New Reading Lists Added to The Literacy Bug: Stages of Literacy Development

It is with great pleasure that we make this small - yet important - update. We would like to announce that we have categorised some of our recommended references according to Jeanne Chall’s Stages of Reading Development. Regular visitors would be well aware that Chall’s model plays an important role in The Literacy Bug’s approach to literacy teaching and learning. If you are not familiar with Chall’s model, we encourage you to read the linked essay on the Stages of Literacy Development and/or visit the notes on the Five Stage of Reading Development.

Otherwise, proceed straight to the newly added reading lists. Each list begins with a brief description of the stage.


Stage 0: Pre-Reading: Birth to 6 Years Old

In Stage 0, the child pretends to read, gradually develops the skills to retells stories when looking at pages of books previously read to him/her. The child gains the ability to name letters of the alphabet, prints own name and plays with books, pencils and paper. By six years old, the child can understand thousands of words but can read few (if any). In this stage, adults are encouraged to scaffold child’s language attempts through parallel talk, expanding on verbalisations and recasting child’s verbalisations. Adults are encouraging children to use of two to three word combinations within social contexts, and adults should implement dialogic reading or effective shared reading for young children ages 2 to 5 years. Any instruction (phonics, vocabulary) should be linked to the book reading, and such books should include rhyme, alliteration, and repetitive phrases. In one’s environment, adults should verbally label objects with which children are involved and encourage children to ask questions and elaborate on observations (Westberg, et al., 2006). Click here to explore recommending readings for Stage 0.


Stage 1: Initial Reading & Decoding: 6 to 7 Years Old

In Stage 1, the child is learning the relation between letters and sounds and between print and spoken words. The child is able to read simple texts containing high frequency words and phonically regular words, and uses skills and insight to “sound out” new words. In relation to writing, the child is moving from scribbling to controlled scribbling to nonphonemic letter strings. Adults are encouraging the child to write about known words and use invented spellings to encourage beginning writing, which can be extended through assisted performance. In this stage, the main aims are to further develop children’s phonological awareness, letter-sound knowledge, and ability to manipulate phonemes and syllables (segmentation and blending). (Westberg, et al., 2006) Click here to explore recommending readings for Stage 1.


Stage 2: Confirmation & Fluency: 7 to 9 Years Old

In Stage 2, the child can read simple, familiar stories and selections with increasing fluency. This is done by consolidating the basic decoding elements, sight vocabulary and meaning context in the reading of common topics. The learner’s skills are extended through guided read-aloud of more complex texts. By this stage, adults should be providing instruction that includes repeated and monitored oral reading. Teachers and parents must model fluent reading for students by reading aloud to them daily and ask students to read text aloud. It is important to start with texts that are relatively short and contain words the students can successfully decode. This practice should include a variety of texts such as stories, nonfiction and poetry, and it should use a variety of ways to practice oral reading, such as student-adult reading, choral (or unison) reading, tape-assisted reading, partner (or buddy) reading and reader’s theatre. (Westberg, et al., 2006) Click here to explore recommending readings for Stage 2.


Stage 3: Reading for Learning the New: 9 to 13 Years Old

In Stage 3, reading is used to learn new ideas, to gain new knowledge, to experience new feelings, to learn new attitudes, generally from one or two points of view. There is a significant emphasis placed on reading to learn, and writing for diverse purposes. There is time spent balancing the consolidating of constrained skills (spelling, grammar, fluency) whilst providing ample opportunities to explore topics through reading, writing, speaking, listening & viewing. By this time, the learner has transitioned to a stage where he or she is expected to learn from their reading. Adults should teach  specific comprehension strategies, such as comprehension monitoring, using graphic and semantic organisers, answering questions, generating questions, recognising textual structures, summarising, and identifying main ideas and important details. (Westberg, et al., 2006) Click here to explore recommending readings for Stage 3.


Stage 4: Synthesising, Critiquing & Applying Perspective: 13 to 17 Years Old

In Stage 4, learners are reading widely from a broad range of complex materials, both expository and narrative, and are asked to apply a variety of viewpoints. Learners are required to access, retain, critique and apply knowledge and concepts. Learners are consolidating general reading, writing and learning strategies whilst being required to develop more sophisticated disciplinary knowledge and perspectives. These adolescent learners deserve content area teachers who provide instruction in the multiple literacy strategies needed to meet the demands of the specific discipline. In these areas, adolescents deserve access to and instruction with multimodal as well as traditional print sources. (International Reading Association, 2012). Click here to explore recommending readings for Stage 4.

We hope the newly added lists are helpful. If you would like to provide any recommendations or send us a comment, please do not hesitate to contact us at or use the comment box/link below.

References in this blog entry
International Reading Association. (2012). Adolescent Literacy: a position statement of the International Reading Association. Newark, DE.

Westberg, L., McShane, S., & Smith, L. (2006). Verizon Life Span Literacy Matrix: Relevant Outcomes , Measures and Research-based Practices and Strategies. Washington D.C.

Major Themes in Literacy Teaching and Learning

"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)

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.

"[We] forget that we learn language and learn the world together" (Cavell, 1969, pg 19).

Click the link below to read the full entry.

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Suggested Readings in Each of the Main Areas of Literacy Instruction

In an initial journal entry and past discussions, we identified that full literacy development required the parallel development of skills in the following areas:

  1. Robust development of oral language in language-rich and literacy-rich environments;
  2. Clear, systematic and intensive development of phonemic awareness;
  3. Further systematic and progressive development of alphabetic skills, including phonics, spelling and morphology;
  4. Wide ranging support of vocabulary development from a very young age;
  5. Expert utilisation of read-alouds;
  6. Skilled orchestration of language experiences;
  7. Substantial time set aside for fluency practice (include time for independent reading);
  8. Attention to ultimate goal of reading instruction: comprehension; and
  9. Apprenticeship into the craft of composition; and
  10. Ongoing and deepening construction of knowledge (the real goal of learning).

In a subsequent entry, we identified research-based techniques and activities that were found to build competencies in each area. At the end of that entry, we mentioned that we would soon share a selection of readings (e.g. journal articles and books) which explore instructional practices and principles in greater details. This entry fulfils this promise. Follow the "Read More" link for the list of recommended readings.

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A collection of observations regarding the fostering of literacy practice

On the subject of the value of reading, I can sum up the importance of language and literacy in three words: independence, control, and participation. A person who speaks on his or her own behalf and who is a skilled reader and writer can independently advocate for him- or herself and navigate his or her own learning. And since literacy is a constructive skill (as Wittgenstein's picture theory suggests), the individual learns ways to control and critically reflect on experience.  And the development of language and literacy skills amongst a community of practice allows one to participate in that group, to contribute to that group and to find a valued identity therein.

Language, literacy and knowledge allows one to shape the world around one and they allow for one's perception of the world to be shaped by others. Literacy allows one to access information; construct and organise knowledge; participate in a community of practitioners; adopt the many ways of being readers and writers; and persuade (and be persuaded), inform (and be informed), entertain (and be entertained) … ponder, explore, speculate upon, confirm and represent experience.  

“Learning to read is a developmental process that takes place over time, involves qualitatively different (but perhaps overlapping) phases, and may break down at different points due to the failure to acquire the core skills that underlie the development of literacy (Ehri, 2005; Pressley, 2006; Snow & Juel, 2005; Tunmer & Nicolson, 2011). 

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Considering Teaching Techniques in Each of the Main Areas of Literacy Instruction

Continuing on from the previous journal entry, the following presents key “activities” that contribute to the development of the core areas of language & literacy development. The activities are mentioned but not defined. An elaboration of the teaching and learning practices will be presented in the future.


ORAL LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT - Language Comprehension - The Beginnings of Literacy

  1. Identifying target language
  2. Modelling & emphasising the target
  3. Interpreting & recasting expressions
  4. Extending contributions
  5. Utilising pause-prompt-praise
  6. Using cues/prompts (visual/tactile/etc)
  7. Facilitating barrier activities
  8. Employing oral cloze procedures
  9. Providing choices and other opportunities to extend language
  10. Utilising links to first language for English language learners
  11. Overall ... shaping discourse


PHONEMIC AWARENESS - Analysing Known Language - Becoming "Word Aware"

  1. Clapping syllables (PA)
  2. Multi-sensory phonemic awareness / puppet play (PA)
  3. Elknoni boxes / sound sticks (PA)
  4. Picture sorting / picture blending / picture segmenting (PA)
  5. Onset & rime identification (PA)
  6. Phoneme isolation & phoneme blending (PA)
  7. Phoneme deletion (PA)
  8. Phoneme journals / phoneme walls / picture walls
  9. Utilising links to first language for English language learners



  1. Alphabet books / alphabet walls
  2. Multi-sensory handwriting practice
  3. Picture sorting / picture blending / picture segmenting (PA)
  4. Elknoni boxes / sound sticks / Say-It-And-Move-It (PA)
  5. Spelling journals / phoneme walls / rule records
  6. Word sorts (closed / open) (timed / untimed)
  7. Word scrambles
  8. Word ladders
  9. Word hunts (identifying sounds in texts)
  10. Make a word (morphological analysis)
  11. Use the Words You Know
  12. High frequency words / sight words
  13. Invented spelling / tracking spelling skills
  14. Games (e.g. memory, bingo, board games)
  15. Utilising links to first language for English language learners


VOCABULARY DEVELOPMENT - Having Something to Talk With

  1. Incidental learning (see Oral Language Development)
  2. Learning from read alouds (see Read Alouds)
  3. Personal glossaries / word banks / word walls
  4. Word maps / four square maps / power maps
  5. Semantic maps (and other brainstorming techniques)
  6. Graphic organisers (hanging diagrams, flow charts, Venn diagrams, etc)
  7. Clines, timelines and scales
  8. Semantic feature analysis
  9. Word analysis / morphological analysis
  10. Analysis of dictionary definitions and thesaurus entries
  11. Games (e.g. memory, bingo, board games)
  12. Cloze procedures 
  13. Possible sentences / use in context / extended discussions
  14. Utilising links to first language for English language learners


READ ALOUDS - Encountering Literacy in Rich, Meaningful Ways

  1. (Where possible) Link Read-Alouds that take advantage of prior knowledge and shared experiences 
  2. (Where possible) Utilise links to first language for English language learners
  3. Read alouds should be a vehicle to (a) address comprehension-related instructions and support vocabulary, (b) target code-related instruction, (c) support oral language and early writing (e.g. path rough story extensions), and (d) be a catalyst to create a supportive book-reading environment. (Zucker & Landry, 2010)
  4. (For meaningful reading) Link read aloud questions to the QARS Techniques (Raphael & Au, 2005)
  5. (For meaningful reading) Include read aloud questions that prompt readers to summarise, paraphrase, clarify, identify, interpret, predict, and express opinions (Palinesar, 1987)
  6. (For picture books) take advantage of vivid, engaging "picture walks" to build a rich platform for shared, guided reading.
  7. Focus on bringing the text to life, exploring rich vocabulary (see vocabulary section), engaging in interpretive questioning, and encouraging enthusiastic shared reading.
  8. Encourage post-reading comprehension and composition activities, such as summarisng, retelling, analysing, appropriating, representing and/or responding to the text.
  9. Encouraging post-reading word and vocabulary studies.


LANGUAGE EXPERIENCES - Encountering Language & Literacy in Rich, Meaningful Ways

  1. Facilitating a rich, meaningful experience;
  2. Emphasising target language in context (see Oral Language Development)
  3. Documenting experience thoroughly and vividly
  4. Revisiting the experience in a jointly constructed recount
  5. Display / reinforce vocabulary through word walls, class glossaries, and similar / further activities (see Vocabulary Development)
  6. Use written recount as a tool for fluency and revision
  7. Expand written genres to include relevant formal genres (e.g. procedural texts)
  8. Use shared experience as a launch pad to expand knowledge by reading related material
  9. Utilising links to first language and cultural practices for English language learners


FLUENCY - The oft-neglected skills that helps learners move toward independence

  1. Practice, practice, practice with texts that are 95% to 98% decodable
  2. Use visual and other cues/prompts to assist decoding
  3. Use a Vocabulary Assessment Scale to assess unknown words in a text
  4. Pre-teach relevant vocabulary to assist with decoding words in context
  5. Use running records to document common errors
  6. Using word hunts as a pre- or post-reading reading activity
  7. Utilising links to first language for English language learners
  8. Partner reading
  9. Choral reading / echo reading / lead reading / whisper reading
  10. Readers' Theatre / performance-based reading
  11. Fluency practice with think alouds (for comprehension monitoring)
  12. Tape-assisted reading / recording reading to tape
  13. Always include brief comprehension questions so attention to meaning is maintained.


COMPREHENSION - Deep, Thoughtful Work

  1. Remember that "An engaged reader is one who is motivated, knowledgeable, strategic and socially interactive. The engaged reader is viewed as motivated to read for diverse purposes, an active knowledge constructor, an effective user of cognitive strategies and a participant in social interactions.  (Rueda et al., 2001). 
  2. Refer to techniques mentioned in the Read Aloud schedule.
  3. Utilise links to first language for English language learners.
  4. Utilise elements of the Reading-to-Learn Cycle, including Preparing for Reading, Joint Pre-Writing, Individual Pre-Writing, Detailed Reading, Joint Reconstruction, Individual Reconstruction, and Responding to the Teach (Rose & Martin, 2012)
  5. Encourage collaborative teaching g techniques, such as Reciprocal Teaching, Jigsaw Teaching, Book Circle, Reading Workshops, Directed Thinking, and Literature Discussion Circles.
  6. Foster the range of comprehension skills: Planning & Goal Setting, Tapping into Prior Knowledge, Asking Questions, Making Predictions, Visualising, Making Connections, Forming (initial) Interpretations, Identifying Main Ideas, Identifying Cause and Effect, Organising Information, Adopting a Perspective (Point of View), Reflecting on Cognitive Processing, Revising Perspective, Seeking Evidence to Justify Viewpoint, Analysing Text Closely, Analysing Style, Taking Stock of Knowledge, Relating the Text to Experience, Evaluating Practice and  Forming criticisms (Olson, 2007)
  7. Provide specific scaffolding to encourage disciplinary reading and/or concept formation (Goldman, 2012)


COMPOSITION - Diverse, Explorative Work

  1. Utilising links to first language for English language learners
  2. Emulating the themes of modelling, joint construction, guided construction, independent practice, and reflective practice.
  3. Understanding the diversity of purposes (e.g. describing, recounting, narrating, analysing, explaining, etc), and apprenticing learners into competence at the sentence, paragraph, textual and pragmatic levels.
  4. Understanding that any act of composition involve (a) building the field/content of the message, (b) deconstruction the mode of communication, (c) deconstructing the situation/context/audience of communication, and (d) cycling through joint construction, guided construction, independent practice, conferencing, publishing and reflecting. (Martin, 1999)
  5. Understanding the writing/composing is multifaceted skills that requires time and guidance.
  6. Understanding that writing is a social practice that involves goal-orientated action to purposefully participate in an activity system (or community of practice).
  7. Using Writing Workshops and Writing Portfolios approaches can provide learners with opportunities to practice in a range of genres.
  8. It is also important to see how experience in writing can be a vehicle for deeper reading ... and visa versa.
  9. Recognise that a written task is always an ill-structured task, since a written tasks always requires one to interpret and deliberate over content, context, purpose and audience.
  10. Overall ... shaping discourse.


REPRESENTING & REMEMBERING KNOWLEDGE - Isn't this what education is for?

  1. Remember that “our knowledge forms an enormous system. And only within this system has a particular bit the value we give it.” (Wittgenstein, 1969)
  2. Using graphic organisers and progressive brainstorming as tools for representing knowledge.
  3. Organise and categorise information through information grids.
  4. Make explicit the disciplinary questions that guide inquiry in important semiotic domains.
  5. Provide learners with ample opportunities to retrieve and apply important knowledge and concepts (e.g. pause-prompt-praise)
  6. Provide “message abundance”. In other words, reinforce knowledge in a range of media and contexts. Learner should be able access knowledge through a rich reservoir of experience.
  7. Foster interests and budding expertise, which is particularly important as children transition into adolescence (Alexander, 2005)
  8. Deepen knowledge by adding to a learners' expertise and by providing opportunities for learners to render, process, represent, and extend their knowledge in many, diverse ways.

That's it for us today. In the next entry, we will provide recommended readings in each of the above areas. And - in the future - we will provide examples of integrated teaching and learning. Please explore and enjoy!

Alexander, P. A. (2005). The Path to Competence: A Lifespan Developmental Perspective on Reading. Journal of Literacy Research, 37(4), 413–436.

Goldman, S. R. (2012). Adolescent literacy: learning and understanding content. The Future of Children, 22(2), 89–116. Retrieved from

Martin, J. (1999). Mentoring semeogenesis: “Genre-based” literacy pedagogy. In F. Christie (Ed.), Pedagogy and the shaping of consciousness (pp. 123 – 155). London: Cassell.

Olson, C. B., & Land, R. (2007). A cognitive strategies approach to reading and writing instruction for English language learners in secondary school. Research in the Teaching of English, 41(3), 269–303. Retrieved from <Go to ISI>://WOS:000244438000003

Palinesar, A. S. (1987). Reciprocal Teaching. Instructor, 96(2), 5 – 60.

Raphael, T. E., & Au, K. H. (2005). QAR: Enhancing Comprehension and Test Taking Across Grades and Content Areas. The Reading Teacher, 59(3), 206–221. doi:10.1598/RT.59.3.1

Rose, D., & Martin, J. R. (2012). Reading to Learn. In Learning to Write/Read to Learn: Genre, Knowledge and Pedagogy in the Sydney School (pp. 133–234). Sheffield: Equinox Publishing.

Rueda, R., MacGillivray, L., Monzo, L., and Arzubiaga, A. (2001). “Engaged Reading: A multilevel approach to considering sociocultural factors with diverse learners”, CIERA Report #1-012, University of Michigan: Centre for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement (CIERA).

Wittgenstein, L. (1969). On Certainty. (G. E. M. Anscombe & G. H. von Wright, Eds.). New York: Harper Torchbooks.

Zucker, T. A. & Landry, S. H. (2010). Improving the quality of preschool read-alouds: professional development and coaching that targets book-reading practices. In McKenna, M., Walpole, S. & Conradi, K. (Eds), Promoting early reading: research, resources and best practices. New York: The Guilford Press.

Recommended: Unbalanced Comments on Balanced Literacy

The following link to a blog entry from Shanahan on Literacy is a welcome addition to the discussion/debate on balanced literacy instruction:

Update to the Balancing Instruction Page

The following paragraphs and diagrams have been added to the Balancing Instruction page ... Explore an enjoy!

The diagrams to the left/below specifically point to the levels of literacy activity that must be developed in tandem: constrained (core) skills, meaningful practices, disciplinary practices, and extended practices. This is consistent with Au's (2002) emphasis on local knowledge (code-breaking skills), global knowledge (comprehension/compositional skills) and affective knowledge (developing interests, affinities and attitudes). An image of an integrated approach to reading is presented in order to remind us that the balance/orchestration/integration of practices presents the greatest challenge for "teachers", whether we are referring to parents in the home or professionals in the classroom.

Perhaps contentiously, I will argue that a particular home environment provides a better avenue to explore how the multiple conceptions of literacy pedagogy can take shape (Heath, 1983). In some homes, one can imagine how bedtime reading, alphabetic flashcard practice, scaffolded writing instruction and language-in-context practice can occur with fairly fluid orchestration (which is reliant upon access to material and temporal resources). The adult has a regular routine of rich reading of favourite books ( building vocabulary ), time set aside to play with enticing alphabetic games ( enhancing word recognition ), time to write a birthday card to grandma ( modelling of genre conventions ), and an emphasis on language in the act of - for instance - baking a cake ( learning vocabulary connected to valued activity ). Each activity emphasises different aspects of language and literacy development within a social context. Each activity is integrated through the joint intentional activity of the adult & child. In this case, one can see how "a highly verbal and emotionally stable family environment greatly benefits vocabulary and reading." (Zhang et al, 2013, p. 665) 

Continue on to the page to explore more ...

Four Essays on the Elements of a Balanced Literacy Program

The following four "essays" each tackle the same question: "how do we foster a comprehensive and rich literacy program?" Whilst the essays risk repetition (starting with their descriptions below), they each represent a renewed attempt the explore the same very vexed question. Of the four essays, the essay A Teacher for All Seasons and All Places goes the furthest by taking into account the impact of literacy in the home environment and also speaking about factors that can increase equity in opportunity to learn.

Like previous essays, the following first appeared as Journal entries, but now find themselves revised and updated. (The first - Managing a Balanced Approach to Literacy - first appear in November 2013.) You will find that each reflects the same division of perspectives on language & literacy highlighted in the page titled, Why Wittgenstein? Why not a general site about literacy? Please explore, enjoy and share your thoughts!

Managing a Balanced Approach to Literacy: Part Two

In the previous entry, I suggested that different pedagogical approaches distinguished a skills-based perspective from a usage-based one. Both are required for teaching and learning. In the earlier entry, I alluded to the difference, but I didn't elaborate on this observation.

To recap, a skill-based approach emphasises the ongoing development of language skills, such as phonemic awareness, spelling, sentence construction, reading fluency, vocabulary development and basic comprehension. As a schema, this approach imagines a learner as progressing in a linear development of increasing sophistication. In such a perspective, a teacher is vigilant in monitoring the increasing competency of the learner and the teacher hopes to see his or her student acquire and demonstrate a robust knowledge of language.

On the other hand, a usage-based approach emphasises use, for want of better term. The teacher seeks to present the learner with regular, rich opportunities to read and write in a range of ways, each of which helps the learner to read and write meaningfully.  In such an approach, language knowledge is only one piece of the puzzle. The learner must also assess the situation or text, be guided in reading/writing to suit the situation or text, and develop certain intentions and expectations to guide purpose and comprehension. As a schema, this approach imagines a learner developing a repertoire of writing experiences and a library of his or her reading history. This approach is governed by the age-old saying, "we are what we read?" 

Why do I suggest that there is something of a paradigm shift? Dr Neil Anderson describes one (skill-based) as intensive instruction and the other (usage-based) as extensive instruction. A skill-based approach requires a teacher to be diligent, focused on detail, encouraging, exact and skilled at monitoring and assessing. A usage-based approach requires a teacher who understands the importance of authentic, meaningful literacy; knows how to model and monitor the processes of reading and writing; knows how to establish opportunities so that activities are transformed to memorable events; and can reflect on what students should be able to read and write and why.

usage-based approach would declare, "my students have learned to Tweet. They not only write Tweets, but they are aware of what can be achieved through the use of social media." Meanwhile, a skills-based approach might be skeptical and wonder whether the Twitter skills are contributing to the students language knowledge, which - then - can be tapped into for further development. The usage-based approach may place too great an emphasis on particular forms of communication (but not as aware of the needs for the students to develop general linguistic abilities). At the same time, the skills-based approach needs to be aware of the ways to foster linguistic development through authentic practices.

Similarly, I recently observed a series of writing workshops with fifteen enthusiastic Year 5/6 students. The facilitators of the workshops were definitely deploying a usage-based approach as they conjured a group environment in which students were announcing lines of poetry across the room for the creation of individual and group compositions. Amongst the energy, a student called for my attention and asked. "How do you spell 'splendid'?" I quickly assisted, but I was left to wonder,  'what if I was not called upon? Would that splendid line of poetry exist?' The above example reminds me of the reading experience. How many times have I witnessed exciting reading possibilities stopped in their tracks as the learner struggles to decode the text. 

"A script you can read fluently works on you differently from one that you can write; but not decipher easily. You lock up your thought up in this as though in a casket." (Wittgenstein, Culture & Value)

Learners need both skills and opportunities. There is more yet to explore, but that must wait until another day.


More to come ... 


Managing a Balanced Approach to Literacy: Part One

There is a concept in physics known as the Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. It holds that one can know the velocity of a particle and the position of a particle, but one cannot know both at the same time. In other words, one can know the exact velocity of a particle at a given time but not its exact position at that time. Similarly, one can know the exact position of a particle at a given time but not its exact velocity at that particular moment. 

I am proposing that there is a similar phenomenon - at least, metaphorically - that occurs in the circles of literacy pedagogy, which I will refer to as (drum roll, please) the Parallel Dimensions of Literacy. It holds that a teacher can foster a 'skills-based' literacy pedagogy and a teacher can establish a 'usage-based' literacy pedagogy, however, the teacher cannot use the same theoretical position to describe the two approaches to teaching. One must shift the paradigm as one moves between a focus on form to a focus on meaning. 

I am not suggesting that teachers must be one or the other. In truth, both approaches are required, and the best teachers at all levels are those who are equally equipped to develop and monitor core skills whilst providing rich opportunities for students to read, write, speak and learn in authentic, meaningful contexts. 

One can advocate for a skills approach which adheres to a deep knowledge of linguistic structures and focuses on structure development but which suffers from a decontextualised explanation of meaning that does not adequately address how conventional and cultural forms of meaning affect development. On the other hand, one can establish a rich environment in which learners explore (in reading) and express (in writing) knowledge and social activity, but the pedagogy can be seen to gloss over specific developments in phonology, orthography, morphology, syntax and grammar.

The diagram below (presented by Dr Neil Anderson) labels this contrast as Intensive versus Extensive Literacy Instruction.


A Model for Balanced Reading Instruction (Dr. Neil Anderson)