Kelsie Syverson, EngEd 275 DL, Ch. 1: Becoming an Effective Literacy Teacher

Principle 1: Effective Teachers Understand How Students Learn

All students learn differently, some students may be more visual learners, some more hands-on. Let’s look at some learning theories that will represent some different ways of teaching to different learners:

  • Behaviorism is a teacher-centered theory which makes it easier for teachers to do assessments and make sure that the students are learning what would be on the state testing. This theory is considered teacher-centered because the teacher is the one providing all of the information. The teacher will create minilessons that grow upon what was previously taught. Most of the time this teaching consists of worksheets and repeated reading.
  • Constructivism is a student-centered learning theory, which means the students are active learners in their education. This theory has the students using information that they already know and incorporating new information into it. Students use schemas, or cognitive structures, to organize this information. This can also be known as schema theory which describes how students learn. Let’s think of this sort of like a filing cabinet where the schemas are the folders in the cabinet, or the information that the student already knows. They can file new information into their folders or they may create new folders with information that they didn’t know about before. Inquiry learning is also a part of constructivism, which states that students are naturally curious and will discover new information by asking questions or by trying to find the answers by themselves or by collaborating with others. It also helps if students are engaged in what they are learning because engaged students enjoy the activities more and will then learn more, this is known as engagement theory. Engaged students show more interest in learning and will work through activities that may be a little more challenging. One way that could help students be more engaged is to have them work with their classmates.
  • Sociolinguistics is also a student-centered theory. It talks about how students learn through discussions and talking about their thought. You can put students into small groups and have them talk about activities that they are working on. It is also important to make sure we are culturally responsive teachers and are respecting all of the cultures in and out of our classrooms, this can be done by reading books from different cultures and teaching students about these cultures. We also need to teach social issues to help students to become better citizens.
  • Information Processing is the final student-centered theory we are going to look at. This theory compares the mind to a computer and the way the information is processed. We want to make sure that students are understanding what they are reading. Each reader might interpret what the author means in certain situations from what they already know.

Principle 2: Effective Teachers Support Students’ Use of the Cueing Systems

There are four cueing systems: the phonological (sound) system, the syntactic (structural) system, the semantic (meaning) system, and the pragmatic (social and cultural use) system. These systems help us with communication.

  • The phonological system is a system that deals with the sounds, or phonemes words make. This system is important when it comes to beginning reading and writing. Vowels are the tricky part when it comes to sounds because the same letter or letter combination may have a different sound such as the words bead and head. Most beginner readers would read these words as rhyming but they don’t.
  • The syntactic system deals with the grammar and organization of literacy. It helps students learn that sentences need to be arranged in a certain order to make sense. Students can also learn what words may mean through context of sentences.
  • The semantic system has to do with the meaning and vocabulary of words. In school students learn about 3,000 to 4,000 meanings of words a year so by the time they graduate they understand about 50,000 definitions. Some of these definitions could include multiple meanings for a single word.
  • The pragmatic system is a system that talks about the social aspect with language. Students have different dialects depending on their culture or geographic location. Teachers teach a Standard English that students should incorporate into their own dialect.


Principle 3: Effective Teachers Create a Community of Learners

Each classroom is like its own little community because of the different social aspects each classroom has. Classrooms should be a safe space that students feel comfortable in. One of the most important thing is the relationship that the teacher has with his/her students. Classrooms become like little families throughout the school year where everyone is respected and treated fairly. The teacher should have high expectations of the students and also give them chances to collaborate with each other. It’s important to give students some choice in their learning such as what books they read or what they write a paper about. Teachers should also invite families and community members into the classroom to share their knowledge as well.

The teach should take the first few weeks of school working on the community of learners that will be in the classroom. Students are coming back for summer break and every teacher has different expectations, if these are stated the first few weeks of class the students know what is expected of them and they know the consequences of what happens if they don’t follow the rules. The teacher also models these expectations so that the students know that the rules are the same for everyone.

Principle 4: Effective Teachers Adopt a Balanced Approach to Instruction

Literacy involves both reading and writing, this also includes any digital media. We interpret these things differently because of our previous knowledge and experiences. There is a balanced literacy component that includes comprehension, collaboration, and independent work with both reading and writing. A balanced approach can help all students but especially low-income schools, those who struggle with reading, or non-English speaking students. The components of a balanced approach include:

  • Comprehension
  • Content Area Study
  • Literacy Strategies and Skills
  • Literature
  • Oral Language
  • Phonemic Awareness and Phonics
  • Reading
  • Spelling
  • Vocabulary
  • Writing

We also need to know about the Common Core Standards. The standard state students should be learning by the time they are done with each specific grade level from K-12. The standards don’t state how things need to be taught or state where each student should be by the end of each grade level. The Common Core Standards cover topics like Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, Language, and Media and Technology.


How Would We Use These Things in a Classroom?

I would use this in my classroom by making a lot of reading and writing material student-centered such as giving them the option of what books they can read during a free choice reading time or having the students do journal writing where they can choose what they write about. Of course, the students will have to work with the items that are in the Common Core Standards but this is where we can work on collaborations and respecting your classmates. Students can discuss assigned reading assignments in small groups or work on projects together.

All information comes from:

Tompkins, G. E. (2017). Literacy for the 21st century: A balanced approach (7th ed.). Boston: Pearson

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s