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.

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! 

What Are Some Key Questions to Ask When Choosing Teaching Methods and Materials for Literacy Instruction?

The following is a quite rough attempt to draft some questions that teachers can consider when selecting teaching methods and materials in a literacy program. The questions ask teacher to reflect upon such items as the developmental stage(s) of learners, the degree of balance in instruction, whether content is suitable, and the adequacy of planing/assessment practices. It is hoped that these questions will be refined and explained in the future. Please explore and enjoy!!


Stages of Literacy Development

  1. What stage of literacy development would I consider this individual to be at?
  2. Upon what evidence am I making this assessment?
  3. Is the learner at the age-appropriate level?
  4. What factors would account for the learner being at this particular stage? (refer to the component model of reading achievement - cognitive, psychological and ecological factors)
  5. What instruction/practices has the individual had previously?
  6. What instruction would I recommend for this learner and why?
  7. What resources and practice would this include? Are such resources and practice accessible and appropriate?
  8. Does the learner have access to safe, supportive spaces with a coalition of supporters and access to quality materials?
  9. Am I selecting the most appropriate reading material in relation to content, vocabulary, syntax, motivation and engagement?
  10. What other developmental factors must I consider in my assessment? Language skills? Non-verbal cognitive skills? Background knowledge and interests? Maturation? Interests? Relationships?
  11. What are my hopes and aspirations for the learner? What are opportunities that lie ahead? What are some obstacles? What are some of the choices that will need to be made along the way?


Balanced Instruction

What are the Focus Areas of Instruction?

  1. How is my instruction balancing core aspects of literacy teaching: phonemic awareness, word recognition, orthography, fluency, composition, comprehension, robust vocabulary development, critical thinking, applied practice, content learning, and independent exploration?
  2. How are learners developing declarative, procedural and conditional knowledge?
  3. How am I focusing on mastery whilst at the same time allowing time for content-based inquiry and exploration?
  4. Are my lessons/units based around thematic investigations?
  5. Are my lessons/units anchored in real-world interaction and problem solving?
  6. Am I able to employ the Language Experience Approach (LEA) to develop language skills, purposeful reading, and non-verbal skills and knowledge?
  7. Is my focus on mastery systemic, intensive, linear though the use of spelling dictionaries, phoneme walls and progress practice with suitable texts?
  8. Is there ample guided and shared reading practice in order to assist with fluency and accuracy?
  9. Is there ample guided and shared reading practice in order to assist with comprehension?
  10. Am I regularly investing in vocabulary development through thematic investigations, word walls, word maps and related vocabulary/conceptual development?
  11. Is time set aside for reading practice and application of the readers’ cognitive toolkit?
  12. Is time set aside for composition with an emphasis on field building, deconstruction, joint construction, guided construction, and independent practice?
  13. In the earlier and later years is there suitable time set aside aside for oral language development (which is known to impact comprehension, vocabulary and grammatical knowledge) and print-based skills (which is known to impact fluency and accuracy)?
  14. Does my allocation of instructional time reflect a balanced approach?


Content & Contexts

  1. Is all learning based on knowledge exploration? Through LEAs? Thematic investigations? Close readings? Etc?
  2. Am I taking into account learners’ prior knowledge and present explorations when preparing LEAs and thematic investigations?
  3. Is the scaffolding provided for content-based learning adequate to enhance deep learning and discovery?
  4. Is the learning taking into consideration the context in which the learning will be applied?


In Relationship to Specific Ages and/or Groups

  1. Must I consider the unique experiences of particular ages or groups, such as pre-school learners, English language learners, those with learning difficulties, or adult learnings with limited literacy and/or English?
  2. If so, how does this affect my teaching?
  3. How do I take these factors into consideration?
  4. What are the literacy needs? language needs? learning needs? non-verbal needs? etc?
  5. Why must I continue to ensure that the teaching is developmentally appropriate with high expectations and quality support?


Planning & Assessment

Have I taken into account each level of literacy engagement?

  1. Have I taken all the factors above in my planning?
  2. Is my instruction evolving as the learners develop?
  3. Does my weekly timetable make best use of instructional time?
  4. Am I effective in my use of literacy rotations?
  5. What evidence am I collecting to make formative assessments on learners’ progress?
  6. Am I supported in the decisions that I make? Am I able to collaborate with others?
  7. Are my planning & assessment activities fair and adequate?
  8. Have I achieved balance in my instruction?
  9. Is my teaching structured, challenging and creative?
  10. Do I have a clear vision of the pathways for learners?
  11. Do I take into consideration individual differences and differentiate instruction accordingly?
  12. Does my teaching respond to the cultural and contextual diversity of my learners and the community?
  13. Do I consult with a wide range of stakeholders during my planning, preparation, delivery and evaluation?

Ideas & Their Implementation: Balancing Theory & Practice

"We have got onto slippery ice where there is no friction and so in a certain sense the conditions are ideal, but also, just because of that, we are unable to walk. We want to walk so we need friction. Back to the rough ground." (Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, Part I, #107)

Theorising and modelling are key activities in learning and in teaching. They are models. To me, they represent overviews. And it is important to conceptualise models of language, of literature, of love, of the solar system, etc. These are good things to model. The models guide our thinking, our ways of seeing and our ways of interpreting. They help us draw connections between discrete elements of information or experience. However, at some stage, the theorising must cease no matter how beautiful or elegant the solutions may appear to be.

Nevertheless, I find that the solutions are short-lived if comprehensiveness and perfection are expected. Whilst the model might soothe the anxious mind for the moment, this does not enact the change in the external world that one is hoping for.

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