Applying Our Understanding to Real-World Case Studies

It is with the greatest of pleasures that we share our latest presentation - Applying Our Understanding to Real-World Case Studies.

This presentation is the culmination of recent work, and it is an important next step in putting one’s growing knowledge of literacy development to use. We may know certain things intellectually - such as the stages of literacy development or the components of literacy - but the true test lies in putting this knowledge into practice.

For the purposes of this presentation, viewers will be asked to reflect upon the needs and circumstances of individual learners, and to use this information as the basis of instructional planning.

We all know that literacy instruction cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution. For best practice, we need to know where a learner is placed along the literacy journey, so we can provide those experiences that will help the learner continue along in his or her journey.

We must see the enormous potential for profound growth in each learner, and we must commit ourselves to providing learners with the right type and amount of sustained practice to make literacy acquisition a reality.

Ultimately, what is it that we want? We want learners to be able explore, learn and express - fluently and intelligently. We want learners to be able to take control of the script, so they are able use literacy actively and critically for a range of purposes.

Without further ado, we invite you to explore the presentation above. Within the presentation, you will meet Maria, Jonathan, Dakota and David. In the future, we plan to introduce you to a whole cast of others with a focus on providing further opportunities for you to critically reflect and respond to the needs and circumstances of a diverse range of learners.

Please explore the video and download the related slides, which can be found above and on YouTube at https://youtu.be/u7eP9nBFG-U. The presentation slides can be downloaded at http://bit.ly/2-Apply-Case-Studies. We highly recommend that you download the slides, since they contain the case studies as well as suggested activities.

I wish I could be delivering this presentation in a face-to-face seminar to The Literacy Bug audience. I’d be very curious to know the personal perspectives that you’d bring to the content and the case studies. In the abscence of this opportunity, I encourage you to email your ideas to us at ebrace@theliteracybug.com, or leave a comment below or on YouTube. Please explore and enjoy!


To recap, the following are links to the other presentations in the series:

An Overview of Literacy Development
YouTube Video: https://youtu.be/yMGU7UIJ4RU
Slideshttp://bit.ly/2-Overview-Literacy-v2

Planning and Monitoring for Effective Instruction
YouTube Video: https://youtu.be/cZrtB8dTZEg
Slideshttp://bit.ly/2-Planning-Monitoring-2

Teaching According to the Stages of Development
YouTube Video: https://youtu.be/D7vUhqVXLWg
Slideshttp://bit.ly/2-Teaching-Routines-Stages-2

Additional Resources for the Planning and Monitoring for Effective Instruction
YouTube Video: https://youtu.be/R71j5_kegzk
Slideshttp://bit.ly/2-Planning-Monitoring-Resources-2

Mastering the Alphabetic Principle
YouTube Video: https://youtu.be/dA4nt3rxTYM
Slideshttp://bit.ly/Mastering-the-Code

Analysing Spoken Words
YouTube Video: https://youtu.be/8DVPbK0HSyY
Blog Entryhttps://www.theliteracybug.com/journal/2018/9/3/analysing-spoken-words-a-new-activity

Words Sorts
YouTube Video: https://youtu.be/HCvYgHk6ODc
Blog Entryhttps://www.theliteracybug.com/journal/2018/9/3/word-sorts

Sentence: Types, Features and Structures
Slideshttp://bit.ly/2-The-Sentence

The Power to Depict

Once again I feel the desire to return to the inspiration for The Literacy Bug: the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein

By this stage, it lies in the distant past that this website was once known as Wittgenstein on Learning, but despite the passage of time Wittgenstein’s influence remains ever present.

The man was preoccupied by how we are able to express anything whatsoever through language. And in his flawed masterpiece Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Wittgenstein presents us with a conceptualisation of language which encourages us to be amazed by our ability to transfer pictures of the world through our utterances. From this perspective, a function of language is to express propositions of the world to one another. That is, language is powerful because we can use it to propose states of affairs to one another through a system of sounds (to which we attach shared meaning). By propositions, we can take it to mean “sentences on the world”. 

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Through the lens of the Tractatus, each proposition (or sentence) paints a picture of a state of affairs, and that state of affairs is open to consideration and contemplation (as long as the speaker and the listener share some form of language). In other words, language permits people to generate, communicate and examine possible states of affairs, whether real or fictitious ... declarative or speculative ... true or false. I can convey and receive pictures through language, and there is no necessity that I am able to experience these pictures directly for me to understand them and draw meaning from them. 

The Tractatus is flawed only in the sense that our human language consists of a greater variety of propositions than merely descriptive sentences. We tell jokes. We ask questions. We talk about abstract things. We create rules and so on. Even these paragraphs - the ones you are currently reading - are valuable in that they present a picture of abstractions - languages, propositions, sentences - that may influence your future perception of “how certain things work”. In Wittgenstein’s own words from a later work,

"This picture has a double function: it informs others, as pictures or words inform -- but for one who gives the information it is a representation (or piece of information?) of another kind." (Philosophical Investigations, 280)

If we take a moment to consider descriptive sentences, there is an elegant and meditative quality to the acts of writing and reading. In the acts of writing and reading, we are builders. We are builders of experiences. We are speculators on cause and effect. We are builders of how our concepts are meant to fit together. In writing, we may chisel out an unfolding picture as we lay sentence after sentence onto the page with the aim of describing how something occurred or how something works. We must have the patience, motivation and care to find this recording process beneficial and - in fact - important to how we live our lives. That is, we must find some value in recording an observation for ourselves and others to return to. In reading, we must find some benefit in encountering and constructing a mental image of a state of affairs as we come to navigate texts. Some texts may be more accessible, whilst other texts may be “harder to crack” because they are more difficult for a particular reader to generate pictures from them.

Implied in all of this is a substratum to language: our ability to experience, perceive, notice, visualise, critique and represent aspects of the world or possible words. And whilst we have all read mechanically (focusing merely on decoding) at least once in our lives, we have also had to reread a section of text to get a proper image of what we failed to grasp in the first place. And if I am to demonstrate my comprehension, I’d be compelled to represent my understanding in some way (either in words, images or schematics). And we share these representations with others to determine whether our understanding of a text is shared by others. Have we extracted the right image?

So … amidst The Literacy Bug’s recent focus on the alphabetic principle, I feel it is important to splash a bit of paint on the purpose of our reading and writing, since the acquisition of literacy is a means to an end - not an end in itself. We want learners to become dexterous with the written word so they can discover, debate, and develop knowledge of the world, of themselves within it, and of people around them. And the learners should be deeply motivated to do so, and it is our role as teachers - in whatever capacity we serve - to foster this compulsion to examine, express and explore. This sentiment is elegantly captured by Mr. Stanley Cavell,

"The pupil must want to go on alone in taking language to the world, and that what is said must be worth saying [and writing], have a point (warning, informing, amusing, promising, questioning, chastising, counting, insisting, beseeching, and so on) … If it is part of teaching to undertake to validate these measures of interest, then it would be quite as if teaching must, as it were, undertake to show a reason for speaking [writing and reading] at all." (Cavell, 2005, pg 115)

So … please imagine, explore and enjoy! The path to discovery involves many patient moments of illumination.


References

Cavell, S. (2005). Philosophy the day after tomorrow. In Philosophy the day after tomorrow (pp. 111 – 131). Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.

Wittgenstein, L. (2001a). Philosophical Investigations (3rd ed.). Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing.

Wittgenstein, L. (2001b). Tractatus logico-philosophicus. London: Routledge.

Mastering the Alphabetic Code

Today, we share "Mastering the Alphabetic Code" which is available below as well as on YouTube at https://youtu.be/dA4nt3rxTYM

This video is a presentation that outlines the key elements involved in learning to “master the alphabetic code”, such as phonemic awareness, phonemic knowledge, letter-sound correspondence, orthographic patterns, morphological patterns and automatic word recognition and construction skills.

It emphasises the need for teachers to develop scaffolded activities that provide learners with the skills to succeed.

The presentation slides can be downloaded at http://bit.ly/Mastering-the-Code. We highly recommend that you download the slides, since they contain many resources mentioned in the video. Please be patient during download. It's a large file, at least in PDF terms (20MB).

Please explore and enjoy! And send us a message if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

Resources for Planning and Monitoring for Effective Literacy Teaching and Learning

After the previous update, you'd be correct to believe that the last video presentation was the final in a series. Even I was convinced of this. Alas, there is one more ... I swear ... or believe.

Today, we share "Resources for Planning and Monitoring for Effective Literacy Teaching and Learning" which is available below as well as on YouTube at https://youtu.be/R71j5_kegzk

The video is a presentation that summarises a range of resources that can help teachers better plan and monitor for effective literacy teaching and learning. In many ways, it's simply an extension of the previous presentations (listed below).

The presentation slides can be downloaded at http://bit.ly/2-Planning-Monitoring-Resources. We highly recommend that you download the slides, since they contain many resources mentioned in the video. Please be patient during download. It's a large file, at least in PDF terms (20MB).

To recap, the following are links to the other presentations in the series:

An Overview of Literacy Development
Video: https://youtu.be/yMGU7UIJ4RU
Slideshttp://bit.ly/2-Literacy-Overview

Planning and Monitoring for Effective Instruction
Video: https://youtu.be/cZrtB8dTZEg
Slideshttp://bit.ly/2-Planning-Monitoring

Teaching According to the Stages of Development
Video: https://youtu.be/D7vUhqVXLWg
Slideshttp://bit.ly/2-Teaching-Routines-Stages

Last but not least, below is the podcast episode in which we talk about the latest presentation.

Please explore and enjoy! And send us a message if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

Protecting Indigenous languages as vibrant, literate cultures

Article 13 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states that:

Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalise, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures.”

Often there is a strong focus on preserving the oral nature of traditional, Indigenous languages, and - yet - there is a tendency to overlook the equivalent urgency to protect, capture and foster literacy and literature in the languages of some of the world's oldest cultures.

Today, I am writing with a call to action from The Literacy Bug community. The organisation for which I work - the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation - is one of ten finalists in the Google Impact Challenge. Whilst all ten finalists receive much-needed funding to carry forward their projects, four of the finalist are awarded a grand prize of $750,000 each. One of the grand prize winners is selected via a public vote, which is where you can assist.

I am asking like-minded individuals to vote for the ALNF's Living First Language project. It doesn't matter where you are in the world. If you share a passion for linguistic diversity, literacy and social justice, then please cast your vote in the Google Impact Challenge. Visit the following link to vote:  https://impactchallenge.withgoogle.com/australia2016/charity/alnf. I also ask you to circulate the link to relevant friends and colleagues, whether via email, Facebook, Twitter or other social media.

I have been fortunate to have had significant experience working in and with Indigenous communities in Australia in the areas of Indigenous language and literacy. I regularly hear elders speak of the profound significance that Indigenous languages play in culture, identity, well-being and spirituality. Equally, elders want their children and grandchildren to be literate in their traditional language(s) and English.  As an organisation, the ALNF is committed to Twin Language literacy learning when working in remote Australian communities, and we feel that the Google Impact Challenge grant will provide the means to complete development of a flexible, digital platform that Speaker Groups can use to record, collate, develop, teach and share their languages.

Unfortunately, Australian Indigenous languages are in peril. The 2014 National Indigenous Languages Survey reports that all Australian traditional languages are at risk of declining or in a state of decline. National Geographic notes that traditional languages in Australia are declining at one of the highest rates anywhere in the world. The impact is not merely around language, though. There are known positive impacts on educational, employment, health, and mental health outcomes in communities where language status is strong. In addition, the ALNF is well aware that strong early language and literacy learning in one’s Mother Tongue provides a pivotal bridge for formal (English) literacy in school, which is why the ALNF has developed paper-based and digital resources in collaboration with Speaker Groups, which they use to teach their children to read and write in local Indigenous language(s). 

The Google Impact Challenge grand prize will enable the ALNF to find accessible ways to incorporate emerging technologies - such as natural language processing and machine learning - to enhance the resources that have already been developed as well as the tools that we can only dream of. Ultimately, Speaker Group communities deserve access to innovative, accessible tools, which allow them to read, write, record, develop, teach and share their languages as living, literate languages within local communities and beyond. It is a challenge that the ALNF is willing to accept.

I hope you don't mind this direct call to action. It is rare for me to allow my personal/professional self to show itself in The Literacy Bug. That said, I think it is important to do so in this case. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like further information, have any questions or have great ideas to support the campaign.

And ... please don't forget to vote: https://impactchallenge.withgoogle.com/australia2016/charity/alnf

We should all agree that everyone deserves a high quality education

We all seem to agree that everyone deserves a high quality education; however, I anticipate that there would some disagreement as to what a quality education might consist of.

To be educated is to be equipped with certain knowledge, skills and attributes to navigate/shape/explore/question/participate in one's world, whatever that world is or will be.

Education involves doing, imagining, connecting, collaborating, understanding, accomplishing, discovering, becoming and more.

For a child in a refugee camp or - worse - a detention camp, he or she may become proficient in the skills that are taught within the confines of a cramped classroom or in the shade of a tree, but is this child receiving an education? Is the child discovering the mysteries of physics, the art of the humanities, the conundrums of civic society, the collected wisdom and more. Whilst I do not want to devalue the valiant efforts of educators in the camps (something with which I am all too familiar), I dream of greater opportunities for this child, wherever his or her path may lead.

What does an education mean to you? How is an education denied a life denied?

Ensuring Equity in Opportunity to Learn

The following are elements that contribute to equality in the opportunity to learn. In an equitable system, all students would have access to:

  • Engaged time;
  • Quality teaching, resources and environments;
  • Safe environments which students are free from harm and discrimination and that their basic needs are met;
  • The material, cultural and economic means to achieve;
  • Opportunities to practice and to extend practices;
  • High expectations that are shared between the school and the home contexts;
  • Suitable collaboration between the home and school contexts as well as with the broader community context;
  • Schools and communities which are sensitive to the linguistic and cultural diversity of the student population, particularly when a minority of learners come to classrooms with a home language that is not used as the language of instruction;
  • Instruction which is suitable to the learners’ stages of development, and learners have been given strategic skills that help them engage in the current and subsequent stages of learning;
  • Learning environment which facilitate high challenge/high support instruction so that diverse students can make suitable and competitive progress;
  • Special accommodations that have been made to meet the specific learning needs of all students;
  • Content which is engaging, relevant, purposeful and that will build on prior knowledge and that will be consistent with current ways of knowing and be applicable to everyday problem-solving.
  • An education that responds to individual affinities/talents so learners are able to capitalise on these interests and learning trajectories;
  • Effective support in managing transitions between schooling/learning contexts;.
  • Every opportunity to achieve, so that children's resilience is being developed and their motivation is fostered;
  • Institutions and society that seek to minimise and mitigate the impacts of social and economic disadvantage; and
  • People and institutions who keep “a finger on the pulse” of all students at all times. Progress is monitored, opportunities are made available, and extra support is facilitated, where required.

A Comprehensive Literacy Pedagogy Would Account For ...

"In becoming literate, one must acquire skills that are only remotely related to print as well as those that are directly related." (Snow, et al, 1991, p. 5)

McKenna, M. C., & Stahl, K. A. D. (2012). Assessment for reading instruction. 2nd Edition. Guilford Press.

Catherine Snow's observation is particularly relevant to managing balanced literacy instruction. In addition to attending to comprehension skills, compositional skills and print-based skills (e.g. phonemic awareness, spelling skills, fluency, etc), such instruction must take into account the learning of the language itself; the situations in which we speak, listen, read and write; what we are actually trying to learn (e.g. cooking, gardening, football, etc); and the desires, needs, preferences, relationships, experiences and knowledge that we bring to the learning. The diagram to the right represents this parallel development of word recognition skills, strategic reading skills, and language and knowledge

A comprehensive literacy pedagogy would be one where developed a mastering of "the code" along with ample and diverse experiences of using language and literacy in everyday practices and in learning. Such a balanced literacy pedagogy  would include a focus on:

  • creating environments and experiences that foster learning, language & literacy;
  • scaffolding reading;
  • scaffolding writing;
  • developing word recognition skills;
  • expanding vocabulary and depth of word meanings;
  • encouraging the representation & retention of knowledge; and 
  • keeping a pulse on a learner's development, interests and motivation.

Such a pedagogy would recognise that:

  1. Human language is a practice and it involves practice.
  2. That practice involves attending to and mastering salient aspects of language.
  3. Whilst spoken language is arguable developed by all, literacy is the acquisition of a code that many take for granted.
  4. This development is incremental and moves through stages. Adults must be ever vigilant and sensitive to this development.
  5. At every stage it is important to emphasise and model that language and literacy should be meaningful, purposeful and about discovery.
  6. The teacher’s role is to help the child by arranging tasks and activities in such a way that they are more easily accessible. The teacher must also ensure that adequate time and space is made available (especially in the great hurly burly of contemporary life). It is important that learners achieves closure.
  7. This requires an introduction to the routines, habits and ways of using language and literacy as mediating tools.
  8. It is vital that the learner has adequate time and space for this engagement (a) to be modelled for them, (b) to participate in guided practice, and (c) to try out new strategies and skills on their own.
  9. We should not underestimate the important role that emotional commitment and attachment plays in the intake, uptake and embodiment of learning.
  10. We must acknowledge that all learning is conducted with others in context and is dependent on access to tools and resources.
  11. It is important to recognise that there are multiple ways of reading/writing and it is vital to create contexts where a range of literacies can be developed.
  12. An individual's reading and writing practices become more specialised as he or she grows into social, community and economic spheres.
  13. Teaching practitioners must be aware of the material and social factors that impinge upon an individual's successful development of a range of language, literacy and learning practices.
We must remember, in the words of Moyal-Sharrock (2010), how "acquiring language is like learning to walk: the child is stepped into language by an initiator and, after much hesitation and repeated faltering, with time and multifarious practice and exposure, it disengages itself from the teacher's hold and is able, as it were, to run with the language." (2010, pg 6)

 

Reference

Cavell, S. (1969). Must We Mean What We Say?. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.

Moyal-Sharrock, D. (2010). Coming to Language: Wittgenstein’s Social “Theory” of Language Acquisition. In SOL Conference 6-8 May 2010. Bucharest.

Snow, C., Barnes, W. S., Chandler, J., Goodman, I. F., & Hemphill, L. (1991). Unfulfilled expectations: home and school influences on literacy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

ANNOUNCEMENT: A New Essay Has Been Added to the Site

A new essay has been added to the Essays and Presentation section of the site: 

Some may notice that the essay is a revision of a journal entry that first appeared on the site in November 2013