My situation is a bit unique – as a distributed learning (DL) teacher, I don’t see my students every day. I provide families with curriculum resources and learning opportunities, then the parents learn with their children at home. I meet weekly with about a third to half of my students through field trips and guided reading/math groups, and the rest of my students meet with me every 4-6 weeks to check in, show me what they’ve done, and ask questions.
I should mention that I am also the only primary teacher in my school; an intermediate teacher and an LART round out the elementary division. We don’t currently have school-wide literacy program, but there is a district-wide literacy initiative that includes literacy pro-d opportunities after school on Wednesdays. I’ve been to every one so far and have already learned so much.
In this blog post, I will reflect on the school’s current literacy program and discuss some of my ideas for how I can incite a reading culture bloom at my school.
The Starting Point
I started in this position half-way through last year and noticed that many of the students are struggling to read. The school was using a subscription to Raz Reading and providing workbooks for reading comprehension, writing, phonics, and/or grammar. Together with the LART, we also set up weekly guided reading groups – something that made a big difference for those who chose to attend.
But we can do better. This year, I want to expand our literacy resources and provide more in the form of literacy opportunities and instruction for my students and their parents. Therefore, I also need to increase my knowledge of how literacy development.
I want to reach every student, not just those whose parents are able to bring them to my classroom. I wish for every one of my students to feel that they belong in the reading community. I would be happy to hear every student say “I am a reader.”
What I’ve Learned (So Far)
The Wednesday Pro-D sessions have introduced me to Richard Allington’s research, which I think will become the base of my literacy program this year. I have a copy of an “Every Child Every Day” poster, similar to the one below, in my classroom and will also be posting it to my class website.
When looking at setting up a literacy program in my school, it seems overwhelming. But Allington and Gabriel’s paper suggests that an effective literacy program doesn’t need to be expensive or time-consuming, it just needs to include those 6 aspects of reading and writing (every day). This is very similar to the CAFE/Daily 5 programs I have come across in other classrooms. Some quotes that stood out to me, and will guide my learning, are:
“Research has demonstrated that access to self-selected texts improves students’ reading performance, whereas no evidence indicates that workbooks, photocopies, or computer tutorial programs have ever done so.” (p. 12)
“When students write about something they care about, they use conventions of spelling and grammar because it matters to them that their ideas are communicated.” (p. 13)
“The task of switching between writing, speaking, reading, and listening helps students make connections between, and thus solidify, the skills they use in each.” (p. 14)
Another excellent resource I was introduced to in this Pro-D is a video from the organization ‘Raising Awareness of Developmental Language Disorder.’ Colleagues report that, when shown in the classroom, students who relate to one of the children in the video are more open when talking about their own reading struggles. I think can be a powerful way of opening dialogue and helping struggling readers feel that they, too, are part of the reading community.
Where To Go From Here?
Additional research this week has prompted me to create a list of ideas that I want to try in my own literacy instruction. Here are the top three strategies, listed along the great resources that inspired them.
1. Increase Access to Books
“The two most powerful instructional design factors for improving reading motivation and comprehension were (1) student access to many books and (2) personal choice of what to read.” (Allington and Gabriel, p. 10)
Research has shown that access to books, particularly when students get to choose their own texts, is the single biggest motivator and best way to increase all literacy skills (Gaiman, Krashen, Allington and Gabriel). The best thing I can do for my students is to make sure they all have access to books all the time.
If you want to know more about this, or find motivation or support for student selected reading materials, I highly recommend reading/watching these three texts:
- Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming.
- Steven Krashen: The power of reading.
- Richard Allington and Rachael Gabriel: Every Child Every Day
“The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it’s hard, because someone’s in trouble and you have to know how it’s all going to end … that’s a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going.” (Gaiman)
How can I make sure my students experience a love of reading like this?
- Set up the classroom library and lend books to families.
- Connect students with the library of the school in which my classroom is located.
- Book tours of the local public libraries.
- Provide access to online read alouds so all students can listen to a fluent adult read, particularly if their parents are unable to read to them.
- Send home levelled readers so students just learning to read have texts they can read confidently and accurately.
- Teach students how to choose ‘just right’ books so they select books that are interesting and at the right level for them.
2. Support Reading Strategy Development for All Students
“Comprehending and connecting with text helps us find joy and make sense of the world and ourselves.” (SD #73)
All students, no matter how good they are perceived at reading, can improve with the direct teaching of reading strategies. I love Adrienne Gear and would like to explore her materials more this year (readingpowergear.com and readingpowergear.wordpress.com). I also liked this poster that I came across while researching:
Assistive technologies should also be made available to every student. Access to these technologies can help lessen the poverty gap in literacy rates, increase phonological awareness and vocabulary, and improve focus (Biancarosa and Griffiths). Universal design states “that many accommodations are ‘necessary for some, and good for all.'” (Sider and Maich, p. 3).
“Technology can build knowledge and support higher-level reading strategies and behaviours.” (Biancarosa and Griffiths, p. 142)
How can I support reading strategies for my students?
- Teach reading strategies to parents and students
- Set up a ‘Come Read With Me Session‘ for my families. (Already done!)
- Post strategies, links, and videos on my classroom website for parents to access.
- Provide posters, coaching cards, or bookmarks with reading strategies on them so students can use visual prompts while reading.
- Continue to offer weekly guided reading groups. (We have borrowed a Leveled Literacy Intervention kit from the district library for the year!)
- Provide access and training for accessibility tools for all students, not just those on an IEP.
- Graphic organizers.
- Speech-to-text and text-to-speech (like Google Read&Write).
- Typing practice (my class is part of the district pilot for TypingPal).
3. Provide Opportunities for Multi-Modal Interactions with Literature
“The skills necessary to be a literate citizen in the new millennium have expanded from simply being about to read and write printed text to being able to consume and produce a variety of texts across traditional and new technologies.” (Serafini, p. 26)
The Leading Learning document, produced by the Canadian Library Association, recommends that schools build a community of learners to develop all literacies, including trans, information, critical, digital, and cultural literacies (CLA).
Giving students “multiple ways to understand, analyze, critique, and respond emotionally to the texts they are reading” (Grisham, p. 22) engages students in literacy, increases their appreciation of reading, and supports achievement in struggling readers (Grisham). I want my students to experience reading, rather than learn to read.
“Their presentation in class celebrated their literacy performance, rather than highlight shortcomings.” (Grisham, p. 220)
What can I do to give my students more opportunity for multi-modal responses to literature?
- Give students choice for how they respond to literature (And access/training to the required tech tools).
- For example: book trailers, illustrated letters, posters, audio recordings (Grisham), creating graphic novels or comic strips (Serafini).
- Provide students with an authentic audience for their work.
- Make literacy a social experience, where students can interact and collaborate with each other.
This is third strategy provides a connection between this week’s research and my reading review topic: all of this could be done using a digital portfolio! I look forward to trying out some of these ideas with my class.
What do you do to develop a love of literacy in your classroom? Is there something that works for you that I’ve missed? Have you tried something I’ve explored here but it just doesn’t work?
Allington, Richard and Gabriel, Rachael. “Every Child, Every Day.” Educational Leadership, 2012, http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar12/vol69/num06/Every-Child,-Every-Day.aspx.
Biancarosa, Gina and Griffiths, Gina. “Technology Tools to Support Reading in the Digital Age.” Future Child, 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23057135.
Braun, Hannah. “Reading Strategies.” The Classroom Key, 2015, https://www.theclassroomkey.com/2015/10/16-reading-strategies-to-teach-this-year.html.
Canadian Library Association.”Leading Learning: Standards of practice for school library learning commons in Canada.” Ottawa:ON, 2014, http://www.accessola2.com/SLIC-Site/slic/llsop.pdf.
Gaiman, N. “Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming.” The Guardian, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming?CMP=twt_gu.
Grisham, D. “Love that book: Multimodal response to literature.” The Reading Teacher, 67(3),2013, 220-225.
Krashen, S. “The power of reading.” The COE lecture series, University of Georgia, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSW7gmvDLag.
RADLD. “What’s Tricky About Reading?” YouTube, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pA8TPdhdPvQ.
SD #35. “Every Child, Every Day.” https://instructionalservices.sd35.bc.ca/curriculum/intermediatemiddle/literacy/reading-instruction/.
SD #73. “Reading.” School District #73 Literacy Resources, http://sd73literacy.weebly.com/reading.html.
Serafini, F. “Reading multimodal texts in the 21st century.” Research in Schools, 19(1), 2012, 26-32.
Sider and Maich. “Assistive Technology Tools.” What Works? Research into Practice, 2014, http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/WW_TechnologyTools.pdf.
3 thoughts on “Inquiry Project Week 1: Fostering a Reading Culture”
This is very interesting! Thank you for sharing! I believe that each person’s experience has can change other people’s lives. What do you think, Kristi?
Wow, this was an exceptional post with strong narrative reflection on your context, goals and early results, with a detailed evaluation of your current practices and plans moving forward. You collected many useful resources, guides, videos and have connected a little Personal Learning Network in your district to support your reluctant readers. A very well done, well written and expansive discussion of the issue and your approaches to dealing with it. I really liked the style, layout and flow of your post. The only element left to add is to start adding “categories” to your posts as subject headings to help organize and retrieve posts later.
Thank you. I had added a bunch of tags to the post… what is the difference between tags and categories?
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