Personal Literacy Philosophy
When analyzing the importance of literacy in daily life, in the classroom, or in cultures as a whole, it is important to have a clear definition of this topic. When researching this definition, there are numerous simple explanations that limit literacy to “The ability to read and write” (Google Dictionary, 2019). A deeper look into the meaning yields complex results with statements attempting to summarize an ever-changing definition, while struggling to encompass the complexities of literacy. Some of the more recent definitions have been expanded to include physical, numerical, mathematical, technological, and other forms of literacies. Other researchers have acknowledged that attempting to define such a complex concept is nearly impossible. Judy Kalman expressed this in her essay by stating, “Direct definitions prove deficient for understanding the complexity of literacy” (Kalman, 2008). It is ironic that the very thing allowing us to express abstract concepts in words cannot be accurately expressed in words itself due to its complexities. In an attempt to develop a personal definition of literacy, I have come to understand literacy as the ability to confidently and competently read and write and engage in social practices in which literacy is necessary (Gellner, 2019). Reflecting on my former beliefs about literacy, my personal definition is constantly changing just as others definitions are changing with new understandings of literacy and its complexities.
Individuals who are going to be literacy instructors should have a certain level of participation with literacy themselves. As a reader/writer I am driven by the idea that a teacher’s excitement and passion about certain topics, greatly influences students’ attitudes. In my experience, students are more respectful and engaged when the teacher is passionate about what they are teaching. If students see that I am genuine in my excitement and they see that I am practicing literacy in my own life, they may begin to recognize the importance of literacy and lifelong learning.
My passion for literacy also drives me as a literacy instructor; however, literacy for social justice is what motivates me to integrate literacy in every aspect of education. Mary Ann Corley outlines literacy in Poverty, Racism, and Literacy as “more than the acquisition of reading and writing skills; it is also a social practice or social currency, and, as such, a key to social mobility” (Gee 1991). Literacy is something that is necessary to function in our culture and our society as we are required to read and write in numerous areas within our daily lives. There is a strong correlation with underdeveloped literacy skills and low socio-economic status. “The average difference of annual income for high school dropouts in comparison to high school graduates is $9,671” (Gambrell et. al., 2011). By teaching literacy in a way that allows all students to acquire these skills, they are set up to be successful later in life. As teachers, we play a large roll in ensuring students develop the necessary skills to function in society on their own.
My vision for a literacy rich classroom is a space where students feel comfortable and excited to engage in literacy activities. The basis of student enthusiasm towards literacy is having access to reading materials that excites them and relates to their interests. A variety of genres and grade appropriate texts should be easily available for all students. Literacy should be integrated into the classroom environment by incorporating anchor charts that have been co-created by the teacher and students (TeachThoughtStaff, 2017). This allows students to see their personal knowledge posted in the classroom and creates memorable experiences for students. Including labels in the classroom with both words and pictures is a simple way to encourage literacy engagement in a subtle way, while also benefitting EAL learners. This is an organizational method that benefits students learning. Displaying student work is another way that students can develop a greater appreciation for literacy (TeachThoughtStaff, 2017). Posting students work on bulletin boards and around the room gives inspiration to take responsibility for their education. It encourages them to do their best work and gives them a sense of pride when their work is displayed for others to see. Incorporating these aspects into the classroom environment creates a positive relationship between students and literacy practices and creates a fun, safe environment for students to engage in literacy.
When approaching methods of teaching writing, it is beneficial to have a good understanding of the Writing Map of Development. It discusses the stages of writing that students progress through when learning how to write. These stages include the role play writing phase, experimental writing phase, early writing phase, transitional writing phase, conventional writing phase, and the proficient writing phase (Annadale et al., 2013). Understanding these phases can assist teachers in recognizing strengths of their students as well as areas of growth. The Writing Map of Development also provides examples of activities that apply to each phase and can improve students writing. It is important to recognize the complexities of teaching writing when considering teaching methods, such as the fact that students do not develop writing skills in the same way or at the same time. Teaching writing by starting from small words and phrases and building up to simple sentences and eventually complex sentences, allows students to progress at their own pace while still challenging each student.
Reading skills develop through stages including emergent ages, early ages, transitional ages, and fluent ages (Gellner, 2019b). It is important to understand where students are in these phases when considering approaches to teaching reading. When teachers have a good understanding of what phase their students are at, they can select appropriate reading strategies to teach students. The earlier phases may use simple reading strategies such as back up and re-read, sounding out, making connections, and adjusting reading rate. More complex reading strategies include paraphrasing, predicting, inferring, scanning, and synthesizing. Fortunately, there are numerous reading strategies that can apply to a variety of student needs and learning styles. This is beneficial as there are many complexities relating to teaching reading. A variety of learning exceptionalities such as dyslexia, or EAL learners can make it difficult to teach the class in a similar way. Using a variety of these reading strategies can benefit students with different learning styles. Ensuring that there is a variety of reading materials of different genres and reading levels can drives students desire to read and develop these skills. There are many approaches to teaching writing and I personally believe that teachers who truly have a passion for teaching literacy and provide a fun and exciting experience will have students who desire to work hard to develop these skills.
Home and community engagement are an important part of literacy development in children. The American Psychological Association recognizes that “Children’s initial reading competency is correlated with the home literacy environment, number of books owned, and parent distress” (American Psychological Association, 2019). Creating opportunities in the classroom for parent or guardian participation and incorporating literacy activities that students can do at home allows for increased engagement. The use of home reading logs or book charts can be a helpful way for teachers to monitor home engagement. In my pre-internship classroom, each student has a home reading log to track the number of books they have read or have had read to them at home. Recently these students had read anywhere from 50-75 books at home, except one student who had only read 6 books at home since the beginning of the year. The reading level of this student is at least 2 levels lower than that of his peers. This has been a good indicator to the teacher of why his reading level is so low. It has allowed for the teacher to provide additional resources to him. She allows this student to take home books from the classroom, take additional time reading one on one with them, and has him working with a resource worker. It is important to provide opportunities for parents/guardians to engage in literacy practices with their students; however, often students who especially require engagement have parents/guardians who are not able to be engage due to a variety of factors. In this case, teachers should recognize how this is impacting the student and put in place resources to provide additional support.
Regarding assessment and differentiating assessment for learners, I believe the ADAPT method is a good way to consider how certain students might benefit from differentiated assessment. ADAPT looks at a variety of aspects relating to assessment such as:
- “Accounts of students’ strengths and needs
- Demands of the classroom
- Perspectives and consequences
- Teach and assess the match” (Hutchinson, 2017).
Analyzing how the classroom environment impacts students, as well as considering other variables impacting a student’s learning journey, allows us to consider ways to differentiate assessment. I believe assessment should be differentiated for students with exceptionalities or different learning circumstances to focus on the knowledge they have gained over a period of time, how their literacy skills have improved, and what they could do to continue improvement. Although summative assessment is required. I believe that assessment for learning is beneficial. Providing individualized feedback to students and pointing out areas that they are doing well is much more beneficial when developing literacy skills than just assigning students a grade. Our literacy skills continue to develop throughout our life and I believe if students are able to receive meaningful feedback, they will continuously work on developing these skills.
In summary, I have come to understand that literacy is a large and complex topic. No single definition can summarize all that it encompasses. There are many complexities to teaching and acquiring literacy skills, requiring teachers to differentiate teachings specifically for their class. Through the readings, discussions, and observations this semester, it has become clear that literacy is a necessary skill to function in our culture. As educators, we have the responsibility to provide all students with the necessary supports to develop these skills.
Annadale, K., Bindon, R., Bronz, J., Handley, K., Johnston, A., Lockett, L… Rourke, R. (2013). Writing map of development. Retrieved from https://arpdcresources.ca/resources/first_steps_in_literacy/documents/writing-map-of-development.pdf
Corley, M. (2003). Poverty, racism, and literacy. Educational Resources Information Center Digest. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED475392.pdf
Gambrell, L. B., Malloy, J. A., & Mazzoni, S. A. (2011). Evidence-based best practices in comprehensive literacy instruction. Retrieved from https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=THqYbGvItWUC&oi=fnd&pg=PA11&dq=Evidence-based+practices+for+comprehensive+literacy+instruction&ots=b4ljUrRJL9&sig=wVuWJ9jnV6k16bLrygrZjb8-wIs#v=onepage&q=Evidence-based%20practices%20for%20comprehensive%20literacy%20instruction&f=false
Gellner, L. (2019a). Class 1 powerpoint [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from https://urcourses.uregina.ca/pluginfile.php/1718560/mod_resource/content/1/ELNG%20Class%201%20Fall%202019.pdf
Google Dictionary. (2019). Definition of literacy. Retrieved from https://www.google.ca/search?q=Dictionary&stick=H4sIAAAAAAAAAONQesSoyi3w8sc9YSmZSWtOXmMU4-LzL0jNc8lMLsnMz0ssqrRiUWJKzeNZxMqFEAMA7_QXqzcAAAA&zx=1574394291935#dobs=literacy
Hutchinson , N. L. (2017) Inclusion of exceptional learners in Canadian schools: A practical handbook for teachers. New Jersey, USA: Pearson Education Inc.
Kahlman, J. (2008). Beyond definition: Central concepts for understanding literacy. International Review of Education, Vol. 54(5/6), 523.
TeachThoughtStaff. (2017). The elements of a literacy rich classroom environment. Retrieved from https://www.teachthought.com/literacy/the-elements-of-a-literacy-rich-classroom-environment/