Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Real Life Inquiry

         For my real life inquiry I decided to work with my friend's niece to see what she knew about concepts of print. Maddie is three and a half years old and is very bright for her age. She cannot read yet, but I was shocked at how much knowledge she has already attained about books and reading! I read an article by Nancy Frey and Douglas Fisher titled Identifying Instructional Moves During Guided Learning. This article helped me prepare for the questions I was planning on asking Maddie as we read a few books together. The article mentions starting with a question, and then depending on the answer, probing with more questions until the student reaches the answer on their own. During mine and Maddie's time together we read three books. I used the procedure of guided reading and read-alouds we have learned about in class. I also reread the article on the IRA's position statement about the stages of development. This article related to my real life inquiry about emergent literacy and how exposure to concepts about print lead to better reading knowledge and success.
        Working with a three and a half year old I was not expecting her to know many of my questions regarding emergent literacy. I used the checklist we received in class as a guideline for my inquiry. Before we read a book I asked Maddie to show me the front of the book, back of the book, title, title page, where we start reading, which way we turn the page, and about return sweep. To my surprise she knew every answer except what a title page was (which is not surprising because that is the least interesting page of the book to a child!). Maddie obviously has had much experience with books already, and even wanted to "read" to me when we were done. She told me a silly story while she turned the pages of the book. She pretty much just described the illustrations she was looking at, but that is a great first step to reading! I noticed she picked up on my voice inflections, and even tried to prompt me for questions like I did to her. It was really fun and quite humorous working with her. I was pretty impressed at how much a young child knows about books and reading. I asked Maddie what part of the book was telling the story and she pointed to the words! I was shocked! She clearly understands that adults read the words to her when they are reading a book. I think Maddie is eager to learn to read, and by my short time I spent with her I would say she is going to be quite successful!
       This real life inquiry taught me that no matter how young the child is they are already aware of books and concepts of print. I also noticed how much they copy adults, and that reinforced how important it is to model good reading behaviors. As a teacher I will definitely make sure to incorporate read-alouds and guided readings in to my everyday instruction. It is so important for students and children to be exposed to good reading behaviors and get them excited about books! The picture below is not of Maddie (I did not take any pictures of us reading) but it is a good example of children and their  knowledge of print and how they model good reading!


The first article I read was Readability versus leveling by Edward Fry. This article made several good comparisons between readability and leveling. The main difference I gathered from the article is that leveling procedures include a number of judgment factors such as format, content, length, illustrations, repetition of words, etc. Readability relies mainly on sentence length and vocabulary. I personally think both of these procedures used together would be the best way to find the appropriate reading level for students. I like that leveling is more subjective and cannot be done by a computer like readability. A major factor of leveling that I really like is judgment, and by judgment it means 'are the readers' background and experience appropriate to understand the text?' I think this is a very important question to consider when trying to find an appropriate reading range. The picture below is an example of leveled books.

The second article I read was by Mary Lose about Response to Intervention. I agree that in order to help a child's' literacy achievement they must be identified as needing an intervention at the very first indication of difficulty. It is so important to identify struggling students early so teachers can work individually with them and develop their skills. A quote that really stuck out to me in this article was "evidence supports the notion that children come by different paths to common outcomes in literacy. This means that no one child learns how to read in the same way. Skilled teachers understand that they need to tailor reading and writing instruction to each individual in order to get the must success out of each student.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


I really enjoyed the articles I read about vocabulary instruction. They made me start thinking about all the words that I know and trying to remember when and where I acquired them. To this day my dad uses words I do not know and I am eager to hear him explain the definitions to me. The first article I read was by Lane and Allen about Modeling Sophisticated Word Use. I loved this article! I think the idea of incidental learning is very important to children's own vocabulary development. One of the teacher's examples was about slowly changing words the children use on a regular basis to more sophisticated words. For example changing the title of a classroom duty from 'zookeeper that feeds the hamsters' to 'animal nutrition specialist that provides nutritional sustenance to our rodent friends'. By incorporating words children may not know in to daily routines, children get a great deal of exposure to words in different contexts. What really made sense to me from this article was even if you use words the students are unfamiliar with, they are likely to look up the word or remember your definition, and then recognize the word when they hear it again, thus expanding its definition and connections. Children are like sponges and when they hear words they remember them and this can be a huge advantage while either learning to read, reading, or comprehending.

The second article I read was by Blachowicz and Fisher and really emphasized the importance of word play while learning vocabulary. Children actively participate in their own learning when they play games. This article also talked about how incidental word learning plays a big role in expanding vocabulary. A fun example I liked from this article was one teacher had a word wall full of words students had added when they come across a word they weren't familiar with. They could win points for looking the word up, sharing it with the class, talking about where they read or heard the word, and then using it. I think this is a great idea to bring to the classroom, and students choose to participate in this activity which encourages personal motivation to learn new words!

This poster to the right is a great thing to have in the classroom for students to reference while they are working on writing assignments. Encourage them to find synonyms for common words and watch their vocabularies flourish!

Thursday, July 26, 2012


The first article I read was The Comprehension Matrix by Gill. I really liked this article because it broke down comprehension instruction in to three separate parts: pre-reading, during reading, and post reading. I think this matrix is a great tool for teachers to teach their students because it helps them acquire a deeper meaning of the text they are reading. Pre-reading helps build and activate background knowledge and gets the students interested in what they are about to read. I think this is an important step in comprehension because it allows students to put an authentic purpose on the reading and gives them time to make predictions on the text. The during reading is equally important in that it helps students use the strategies that have been modeled to them. The main strategy that stuck out to me during this part of the matrix is think-alouds. The second article I read was What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Comprehension by Pardo, she emphasizes the importance of modeling and think-alouds throughout the article.  Think-alouds are a great way to model what good readers do as they read and students will be more likely to use strategies if they have seen them work. The post reading activities help extend the reading and help the students connect the purpose of the text to something new that they create. Some good ideas of post reading activities are timelines, maps, newscasts, newspaper reports, letters, diaries, or even a poem.

The picture at the top is of a bookmark that students can use while they read. It has great reminders that students can use to help them comprehend. The picture below is a great example to have posted in the classroom somewhere that students can reference when they read a new text. Teachers should refer to this as they do think-alouds and model comprehension behaviors. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Shared Reading- Fluency Activity

Shared Reading is an interactive reading experience. Children join in the reading of a big book guided by a teacher. Student interactivity is the distinguishing feature of Shared Reading versus Reading Aloud. The books that you read need to be at the students' level in order for them to join in. The reader involved the children in reading together, allowing the students to participate. Shared Reading models the reading process and strategies used by readers. 

Example video of a Shared Reading activity:

Teaching Methods
Initial reading (done by teacher) follows this pattern: Gather children in an area close to the book. The book must be easily seen by the children. Chose a book that relates to topics being studied in the classroom, or books that the children are interested in.

  • Introduce book (share theme, examine title, cover, illustrations, etc. make predictions)
    • Prompt the students with questions about the illustrations, characters, and themes. Encourage the students to make predictions.
  • Excite student's imagination and relate prior experience to text
    • Encourage students to make connections to their prior knowledge and share any background information they may have.
  • Concentrate on enjoying the text as a whole (Read with few stops)
    • Teacher should read the book fluently.
  • Encourage spontaneous participation in the reading of the story
    • Reread the book several times.
  • Discuss personal responses to the book
  • Be positive in accepting/encouraging children's responses
  • Direct children's attention to various aspects of the text, and reading strategies, and skills. Many of the strategies needed for independent reading can be taught during shared reading, especially when shared reading takes place with a small group versus the whole class.
  • Identify vocabulary, ideas and facts, discuss author's style, skill, and viewpoint. Remember to focus on the enjoyment of the story. Try not to draw attention away from the story with too many teaching points or too much attention to detail.
    • Keep students engaged.
  • Experiment with intonation and expression, discuss colorful phrases or words.
    • Talk about expression and smoothness.
  • Attend to teaching points as they arise.
*Reread the same book throughout the week, after the first introduction of the text have the students participate during different parts each time the story is reread*


Monday, July 23, 2012

Words, Words, Words

The articles on words really emphasized the importance of being exposed to the same word in multiple contexts. If a child is going to acquire a rich understanding of a word they must really "know" the word. That totally makes sense! I really liked the Ten Important Words activity because it can be used in many different ways. The members of the class have the opportunity to talk about the important words that they chose, which encourages use of the words, understanding the meaning and content, and provides insight into their peers' perspectives about the text. The Ten Important Words Plus activity allows students to explore words even more in depth. I thought the idea of using different colored notecards for different tasks was a great add on to this activity. Students are asked to list synonyms and antonyms, or use the word in several sentences, or think of other forms of the original word. This encourages them to think about the relationship among words and across different contexts and can even help them relate words to their own experiences with them. This activity is a great way to expose words in multiple different contexts. The teacher could also have them draw definitions of the word, act the word out, or make maps or diagrams relating the word to other words. This activity also reminded me of the one we did in class when we had to pick one word to describe the articles we read and explain why it relates. This would help younger students learn how to summarize texts they read by teaching them to pull out the main words and ideas!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


            The article Creating Fluent Readers emphasized three main dimensions that build a bridge to comprehension: accuracy, automaticity, and prosodic reading. Assisted readings and repeated readings can greatly improve students reading fluency. By having students follow along while a fluent reader reads a text aloud and then have them reread it is a good way to practice fluency. I like the idea in Chapter 4 of the textbook about echo reading. I think that could be a fun activity to have children try and mimic your voice, especially if different voices and characters are used in the dialogue. I also agree that it is SO important that teachers consistently model good fluency reading. Also a really good idea to practice fluency is to have students perform! By reading poetry, speeches, jokes, riddles, or dialogues students are more likely to read with more expression. The article mentioned how some school encourage timed reading which encourages students to put more emphasis on speed rather than meaning. This does not help them gain a deeper meaning of the text but just creates fast readers that will not comprehend what they are reading. 
           The picture above is an example of a cue teachers could make and put on the wall in the reading center to remind students about fluency. Another good idea that I remember my first grade teacher making us do when we were learning about fluency was to make us tap our index finger and thumb together (like a quick pinching motion) at the end of every sentence to remind ourselves to take a quick pause. I think they really helped some of the students that were struggling with reading fluency.

"Tap, Tap, Tap!"