Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Literacy: More than reading and writing

How much time during the day do your students have time to talk, process information and share their thinking? I am asking because I have been thinking quite a bit about the importance of opportunities for students to talk about learning throughout the day. Two reasons for this: first, because I am trying to problem solve some possibilities concerning a learner in my room and decided to administer an oral language assessment for further data. Second because I have had the opportunity to have 2 interactive read alouds recorded in my room. ( I have a parent who has used the recoding of our read aloud conversations as research for a paper she is working on for her doctorate). She has shared some data from the kid's discussion during the read aloud. ( very partaking in "grand conversations" vs. "gentle inquisitions")

Both of these happenings have me affirming some of the work we do in the classroom and thinking about how I can strengthen the environment. I decided to google some of the research on Language and Literacy in the classroom and found this article from an IRA online series. The basis of the article reflects Vygotsky's social constructivist theories which remind us that learning is: SOCIAL, INTEGRATED (relationships between oral and written language) and REQUIRES ENGAGEMENT ( please visit Carol's post on engaged readers if you haven't read her thinking already).

Other pieces of the article that made me think include:

"Speaking, listening, reading, and writing are integrated because all are primarily communicative processes (Silliman & Wilkinson 1994). Literacy encompasses oral and written modes of communication, with different discourse styles overlapping both (Biber, 1988; Horowitz & Samuels, 1987; Scott, 1988; Spiro & Taylor, 1987; Wallach, 1990)."

Literacy is integrating speaking, listening, reading and writing.

"For most children, classrooms are the first environment for formal literacy learning, where reading and writing are generally presented as a set of decontextualized discrete skills to be mastered separately from content in other curricular areas (Zubrick, 1987). However, research indicates that both elementary and middle-grade readers’ knowledge of oral-written language relationships are enriched when they talk informally with peers and more formally in student-dominated class discussions."

Literacy is STUDENTS doing most of talking and processing.

"Today's teachers must master methods of alternative assessment. We are faced with the challenge of variability in language and literacy skills among students, and we must determine in each individual case how best to assess and promote the development of these skills. In addition to standardized tests, which are limited in the information they provide, educators need to use alternative methods to determine the progress of individual students. Particularly important are the use of observation to reveal students’ literacy competencies and interdisciplinary approaches that yield a full picture of students’ developmental strengths and educational needs. Meaningful assessment must also include systematic observations of classroom interactions, interviews with students, teachers, and families, and the interpretation of outcomes through the prism of the cultural and social practices that frame home and school values."

Literacy is unique. Literacy is beginning to understand students' needs and students need for understanding.

On an ending note the two picture books I read that allowed for such rich conversations were:

Hazel's Amazing Mother by Rosemary Wells (A Debbie Miller suggestion from Reading with Meaning)

Betsy B Little
by Anne Mcevoy and Jacqueline Rogers ( I posted about it here.)

My learning this week would not have been learning without the conversations I had with others. I have been processing out loud with the parent researcher as well as the RR teacher who kindly let me borrow Marie Clay's oral language assessment. Sometimes I think I can figure it out alone but I can't. Kids can't. I say let 'em talk.


Johanna said...

This is a very thoughtful post. I would like to add that visual literacy is another important aspect of modern literacy. It's not a new idea, but has gained more attention in the classroom in response to today's multimedia world. There is a body of interesting research that evidences increased learning and retention when visual literacy is incorporated into the traditional literacies. Some neurologists even believe that our brains are being "wired" differently--forming new neural connections as a result of this constant stream of visual information. It does inspire classroom teachers to examine how this reality segues with the educational landscape--Johanna Riddle

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