Reflections on Reading - Part 1

Theory and Practice

How do I Build a Comprehensive Literacy Program?

This is a key question posed in the Reading - Part 1 AQ. As a teacher, how can I optimize learning and promote literacy across the curriculum? How can I make reading meaningful for students? What elements are needed in order to create a comprehensive literacy program?

According to the Ontario Ministry of Education's Guide to Effective Instruction in Reading, Kindergarten to Grade 3, the four key recommended reading instructional strategies are:

  • Read-alouds
  • Shared reading
  • Guided reading
  • Independent reading

Each instructional strategy, although involving varying degrees of teacher support, are aimed at providing students with opportunities to learn and/or practise comprehension strategies, and further develop fluency while building vocabulary. It is also a goal that students will develop an appreciation for and love of reading.

In general, how can teachers engage students and build student competency in reading? Some ideas include:

  • vary the types of reading tasks given
  • scaffold / differentiate learning
  • allow students to choose materials they are interested in
  • promote "accountable talk"
  • make use of technology
  • create a classroom environment that welcomes discussion and new ideas
  • make connections between different curriculum areas
  • more often adopt an inquiry-based approach in the classroom

For more information, the following web sites provide a wealth of resources for teachers:

En français! Reading in the Primary French Immersion Classroom

As a teacher in a Primary French Immersion classroom, I am always looking for ways to make links between what students are learning in Language (in English) and what they are learning in French language as well as in other curriculum areas.

In my experience, students often encounter greater challenges making sense of what they read in French as compared to English, because they more often come across unfamiliar vocabulary in French texts. This means they often have to revisit comprehension strategies that they have been familiarized with in Language. Some high-yield strategies students have been encouraged to use in French (and apply widely) include:

  • focusing on context clues
  • identifying cognates
  • paying attention to visual cues and language patterns
  • making use of English-French and single-language French dictionaries (including picture dictionaries)

How can these strategies best be introduced and taught? What other strategies can be used? What other connections can be made between English and French language instruction and learning?

Accountable Talk - Key to Building Literacy?

I have thought a lot during this course about the importance of students engaging in "accountable talk" and building their listening skills in the process as well. The discussions and readings in class have led me to think about my own approach to the Language - Oral Communication strand and how it is inextricably linked to the Reading, Writing and Media Literacy strands.

Some suggestions to promote "accountable talk" include:

  • providing students with prompts in order to guide their discussions (e.g., how to ask questions, agree, disagree, explain thinking etc.)
  • encourage students to use/create visual aids to guide their conversations
  • provide explicit instruction for activities such as "Think-Pair-Share" and "Turn and Talk" and model these activities with students
  • communicate to students that talking sets the stage for later reading and/or writing
  • create a classroom culture where students feel comfortable sharing ideas and opinions

The following Ontario Ministry of Education monograph "Grand Conversations in Primary Classrooms" (2011) provides many further suggestions about encouraging "accountable talk" in the classroom:

Bookstore visit - an Introduction to a Wonderful Resource for Teachers!

It was a great idea to organize a field trip to Another Story Bookshop in Toronto. I left the bookstore with many ideas about how I could use picture books to introduce a unit, encourage thinking on social justice issues, teach reading strategies, foster a love of poetry, teach math through literature...

It seems there are endless possibilities for the way read-alouds and picture books can be used as teaching tools at various levels. I especially appreciated that the books at the bookstore were arranged by theme (e.g., Anti-bullying books, books about the environment, books focusing on positive character traits etc.)

The Importance of Talk Among Teachers

This AQ course has been a wonderful experience as I have been able learn many new strategies and share ideas. Every activity, from the icebreakers and community builders (e.g., "Dotmocracy" to "Inside, Outside Circle") to the classroom discussions and field trips have been enriching!

I look forward to being able to continue to collaborate with other teachers and think of more ways to improve student learning!