare.  Many of the topics we have already covered in our Emergent Literacy class were touched on in this chapter, such as Halliday’s 8 Conditions for Language Learning.  I also enjoyed the “Invitation for the Classroom” sections that provided ideas for directly applying the ideas of the chapter into your teaching.  I am glad that Flint touched on the importance of reading texts other than books with children.  Informational and environmental print are excellent ways to get children reading.  I am glad to read about how technology is playing such a big role in literacy development as well.

Flint Ch. 7, described more of the key components of effective and meaningful reading instruction.  Although simply having exposure to reading is beneficial for young children, as teachers, we must figure out the best ways to each our students during the brief time we have them.  I appreciated all of the lists and strategies this chapter provided.  As I go into my own teaching, I will be able to refer back to this text for ideas and suggestions.  This chapter also discussed the reader/writer workshop models.  I see both of these workshops implemented in my own classroom, and it is great to see students actively engaged in these literacy practices.  We do lots of read alouds as well, as my CT tries to integrate literacy into all parts of the day. 

In my placement classroom, students are all at varying levels of literacy development.  We have students struggling to read on a D level, and then students working on an N or an M.  As a teacher, I think it is difficult to differentiate instruction to effective reach such a wide range of needs.  I have been working with a few guided reading groups and it is interesting to see the differences in fluency, comprehension, and progress.  I think guided reading groups are the best way to gauge students’ understanding and needs on a more individual level.


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513 – Effective Assessment

test_sheetMy teaching passion has always been in reading and writing.  But it is so difficult to assess these areas effectively.  I have definitely figured that out in my placement classroom because my students are on so many different levels in their literacy development.  We have learned about formative and summative assessments in our previous courses.  But after reading chapter 9 in Flint, it was great to get a deeper look into how to make assessments more beneficial.

Summative assessments often get a bad rap because of NCLB, EOG’s, and other standardized tests that force many teachers to teach for the test rather than for understanding.  I think it is such a shame that it has come down to this, but school systems must have a way to determine student and school growth and performance.  It is up to the teachers to promote student understanding while also teaching them to apply that knowledge to perform well on the test.

The reading also made me think critically about the purpose of teacher assessments.  We don’t make students take tests or complete projects and activities just so we can write another number in the grade book.  Classroom-based assessments are meant to inform teachers of student’s progress and what information still needs to be taught (or retaught).  If lessons are truly based on students’ previous knowledge and understanding, then they are catered to students’ learning needs rather than simply taught in order from a book.

People often shoot-down traditional, formal assessments.  But I think that multiple choice tests are actually very beneficial and helpful in moderation.  They provide the clearest insight into what students know (or at least what they can tell you in this format).  Of course, I believe wholeheartedly in other informal assessments such as presentations, projects, journaling, running records, group discussions, and conferences.  The teacher must constantly assess in many different ways so that he or she can gain the most complete view of students’ understanding.

I am teaching my first guided reading lessons this Wednesday.  One is with our lowest student, an ELL, and the other with a higher group.  I am still trying to figure out whe best way for me to assess the students’ understanding in a way that I can convey to my CT so that she can use the information to plan her future instruction with them.  I am curious to see the different challenges each situation will bring.

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513 – Literacy Programs and Approaches

readingThis week’s Flint reading focused on various literacy programs in schools and their approaches to reading.  I always enjoy the personal stories from teachers at the beginning of each chapter, and this one really hit home for me.  I have definitely seen evidence of student disinterest in my own classroom during sustained silent reading time.  Although the students in my class are only in 2nd grade, they still struggle with the same issues as Ms. Binn’s 6th graders.  Simply because a book is “just right” in terms of eading level, doesn’t mean my students will become engaged in reading it.  My CT and I have been working to help students find books that appeal to them, whether by topic or genre or other characteristic.

Through this reading, I also realized  just how influential prescriptive reading programs are in how teachers promote literacy in their classrooms.  In my placement classroom, we use centers much like those described on p. 125.  One group is always meeting with the teacher for guided reading while the other groups participate in centers which help their vocabulary, phonics, reading comprehension, listening, and writing skills.  My CT also creates supplementary centers depending on the activities planned for the unit.  Students read leveled and whole-class texts.  Students are all engaged in literacy-promoting activities, but they are not simply reading silently.  We do, however, complete a 10 to 15 minute independent reading time each day after centers, as we are working toward the NCSCoS goal of reading silently and independently for 20 minutes.

It was interesting to learn about the 4 major shifts in literacy structures.  I discovered so many different and effective strategies for promoting literacy in the classroom.  I think deciding on a course of action depends on the specific students in your individual class.  There is no way all of the strategies can be implemented at once, but they can definitely be utilized in parts or with students who have specific needs.

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