Literacy and Young Children: Research-Based Practices / Edition 1

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Overview

This book presents current, research-based best practices for supporting young children's development as readers and writers. From leading figures in early literacy, the book demonstrates that scientifically grounded instruction need not be dull, drill-oriented, or one-size-fits-all--rather, it describes language-rich approaches to engaging with children's existing levels of knowledge while moving them to more complex literacy understandings. Topics covered include the impact of home literacy experiences, teaching English learners and culturally diverse children, phonemic awareness and word knowledge for preschoolers, new uses for communication technologies and informational text, and fluency instruction. Also addressed are professional development issues, including teacher training practices that support change. Exemplary teaching strategies and activities are clearly depicted and illustrated with samples of student work, providing Pre-K-3 teachers with many useful ideas that can be readily applied in the classroom.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This volume provides a compass for research-based early literacy education. It offers panoramic views of classrooms and home literacy environments, with helpful examples of children's work that give special attention to individual differences in learning. The ideas in this book will lift teachers and students to wakeful and meaningful engagement with many literacies. Useful reading for anyone seeking a way through the labyrinth of educational reform, it is an essential text for advanced undergraduate- and graduate-level courses."—Pamela J. Rossi, PhD, Department of Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies, University of New Mexico

"A stellar and highly readable contribution to the field of early literacy. Each chapter takes up important questions of current practice that we need to resolve to meet the promise of literacy for all children. Leaving old rhetoric behind, the authors lead the way to reading research and instruction that will make a difference in our present and future classrooms. The volume goes way beyond phonics, laying out research, pedagogy, and technology that support fluency and comprehension, engage the very youngest learners and those whose first language is not English, and promote concept and vocabulary development through nonfiction. This book fills a void for both teachers and teacher educators. It builds and extends teachers' professional knowledge in early literacy, and as such, can be used in teachers' book clubs, study groups, and professional development activities, as well as undergraduate- and graduate-level teacher education courses."—Anne McGill-Franzen, PhD, School of Teaching and Learning, University of Florida

"Early childhood educators will find this book to be an indispensable resource. It contains clear, concise summaries of a wide range of topics connected with early literacy: home literacy learning, cultural diversity, 'best practice' teaching strategies, informational books for young children, new technologies, and staff development. Each chapter contains a summary of the most recent research and theory on a topic, followed by concrete suggestions on how to apply this information in real classrooms. The combination of current, state-of-the-art research and practical advice for teachers is what sets this book apart."—James Christie, PhD, Department of Early Childhood Education, Arizona State University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781572308190
  • Publisher: Guilford Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/11/2002
  • Series: Solving Problems in the Teaching of Literacy Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 318
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Diane M. Barone, PhD, is Professor of Literacy Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Lesley Mandel Morrow, PhD, is Professor in the Department of Learning and Teaching, Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University, and President-Elect of the International Reading Association. Her recent publications include Organizing and Managing the Language Arts Block.

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Read an Excerpt

Literacy and Young Children

Research-Based Practices

The Guilford Press

Copyright © 2003 The Guilford Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-57230-819-2


Chapter One

Staff Development for Early Literacy Teachers

A Plan to Facilitate Change

LESLEY MANDEL MORROW HEATHER CASEY COURTNEY HAWORTH

Current research dealing with early literacy development has created the need for change in classroom practice. To enable teachers to implement research- based best practices, professional skills should be enhanced regularly (Guskey, 1986). It is important to investigate what teachers must know, and how they are going to be informed about current information. The answer lies in carefully constructed staff development opportunities.

OBSTACLES IN PROMOTING CHANGE

Staff development programs are a systematic or forward attempt to change professional practice and beliefs for a specified goal. These programs have had only a small impact on bringing research-based practice into classrooms (Griffin, 1983). In the past, staff development programs have not been very effective. This is often blamed on teacher resistance. A teacher's reluctance to change may be part of the explanation, but it is not the only one.

Current research suggests that the practice of simply telling teachers what to do most often does not result in change and can actually foster teacher resistance (Sparks & Loucks-Horsley,1990). Studies have found that change is more likely to be effected by focusing on the process of teacher learning as well as the product (Sparks & Loucks-Horsley, 1990).

MODELS OF STAFF DEVELOPMENT

Existing models of staff development fall in three major categories: externally driven, teacher-initiated, and collaborative (Richardson, 1990). Externally driven models are those imposed on teachers, typically training workshops. Teacher-initiated programs are teacher-generated and provide teachers with some degree of control over the changes taking place. Collaborative models involve individuals from various perspectives working together to bring new ideas to the classroom (Richardson, 1990). Collaborative procedures are quite successful, because they give individual teachers control over the changes taking place and provide support and direction from colleagues, administrators, and/or researchers.

Research has shown that all three models can be successful if those in charge take key issues of adult learning theory into account. It has long been established that the goals of staff development include changes in teacher practice, student learning, and teacher beliefs and attitudes. Many staff development programs try to change teacher beliefs and attitudes first. This goes against the natural learning process of humans. Guskey (1986) concluded that the three goals of staff development are indeed important, but that these goals should be addressed in a different order. He recommended the following order.

The first goal staff developers should focus on is changing classroom practices. Experts should model the teaching practice they hope will be implemented. When teachers can observe changes in student learning as a result of the modeled activities, changes in teacher beliefs and attitudes will follow (Guskey, 1986). The theory underlying behind this approach is that changes in the learning outcomes of students may be a prerequisite for significant change in the beliefs and attitudes of teachers (Guskey, 1986).

As the National Staff Development Council (NSDC) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) developed standards for staff development, they incorporated psychological research on human learning about the process of change. The following are the principles of adult learning that the NSDC and the NAESP (1995) have found to be the most relevant for creating successful staff development programs:

Adult learning experiences must be based on research and proven principles.

Adult learning is ultimately self-directed.

Independent and interdependent learning approaches are equally important to adults.

Adults are motivated by clear and measurable outcomes and ongoing support.

Change requires time, resources, and support structures.

Supporting teachers through any change is complicated. For staff development to be well received, research must be combined with practical experience when brought into schools. Staff development must address the real details of teachers' daily work lives, and must be in a form that provides intellectual stimulation (Goldenburg & Gallimore, 1991; Sparks, 1988). Staff developers have to understand that they are working with adult learners and must be aware of their needs.

ISSUES IN LITERACY DEVELOPMENT THAT SUGGEST THE NEED FOR CHANGE

Language arts programs must support the development of explicit skills as well as constructivist problem-solving activities. Often referred to as a balanced literacy program, this idea suggests that teachers emphasize both form (phonics, mechanics, etc.) and function (comprehension, purpose, meaning) and recognize that learning occurs effectively in a whole-part-whole context (Gambrell & Mazzoni, in press).

Studies that deal with teachers modeling effective and exemplary practices, specifically in the language arts, have found that these teachers' classrooms have the following characteristics (Morrow, Tracey, Woo, & Pressley, 1999; Pressley, Rankin, & Yokoi, 1996; Ruddell & Ruddell, 1995):

1. Varied teaching strategies to motivate literacy learning

2. High expectations for student accomplishment

3. Varied structures for instruction to meet individual needs, such as whole-group, small-group, and one-on-one settings with the teacher

4. Literacy-rich classroom environment with accessible materials

5. Careful organization and management of materials

6. Opportunities for children to practice skills taught

7. Guidance in structured lessons for acquisition of skills

8. Opportunities for children to work independently or in collaborative groups

This chapter discusses a 3-year staff development project that implemented theory about adult learning to help teachers change their instruction. In addition, the goal was to foster exemplary practice, or a balanced approach, to literacy instruction. Another major purpose of the project was to develop a model of effective staff development for teachers, supervisors, and administrators. Regardless of position or level of authority, all educators interested in facilitating change can find something in this model to implement.

CREATING SUCCESSFUL STAFF DEVELOPMENT IN THE LANGUAGE ARTS

A project was undertaken to identify specific aspects of staff development that seem to promote change in teacher behavior. The project, which was a collaborative effort between a school district and a university in the northeastern United States, emphasized change in literacy practices as a result of a staff development program that focused on the teachers as adult learners.

One of the goals of the staff development program was to help teachers create a balanced approach to literacy instruction through the reorganization of their language arts block. More specifically, there would be a transition from whole-group literacy instruction to small-group guided reading instruction and the development of literacy centers with independent work for students to use while teachers work with small groups. Creating a literacy-rich environment was another goal, through the use of word walls, morning messages, and so forth. The emphasis on classroom environment was for the purpose of supporting instructional practice.

Participants

Ten female teachers participated in the project, ranging in age from age 24 to 54. All taught in the same urban setting in preschool through third-grade classrooms. All had an opportunity to work collaboratively with their colleagues and faculty from a nearby university in an effort to improve the language arts education in their schools.

The university faculty worked with this district on a regular basis. The schools were referred to as Professional Development Schools (PDS). The staff development project was a joint effort between the teachers, administrators, and university faculty. The teachers were to work in collaboration with each other as they moved toward making changes in their literacy programs (Richardson, 1990).

Procedures

The project consultant created a staff development model to support the teachers as learners. The 3-year staff development project used the following techniques:

1. Administrative support for the project prior to beginning

2. Volunteer participation of teachers, to ensure interest in the project

3. A 14-week course on early literacy development to enhance knowledge

4. Goals to be accomplished set by teachers

5. A student aide provided for each teacher to help accomplish goals

6. Classroom observations by the consultant and an assistant to monitor progress

7. Teacher discussion groups to foster collaboration and reflection

8. Encouragement of teachers to become leaders in fostering change

Setting Individual Goals a Part of the Course Requirement

The teachers began their staff development with a 14-week course that met for 3 hours each week. Assignments for the teachers were tailored to fit their needs. The intent of the course was to expand teachers' knowledge of small-group guided reading instruction, assessment in guided reading groups, and center activities for independent learning. Because the teachers varied in personal needs, it was necessary to allow them to set their own goals related to what was being taught.

Facilitating Goals

To facilitate accomplishment of the individual goals of each participant, the teachers were provided with a packet of lesson plans entitled Organizing and Managing the Language Arts Block (Morrow, 2002). The plans were designed with the teachers in mind and included the following:

1. Independent activities when children arrive at school

2. The morning meeting

3. Center work

4. Guided reading

5. Assessment

6. Writers' workshop

The teachers selected plans from the packet to help carry out their goals. It was anticipated that each teacher would also draw information from the lectures, readings, discussions, and demonstrations that related to her goal.

In-Class Support

To facilitate the incorporation of goals, each teacher was assigned a student aide from the university who worked with the teacher once a week for 3 hours each time. In addition, there was a graduate student, who was an experienced teacher, who acted as a coach for those who needed further direction.

Observations and Assessments

The researcher and her research assistant observed the teachers regularly. After each observation, they met with the teacher to discuss current strategies and techniques the teacher could be using to create a more balanced literacy program. It was during these meetings that the three also reviewed the materials needed for change.

Teacher Discussion Groups

The teachers and the consultant met once a month for 2 hours after school to discuss and reflect on the changes taking place in their classrooms. After the 14-week course ended, the participating teachers continued meeting to update each other on their progress and to address any issues that arose during the period of classroom change. The teachers also observed one another's classrooms.

Observation Information

Information was gathered through observations of the teachers, from teacher discussion sessions, from individual interviews, and through reflective surveys. Discussion groups were taperecorded, and notes were taken as well. During the first year, teachers were observed every 2 weeks during the language arts block, for a total of 20 hours per teacher. Notes were taken as to the skills taught, the strategies used, the environmental design of the classrooms, and the materials used. There was an effort to note the practices used by the teacher when the program began, what the classroom was like in the middle of the program, and at the end.

The teachers were asked to fill out three reflective surveys. The first survey was designed to obtain information about each teacher's attitude toward change. The second provided a chance for the teachers to reflect on their initial goals and to modify them if necessary. The third and last survey asked teachers how they had changed, what had made them change, and how they would continue to change. The surveys and observations offered a broad picture of each teacher's progress and enabled researchers to examine the types of changes that took place and to what extent they could be considered successful.

What Was Discovered?

The following section presents descriptions of two of the ten teachers with whom we worked. They were selected because they were representative of the two different groups that emerged, based on the observations of all the teachers. These two teachers, like all the others, made changes to their classrooms. The following descriptions illustrate that the goals set by two of the teachers, and their perspectives toward change, were quite different.

One of the teachers was very enthusiastic about the staff development program. She started out with goals that were easily accomplished, but as time went on she became more ambitious with her goals. The second teacher needed only minor work for change, inasmuch as she already used many of the strategies discussed in the staff development program. This teacher, however, was more resistant to change.

The teachers in the group differed in age, years of experience, their attitude toward change, and the types of changes undertaken. Change proved to be very personal. Yet, whether young or old, expert or novice, positive about change or hesitant, teachers did change. As the following case studies trace and analyze the progress each teacher made toward her stated goals, they discuss how the individual teachers handled change and identify the factors that facilitated this change.

CASE STUDY 1: SARAH

Background Information

Sarah is a kindergarten teacher in an at-risk urban setting. In her 24 years as an educator, she has been a classroom teacher and a reading specialist. She is in her early 50s, married, with one adult child. She is an enthusiastic teacher with a lot of patience and energy. Sarah admits, "I'm a bit slow with change, but I'm willing to think about it and then try. If there's an idea I like, I'll try it, but I'm not going with everything. If I see things are not working, I'll try something else."

Continues...


Excerpted from Literacy and Young Children Copyright © 2003 by The Guilford Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

1 Staff Development for Early Literacy Teachers: A Plan to Facilitate Change 3
2 Questions about Early Literacy Learning and Teaching That Need Asking - and Some That Don't 23
3 A Multidimensional Approach to Beginning Literacy 45
4 The Learner, the Teacher, the Text, and the Context: Sociocultural Approaches to Early Literacy Instruction for English Language Learners 61
5 What Hannah Taught Emma and Why It Matters 83
6 Learning about the Literate Lives of Latino Families 101
7 Engaging Preschoolers in Code Learning: Some Thoughts about Preschool Teachers' Concerns 121
8 Concepts, Sounds, and the ABCs: A Diet for a Very Young Reader 140
9 Book Acting: Storytelling and Drama in the Early Childhood Classroom 157
10 Early Literacy in a Digital Age: Moving from a Singular Book Literacy to the Multiple Literacies of Networked Information and Communication Technologies 175
11 No More "Madfaces": Motivation and Fluency Development with Struggling Readers 195
12 How Can I Help Them Pull It All Together?: A Guide to Fluent Reading Instruction 210
13 Bridging the Gap between Learning to Read and Reading to Learn 226
14 Immersing Children in Nonfiction: Fostering Emergent Research and Writing 243
15 Organizing Expository Texts: A Look at the Possibilities 261
16 Caution, Apply with Care: Recommendations for Early Literacy Instruction 291
Index 309
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