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Literacy in Action Observation

Alyssa Andreachuk

Literacy in Action
I had the opportunity to visit a Grade One classroom and observe its classroom
environment and daily morning routines. Based on my observations, I would definitely
identify this Grade One classroom as a literacy-rich environment.

Throughout the room there were a variety of elements that contribute to literacy
development. One of the first elements I noticed was a word wall, which is an
alphabetized chart posted in a classroom listing words children are learning (Tompkins,
2011). Looking at the word wall, it appeared to be a high-frequency word wall as there
were many commonly used words listed on it. These words are important for students to
be able to spell because of their usefulness; 50% of all the words children and adults
write are represented by these frequently used words (Tompkins, 2011). I noticed the
words on this wall could be removed, which allows students to take a word off the wall
and use it at their desks while spelling that word. This process will further a childs
familiarity with the word, which is important since these most of these words are not
spelled phonetically and must be memorized (Tompkins, 2011). These words are also
important for children to learn as they allow for increased fluency in their reading
(Education 4735 Class). The word wall also included the names of the children in the
class. It is important for children to see their names around their classroom frequently so
they become familiar with how to read and spell them (Education 4735 class).

Another element I noticed was a large classroom library in the room with books
ranging from easier reading to more difficult. A large classroom library is important, as

the more reading children are able to do, the more words they can read a year, and the
more vocabulary they can acquire. Vocabulary is an essential component of learning to
read (Education 4735 Class). It is also important to note that the school has a large library
with a variety of books that students are able to take home. Being able to take books
home is essential to vocabulary development. Students who read 5 minutes per week
outside of school will read only 21 000 words in a year whereas students who read over
an hour a day outside of school will read over 4 million words a year (Education 4735
class).

During my visit I also got to observe the Grade One class morning routines with
their teacher. These routines contained many elements to contribute to both literacy and
numeracy. The students started off by reading the date on the calendar as a class. Next,
they counted the number of school days using base 10 materials (asking how many 1s
10s and 100s there were), money, and tallies on the blackboard. They also added a paper
ring to a chain hung up in their classroom. These activities helped contribute to their
numeracy skills.

Next in the routine, one student shared what he did on the weekend with the class.
While he did, the teacher wrote down what he said on chart paper, modelling appropriate
directionality, letter formation, word spacing and punctuation. This process is known as
the Language Experience Approach (LEA) (Tompkins, 2011). After his message was
written down, as with LEA, the class read the message together aloud. The class usually
reads this text easily because the language comes from the children (Tompkins, 2011).

To further their numeracy skills, the students also counted the number of words in the
sentence created. Students then looked through the message identifying homophones,
words that have the same pronunciation but different meanings (ex. too, to and two). The
students ability to do this suggests they are working toward the Syllable and Affixes
stage of spelling (Tompkins, 2011). The students also identified magic es and silent
es. Magic es are es that turn short vowel words into long vowel words. The class
ability to identify these es suggests their proficiency in the Within-Word spelling stage
(Tompkins, 2011).

Following the LEA, the students read poems aloud together as a class, a process
known as choral reading (Tompkins, 2011). As they read a poem from chart paper, one
student used a pointer to model the directionality and pacing of the reading. Choral
reading allows students to experiment with different ways of reading text aloud
(Tompkins, 2011). This process can allow for increased fluency, as more fluent children
are able to act as models and set the reading speed for others in the classroom (Tompkins,
2011).

After observing this morning routine, I was able to plan and implement literacy
activities with six at-grade-level readers with two teaching partners. We started off by
using explicit instruction to explain the comprehension strategy of predicting, and why it
is important to understanding a story. We then had students look at a Story Vine based off
Robert Munschs book, Stephanies Ponytail. While looking at the key objects on the
Story Vine, the students predicted what might happen in the story. My teaching partner

then retold the story using her Story Vine. Story Vines can contribute to reading
comprehension through further engaging students in a story as they watch the
manipulated objects on the Story Vine bringing the story to life (Education 4735 Class
Notes).

To continue on with the comprehension strategy of predicting, we then had


students draw cards from a box. These cards pictured key objects from Robert Munschs
Davids Father. Each student drew a card and used that object to make a prediction about
what may happen in the story. They expressed these predictions using think-alouds to
explain their reasoning for their prediction (Tompkins, 2011). While doing so, the
teachers and the other students helped contribute to the predictions, a process known as
guided practice (Tompkins, 2011). One of my teaching partners also wrote down the
students predictions using the LEA. I then read the story aloud to the students while
pointing out picture clues, commenting on their predictions as they came up in the story,
and allowing for choral reading during repetitive parts of the text. This process is known
as shared book reading and is an important comprehension strategy in early childhood
classrooms and beyond (Tompkins, 2011). Following the shared book reading, the
students together took their predicting cards and sequenced them from the beginning to
the middle to the end of the story. This sequencing allows for students to examine the plot
of the story, which is a key element of story structure (Tompkins, 2011).

Since both books used during our literacy activities are by Robert Munsch, we
had students together create a question to ask him. This process of questioning is an

important comprehension strategy (Tompkins, 2011). When students come up with their
own questions about a text, they are more likely to comprehend the text better (Tompkins,
2011). The students in our group came up with a why question (Why was Davids
father a giant?) to ask Robert Munsch. How and why questions often generate
higher-level questions in comparison to what and who questions (Tompkins, 2011).

Finally, we had the students go outside on the playground and act like giants as
they played outside. We encouraged them to walk like a giant would and talk like a giant
would. My teaching partners and I chose this activity so the children could make a textto-self connection (Tompkins, 2011). By acting like a giant themselves, the children were
able to make a connection to the character in the text to their own activity and
engagement.

Overall, I found my experience in this Grade One classroom to be very rewarding,


as I was able to see and implement literacy in action. The Grade One teachers and the
principal at the school all expressed their passions for literacy and the benefits it can
bring to their students. Hearing their thoughts on literacy, and observing and
implementing literacy in their school has cemented my own convictions about the
importance of literacy, and the learning it can bring to children.

References
Tompkins, G.E. (2011). Literacy in the Early Grades: A Successful Start for PreK-4
Readers and Writers (3rd ed.). United States of America: Pearson Education.

Education 4735. (2014). Class notes and discussion.