As a classroom teacher, I would like to provide assistance for the teachers in my school and help them to better utilize the resources they have available in their classrooms. We have a great deal of technology available in our school, but I feel it is being underutilized due to lack of training in how to use it effectively in the classroom. Most of the teachers are younger and able to navigate and physically use the materials, but many do not have the time to implement these tools into their lessons. I am familiar with a number of webinars that can help teachers learn to more efficiently use their resources as well as ideas on how to incorporate them into their lessons. Some additions questions I might pose include:
1. Which tools do you feel like you underutilize in your classroom? (Mimio, computers, LCD projector, Techbook, etc…)
2. How do you currently have your lessons organized?
3. Is there a way to swap out time consuming/inefficient parts of your lessons to include the provided resources?
As a teacher, I can safely say that I have had my fair share of successes and failures. My most glaring failure came early in my teaching career. The school at which I taught expected Basil readers to be taught, I obliged, but failed miserably. I was miserable, the students didn't learn, and no one had any fun. I gave it all I had, but I learned through this failure that scripted materials do not work for me, it is just not my style. I ended up finding ways to use the text differently and in a way that was more logical for me as well as my students. The results led to a happier teacher and more successful students.
Strategies and Instructional Practice for Writing Competencies
This week's reading starts by pointing out the fact that adolescent literacy levels have not changed despite improvements in elementary literacy achievement. While attention has shifted to this issue, it seems that writing is being left out because, as the Writing Next article stated, "It is often assumed that adolescents who are proficient readers must be proficient writers, too", This is obviously not the case. Many students are able to observe techniques and tools used by the authors of the texts that they read, however, without explicit and meaningful instruction most students are unable to become proficient writers. The article continues to list 11 effective elements to improve writing achievement, all of which make perfect, practical sense both in the classroom as well as within real world applications. I especially like the mention of model studies. I have always used writing models when instructing my students in writing. When the students are struggling with ideas, are not sure of a format, or can not make a decision about style, I frequently steer them to mentor texts to help guide their writing. Not only does it provide guidance, but it also builds student confidence in that they see what they are doing as similar to what "real authors" do in their writing. I have found using models especially helpful for my struggling writers in that it helps them to create more cohesive pieces.
I appreciated the editor's checklist provided by Morrow and Gambrell in chapter 12. I use a simple writers checklist, but I like the one provided in the text even better. The wording is straightforward and easy to understand and hits all the elements that I expect my students to check. I also liked the writing rubric provided as well. My students typically do not do well with rubrics, but this one is not as wordy as some so it would be easier for them to follow.
Conferencing is also vital when it comes to encouraging and supporting the writers in our classrooms. I find this to be a good way to check in with students on their journey through the writing process. We do a writing workshop each day, so I typically use that time to conference with students. Overall, I think it works well, but I wonder what others do to ensure their conferences run smoothly. Do you schedule conferences, or do you let students come to you as needed? I typically allow the students to come to me when needed. If I am busy with someone else, they sign up their name and continue working around their issue until their turn. It works pretty well, but I sometimes have students who sign up A LOT, monopolizing my time, while others never see me unless I call them specifically. I also try to do a "triage" method for my conferences. It is really easy to rip apart a piece and pick out every mistake, but I avoid falling into that by first asking the student what they think about their writing, and second by choosing to focus on the most obnoxious error.
Instructional Practices to Promote Reading Comprehension
I found this week's PowerPoint to be especially useful. I appreciated the idea that we spend more time assessing reading comprehension than actually teaching it. As a teacher that works at a school that uses Accelerated Reader, I can definitely identify this sentiment.We are pressured by the administration and the librarian to have students take a certain amount of tests and earn a certain amount of points, but there is essentially no emphasis placed on actually instructing the students upon how to actually comprehend what they are reading. The result is students that meet point goals because of the sheer number of tests taken while performing poorly on the tests. A student earns points on any quiz above 60%, meaning that it is possible to meet the point goal while only demonstrating 60% accuracy on the quizzes. The PowerPoint specified a variety of questioning strategies, such as avoiding one word answers, allowing for collaborations, and requiring students to justify answer, none of which are supporting in the AR quizzes.
Strategies for Reading Comprehension Development
This week's readings were fantastic! I am not a huge fan of theory (sorry), so I was excited to see all the practical strategies. There were so many, that I chose to focus on informational text strategies since that is such a big focus in 4th grade. The PowerPoint suggested ideas such as teaching signal words, teaching about literary aids, and identifying main ideas. I do some of this already, but I do feel like focusing on the signal words would be really helpful for getting my students to better comprehend informational text.
The Morrow and Gambrell text presented a number of useful ideas, one of my favorites being RAFT. I used RAFT throughout my undergraduate work and my student teaching, but fell out of the habit in recent years. I am glad that the reading brought it up because it is a great strategy for both fiction and nonfiction writing. The text specifically refers to using if for writing, but I have also used it with reading. I feel like using it in reading makes it easier for the students to manage in their writing. Foldables are also mentioned in this text. I frequently use these in science, math, and social studies. I had not thought about foldables supporting reading comprehension, but I suppose it functions similarly to a graphic organizer. There are a lot of great websites that have ideas for foldables, but my favorite is Homeschool Share, which has foldables that you can type on.
Samuels and Farstrup also shared several strategies, but what I found the most helpful was the chart discerning the different types of narrative and informational text structures. I think this would be really helpful to provide for all of the students to use with RAFT. I also liked the idea of questioning the author. This is a great strategy for improving comprehension, but I also think this would be helpful for writing. I frequently tell my students to think like an author when they are writing, so this is a great reading connection to that idea.
Nature of Reading Comprehension
According to Samuels and Farstrup, reading comprehension can be considered the "product of word reading and language comprehension". Basically, to be able to comprehend, a reader must know how to decode text as well as comprehend the language being used. The text points out that both of these elements is vital, but that one without the other will not ensure success. This week's PowerPoint takes this a step further and breaks these two elements down further. Word recognition covers decoding skills, phonological awareness, and sight recognition while language comprehension is builds on the ideas of background knowledge, vocabulary, language structures, verbal reasoning, and literacy knowledge. For a teacher, that is quite a substantial list to undertake to ensure that students are taught to be skilled readers.
Development of Reading Comprehension
In order to ensure that we support our readers, it is important to understand the development of reading comprehension. The first introduction to language starts as early as birth. Early on, children learn to communicate and interpret meaning before they can speak on their own. I have seen this first hand with my own child. She learned quickly that crying gets our attention and tells us that she needs something, while smiling tells us that she is content and happy. Luckily for us, she is a pretty happy girl! While learning to communicate in these simple ways, babies are also learning to understand language as well. In a relatively short amount of time, children learn to understand "almost everything that adults say to them". They are also learning important processes, such as reasoning and inferring, both of which are helpful in reading.
The next step in development happens during the early elementary years when student learning focuses on decoding and general reading skills. This is the time when students are taught important reading skills such as inferencing and how to monitor their comprehension. According to The Development of Comprehension article by Duke and Carlisle, students also gain much of their language knowledge incidentally through exposure to the language usage of others.
Later in elementary school, the shift in learning focuses from the acquisition of reading and language skills to the implementation of these skills in content area learning. While the focus has shifted, readers are also gaining a deeper understanding of the foundational knowledge received in the lower elementary grades. This includes morphological awareness and syntactic awareness.
Assessment of Reading Comprehension
Reading comprehension is a hard thing to assess, which is probably why there have been so many attempts to find the perfect system. The reading by Pearson and Hamm pointed out, however, that most of these assessments were, in essence, designed prior to World War II. One means of measuring comprehension was a test to measure intelligence. It was determined that reading comprehension and intelligence were very difficult to discern in this test. To me, I took that as meaning that the higher intelligence scores were based on the fact that the test taker could better understand the questions and therefore perform better than struggling readers who may actually have a better understanding of the material. Another method developed is the CLOZE procedure, a method with which many teachers are familiar. The problem with this method is that is is unclear whether these types of assessments measure reading comprehension rather than the linguistic predictability. CLOZE was also proven ineffective in a study by Shanahan, Kamil, and Tobin which found that the results were not dependent on the context of the passage.