Literacy Shouldn’t Be An Afterthought

As a student, I’ve had a hard time thinking about what to write about for this blog.  What sort of insights might I have into the topic of teaching literacy?  As my semester has gone on, I have tried to keep this in mind, thinking of what I could write about but, inevitably, other classes and things have taken up my time and brainpower.  Then it dawned on me – teaching literacy is something that can easily become overlooked and pushed aside, much like writing for this blog became for me.

It’s easy to think that students will learn literacy skills without explicitly teaching them, and to an extent, that may be true.  Some students will naturally pick up the skills they need to have good or even excellent reading comprehension, writing, speaking, and understanding of language, technology, or even parts of the broader definitions of literacy such as visual art or music without explicit literacy instruction.  However, many students need more guidance and support.

I think the single most important thing anyone who works with or cares for children and young adults can do to encourage literacy skills is to expose them to a wide variety of texts and make sure they have opportunities to appropriately interact with them.  That may be as simple as reading story books to a five year old or taking a ten year old to the library once a week.  It may mean modeling making time for reading by setting aside time to sit quietly together and read a few times a week.  It also means providing a space for children and young adults to talk about what they have read, especially if it is technically difficult or dealing with a topic that they may not fully comprehend.

As teachers, I think it is important to introduce comprehension strategies and even explain to students how they are useful.  I know that some of the strategies that I have learned about in my college classes, I can recall using in my K-12 years and thinking of them as busy-work and a waste of time.  I think that, had my teachers told me why they were asking me to do these things and talked about how they might help me better understand or remember the information we were covering, I would have been more likely to put effort into the activities and may have even used some of them when reading on my own.

It is also important to talk to parents about what they can do to help their children develop good literacy skills.  Since most parents will not be educators, there is a good chance that they have never considered how to build literacy.  Many of them may have little or no post-secondary education and may struggle with literacy themselves.  By making ourselves available to parents when they feel like they don’t know how to best support their children, we can improve the support they receive outside of our classrooms and outside of school hours, which is especially important for the students who are struggling.

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13 thoughts on “Literacy Shouldn’t Be An Afterthought

  1. Amy Walling October 26, 2016 / 12:03 am

    I love your ideas! It is so often that teachers create lessons or units and THEN think about how they might be able to incorporate some literacy. Just being intentional with literacy can go a really long way with students. I wonder if you have any specific ideas about working with parents on how to help their kids with literacy because that’s a wonderful idea!

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  2. rachaelhyaduck October 26, 2016 / 12:11 am

    You have some really good thoughts! I often feel that it is easier for Elementary teachers to incorporate literacy into their classrooms every day because they have more time to do so and younger students are more engaged when someone reads to them. But then what about Secondary teachers? How do they incorporate literacy into their classrooms? One thing that I have noticed during my pre-student teaching placement in a social studies class is that my host teachers starts every class period with 10 minutes of silent reading. I feel that this is a simple way to get students involved with literacy if you cannot find time to incorporate it into a lesson. I also really like your idea about getting parents involved. I feel that if the parents are reinforcing literacy at home, then students will continue to develop their literacy skills when they are away from the school setting. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. jlong450 October 26, 2016 / 3:12 pm

    Great thoughts written throughout your blog! I also agree with you in having to have a purpose in learning something as a student, and now that I am nearing the end of becoming a teacher, I know feel that there should also be a purpose in teaching as much as learning. Its easier to stay focus or work hard on things when a purpose is given, knowing that their is something to achieve or a goal to be reached. Making the knowledge taught useful and providing real life examples to things that may not stand alone in a lesson. Great post!

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  4. goodm1bd October 26, 2016 / 11:32 pm

    I think my favorite part about this blog is your explanation about the necessity to teach students WHY they are doing what they are doing. In many classrooms, students are given work without knowing what’s in it for them (what they are getting from doing the work), and I think that does them a disservice. Students should know what they are getting out of the work, and if the teacher is unable to explain what the students are gaining from doing the work, the work shouldn’t be given.

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  5. The Third October 29, 2016 / 1:21 pm

    Excellent point about he parents! Even the parents who have undergraduate or higher degrees don’t have the skills to teach literacy. Often times those parents can push their child to do”better” or do “more work” or “read more”. Unless they are teachers, it is difficult for them to grasp how their child needs to develop literacy skills. Recently a parent has asked if I could write a blog or a set up a wikisite to house the resources for the parents to use at home. I have been cud-chewing on the idea but haven’t had the time to create one. What I also think the parents need is the skill to navigate the digital platforms to educate themselves on what types of literacy tools are available for them to use with their children.

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  6. Jordan Davis October 29, 2016 / 1:57 pm

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts about how to go about using literacy strategies within the classroom. I am eager to learn and see other more experienced teachers demonstrate how they are using these strategies in their classrooms. Also I do question myself how to go about modeling these comprehension strategies within the classroom effectively? I have an intervention group where I’m working with them on word identification, vocabulary, and comprehension. I have found that modeling is so important to help our struggling readers and want to improve in these area to become more comfortable within this routine.

    Here are some hopefully helpful links that I found about modeling comprehension strategies.

    http://growingbookbybook.com/modeling-comprehension-strategies/

    https://www.hand2mind.com/pdf/miriam/grades_1_2.pdf

    http://www3.canisius.edu/~justice/CSTmodule-final/Fisher%20and%20Frey%20-%20Modeling.pdf

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  7. Jordan Davis October 29, 2016 / 2:04 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and questions about literacy instruction. I agree with your thoughts about how to provide model reading comprehension strategies and also connect parents within the classroom literacy practice. I question myself about how effectively am I modeling these reading comprehension strategies too? Currently, I have a reading intervention group of students of varying levels working on word identification, vocabulary, and comprehension. I really want to be able to know that I’m using my time with them most effectively with what I’m planning as well. I hope to be able to observe more experienced teachers in this area and discuss with them ways in which they go about this process.

    I found some helpful articles that could be able to help with planning how to model effectively comprehension strategies. Here are the links:

    1) http://growingbookbybook.com/modeling-comprehension-strategies/

    2) https://www.hand2mind.com/pdf/miriam/grades_1_2.pdf

    3) http://www3.canisius.edu/~justice/CSTmodule-final/Fisher%20and%20Frey%20-%20Modeling.pdf

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  8. Jordan Davis October 29, 2016 / 2:07 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and questions about literacy instruction. I agree with your thoughts about how to provide model reading comprehension strategies and also connect parents within the classroom literacy practice. I question myself about how effectively am I modeling these reading comprehension strategies too? Currently, I have a reading intervention group of students of varying levels working on word identification, vocabulary, and comprehension. I really want to be able to know that I’m using my time with them most effectively with what I’m planning as well. I hope to be able to observe more experienced teachers in this area and discuss with them ways in which they go about this process.

    I found some helpful articles that could be able to help with planning how to model effectively comprehension strategies. Here are the links:

    1) http://growingbookbybook.com/modeling-comprehension-strategies/

    2) https://www.hand2mind.com/pdf/miriam/grades_1_2.pdf

    3) http://www3.canisius.edu/~justice/CSTmodule-final/Fisher%20and%20Frey%20-%20Modeling.pdf

    Like

  9. whitneyallred October 29, 2016 / 4:35 pm

    I love the point you make here about being intentional with parents. I teach third grade, and many of my parents think their student is now too old to be read to. Not true! My students love being read to and it is often when I hold their attention best. We just finished Charlotte’s Web this week and my students exploded into applause when we finished. For a parent night, we model how to read aloud in hopes that parents will share in the experience with their child. The parents always love it.

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  10. tschmidt3 October 29, 2016 / 7:32 pm

    I appreciate your honesty with recognizing how literacy can become an afterthought – after reading this blog, I realized I myself haven’t finished a book for leisure since this past July. Now take parents who care deeply but are often working and have many other concerns besides the day-to-day teaching of the value of literacy for their students, and the disengagement with literacy sure widens. But just like our students who are finding new passion and purpose in engaging with digital literacy, helping our parents recognize the value of accessing digital mediums of literacy (sources they often access daily without thought!) and helping them transfer that engagement with their kids has the potential of really helping to push literacy forward!

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  11. jennmphil October 29, 2016 / 9:23 pm

    I think you make a great point when you state the importance of telling students WHY they are being taught certain things. We want to convey the message to our students that the
    power of literacy lies not just in learning how to read and write, but in how to apply these skills to effectively connect in life. This fact makes it so important to develop meaningful lessons and experiences our kids can relate to.

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  12. ateach17 October 29, 2016 / 9:32 pm

    Wonderful thoughts! Partnering WITH parents and sharing the importance of reading aloud to their children, having conversations with their children, visiting the library, etc. are all wonderful ways that parents help their children develop literacy. I know that some parents, especially parents of our students who do not speak English, often aren’t sure if they should continue reading to their child in their home language, for fear that it will hinder their child’s ability to develop literacy skills in English. This makes me so sad that this is the message that many of these parents have heard. I think it’s important to encourage these parents that reading and engaging in conversations about books in their child’s home language is incredibly valuable!

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  13. kccogswell October 29, 2016 / 9:42 pm

    You make a great point about the need to apply direct instruction for literacy and comprehension. Have you tried sending anything home to help parents promote literacy at home?

    I’ve found a few things that I think I might try sending home to help my kiddos.

    https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Literacy-Handouts-for-Parents-1808988

    http://www.icanteachmychild.com/seven-things-you-should-be-doing-as-youre-reading-to-your-child/

    http://www.fortheteachers.org/parent_involvement/

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