Citation
Literacy practices comparison: bridging the gap between literacy practices used in the elementary classroom and the practices that teachers value

Material Information

Title:
Literacy practices comparison: bridging the gap between literacy practices used in the elementary classroom and the practices that teachers value
Abbreviated Title:
Literacy Practices Comparision
Creator:
Beam, McKenna ( Author, Primary )
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Publisher:
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Publication Date:
Copyright Date:
2019
Language:
English
Physical Description:
Honors thesis

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Degree:
Bachelor's ( Elementary Education)
Graduation Semester:
Spring 2019

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
literacy practices, survey, “hot-topic”, “important-topic”, What’s Hot in Literacy?
Genre:
Elementary Education

Notes

Abstract:
The need to teach elementary students literacy skills has become a high priority in education. This need has influenced schools to overemphasize literacy over the other content areas, and, in some cases, neglect science and social studies altogether. The International Literacy Association publishes an article called What’s Hot in Literacy every year. It is an analysis of an international survey of educators around the world that examines their opinions on popular literacy practices in education; literacy experts and researchers vote on which practices they think are hot, or the most talked about in education, while educators vote on which practices are important, or which practices they feel are vital to having a successful classroom in the 21st century. 2018’s results show statistical proof that while literacy practices that researchers voted on drive the overemphasis of teaching literacy skills in the classroom are “hot-topics,” educators feel that the literacy practices that are not talked about or researched as much are the more valuable topics. The important topics tend to have less to do with standardized tests and more to do with equity and resources within literacy to make teaching more successful. These results inspired a local survey of teachers in an elementary school asking for their opinions on literacy and how they are asked to teach literacy. They were asked a variety of questions about the curriculum they use and strategies they rely on daily, whether they like the strategies or not. This paper explores the analysis of the survey, presents anecdotal evidence, compares “hot-topic” literacy practices to “important-topic” literacy practices, and looks at examples of literacy practices in the classroom to explain why elementary teachers chose certain techniques and to attempt to bridge the gap between implemented and desired practices. Key words: literacy practices, survey, “hot-topic”, “important-topic”, What’s Hot in Literacy?
Acquisition:
Collected for Auraria Institutional Repository by the Self-Submittal tool. Submitted by McKenna Beam.
Publication Status:
Unpublished
Thesis:
Thesis (B.A.)--Metropolitan State University of Denver, Honors Program, 2019.

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Source Institution:
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

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Literacy Practices Comparison: Bridging the Gap Between Literacy Practices Used in the Elementary Classroom and the Practices that Teachers Value By McKenna S. Beam
An undergraduate thesis submitted in partial completion of the Metropolitan State University of Denver Honors Program
May 2019
Dr. Roland Schendel
Primary Advisor
Dr. Ellen Spitler Primary Advisor
Dr. Megan Hughes-Zarzo Honors Program Director


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Abstract
The need to teach elementary students literacy skills has become a high priority in education. This need has influenced schools to overemphasize literacy over the other content areas, and, in some cases, neglect science and social studies altogether. The International Literacy Association publishes an article called What’s Hot in Literacy every year. It is an analysis of an international survey of educators around the world that examines their opinions on popular literacy practices in education; literacy experts and researchers vote on which practices they think are hot, or the most talked about in education, while educators vote on which practices are important, or which practices they feel are vital to having a successful classroom in the 21st century. 2018’s results show statistical proof that while literacy practices that researchers voted on drive the overemphasis of teaching literacy skills in the classroom are “hot-topics,” educators feel that the literacy practices that are not talked about or researched as much are the more valuable topics. The important topics tend to have less to do with standardized tests and more to do with equity and resources within literacy to make teaching more successful. These results inspired a local survey of teachers in an elementary school asking for their opinions on literacy and how they are asked to teach literacy. They were asked a variety of questions about the curriculum they use and strategies they rely on daily, whether they like the strategies or not. This paper explores the analysis of the survey, presents anecdotal evidence, compares “hot-topic” literacy practices to “important-topic” literacy practices, and looks at examples of literacy practices in the classroom to explain why elementary teachers chose certain techniques and to attempt to bridge the gap between implemented and desired practices.
Key words: literacy practices, survey, “hot-topic”, “important-topic”, What’s Hot in Literacy?


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Literacy Practices Comparison: Bridging the Gap Between Literacy Practices Used in the Elementary Classroom and the Practices that Teachers Value
Introduction
There are two types of people in the world: those who love books and those who could do without them. To the book lovers, there is nothing greater than the feeling reading a good book does to the soul. I am a book lover. There have been many books that have been particularly important to me, one of the first being Janell Cannon’s Stellaluna. Stellaluna reminds me of visits to my grandparents’ house as child. They would read Stellaluna to me, and we would go on Stellaluna’s adventure together. When I think of Stellaluna, I also think of scrapbooking, coloring, baking, weather-tracking, peanut-cracking, vacuuming the steps for twenty-dollars, Rainbow fish taped onto a downstairs mirror, and most of all, love. Stellaluna fills my heart and soul with adventure, kindness, magic, loss, triumph, bravery, and love. I feel more alive and more whole whenever I read a book like Stellaluna and sharing those feelings is something I strive to do.
John Green (2012), author of several successful young adult fiction novels stated in his book, The Fault in Our Stars: “Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book” (p. 33). I have felt this way numerous times in my life with many books, including Stellaluna. These books were truly life-changing and there is nothing more I want to do than share them with others. As a teacher, I can share books with my students, and they are able to feel that “zeal” that Green describes in The Fault in Our Stars. They get the chance to grow into a book lover and there are few greater


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accomplishments than that for me. With that said, there is much more to being a teacher than sharing books with children: being a teacher involves taking the time to improve one’s practice. One way to do that is through research. The research in this paper begins with the analyzation of a survey in a course about Perspectives in Literacy.
Every year, the International Literacy Association (ILA) publishes an article called What’s Hot in Literacy. This article contains a large analysis data gathered from a world-wide survey that asks educators around the world what they think are the most important and the hottest topics in literacy. For 2018’s survey, twenty-five literacy experts and researchers voted on what they thought the hot topics, or the more trending topics, were and educators voted on what they thought they important topics, or the topics most critical to literacy advancement, were. The statistics are split into categories by literacy topic and everything is compared. The results proved to contradict what topics are being talked about by researchers versus what educators deem are the more important topics (International Literacy Association, 2018, p. 4).
There are seventeen topics in this year’s survey and they range from diversity topics to 21st century skills to assessment and school and teacher preparedness. The topics are: early literacy, equity in literacy education, teacher preparation, strategies for differentiating instruction, access to books and content, disciplinary literacy, professional learning and development, formative assessments, family engagement, diversity, critical literacy, administrators as literacy leaders, digital literacy, mother tongue literacy, standards for specialized literacy professionals, community partnerships, and summative assessments (International Literacy Association, 2018, p. 9). These topics do not cover everything in literacy, but they do represent some of the most crucial pieces of literacy. The top five topics in the hot category and the important category are emphasized in the article.


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This year’s Top Five Hot Topics are: digital literacy, early literacy, summative assessments, formative assessments, and strategies for differentiating instruction. All five topics have the support of over fifty percent of the researchers who participated in the survey, with digital literacy having 63% (International Literacy Association, 2018, p. 6). This year’s Top Five Important Topics are: early literacy, equity in literacy education, teacher preparation, strategies for differentiating instruction, and access to books and content. Figure 1 outlines the percentages of both the top five hot topics and important topics. The important topics outweigh the hot topics by as much as 30% in some instances, as over 80% of the participants voted for the topics in the important category (International Literacy Association, 2018, p. 6). Early literacy and strategies for differentiating instruction are the only two topics that overlap in the top five categories. There are more gaps in the data between what educators feel need more attention and which topics are receiving the attention.
Figure 1:
TOP FIVE HOT TOPICS
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DIGITAL
LITERACY
EARLY SUMMATIVE FORMATIVE STRATEGIES FOR
LITERACY ASSESSMENTS ASSESSMENTS DIFFERENTIATING
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LITERACY PREPARATION DIFFERENTIATING BOOKSAND
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2018 I INTERNATIONAL LITERACY ASSOCIATION I literacyworldwidp.org
Every topic but one (summative assessments) has a higher percentage in the important category than the hot category (International Literacy Association, 2018, p. 8). One educator, who was quoted in the article, explains why educators are wanting summative assessments to


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cool down in the hot topics list: “We need to get literacy back in the hands of those who are passionate about reading, not passionate about testing” (International Literacy Association, 2018, p. 8). Summative tests and the state standards are overemphasized among educators and policymakers right now, because of the standardized tests that schools revolve their practices around. This is affecting which literacy topics are hot compared to important in the article. The hot topics are more likely to be emphasized in schools than the important topics, only because the hot topics are the literacy pieces that are being talked about and given attention. More resources and money are being spent on the hot topics, such as summative/standardized tests, because laws and policies tend to overrule educators and standardized tests are required by law. The important topics may be emphasized by educators as important, but if they are not “hot” enough to be noticed and recognized, then they will not be emphasized. This is happening with most of the important topics on 2018’s survey, because they are not high on the hot list. This includes some of the most important pieces of this paper: critical literacy and disciplinary literacy.
Disciplinary literacy is top six in important topics and critical literacy is top eleven. They are part of a group of three topics called 21st Century Skills and also includes digital literacy. Disciplinary literacy is the idea that literacy is present throughout the content areas and that instructional methods should be used for children to make sense of content (International Literacy Association, 2018, p. 16). Critical literacy is a complex literacy that involves critiquing the relationship between language, literacy, and power by breaking down the text, evaluating it, and rebuilding it into something new in the process; this literacy is difficult to fully understand, but will be looked at in more detail later on in this paper (Janks & Vasquez, 2011). Digital literacy is the use of technology to communicate and compose, as well as the ability to


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comprehend and evaluate information in digital forms. All three are part of the critical 21st Century Skills that children need to learn how to be successful when they are fully functioning adults (International Literacy Association, 2018, p. 16).
Of the three topics, disciplinary literacy is voted as most important, while digital literacy as the hottest topic. Critical literacy lands in the middle. Educators stated that they feel digital literacy is overemphasized compared to the more important disciplinary and critical literacies and that they should work with disciplinary and critical literacy more than they do digital, especially when working with younger children. Another problem with digital literacy is access (this is a problem with many of the literacies indicated in the article, which is partly why some are not higher on the hot list than they probably should be) (International Literacy Association,
2018, p. 16).
The data from What’s Hot in Literacy? has shown some peculiar inconsistencies in educational literacy, but what is being done about them? Are any educators attempting to bridge the gap between the hot and important topics in the article, or are they letting it go, even if it bothers them? This paper aims to take a closer look at the gap between the hot and important topics in ILA’s article and compare literacy practices. A survey of elementary school teachers’ opinions of literacy practices in the Denver Metro area will also be analyzed and connected with the literacy practices discussed. Despite research surrounding the positive impact that literacy practices, such as inquiry, critical and disciplinary literacy, has on students when embedded in the other content areas, teachers are choosing other literacy practices instead, due to administrative decisions and personal dilemmas about the workload. Teachers need to see this research in action, as well as the data and results behind it, so they will better understand its impact and consider implementing it into their classrooms.


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What is Literacy?
Literacy is a complex concept that everyone uses every day without realizing it. Literacy educators Kathy Short, Jerome Harste, and Carolyn Burke (1996), express “literacy as the processes by which we, as humans, mediate the world for the purpose of learning” (p. 14). This means that we use literacy to navigate the world and discover its many possibilities. We navigate the world by reading it, writing/composing it, listening and speaking to it, and viewing it. Literacy is an important part of living and it comes in many forms, called sign systems, “that stand between the world as it is and the world as we perceive it” (Short, et al., 1996, p. 14), including mathematics, art, music, dance, and language. There are many literate practices.
The six literate practices that are used in the classroom are reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, and visually representing. These can be represented in forms like art, dance, and language, which shows literacy’s versatility and individualism. It is important for students to be able to become masters at all six practices so that they can mediate the world in its entirety and get the most learning out of all the modalities of literacy. Students will see a different perspective of something when they examine it in different modalities or when they represent a literacy in multiple ways. These representations work in specific ways and require different skills so that they can be used to represent literacy in its entirety.
Reading is the ability to decode any sign system and construct meaning from them in order to follow a storyline or gain insight. It is the most common representation of literacy, next to writing (Goodman, 1996). Writing is the ability to code language into a modality, or form, including words and pictures. Speaking and listening are the abilities to converse with others through language using full engagement to be able to decode the language the other person is


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saying (listening) and reply accordingly (speaking). Viewing is the ability to examine a form of literacy and learn from it by decoding the literacy. Visually representing is like writing, because it is the ability to create a sign system, like symbols or pictures, and represent it in a way that others can view and learn from (Spitler, 2018). All six representations of literacy are used with Stellaluna. Students can read the words that Janell Cannon wrote in Stellaluna (reading and writing), they can speak (read aloud or talk about Stellaluna) and listen (to others reading or talking about Stellaluna), and they can look at the pictures Cannon drew in Stellaluna (visually representing and viewing). This one example helps prove that literacy is used continually, which also points to the literacy blocks in an elementary setting as not necessary. There is another layer to these literate practices that needs to be mastered before they can be used to represent literacy.
These representations need to be comprehended by the student, which is the ability to make meaning for oneself through responding and exploring print-based and visual texts and perspectives. Students also need to be able to use comprehension strategies, or tools used to interpret information being presented in order to gain comprehension or construct new meaning (Spitler, 2018). Comprehension is an important part of literacy, because if no meaning-making is taking place, then no learning is happening. The learner stays in one place cognitively and they cannot access the world through literacy. Students should be able to understand that Stellaluna is lost and that her trying to act like a bird is not correct. This sort of understanding shows comprehension, which means students are making meaning of the sign systems of visual and print-based modalities and representations of Stellaluna.
This definition of literacy shows that literacy is used all day long in a student’s life and is especially focused on in school. This also means that the “literacy block” in the elementary classroom is also all day. If people need to use literacy skills all day, then the block never ends in


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the classroom. People access information through literacy all day, every day and the basics of literacy leads leaners to use more complex literacies, like disciplinary, critical, and inquiry-based literacy.
Complex Literacies
The complex literacies are some of the most effective methods to use in the classroom. They are not the only meaningful and effective methods, but they are useful in a few ways. They can be difficult to understand and to implement, however, because they require a lot of work and trust between both student and teacher. It is sometimes difficult to immerse a classroom into a complex literacy, because of its complexity, especially in the elementary grades. If an elementary teacher does accept the challenge to implement a complex literacy practice in their classroom and let their students completely immerse themselves in the practice, the results are highly rewarding for the entire classroom. Children thrive from freedom and creativity and these complex literacies give them the tools to be creative as well as give them choice on many aspects of learning. A lot of growth will stem from using just one of these complex literacies consistently in the classroom. There are three complex literacies that demand different requirements of students. They bring different dynamics and views to the classroom, and they are also interconnected in multiple ways. There is no ending to the dynamics or connections between literacy practices, especially when they become as complex as disciplinary, critical, and inquiry-based literacy.
One other factor to consider with these literacy practices is best said by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris: “who’s doing the work?” (2016). They compare teaching literacy in the elementary classroom to house work in their book, Who’s Doing the Work? (2016). They explain that


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teaching their sons how to clean the house is not the same as when to clean the house, which is something their sons became used to being prompted to do by their mothers (Burkins & Yaris, 2016, p. 4). The same can be said in the classroom. Teachers can spend too much time making decisions for students through too much scaffolding, or support during whole group reading or small group time. When students go to read on their own, they often struggle because the scaffolding is missing. They don’t know what to do without their teacher’s guidance and don’t grow as a result. “Rather than creating independence, scaffolding in the traditional way can create a process that requires continued support. Teachers become permanent scaffold, and students learn helplessness” (Burkins & Yaris, 2016, p. 5).
I struggle to not over-scaffold in my classroom, especially with my students who struggle the most. I tend to expect more out of my students who are above grade-level and give them less scaffolding and more independence. It is difficult to do the same with my other students, because they know less and the need to help them improve is stronger. Teachers first need to realize that they are over-scaffolding, which could look like swooping in and telling a student a word in a book they are struggling with instead of giving them the time to figure out the word on their own. Then teachers need to think about how they can change their practices to put more work in their hands of their students rather than their own. The use of complex literacies, like disciplinary, critical, and inquiry-based, are some ways to balance out the scaffolding-to-independence ratio in the classroom. In the classroom this could look like showing students a picture of the bug that Stellaluna is about to eat with the birds and then another picture of Stellaluna eating fruit with the bats and having students come up with questions about why each animal eats what it does and then give them resources and time to research their questions. Instead of giving students the answer to why bats eat fruit and birds eat


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insects, let the students ask and explore on their own. During the process, it is important not to give students answers, but to help guide them in the right direction that they want to go, depending on their questions. Students need to be in charge of their learning in order for the scaffolding-to-independence ratio to balance out.
Another important factor to implementing complex literacies into the classroom is by first building a classroom community. This is important for a classroom no matter what literacy practices they use because, according to Dorothy Steele and Becki Cohn-Vargas (2013), coauthors of Identity Safe Classrooms: Places to Belong and Learn, “who you are and what matters to you is inextricably linked to your sense of belonging and ability to fully engage in learning and participating” (p. 4). In today’s classrooms, students come from many different places and bring different backgrounds, histories, problems, and knowledge with them every day. Teachers needs to be able to understand every student that walks through the door and give every student a place where they can thrive. The community needs to be a safe space for children to take risks, challenge themselves, and be comfortable enough to grow. There should be a focus on positive classroom relationships, challenging learning opportunities, cooperation instead of competition, and to build on all students’ knowledge, curiosity, and energy (Steele & Cohn-Vargas, 2013, p.
5). This could look like giving students time to pursue a project that they are curious about and letting them research, create, collaborate, and question their curiosity. They solve a problem, answer a question, or create something on their own with support from the teacher and other classmates. This could be a beginning step towards taking on critical or disciplinary literacy. Classrooms should also focus on “engaging rather than controlling students” (Steele & Cohn-Vargas, 2013, p. 147). This could look like pointing to strengths that students may not have noticed or considered important, or letting students add onto their identities by interacting with


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others in ways that strengthen and encourage everyone to be themselves and grow (Steele & Cohn-Vargas, 2013, p. 170). Every part of the classroom, from the physical set-up to procedures for transitions and behaviors, needs to be considered thoroughly and thoughtfully for students to feel safe. Emotional and physical comfort, as well as prosocial development are important pieces of any identity safe classroom (Steele & Cohn-Vargas, 2013, p. 148). With safety and classroom relationships in mind, any literacy practice or procedure can be executed more effectively in the classroom. Complex literacies need space, support, respect, and comfort in order to thrive in the best way possible, which is why the safety and relationships within the classroom have been discussed in this paper.
The first complex literacy is disciplinary. It involves all the content areas, science, social studies, math, writing, and reading. Essentially, disciplinary literacy is used to teach students how to be a historian, scientist, mathematician, or author. Each discipline has certain reading and writing skills “based on the demands, goals, and epistemology of each discipline” (Holschuh, 2014, p. 89). When a teacher uses disciplinary literacy in the classroom, they should identify the content needed for the lesson, the reading and writing distinctions in the discipline, and then create instruction to help students successfully navigate the literacy skills and the content (Holschuh, 2014, p. 89). Victoria Gillis (2014), author of Disciplinary Literacy: ADAPT NOT ADOPT' claims that the key to disciplinary literacy is to first think about the content, then ask “how would a scientist (or historian, mathematician, or writer) approach this task?” (p. 615).
The professionals would use some form of literacy skill to solve a problem, think of an idea, explore an issue, or make sense of a primary source or artifact from history. All the skills needed to approach content are literacy skills. Making inferences, predictions, reading and analyzing a text, using think or read-alouds, writing down ideas, conversing with others over a topic, or


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understanding vocabulary include all representations of literacy. Each content area has literacy skills that are specific to their discipline (some overlap), and historians, scientists, mathematicians, or authors would not be productive or successful without these skills.
Gillis began threading in pieces of literacy skills for both reading and writing, such as making inferences and taking notes, into her secondary science lessons. She would allow content to dictate the process of and instead of picking generic literacy strategies, such as KWL (Know, Wonder, Learn), she would pick strategies that would accomplish the content objectives (Gillis, 2014, p. 615). Gillis takes a different view on what kind of teacher content area specialists should be called, and “reading teacher” is out of the picture (p. 614). I disagree, because everyone teaches literacy skills, whether they are imbedded in content or directly taught; it does not matter which a teacher puts first- content, or literacy, because both are needed in disciplinary literacy. I look at Gillis as a science teacher primarily and a reading/literacy teacher secondarily. She has successfully implemented disciplinary literacy into her secondary classroom. Below is an example of disciplinary literacy being used in an elementary classroom for science.
In an elementary classroom, a teacher is working on a unit on bats. She has the content, which includes geography (where bats live), the parts of a bat, what a bat eats, and how bats act, including social skills. The content has been decided, now the necessary skills needed to fulfill the content are needed. The teacher decides to use a mentor text (a book used as an example for something) to help students begin to form an idea of bats and one book that stands out is Janell Cannon’s Stellaluna. Stellaluna gives students opportunities to discover where bats live, what they eat, what kinds of body parts they have, and how they act all in the form of a heartwarming fictional story. The teacher can formulate a unit that supports both geography and science and revolves around Stellaluna. She could also use Stellaluna to teach each content area “block.”


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The next complex literacy is critical literacy. One reason why critical literacy is so complex is because there are a variety of interpretations of it. Some literacy educators believe critical literacy is the ability to read the word and the world and connect with it (Freire & Macedo, 1987), in which world can be considered the environment, especially for children (Chambers & Radboume, 2015). Other literacy experts give critical literacy a more serious responsibility with the ability to interpret societal power in both word and world. Hillary Janks and Vivian Vasquez describe critical literacy as a critique of the relationship between language, literacy, and power (2011b) and as “the lens through which we look at other components of literacy” (2011a, p. 15). If the two interpretations are combined, critical literacy is the ability to read and critique both the word and the world and then take some sort of social action after the critique.
Critical literacy, as complex as it is, can be accomplished by children. There are a couple ways a teacher can go about implementing critical literacy into any literacy classroom, and they involve the other two complex literacies. Critical literacy is best served with the other two complex literacies, because all three literacies bring out the best in one another. Critical literacy should be involved in all content areas (disciplinary literacy) and it should always involve some sort of question or investigation (inquiry-based literacy, which will be explained in more detail later). Before connecting the three literacies together and examining examples in different content areas, there are a few tips to follow for critical literacy to work successfully in the classroom.
There are five key components when a teacher considers putting critical literacy into
practice:


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1. Make connections between something that is going on in the world and your
students’ lives.
2. Consider what students will need to know and where they might find the
information.
3. Explore how the problematic is instantiated in texts and practices.
4. Examine the social effects of what is going on.
5. Imagine possibilities for making a difference. (Janks, 2013)
These components entail that a teacher truly knows the students that they are working with; without a trusting relationship between student and teacher, students will not feel able to make a connection with critical literacy and it will not be present in the classroom. The little details make all the difference with complex literacies in the classroom. It is also important to know students so that the most important issues to students are addressed in the classroom. Lewison, Flint, and Van Sluys (2002), co-authors of an article on critical literacy for novice educators, recommend to always pick issues that connect to student experience, background, and culture, as they will be more engaged, proactive, and evaluative. Students need to care about these issues for them to truly take on the critical lens they need to make sense of, critique, and alter the societal issues they are trying to tackle. Janks and Harste (2011a) consider how other parts of the elementary classroom play a role in the success of critical literacy.
Curriculum has a strong presence in any modern elementary classroom and many treat it the same way: follow it precisely how it is written. The main problem with following a curriculum precisely how it is written is the fact that the curriculum or the people who wrote the curriculum, are not necessarily in the classroom, nor do they know the students in the classroom. Each classroom is unique because of its students, and the instruction needs to be changed


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according to who is in the classroom. Janks and Vasquez (2011a) showcased three ways to think about curriculum. The first is the paper version, the written, cookie-cutter model, and the second is the enacted curriculum, which is a teacher’s attempt to enact the curriculum in the classroom. The third curriculum is the mental trip that the students take as they try to make sense of the enacted curriculum. Where ever the students take the curriculum is what teachers need to recognize, because it will tell teachers the truth about how well students are understanding the content. This will be difficult to do without the teacher knowing his/her students, but teachers would be most successful if they read the paper curriculum, determined where students would take the content mentally, then formulate a plan to enact the curriculum with the students in mind over anything else. This starts with culture and a student’s background, because that is where a student will turn to first. “All children come to school with language, experience, and their own forms of literacy” (Janks & Vasquez, 2011a, p. 18) and teachers need to both acknowledge these vital parts of their students and use their literacy and language experiences to their advantage in the classroom. Critical literacy will not work without putting the students first. Curriculum should also be used to solve real-life problems (Steele & Cohn-Vargas, 2013, p. 176). Critical and disciplinary literacy begin with the same thing: a question.
The last complex literacy is inquiry-based literacy, which works best when imbedded in the other literacy practices, inquiry-based literacy is learning through questioning. Questioning of some sort should be happening in every single lesson. Inquiry-based literacy can create an “air of intellectual excitement” (Steele & Cohn-Vargas, 2013, p. 104) in the classroom and can be highly motivating to students. They are more likely to make personal connections to new discoveries (Steele & Cohn-Vargas, 2013, p. 105). The level of challenge for a student rises with inquiry-based literacy and, with the right level of challenge for each student, they begin to enjoy


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the challenge, start taking risks, and want more (Steele & Cohn-Vargas, 2013, p. 107)! Questioning belongs in all the content areas, as Kathy Short, Jerome Harste, and Carolyn Burke (1996) reveal in their book, Creating Classrooms for Authors and Inquirers, which is how it fits into disciplinary literacy.
One unique form of questioning includes the authoring cycle curricular framework. This framework can be adapted to any content area and it should be. This framework begins with a connection, which leads to a question about an issue in society, or maybe the classroom or local community in younger graders. The question leads to an investigation, critique, and then redesign of the issue, which is where the critical literacy piece comes into play. None of this can be possible without a question, a curiosity, a problem that needs to be solved.
The general cycle, which is seen in Figure 2, can fit any content area but works especially well with writing. It takes the writing process (prewriting, writing, revising, editing, publishing) and enhances it. It starts with making a connection to something already known, then moving towards finding a question to inquire about. Students research, observe, and come up with answers to the question. This then leads to collaboration with others so that new perspectives can be gained. Revisions to answers come next, until they are deemed ready to be shared. More inquires follow and the cycle repeats itself (Short, et al., 1996).
Figure 2 (Harste & Short with Burke, 1988):


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1
Collaborating with Others
Presenting and Sharing Meaning with Others
Reflection and Revision
(Short, et al., 1996, p. 40).
I adapted the original authoring cycle to fit social studies, which is Figure 3. The cycle can be adapted to any content area very easily. It begins with students bringing in life experiences and social issues. Then, the teacher extends an invitation for students to research or explore an issue that is close to their hearts. Next, they are given time for students to critique the issue with no interruptions or prodding in a certain direction. They also get to collaborate with peers on the issue after the initial critique. Last, they redesign the issue and present the new design to their peers. Once fully satisfied by the redesign, they can pick a new issue to pursue. In some cases, it may be possible to pursue the redesign in another setting. This all depends on resources, passion, time, and possibility.
Figure 3:


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The Authoring Cycle for Social Studies
Invitation to Research/Explore Chosen Issue
Pick a New Issue
v
Uninterrupted Evaluation of Issue
Present/Share Meaning with Others
Collaboration of Issue with Peers
Build/Redesign
Issue


Running head: LITEARCY PRACTICES COMPARISON
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(Adapted from Short, et al., 1996).
Science has a method of questioning that is like the authoring cycle. The use of questioning in the science field is a well-known practice, because of the scientific method. Making a hypothesis is one of the truest forms of inquiry and there are processes that can be followed when teaching science in the elementary classroom. The teacher can either give students a question to go investigate, or students can come up with them on their own. The hypothesis, or question, in any exploration or experiment in science is a strongly developed prediction that leads to the investigation to prove whether the hypothesis is correct or not. After the experiment, the hypothesis is looked at again to see if it supports the data from the experiment, and then it gets updated. Most hypotheses are “If... then..statements, but they don’t have to follow that format. Students need to have some background knowledge to form a hypothesis. This comes from some form of explanation or introduction before the experiment that gives them just enough information to form the hypothesis, but not give away the core understanding of the concept (Konicek-Moran & Keeley, 2015, pp. 8-9). When students are studying concepts in science, there are going to be certain ideas that don’t directly align with their own ideas or theories. This means that they need to question what they know in order to make a deeper connection with the true scientific concepts they are trying to understand (Konicek-Moran & Keeley, 2015, p. 6). It also means that questions should continually be asked before, during, and after any experiment or exploration (this much questioning should also be happening during the exploration in any of the other content areas as well). Questioning drives all scientific experiments, as well as helping students make connections with the other disciplines: questioning helps students think, write, speak, read, and visualize like a scientist.


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There is a process revolving around questions, claims, and evidence that is used in the elementary classroom called the Science Writing Heuristic (SWH) process. It guides students through inquiry and teaches them write-to-learn strategies using activities that are student-centered. Discussion with peers also take place in this process, which helps bring new ideas and understandings together (Norton-Meier, et al., 2008). There are seven steps, all with questions about different parts of the scientific method.
1. Beginning Ideas: What are my questions?
a. Testable questions
b. Non-testable questions
2. Tests: What did I do?
a. Remember the controls and variables.
b. Share the sequence of your actions.
3. Observations: What did I see?
a. Organize your data in charts or graphs.
b. Make them easy to read.
4. Claims: What can I claim?
a. Use complete sentences.
b. Tell what you found out.
5. Evidence:
a. How do I know?
b. What am I making these claims?
6. Reading: How do my ideas compare with others?
a. My classmates


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b. Scientists
7. Reflection: How have my ideas changed? (Norton-Meier, et al., 2008).
There are questions that guide students throughout the process, which is why it is a guided-inquiry. Students or the teacher come up with questions in each of the steps that are specific to the concept they are questioning. They base these questions on the questioned in the process.
This process is very similar to the authoring cycle, because it has students come up with questions to ideas they are curious about, plan and test out the idea, observe and make claims or conclusions about the observation based on evidence from the test, share results with others, reflect, and try again. The authoring cycle, or any procedure that follows similar steps, is a great place to start when wanting to implement inquiry into the classroom.
Another form of inquiry that also fits well with critical literacy is one that can be used to teach social studies. Kathryn Obenchain and Julie Pennington (2015) wrote a book called Educating for Critical Democratic Literacy: Integrating Social Studies and Literacy in the Elementary Classroom and it combines all three complex literacies into one. This book gives teachers the tools and knowledge to support students as they use historical primary and secondary sources to examine and critique. There is also a question to answer and time given to answer it, and with this integration, critical literacy becomes a prominent part of the social studies classroom, as well as the other two complex literacies. The critical piece is the critique of the primary and secondary sources and looks exactly like the critical literacy that was explained earlier in the paper. The democratic piece stems from civic issues that are located in the social studies field (making this a disciplinary literacy practice), and include civic virtue (the qualities a person needs to live life as a good citizen), civic engagement (the actions that people take for the good of their community), civic discourse (the discussions citizens have in order to improve the


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community), and civic disobedience (violation of the law, specifically for the purpose of showing one’s opposition to the law) (Obenhcain & Pennington, 2015, pp. 129-138). All these civic pieces are important to understand in order to become successful citizens as adults, so teaching students these concepts is vital to a successful education. The last piece, literacy, is the use of literacy practices to help students form understandings, critiques, and rebuilding of the concepts they are looking at.
A teacher could use Stellaluna to consider foster families. They can consider civic virtue (the qualities required for successful foster parents and siblings), or civic engagement (how the act of taking in foster kids benefits the community) and consider how the mother bird in Stellaluna reflects civic virtue and civic engagement compared to foster families in America. They can ask how the mother bird is a good foster mother and how she is a bad foster mother. They can also look at how Stellaluna feels in her situation and consider how foster kids in America feel. Primary and secondary sources that help students better understand the foster family system in America are needed for this unit, along with some form of way for students to write down their thoughts, noticings, and critiques, which could be any form of note-catcher or activity. Although this idea has not been attempted in an elementary classroom yet, with the right tools and structures, it has the potential to be a successful social studies unit in an elementary classroom.
Disciplinary, critical, and inquiry-based literacy are valuable resources in any classroom at any age, and the benefits will always outweigh the extra prep and the sometimes-strained ability to trust students enough to let them struggle with a concept rather than jump in to help immediately. These practices are some of the best ways to ultimately foster independence, produce questions, allow creativity to flow freely, and put the workload in the correct hands, the


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hands of the students. There are other literacy practices that can help enhance the benefits of the complex literacies and put the challenge of learning in the hands of the students. One example is mentor texts.
Secondary Literacy Practices
Any text can be momentous in one’s life, like Stellaluna. Stellaluna served as a mentor text for me as it lead me towards reading and it is one example of the various purposes of mentor texts. Mentor texts are any book that can be used to learn about a topic. Mentors are important parts of any young person’s life and books can serve as mentors for writing, reading, math, science, and social studies. They serve as snapshots into the future, they bring the joy of a skill in any content area, they help students envision where they want to go with their work, and they help teachers move the entire student forward, rather than parts of the student. In other words, teachers move the whole writer forward, not part of the writer, or the entire scientist forward (Dorfman & Cappelli, 2017, pp. 6-7). They can be used as an example for a concept or idea, to give a new perspective, to see the bigger picture, or to explore other options for a procedure (Laminack, 2017, p. 753). They are good places to start as a hook for a lesson, or as first exposure to a unit that students have never heard of before. One can show an example of a math method in a fun way and another can contain a specific rhyming pattern for writing poems.
Mentor texts are sometimes limited for use on only specific strategies or topics. It is important to keep taps on what texts can be used for what skills, but books can be used for more than one thing. They are vast vessels filled with information and life and should never be used for only one purpose. It is the teacher’s job to get to know texts and distinguish what skills they can be used for and use the book for those skills (Laminack, 2017, p. 753). Another challenge is


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to find examples of literature that students can copy. If they don’t understand how to use a concept from a book, they cannot try the concept or skill on their own (Dorfman & Cappelli, 2017, p. 7). Students need to connect to the mentor texts that their teachers choose, in some way.
A question that teachers should ask themselves before choosing a mentor text is “how does this text represent my students?” Students will make better connection with the text and the skill the teacher is trying to model, if they see themselves in the text. Look for the students in the mentor text first, then the concepts (Smith-Buster, 2016). Mentor texts should empower students in multiple ways and if there is a strong cultural tie between child and book (Schrodt, et al.,
2015, p. 590). Of course, net every text is going to connect culturally with every student every time, but it is a goal to try to achieve most of the time. There is a method for using mentor texts in the classroom and it closely follows the direct instruction model (I do, we do, you do).
First, the book needs to be read to or with the students and the skill needs to be pointed out and discussed (I do). Then, another model from the teacher is shown in a different context (I do) and the class gets a chance to try it together (we do). When they are ready to try it on their own, they implement the skill in some form of activity (you do). The activity could be something new or something that they have already been working on (Dorfman & Cappelli, 2017). Stellaluna is an example of a mentor text for this paper and it is used as an example for the literacy practices discussed in this paper. It is the vessel for bridging the gap between practices. Mentor texts are very reliable resources in the classroom.
Most mentor texts in elementary school are picture books. They are not the only option, as chapter books, articles, magazines, or anything that can be read, can be used as a mentor text. However, there’s something about picture books that makes them different from all the rest. One of the best parts of picture books is how they have “a short focused format, [and] the academic


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concepts and complex issues become readily accessible to children” (Colleen, 2013, p. 3). The illustrations, the craft, the plot and characters, and the social experience make picture books an amazing choice for a mentor text (Colleen, 2013, p. 4). Picture books are deemed as stepping stones in learning how to read, but they should never be underestimated in the upper grades. Picture books should be read in all grade levels. They have a purpose in every grade level and can teach something in every grade level.
Picture books give good examples of how to write like an author (Colleen, 2013, p. 6). They give real world examples of math problems that students can solve, right in the thick of a juicy story that they can visually see (Colleen, 2013, p. 7). Picture books can give students a closer look at a particularly tricky scientific concept and they, once again, can visually see the concepts (Colleen, 2013, p. 9). They show students versatility, culture, empathy, and howto make sense of the world through many, many experiences throughout history (Colleen, 2013, p. 12). Pictures books, or any mentor text, create opportunities for students to better understand the world around them. They are great assets in the classroom, as is a writing tool.
Another practice that enhances the use of the complex literacies is with writing journals. These journals can be used in the classroom for a variety of reasons, including free writing, brainstorming, notetaking, drawing, using to track thoughts, data, and more in all the content areas. Each journal is a vessel for student learning and progress, and it will help students become mathematicians, historians, scientists, and authors, because it gives them a place to work. Sometimes these places are private and sometimes they are shared with others. Using journals in every content area is one of the easier ways to implement disciplinary literacy into the classroom and it will improve writing skills tremendously. Students will see their growth from the beginning of the year to the end with journals and the journals will be a place that students can


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turn to when they forget something or need a minute to write and grow. Journals can be written in daily or weekly. This is a disciplinary literacy practice, because it imbeds writing into another content area and it could also take the form of critical literacy by giving students a safe space to critique an issue and solve a problem, if that is the space they choose.
The most obvious use for a writing journal is in writing. These notebooks are places for students to brainstorm ideas, plan writing, edit writing, work on skills, and free write. They are “a place to write every day... to practice living like a writer” (Buckner, 2005, p. 3). They give students a place to use the world around them, such as their own lives and perspectives, and just write (Buckner, 2005, p. 3). There is also the importance of reading mentor texts like a writer in order to try it out like the mentor and improve their craft (Buckner, 2005, p. 7). Writing notebooks are also useful for reading strategies. This notebook works similarly to the writing notebook, as it is a place to write, reflect, and try new strategies. Everything in this book has to do with reading instead of writing. This is a place for students to improve as readers and writers without the added pressure that comes with normal reading responses in the classroom. Reading notebooks turn students into deep thinkers about certain disciplinary content and growing in their literacy of that content, because they are able to reflect deeply in their notebooks and see their thinking, questioning, and progress as they write. They get to experiment with new strategies and show their thinking and understanding about what they are reading (Buckner, 2009, p. 7). The other three content areas can use notebooks as well.
Using notebooks in science is a common practice as well. Science notebooks are places to keep experiments in, especially the observations, results, and reflections of the experiments. Notes about concepts are also included in the notebooks. The notebooks are a space for students to keep track of their learning in science. Writing notebooks for math and social studies are not


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as common as for the other subjects. They act just like the other notebooks: places for notes, brainstorming, strategies, reflections, thinking, and to just write. Writing notebooks and mentor texts are two excellent strategies to use in the classroom for any purpose. Most teachers use mentor texts and writing notebooks in the classroom, among other practices.
Practices in the Classroom
There are other practices that are useful in the classroom. These are more of the practices that teachers use daily. Some are practices I have seen in the classroom and some I haven’t. Here are some that I have not seen a lot of in the classroom, but have heard successful stories about: reader’s theater, readers’ workshop, shared book experiences, and book studies. There can be one-on-one conferences, dialogues, and research projects. In writing, there are interactive or shared writing, word studies, spelling, learning the full writing process, writer’s workshop, the traits of writing, and even writing letters, E-mails, text messages, and poetry. Students can make portfolios and do self-reflections and self-evaluations of their work and progress (Farris & Werderich, 2011). There are stations or centers; centers are not linked by concepts and skills, like stations are (Tomlinson, 2014, p. 123). Teachers can give students agenda, or a list of tasks to complete, as well as orbital studies, or independent investigations (Tomlinson, 2014). The literacy practices above are useful in different ways, depending on the situation in the classroom.
I have seen some of the practices listed above. Below are some of the ractices I have seen in the classroom this school year. I have used mentor texts (picture books and magazines) for read alouds, think alouds/modeling all year. I teach phonics instruction directly to my students for 20 minutes each day and learn Fry sight words. The school just recently got a grammar curriculum to teach. There are small group stations for reading: teacher table, word work/skills,


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listening to reading (on computer with EPIC), I-Ready Reading (online lessons and district testing), and read to self-time. Students practice both echo and choral reading with me. I reread books for different purposes, and I have conducted a book club with one of my reading groups, using Bailey School Kids: Vampires Don 7 Wear Polka Dots. In writing, I have done writing shares and students always draw pictures and write complete sentences.
I gave my students science journals (packets) to keep track of observations and make predictions with for the caterpillars and plants we were growing this April. They had to make observations by drawing, coloring and possibly writing what they see in a couple words. I briefly touched on one part of the scientific method for with plants. They made oral predictions about which fruit seed will grow better, seeds bought from the store or seeds that came straight from the source. This was a good introduction to a hypothesis.
In math there are stations: I-Ready math, intervention groups, extension group, stations can be various activities depending on unit (number line games, for examples). I have even been able to have some inquiry in math! Using manipulatives is also a big part of math.
I do turn and talks, discussions, whole group work, small group work, partner work, and intendent work to keep students engaged and working in as many different scenarios as possible. I use visuals (pictures and videos) whenever I can so that my English Language Learners (ELLs) have another support. There is an interpreter for the DHH (Deaf or Hard of Hearing) students for language. I also repeat directions more than once, and have students echo back the directions. I use graphic organizers to track thinking. Music and GoNoodles are used as quick exercises for brain and body, some of which include movement across the midline.
These are literacy practices that I see throughout the day, not just during the reading block. This list further proves that literacy is used throughout the day, because everyone uses at


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least one of the six representations of literacy with each practice: reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, and visually representing. I use most of these practices daily in my classroom, but I have never given them a name before now. Every activity is a literacy practice.
Connections and Values of these Literacy Practices
Every literacy practice has limitations and benefits and they are valued based on the pros and cons. Sometimes, choosing one practice over another has to do with the students a teacher is working with. Other times, it is strictly the teacher’s decision based on their teaching style. Teaching style has more to do with what practices are used in the classroom than anything else, except curriculum and administrative decisions. The school I am currently at has not taught grammar until recently because administration did not want it being taught. Curriculums are set by district or administration (sometimes teachers get a choice of one curriculum over the other) and that curriculum is required. It must be followed and there is no straying from it. Other schools let the art of teaching take over rather than stunt creativity and student need by requiring a cookie-cutter curriculum to used by all teachers. The bottom line is, “no one really becomes literate without seeing themselves in literacy” (Harste & Vasquez, 2011a, p. 17). Curriculum has the potential to act as a shell for the teacher to imbed literacy, especially visual representations of content specific thinking, such as problem-solving manipulatives in math or artistic visuals, into it. The creativity and the many ways to reach an understanding is unlocked when the curriculum is transformed enough that it allows students to bring themselves wholly into it (Harste & Vasquez, 2011a, p. 17). Drastic changes happen this way, but it is too hard to believe at first glance. Teachers need to take a chance with curriculum this way.


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Standards dictate the teaching that goes on in schools as well. Aurora Public Schools has prioritized standards from the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that teachers must teach during each quarter. Which brings up another piece that can dictate instructional decisions around teaching and around the practices that are used: time. Certain standards are required to be taught and mastered by the end of a school year, so spending too much time on one standard will put learning back on other standards. This means that some of the higher-level thinking literacy practices that take more time are skipped in place of the practices that get the job done quickly, such as using graphic organizers as worksheets to get practice for a skill in rather than diving deeply into the skill to truly understand it. Standardized tests take precedent in the classroom as well. The content on the tests is taught over other content, because funding is determined by test results. Because science and social studies are not tested until the fourth and fifth grade, primary grades focus on math and reading to prepare for third grade testing. Students miss out on important concepts in science and social studies, when that can be fixed using disciplinary literacy.
Teachers have more and more on their plates these days, so it is understandable why they choose some of literacy practices over others, but do they like the practices they use? Do they wish they had more choice in what they use? If there is a gap between the literacy practices teachers use and the practices they value, can it be bridged and how?
Survey Methods
One way to get a better idea of what literacy practices teachers value versus the ones they use is through a survey of a group of elementary school teachers. The main purpose of the Literacy Practices Comparison survey is to ask current elementary teachers about their ideas,


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opinions, values, and experiences with literacy during their careers. The survey is online and anonymous to keep the identities and risks for the participants to a minimum. Questions include teacher’s opinions on curriculum, favorite and least favorite literacy practices, knowledge on both critical and disciplinary literacy, and a question about which practices teachers deem most valuable in their classroom. These questions are meant to gain an overall understanding of the climate in the elementary school concerning literacy through both qualitative and quantitative data.
To gain more qualitative data from this elementary school, participants who took the survey had the option to volunteer for a follow-up interview with me, the student researcher. The follow-up interview would consist of questions that would give participants the opportunity to share more of their experiences surrounding literacy practices and be an opportunity to ask “why?”. These experiences can be ones where the participant successfully implemented a literacy practice and loved it, or ones where the teacher’s attempt to use a literacy practice was unsuccessful and what they learned from it. These stories would have brought great value and understanding to the project, as well as relevance to the question concerning the gap between literacy practices chosen at schools as valuable and those the teachers find valuable.
No one volunteered for an interview. The interviews would have been audio recorded for later use in two ways: an easier way to interpret and analyze data and for use in future presentations. The audio would have brought relevant insights during future presentations, especially if accompanied by a picture of the teacher who is telling their story to the audience through the recording. The interviews would have brought an added risk that the anonymous survey does not have, but participants did not need to consent to the use of the audio recordings of their interviews or of their pictures being taken for presentation purposes. They could have


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stayed completely anonymous in the project, if they choose, and they can leave the survey and the interview whenever they would like.
One main risk that may cause participants to not answer honestly or to choose not to participate in either survey or interview is the fact that the school principal will have access to the data. She would like to use the data to improve school culture and literacy instruction. Because the principal’s involvement may sway participation, it is important to make sure all other risks are at a minimum; the survey being completely anonymous helps with this tremendously, as well as the option to volunteer to participate in a follow-up interview. These incentives may help more participants feel comfortable enough to participate honestly and complete the entire process (survey and interview).
The school where the survey and follow-up interviews will take place at is Lansing Elementary School of Aurora Public Schools. This school was picked, because the I am a Resident Teacher at Lansing for the school year. I have already established a relationship with the principal, Jennifer Murtha, and feel comfortable enough with the staff to ask them to fill out a survey. Because I do know a lot of the staff members at the school, keeping the survey online will help with bias. I will not know who decided to take the survey, which will not interfere with analysis of the data. I will not reach out to any teachers specifically to ask them to take the survey or volunteer for an interview, because that would also skew the results through workplace bias. This survey will act as a stepping stone towards bridging the gap.
Survey Results
Some of the questions on the survey asked about level of education, which grade the teacher took, and how many years they had been teaching. 86% of the teachers have a master’s


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degree or higher. Most of the primary teachers took the survey and one teacher in third, fourth, and fifth grade each took the survey, so there about 22% of the data is from the intermediate grades and the other 88% is from the primary grades, with first and second at almost 30% each. Almost 50% of the teachers have been teaching between 11 to 15 years, with 16 to 20 years’ experience as a close second at 27%. This school has experienced teachers who have worked with literacy practices for years. Their expertise is highly valued for this project.
One of the questions asked if teachers had heard of ILA’s What’s Hot in Literacy? article. Not a single person knew about the article, which shows that these teachers are not researching literacy practice from ILA. The professional developments (PDs) they have on literacy is based on their curriculum, Fountas and Pinnell, so is this school branching out and looking into practices outside their curriculum? Are teachers taking the time to research literacy practices that other schools, districts, or even states are using? Do these teachers attend conferences? It does not seem like they do from this unanimous response, so if this school isn’t, do other schools?
I also asked the teachers to rate how much they knew about disciplinary and critical literacy. One teacher knew a moderate amount about critical literacy and two knew a little. The one teacher went into detail about how they use critical literacy, while most other teachers skipped the question. The teacher’s response about critical literacy is: “I make to sure pull books that have [a] variety of cultures/genders/minorities present. I also try to make sure I do the same when pulling pictures to support learning.” This teacher’s response shows that they aren’t quite understanding the definition of critical literacy, but it is a complex literacy that is difficult to understand. It is good to see effort in critical literacy’s direction from a teacher, however.
Disciplinary literacy found the same results: one teacher knows a moderate amount about it, two know a little, and the rest have no knowledge. The teacher’s response about disciplinary


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literacy is: “I know the standards and use authentic moments to make connections and/or point out that my students made a cross content connection. I don't plan for them as deeply as I should.” If one teacher is trying to use these practices in the classroom, why are they not sharing their knowledge with other teachers? What makes this teacher want to use critical and disciplinary literacy, but not other teachers at this school? What could convince other teachers to try these practices out, or realize that they all practice disciplinary literacy? Another question asked if teachers taught science and social studies. 54% of teachers wished they had more time to teach literacy, with only 15% being able to teach it and 31% not being able to at all. What these teachers don’t realize is they do teach science and social studies if they use science and social studies concepts to teach reading skills.
Curriculum was questioned and most teachers use Fountas and Pinnell, while others take instruction day by day, depending on student needs. Most teacher modify it, but a couple do not, because they are still learning the curriculum, or they have only taught for a couple years and are not confident enough to take a step outside the box. 46% of teachers liked their curriculum and 31% were fine with it. Some teachers were adamant that using curriculum as a resource is highly important, because the curriculum will not fit their students’ needs. This is a response that I agree with 100%, because curriculums, as useful as they can be, should not be the only solution. Something that interests me is how these teachers modify their curriculums and what do they modify in the curriculum. How much do they modify their curriculum and how much do they use? Curriculum can make or break a highly-functioning classroom, which is why it is so important to understand. Other practices needed to be looked at as well.


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I made up a list of literacy practices that are commonly used in the classroom and asked the teachers to rank the practices into three categories: highly valuable, somewhat valuable, and least valuable. The practices are:
1. reading everyday
2. writing everyday
3. conferencing with students weekly
4. guided reading daily
5. independent reading daily
6. shared reading daily
7. read alouds daily
8. student choi ce of b ooks
9. using leveled texts only
10. using a mix of choice and leveled texts
11. choosing diverse texts that represent students
12. following the writing process
13. free writing
14. prompted writing
15. flexible grouping
16. leveled grouping
17. daily phonics/skills work
18. reading/writing mini lessons
19. reading/writing journals


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20. using student background/experience to
make connections
21. frontloading
22. comprehension as focus during reading
23. phonics as a focus during reading
24. enjoyment as a focus during reading
25. using books as mentor texts during writing
26. modeling reading/writing skills
Some of these practices are more valuable to me than others, which makes the results interesting. The one practice everyone said was most valuable is reading every day, with writing every day at 93% of teachers. Conferencing with students was also high on their list, at 85%, as well as making sure to connect work to students’ backgrounds and experiences, at 92%. Two practices that teacher did not think was highly valuable was teaching phonics as a focus during reading time, at 23%, and using just leveled texts in the classroom, which zero teachers voted on as highly valuable. 62% of teachers did feel that using leveled texts in the classroom was somewhat valuable and this is because they felt that using a mix of leveled and choice texts was more valuable, which got 85% of the votes. Using leveled texts, free writing, prompted writing, daily phonics/skills work, reading/writing journals, and phonics as a focus during reading time were the only practices that had some votes as being least valuable. All these votes were under 40%, so most of the practices on the list have some value to these teachers. Only frontloading, free writing, prompted writing, reading/writing journals, phonics as a focus during reading, and using leveled texts only have less than 50% of the votes as highly valuable. The rest of the practices are deemed highly valuable by more than 50% of the teachers. The teachers here do not seem to


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enjoy phonics as a focus or some literacy practices for writing. They do highly favor the literacy practices for just reading, which again, points to them not having a full understanding of some of the practices they use in the classroom.
The last part of the survey asked teachers about their favorite part about teaching literacy. 54% of teachers enjoy teaching literacy and 31% don’t mind teaching literacy. Over half the school likes teaching literacy, which is half the battle sometimes. Another question that asks why they like teaching literacy gives insight as to why such a high percentage of teachers enjoy teaching literacy. Some responses are: “Getting to know kids through their writing, getting to know them through the reading and their discussions about books. Sharing my love of reading,” “Watching kids discover new things in books while developing literacy skills,” and “See the kids connect with the books and each other.” These quotes show that teachers put their kids first and they enjoy watching their kids grow as readers and as people. One loves to share their love of reading with their students. This is what teaching is all about. The survey also asked about the teachers’ least favorite literacy practice. A few teachers said time was frustrating, because they want to teach more components of literacy, but cannot because of time restraints. Others mentioned writing and phonics or grammar instruction specifically. Why writing and phonics over general reading? What makes these two different? One teacher specified that they did not truly understand how to teach writing. How does their dislike affect their teaching and their students’ learning? One other teacher said they did not enjoy the tests that come with teaching literacy. As a pre-k teacher, this is especially curious. What tests come with pre-k teaching? This part of the survey has given especially good insights into how teachers feel about literacy as a whole. The survey has given a new perspective on teaching and how teachers really feel about their jobs.


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I received no volunteers for interviews, which means that the teachers either did not have the time to spare to talk with me or they were not comfortable sharing potentially personal information for my study. I wanted to showcase the content from the interviews, because I would have been given stories from the classroom. This qualitative data is just as valuable, if not more valuable than the quantitative data from the survey. I would have been able to get to know the teachers who volunteered on a more personal and professional level and I also would have learned more about the specifics and whys behind the survey results. There would have been a solid connection between feelings, experiences, theory, and practice with interviews; however, even without the interviews, I still gained valuable information and new perspectives on literacy practices in the literacy classroom.
Discussion/Conclusion
Overall, the survey has proved that the teachers at one school in Colorado are mostly happy with how they teach literacy in the classroom. The survey has also shown that they don’t have names for all the literacy practices they use, like how they use disciplinary literacy much more often than they realize. They also don’t seem to research on their own or branch out as a school, as their PDs consist of information they receive from their curriculum. There is nothing wrong with the way they use their instruction and what they do to better inform their practices, because this school does put their kids first. However, they could improve in other ways by looking outward at the other options for literacy instruction, like incorporating more inquiry-based literacy or critical literacy into their modified curriculums. There are many possibilities for a school to improve its instruction and Lansing could look in this direction if they wanted to.


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This is the first survey I have conducted, and I would make a couple changes to this one if I gave it again. Next time I would ask “why” to more questions on the survey to get deeper explanations and more qualitative data, especially on the rating part of the survey. Some questions I would ask are: “Why don’t you like this literacy practice? What makes your favorite literacy practice better?” I would ask teachers to delve a bit further into how they modify their curriculum as well. I would also change the format of the disciplinary and critical literacy portion by asking: “What do you think critical and disciplinary literacy are and what is their purpose in the classroom?” These questions are mostly asking for more elaboration on the initial answers to the questions, and an interview would have given me the answers to a lot of these questions.
I plan to continue researching on this topic in the future. My next steps would be to use Stellaluna to teach the entire school day, document the results, and help further prove the success of disciplinary literacy. It would also prove that literacy is taught all day long. I also want to research interdisciplinary literacy and see how it connects with other literacy practices. Other questions have rose with this research, such as what literacy practices do other schools require their teachers to use and what do their PD’s look like? Are all PDs focused on how to use curriculum? What results would I get if I gave this survey to another school? This project has given more questions than answers thus far, but it has also given way to a new passion in my career.
Teaching is highly important to me, and I have come to realize that research is too. I cannot become a well-balanced teacher without research, because that is one of the best ways to bridge theory and practice. If I am both a researcher and an educator, the literacy practices that researchers rank as important will be meaningful to me, as well as the literacy practices that educators rank as important. If more educators find time to research, these practices will


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eventually even out, and everyone will be on the same page. Communication between researcher and educator needs to start if there will ever be an agreement on which practices are most important. I plan to bridge the gap in my own classroom by playing both roles and by sharing my knowledge and findings with other teachers. I hope that the gap closes over time and more educators and researchers begin to work together. After all, all the work both educators and researchers put in is all for the kids. The kids always come first. When teachers start realizing the importance of literacy and how it is used all day every day, books like Stellaluna will be used all day to teach all content areas. They will change lives and help students, educators, and researchers alike grow to be better in the end.


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Full Text

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WhatÂ’s Hot in Literacy WhatÂ’s Hot in Literacy?

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Stellaluna Stellaluna Stellaluna StellalunaÂ’s Stellaluna Stellaluna Stellaluna The Fault in Our Stars Stellaluna The Fault in Our Stars

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WhatÂ’s Hot in Literacy

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WhoÂ’s Doing the Work?

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Identity Safe Classrooms: Places to Belong and Learn engaging controlling

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Disciplinary Literacy: ADAPT NOT ADOPT

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Creating Classrooms for Authors and Inquirers

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Educating for Critical Democratic Literacy: Integrating Social Studies and Literacy in the Elementary Classroom

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Stellaluna Stellaluna skills

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Bailey School Kids: Vampir es DonÂ’t Wear Polka Dots

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WhatÂ’s Hot in Literacy?

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Global conversations in literacy research: Digital and critical literacies Notebook connections: Strategi es for the readerÂ’s notebook. Notebook know how: Strategies for the writerÂ’s notebook. WhoÂ’s doing the work? How to say less so readers can do more Stellaluna Language and Literacy 17 Teaching writing through childrenÂ’s literature, K-6 Language arts: Process, product, and assessment for diverse classrooms

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International Literacy Association On reading The fault in our stars Journal of College Reading and Learning WhatÂ’s hot in literacy: 2018 Report Global conversations in literacy research: Digital and critical literacies Global conversations in literacy resear ch: Digital and critical literacies Teaching for conceptual understanding in science. International Literacy Association: The Reading Teacher

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Language Arts Questions, claims, and evidence: The important place of arguments in childrenÂ’s science writing. Educating for critical democratic literacy: Integrating social studies and liter acy in the elementary classroom. The Reading Teacher, Creating classrooms for authors and inquirers National Council of Teac hers of English Journal Perspectives on literacy Identity SAFE classrooms: Places to belong and learn. The differentiated classroom: Respondi ng to the needs of all learners