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

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.

Keeping the eye on the prize

Photo by BrianAJackson/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by BrianAJackson/iStock / Getty Images

There is a niggling concern that I always have when I become too preoccupied with "the basics" of literacy, including components like phonemic awareness and phonics. Sure, these skills are essential, and it’s relatively simple to measure progress in such areas, but I can't help but think, "this isn't the hardest part about literacy, though. We still need to integrate this knowledge into more complex and more ambiguous acts of communication."

I have witnessed many learners who develop such basics, but who still go on to struggle with reading and writing. At the risk of sounding unfair, they often struggle with the patience, stamina, concentration, guidance or even time to become a strong(er) reader/writer - all of which comes through opportunities to manipulate the script.

It reminds me of this little picture that Wittgenstein once painted of someone who had learned to deliberate over a task, “every now and then there is the problem 'Should I use this bit?' — The bit is rejected, another is tried. Bits are tentatively put together, then dismantled; he looks for one that fits etc.. So I sometimes make him say 'No, that bit is too long, perhaps another one fits better.' — Or 'What am I to do now?' — 'Got it!' — Or 'That’s not bad”' etc. ..." In particular, the act of writing resembles this inner dialogue. It's not a straightforward linear task.

At the culmination of this passage, Wittgenstein rightly states, "thinking gives [the learner] the possibility of perfecting his methods." Learning to read and write effectively is a bit like this inner dialogue. Actual reading and writing involves quite intricate acts of problem solving. The learner needs plenty of practice chewing over texts and creating them, particularly after they have gained momentum with the basics.

Wittgenstein presents us with an similar image of teaching that seems to suggest how one initiates another into ways of working, “if a person has not yet got the concepts, I shall teach him … by means of examples and by practice. -- And when I do this I do not communicate less to him than I know myself. In the course of this teaching I shall show him … get him to continue an ornamental pattern uniformly when told to do so. -- And also to continue progressions. And so, for example: I do it, he does it after me; and I influence him by expressions of agreement, rejection, expectation, encouragement. I let him go his way, or hold him back; and so on. Imagine witnessing such teaching. None of the words would be explained by means of themselves; [they makes sense in the context of the practice ... of apprenticeship].” (Philosophical Investigations, #280)

Consequently, this places experience at the forefront of learning. In other words, the learner requires the practical experience to integrate component skills into meaningful, literate act(ivitie)s. In doing so, the learner becomes adept at manipulating the script, and the mentor teacher provides the learner with opportunities to exert this knowledge in engaging ways. Therefore, “the teacher’s role is to help the child by arranging tasks and activities in such a way that [advanced tasks] are more easily accessible.” (Verhoeven and Snow, 2001, pg 4-5)

This gradual initiation relates to something I mention in the recent grammar/sentence presentation. That is, the rules of grammar do not tell me why one sentence should precede or follow another, nor do they tell me anything about what should be the content of my ideas. They may help me formulate and re-formulate a sentence with greater ease - and this is of value - but this in itself does not dictate the logic or content of my communication. Often the sequence of my sentences is guided by convention, and convention is shaped by the expectations of my audience. And I must have had enough experience with this audience to have a sensible understanding of my idea and how to express this idea.

As Ray Monk (1999) would say, “the reason computers have no understanding of the sentences they process is not that they lack sufficient neuronal complexity, but that they are not, and cannot be, participants in the culture to which the sentences belong. A sentence does not acquire meaning through the correlation, one to one, of its words with objects in the world; it acquires meaning through the use that is made of it in the communal life of human beings."

A similar sentiment led Newton Garver (1996) to express the following comment.

“If Wittgenstein and Saussure agree in using ‘grammar’ descriptively, they disagree about ... other matters. One is that Wittgenstein’s grammar has to do with uses of language (discourse conditions and discourse continuation) rather than forms and their combinations (morphology and syntax) ...

"Considering uses rather than forms is a deep rather than a superficial departure from classical linguistic methodology ... Studying uses of language makes context prominent, whereas the study of forms lends itself naturally to analysis.” (Garver, 1996, pg 151)

Maybe I am stating the obvious. Perhaps, I am not making a strong point here. But I write this against the backdrop of the proposal to introduce the Year 1 Phonics Check here in Australia. Whilst I have no objection of teachers getting good data on what their students can and cannot decode, we should always keep our eyes on the prize, which involves the integration of this knowledge into meaningful acts of reading and writing. I often ask, “how can I create opportunities for learners to integrate their skills into meaning making? How do I support and motivate them to take risks and challenge themselves?” We should always offer students opportunities to “use their expanding knowledge of language and their growing powers of influence to figure out [how to read and write] texts.” (Wolf, pp 131)

There you go. I’ve had my say. It’s not a critique of anything. Just an observation.

 

References

Garver, N. (1996). Philosophy as grammar. In H. Sluga & D. Stern (Eds.), The Cambridge companion to Wittgenstein (pp. 139–170). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Monk, R. (1999, July 29). Wittgenstein’s Forgotten Lesson. Propsect Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/ray-monk-wittgenstein/#.Uo_n_pHqvGY

Verhoeven, L. and Snow, C. (2001). Literacy and motivation: bridging cognitive and sociocultural viewpoints. In Verhoeven, L. and Snow, C. (Eds.), Literacy and motivation: reading engagement in individuals and groups (pp. 1- 22). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers

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

Wolf, M. (2008). Proust and the squid: the story and science of the reading brain. Cambridge: Icon Books.

The Sentence: Features, Types and Structures

After the previous update, you'd definitely be correct to believe that the last video presentation was the final in a series. And it was. Yet, today, we share a new print presentation that stands on its own. Today, we share "The Sentence: Features, Types and Structures" and the slides for the presentation are available from http://bit.ly/2-The-Sentence

This most recent presentation is - in fact - an older presentation that we chose to revisit and update. The topic - grammar - may not spark excitement in the general audience, yet for me it is something of a secret passion. 

As a follower of linguistic philosophy, I am fascinated by the logical structure of the sentence. It is fascinating to know that a sentence is able to convey any meaning at all. I am fascinated that a sentence can be a "statement about the world ...  that one can contemplate, admire, reject or refine.” (Fish, 2011, p. 2)

As a writer, I appreciate balance and economy. I appreciate it when a sentence is able to deliver its message with style and grace.

As a teacher of English language learners, I know that teachers need to provide plenty of practice for their students to scan and understand a variety of sentences. This requires gradually helping learners handle sentences of increasing complexity in structure and content.

We welcome you to this presentation. One day it may become a video presentation, but for now it is a print one. As mentioned above, the slides are available for download at http://bit.ly/2-The-Sentence. We highly recommend that you download the slides, since the slides serve as a mini-textbook on the topic. When downloading, please be patient. It's a large file, at least in PDF terms (15MBs).

I must acknowledge something before I finish, though. This presentation does not address Halliday's functional grammar. Whilst we have become very familiar of this work since drafting the original presentation, we refrained from incorporating functional grammar into the updated version. We'll leave any exposition of Halliday's work to another day.

Please explore and enjoy! We hope we have done the topic justice. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please do not hesitate to send us a message.

 

Reference
Fish, S. (2011). How to write a sentence: and how to read one. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

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.

Teaching According to the Stages of Literacy Development

Today, we have added yet another new presentation to The Literacy Bug's YouTube channel. The presentation is entitled Teaching According to the Stages of Literacy Developmentand it can be found below or at the following link: https://youtu.be/D7vUhqVXLWg.

Like its predecessors,  Teaching According to the Stages of Literacy Development clocks in at just about one hour long. So grab your popcorn, sit back, watch/listen and enjoy. The presentation slides are available, so download them here.

This presentation explores the changing nature of literacy across the various stages of literacy development. In so doing, we discuss how instruction must change as learners consolidate core skills and prepare for new skills and expectations. Teaching routines for the various stages of literacy development are also discussed. Please explore and enjoy!. 

To be exact, the presentation sets out to meet the following objectives:

  • to emphasise the developmental nature of literacy;

  • to emphasise how literacy instruction and learning changes across the lifespan, particularly as certain skills are consolidated and new skills and expectations arise;

  • to outline literacy as both a cognitive and social achievement that involves both the mastery of skills and the exploration of content; and

  • to outline the various texts and routines that are applicable to Chall’s Stages of Literacy Development.

(If you are new to The Literacy Bug, feel free to visit our popular page on the Stages of Literacy Development.)

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. Also, it might help to download the slides, and you can follow along as you listen.

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

An Overview of Literacy Development Now on YouTube

Today, a new string is added to the bow of The Literacy Bug ... we are now on YouTube. We've added our first video presentation to the public domain, which you can find below and at the following link: https://youtu.be/yMGU7UIJ4RU.

The presentation is entitled An Overview of Literacy Development, and it clocks in at one hour long. So grab your popcorn, sit back, watch/listen and enjoy. The presentation slides are available for download here.

In the presentation, there is discussion of the many components of literacy development, the stages of literacy development, and the dual-demands of "code-based" and "meaning-based" practices. To be exact, the presentation sets out to meet the following objectives:

  • To explore the components of literacy development (e.g. oral language development, phonemic awareness, etc);
  • To explore the stages of literacy development (i.e. the gradual, cumulative nature of literacy development);
  • To understand the difference between code-based skills and meaning-based skills;
  • To understand the four levels of processing texts / reading text; and
  • To appreciate how learners are active participants as the makers of meaning, the constructors of knowledge and members of communities.

Let us know what you think. It's an experiment, and we plan for more presentations 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.

Welcome to this new step in the journey. We hope the presentation is useful and thought-provoking. Please explore and enjoy!

Updates Galore! New pages, assessment advice and teaching strategies at The Literacy Bug

Wow! It has been far too long since the last update to The Literacy Bug's Journal. I dare not ask when the last update was. Despite the long silence - or perhaps to explain it - we have some significant updates to share with you. 

Firstly, a new section has been added to the site, and it is called Developing. In this section, you will find advice on how to help students grow in the various skills that underpin literacy development, such as oral language, phonological awareness, fluency, comprehension and more. At the moment, there is only one page in the new section, and it is called Developing Constrained Skills, which are things like print awareness, phonemic awareness, decoding and spelling. Follow this link to find out more ... 

There is also a new page in the Planning section: Using Quality Assessment Practices. Effective instruction is creative, challenging and targeted. This is why strong assessment practices before, during and at the end of teaching cycles are key to informed educational practices. We believe the new page is an essential addition to the site, and it complements the Balancing Instruction and Stages of Development pages very well. Check it out!

Regular visitors will notice that a couple pages from the Essays section have made their way into the Planning folder. They are An Initial Framework for Literacy Instruction and Literacy Development Requires Steady Guidance. Explore these old favourites when you have a chance. An old blog entry has also made its way into the folder: Key Questions to Guide Instruction. Last but not least, two related pages have been updated and we are very happy with the results: Establishing (Literacy) Practices and Why Do We Do What We Do?

All in all, there is much to explore at The Literacy Bug (and I haven't even mentioned updates to the Recommended Readings and the Recommended Links pages). We hope you enjoy all the new stuff. Please explore! 

A Mantra For All (Literacy) Teachers

"[Engaged reading] is a merger of motivation and thoughtfulness. Engaged readers seek to understand … [They] are mastery oriented and teachers create contexts for engagement when they provide prominent knowledge goals; real-world connections to reading; and meaningful choices about what, when and how to read.” (Guthrie, 2001)

As literacy teachers, we know that literacy development requires the strengthening of word recognition skills, building of vocabulary; guided reading; guided writing; the shaping of discourse (or oral language); the development of knowledge; the establishment of practices and the fostering of literate identities. This occurs in multiple contexts with others for various purposes across time through coherent and developmental instruction, passionate and visionary teachers, quality materials and resources, and a deep respect for the learners’ cultures, contexts and experiences. We want students to learn, be and become through teaching that is developmentally sensitive, culturally appropriate and aspirational in environments which are safe, secure and free from discrimination and inequity.

We must ensure that there is quality instruction at all levels using quality resources in quality environments through quality relationships with quality opportunities that are carried out in a supportive form of life in that complex stream of living.

In relation to the practicalities of language and literacy development, we encourage instructors, tutors and parents to use simple language to describe best practice. In the end, the best teacher should:

  1. talk regularly with learners about things for both their oral language development and their knowledge development; 
  2. read to learners, read with learners, and help learners read on their own;
  3. write for learners (shared & interactive writing), write with learners (joint construction), and help learners write on their own
  4. help learners understand phonics, letters, words, and grammar;
  5. help them learn about the world and about themselves; and
  6. help learners be active in ways that the use language and literacy as tools for understanding, expression and action (Pinnell & Fountas, 1997).

REFRENCES

  • Guthrie, J. T. (2001). Contexts for Engagement and Motivation in Reading. Reading Online, 4(8). Retrieved from http://www.readingonline.org/articles/handbook/guthrie/
  • Pinnell, G. S., & Fountas, I. C. (1997). Help America Read: A Handbook for Volunteers. Portsmouth: Heinemann.

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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