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 The presentation slides can be downloaded at 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, 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:

Planning and Monitoring for Effective Instruction
YouTube Video:

Teaching According to the Stages of Development
YouTube Video:

Additional Resources for the Planning and Monitoring for Effective Instruction
YouTube Video:

Mastering the Alphabetic Principle
YouTube Video:

Analysing Spoken Words
YouTube Video:
Blog Entry

Words Sorts
YouTube Video:
Blog Entry

Sentence: Types, Features and Structures

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

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 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

Planning and Monitoring for Effective Instruction

Teaching According to the Stages of Development

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.

How to plan and monitor effective teaching and learning - a video presentation

Today, we have added a new presentation to The Literacy Bug's YouTube channel. The presentation is entitled How to plan and monitor effective teaching and learning, and it can be found at the following link:

Like its predecessor,  How to plan and monitor effective teaching and learning clocks in at just about one hour long. So grab your popcorn, sit back, watch/listen and enjoy. The presentation slides are available for download here.

Please note that the presentation does NOT explore what to teach or how to teach in detail. Instead, the presentation provides advice on general planning, monitoring and reflection principles. To be exact, the presentation sets out to meet the following objectives:

  • to encourage informed, intentional, evidence-based teaching, which takes into consideration the learners’ currents skills, knowledge and intentions;

  • to emphasise the importance of gradual, progressive, sequenced practice that allows learners to become proficient, confident and knowledgable;

  • to reinforce how instruction may need to include both “intensive” and “extensive” activities; and

  • to reinforce why it is important to reflect regularly on teaching and learning activities.

Let us know what you think. It's another longer presentation. We hope to produce some shorter ones in the future.

Below is the audio from the presentation. Whilst it includes references to the visuals, the audio may well make sense on its own. If you would prefer to listen, feel free to play online or download for offline use.

We hope the presentation is useful and thought-provoking. Please explore and enjoy!

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)



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.

Why We Do What We Do: Part Two

“Our philosophical experience now, finding ourselves here, necessitates taking up philosophically the question of practice.” (Cavell, 1989)

I am proposing that if we are to seek an understanding of the grand values and beliefs of an individual, community or culture, we must first seek to observe/describe/reflect upon the very ordinary, everyday and cyclical practices that come to constitute the entity’s form(s) of life. For Stanley Cavell, “[In Wittgenstein], I seemed to find what I could recognise as this space of investigation, in [his] working out of the problematic of the day, the everyday, the near, the low, the common, in conjunction with what [we can] call speaking of necessaries, and speaking with necessity.” (Cavell, 1989) The practicalities of one’s existence “takes place around the aspects of daily life, the ordinary and the everyday events of eating, talking, queuing, exchanging pleasantries, greeting people of different age, sex, and gender, drinking, sleeping, dressing, washing, and so on.” (Peters, 2010a, pg 28).

With the above introduction, I launch again into “Why Do We Do What We Do”. In today’s entry, I aim to touch upon the conditions under which given practices flourish. Any given practice - let’s say, brushing one’s teeth - is optimally accompanied by a whole raft of practices along with concepts, knowledge and narratives that justify the practice. In this picture, full participation in the practice of - as stated, brushing one’s teeth - is contingent on understanding the significance of the act within a community that values and engages fruitfully in the practice. And young children are often brought into such activities. Over time the children gain a fuller understanding of the significance of each activity as part of a network of activities that make up - in this case - hygienic practices. Wittgenstein considered the process in terms of training into the application of particular rules that underlie the cultural acts, “I cannot describe how (in general) to employ rules, except by teaching you, training you to employ rules.” (Zettel #318) Therefore, “every instance of the use … is the culmination of a process of socialisation ... Training differs from explanation in that - at least among children - it is largely non-verbal and it is aimed at producing certain actions.” (Phillips, 1979, pg 126).

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Why We Do What We Do: Part One

5:00am: Wake up. Go for a run. Return for a shower. Meditate, pray and spend time with the daily devotional. Eat breakfast. Don’t forget that Christmas is in three weeks. Have you arranged the decorations? Sent the Christmas cards? Those will need to wait. Must shave, brush teeth, suit up and get the 7:35am train into the city for work in preparation for the first meeting of the day. Attend meeting. Determine which investments to make for clients. Remember, it is better to save up for one’s future. Once you clock off for the day, stop by the gym and pick up some Japanese on the way home. See if Julia is available for a social drink. If not, I can catch up on some reading. Make sure you get an early night, since tomorrow will be a big day.

Why do we do what we do? How are our days, our months, our lives structured? What determines our practices? If we think back, how much of our daily patterns were determined by the practices we acquired as a child? It is well known that “as part and parcel of our early socialization in life, we each learn ways of being in the world, of acting and interacting, thinking and valuing, and using language, objects, and tools that crucially shape our early sense of self.” (Gee, 2008, pg 100) What practices were acquired later on? And were there certain practices that were challenged or which fell by the wayside when we moved location or when we met a new circle of friends, colleagues, mentors, acquaintances, etc? Do you recall a grandparent talking about the practices of the past (e.g. butter churning) as you stare into the fridge or order a pizza from your smartphone? What has changed? As Wittgenstein once stated, “A language game [and a practice] does change with time.” (OC, #256) Have you ever had a crisis and have discarded certain practices - like prayer or meditation or exercise or dancing - as arbitrary (i.e. based on shifting sand) only to find yourself a bit out of sorts without these practices giving shape to your life? 

The audio sample below is the lecture entitled, " Context is Everything: Wittgenstein on Meaning as Use" delivered by Dr James K. A. Smith as part of the 2013 H. Orton Wiley Lecture Series in Theology.

The audio sample below is the lecture entitled, "Context is Everything: Wittgenstein on Meaning as Use" delivered by Dr James K. A. Smith as part of the 2013 H. Orton Wiley Lecture Series in Theology.

These and many more questions draw our attention to the concept of practices, which is a concept that I feel is at the core of human existence. A practice “is something people do, not just once, but on a regular basis.” (Stern, 2004, pg 166). For some reason, people pray, brush their teeth, complete their tax, hike in National Parks, long for the next dance, etc. Each “activity” is part of - let’s says - religious practices, hygienic practices, economic practices, artistic practices, social practices and more. Each practice is much more than the sum of its parts. For instance, the combination of prayer, worship, scripture, and stewardship amounts to more than a collection of disparate activities. They amount to a form of life, and they rely upon resources, other participants, a sense of attachment, cultural artefacts and a history. Therefore, a practice is “more than just a disposition to behave in a certain way; the identity of a practice depends not only on what people do, but also on the significance of those actions and the surroundings in which they occur.” (Stern, 2004, pg 166). Put another way, our human existence is “not based on knowledge but on practice.” (Sluga, 2011, pg 107) It is not what we know that gives life its shape. It is what we do.

Welcome to the exploration. This is the first entry in a series of entries that will reflect on those activities that give shape to the way in which we live and the condition under which those activity form and change. In the end, we must ask ourselves to reflect upon the following question, “how successfully are we at finding peace and a home with what we do in a culturally, economically, and politically diverse world?”


  • Gee, J. P. (2008) A sociocultural perspective on opportunity to learn. In P. Moss, D. Pullin, J.P. Gee, E. Haertel, and L. Young (Eds). Assessment, equity, and opportunity to learn (pp. 76-108). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Sluga, H. (2011). Wittgenstein. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Smith, J. K. A. (2013). Context is Everything: Wittgenstein on Meaning as Use. In H. Orton Wiley Lecture Series in Theology. Point Loma, CA: Point Loma Nazarene University. Retrieved from
  • Stern, D. (2004). Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations: an introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Wittgenstein, L. (1969). On Certainty. Edited by G.E.M. Anscombe and G.H. von Wright. Translated by D. Paul and G.E.M. Anscombe. New York: Harper Torchbooks.

Language, Literacy and Numeracy as Unfolding Skills

Language, literacy and numeracy are learned progressively in key spaces, which come to shape future uses and come to influence what is spoken about, what is read and what is calculated. 

I want to paint a picture of the child who is regularly engaged in conversation, regularly engaged in reading and writing and who is regularly engaged in calculating. I want to paint the picture of skills and concepts being developed (one on top of the other) carefully so that the range of cultural uses of the tools are acquired (not just one narrow band). I want to paint a picture in which the consolidation of one skill or the revelation of something read or written merely becomes the blueprint of what is to come next. 

The child evokes imaginative play, cautionary advice, reflective practice on information, assessment of quantities, and more. The adults in a child's life initiate the child in the practices which will become more and more demanding over time. Every text read and written will become a template for the next. And every numerical question solved will be used to influence those to come. There is no silver bullet for the ongoing skills which are acquired. Quick fix educators may hope to resolve issues of language, literacy and numeracy without appealing to the hundreds to thousands of encounters which contribute to their development, but the fact of the matter remains: learning to read, write, speak and calculate requires hundreds and thousands of encounters with more advanced peers and adults providing feedback, establishing expectations, providing encouragement and shaping practice.

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