Literacy-Based Approach

Our world is centered around literacy: reading and writing exist everywhere in our lives, from the way our school systems are set up, to reading directions and road signs, to following instructions or reading ingredients to bake cookies.  Reading and writing are both imperative for effective communication, not only in school, but in the world.  Therefore, I strive to integrate literature-based activities into all subject areas.  By exploring various sources of print, including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, students are provided with an alternative approach to content concepts, and are also able to learn how to better communicate their ideas.

Literacy has always been an important part of my life.  As indicated by my personal literacy narrative (See Artifact LA1), reading and writing have always been activities I have enjoyed, and have been critical to my development as a student, a future teacher, and an individual.  Through reading a vast array of books, articles, and poems; through writing and exploring different genres, and through engaging in literature in a variety of ways, I have been exposed to a wide variety of perspectives, worlds, cultures, and experiences that I might not have otherwise gotten the opportunity to be a part of.  It is these experiences that I want to provide my students with.  Although I know that I will not be able to make every child love reading and writing the way that I always have, I hope to help them find a genre they identify with, to enjoy reading and writing, and to feel confident in their abilities to see themselves as readers and writers.

I attempt to accomplish this in my classroom in a number of ways.  First, every day students have silent reading or “Read to Self” time, where for half an hour after lunch recess, students read silently books of their choosing.  At the beginning of the year, we created an overhead stating the reasons we have this “read to self time” (See Artifact LA7) and review it at times, if it seems as though students are not using this time productively.  This time gives students the opportunity to practice reading, it allows them to engage in texts they are interested in, and it is intended to be an enjoyable activity.  Students are also allowed to take Accelerated Reader tests (a reading program Mar Lee participates in) during this time, to see how well they have comprehended the book, and they receive points for each test they pass.

I also expose my students to a variety of books in the classroom, including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.  Each afternoon I read aloud from a chapter book, and often encourage students to make text-to-self connections to the fictional piece.  In doing so, I, again, hope to encourage students to see reading as an enjoyable activity, and also allow them to see how the texts they read can be meaningful and have connections to the students’ lives.  In my student teaching placement I read aloud the children’s novel I wrote as my honors thesis (See Artifact LA4), thus exposing the students to Armenian culture and allowing them to ask me questions as an author.  During morning read-alouds we read everything from poetry to short fictional pieces to nonfiction pieces that connect to various subjects or content areas we have been working on.

In integrating literacy-based activities with other subjects, I hope to help students recognize that reading and writing do not exist in isolation; they exist all around us.  In the “Opportunities Cost” lesson plan, I read Alexander Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst, and integrate the text with Social Studies, using Alexander’s spending decisions to explain the concept of opportunity cost (See Artifact LA2).  Not only does using a literacy-based approach help students see that reading connects to all subject areas, but it also helps provide a concrete example to help students understand different concepts.  Each Friday students write to their parents or guardians in Letter Journals, in which they write a letter explaining what we have done in school that week (See Artifact LA6).  In doing so, writing is given meaning, seen as a means for communication, and is integrated with all subject matters.  Parents are encouraged to write back each weekend.

Although I have always considered reading and writing to be important for all learners to engage in, and although they have always been a part of my life, it was not until my Education 371 class, which was literacy pedagogy, that I really became aware of different ways to engage in literacy, and was able to specifically identify the importance (and various ways) of integrating literature-based activities in all content areas.  My Literacy Assessment written survey (See Artifact LA5) illustrates that I am aware of the multiple language cueing systems, consider various approaches to literacy, and recognize that children are literate in a number of ways.  In this reflection I illustrate how using the various literacy assessment tools can help understand the child as a learner, not only with regards to reading and writing, but how to apply this to other subject matters and how to support the whole child as a learner.  In the Shared Reading and Shared Writing Guided Reflection (See Artifact LA3), I indicate how reading and writing are integrated into other subject areas and the students’ personal lives to make them meaningful experiences.  Being literate does not mean being able to read words written on a page: it includes comprehension, using contextual clues, being able to make connections to your personal life and other texts, and understanding that literacy functions on multiple levels.

Ultimately, I hope to help my students see themselves as readers and writers, to help them foster a love for the written word, and to help them understand that becoming better readers and writers is important in all aspects of their unique lives; not only in school, but in their daily lives outside of the classroom.  Through a literacy-based approach, students are provided with a wide array of opportunities to engage in the material, learn, and gain confidence as a student—and an individual.

Students writing in their Letter Journals about the week.

Read-aloud of "Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday" during Social Studies to learn about opportunity cost.