Submitted by: Jimmie Jo Fitzwater
From Chapter 12: Language and Literacy
Our text defines literacy as “the ability to communicate in printed language through reading and writing, particularly in school settings” (Bergin and Bergin, 2012). Literacy is communication in all forms. It includes listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Literacy is always evolving. It begins at birth with the interactions with others and the environment in which a child lives. As we read in our text, the process of developing literacy begins even before a child enters school. A child’s experiences early in life set the stage for development. Learning to read and write is important to a child’s success in school and later in life. It is the foundation for almost all areas of a child’s development. Reading and writing skills develop concurrently.
Why do some children become more literate than others? One factor is verbal ability. “Children with good verbal ability learn to read more easily than their peers. Good verbal ability includes a large vocabulary, ability to retell a story coherently, and both phonological and morphological awareness” (Bergin and Bergin, 2012). A second factor is brain development. Children may inherit their ability to read and write. The experiences a child has also helps his/her brain to develop. A third reason is cognitive development. “Reading requires general cognitive abilities, like working memory, knowledge, reasoning, and cognitive abilities” (Bergin and Bergin, 2012). A fourth factor includes a positive emotional attachment. Secure children develop better literacy skills and attitudes towards reading. Finally, developing literacy has many social factors. Parents who read and talk to children about books are helping their child to develop literacy. Playing can also help to develop literacy. Parents who play and use complex words with their children can greatly increase their child’s vocabulary development.
A child’s home environment greatly impacts his/her ability to develop fluent communication skills. So the question remains: What can I do as a classroom teacher to help to increase and improve literacy skills in the classroom? As I researched this question I began to see the similarities between researchers of literacy instruction for elementary students, secondary students, adolescents, and boys. I compiled the information to the following suggestions:
- Make the Time: In his article, Richard Allington wrote about reading and writing vs. all of the other “stuff.” He warned that elementary teachers should be spending a large amount of time allowing children to practice reading. Less time should be spent on activities that do not significantly increase a child’s reading abilities (such as worksheets). Allington wrote, “Extensive practice provides the opportunity for students to consolidate the skills and strategies teachers often work so hard to develop” (2002).
- Classroom Resources: Teachers should have a well-stocked classroom. Books should be fiction and nonfiction representing varied formats and genres. Books that are easy to read build fluency and provide enjoyment. Success in reading is closely associated with engagement and the motivation to read.
- Teach with a Purpose: Teachers need to provide direct and explicit instruction of comprehension strategies. According to the What Works Clearinghouse, “Direct and explicit teaching involves a teacher modeling and providing explanations of the specific strategies students are learning, giving guided practice and feedback on the use of the strategies, and promoting independent practice to apply the strategies” (2008).
- Encourage Talk: Teachers should encourage and support purposeful talk throughout the day. Students should be allowed to discuss with one another and with the teacher as well. Talking appears to be especially important for boys. “Some boys need to talk through their ideas before they are sure they understand what they have read and before they can commit their ideas to paper effectively” (Ontario Education, 2004).
- Authentic Reading Tasks: Complex tasks that increase student motivation and engagement should be planned rather than low level worksheets. Teachers should plan real world, authentic tasks that provide students with some choices. “Students will learn to process text more deeply if their reading is relevant to their lives and they are pursuing meaningful learning goals in an atmosphere that supports their initiative and personal choice” (Center on Instruction, 2007). Teachers should have high expectations for these tasks.
Allington, Richard. (2002). “The Six Ts of Effective Elementary Literacy Instruction.” Reading Rockets. Retrieved November, 2013 from http://www.readingrockets.org/article/96/.
Bergin, C. C., & Bergin, D. A. (2012). Child and Adolescent Development in your Classroom. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
“Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices.” U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, What Works Clearinghouse. Retrieved November, 2013 from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/PracticeGuide.aspx?sid=8
“Me Read? No Way!” (2004) Ontario Education. Retrieved November, 2013 from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/document/brochure/meread/meread.pdf
Torgensen, Houston, Rissman. (2007) “Improving Literacy Instruction in Middle and High Schools: A Guide for Principals.” Florida Center for Reading Research. Retrieved November, 2013 from http://www.fcrr.org/interventions/pdf/principals%20guide-secondary.pdf.
- What activity do you do in your classroom that you feel helps to increase your student’s motivation to read?
- Do you follow a Reader’s Workshop approach or does your district use a basal series? What are the benefits and negative aspects of the program that you use?
- How has implementing the Common Core Standards changed the development of literacy in your classroom?
- What is a writing activity that your students seem to enjoy doing year after year?