The reading titled, Getting over the Slump, highlighted two distinct reasons for American students academic struggles. One reason according to author J.P. Gee, discusses digital technology and the influence it has on learning. Several valid points were made in terms of digital media being a great teaching tool, but not something for students to be left to navigate and self-teach with. It is essential that teachers or adults bridge the gap between learning and digital media tools. This means overseeing students and teaching them how to use the technology appropriately. Gee revealed that digital media has a couple of great educational uses. One being that rote skills can be learned and practiced, but immediate practice situations using digital technology can also occur. In addition, real world problem solving skills can be worked on via digital technology. This information makes a lot of sense to me and encouraged me to look at digital media use as a tool in a different way than I’ve been seeing it. My view has been that digital technology is a reinforcement activity to be used after the teacher has done the teaching. I look forward to trying to use technology in a more interactive way as a teaching tool.
The second reason for American education lagging behind other countries is referred to as the 4th grade slump. While I hadn’t heard of this specific term prior to this article, I have encountered plenty of students who struggle in grade 4. The slump as referred to children who reach 4th grade and can decode text, but can’t comprehend what they are reading. Because of this, children are falling behind grade level. Once the gap starts to widen, it’s very challenging to close. Since the rate of this occurrence is increasing, American students are not keeping pace with the rest of the world. One thought is that a heavy influence is placed on phonics in the early grades, but not on comprehension. Advocates feel that the American education approach to teaching reading in the early primary grades needs to be reexamined. Attention needs to be paid to comprehension to stop the all too often 4th grade slump from occurring. One credible suggestion to improve reading comprehension is to spend more time helping students develop their vocabulary in the primary grades. This is something that could also be encouraged at home.
I was most surprised to learn that American students are no longer able to keep up in comparison to other countries. They last ranked 24 out of 29 countries. This is alarming and requires action given the place that America holds historically in regard to education and economics.
After reading chapter 1 from Words Their Way, it made the most sense to me to summarize each spelling stage in a visual format. This is a helpful quick reference for me that I’d like to use in my classroom to keep the developmental progression of spelling in mind as I’m instructing.
Words Their Way Chapter 1
The teacher in this video models an action lesson on blending sounds to her class of primary students. Prior learning had occurred with pairing actions with blend sounds. A brief review was done of a few sounds before moving into the lesson. I liked that during the review the teacher had a visual chart present with the blend as well as sample words and paired it with an action. After the review, the students participated in a mystery action game. The teacher performed actions of previously learned sound blends while the students determined the word. This was a great lesson on segmenting words and blending to make a whole word. The teacher moved from small parts to the whole part. I think this is a great approach for many students. I think one way to strengthen the lesson would be to add the visual component of the printed word once the students determined the word the teacher acted out.
This video modeled 3 different phonemic segmentation activities to use with beginner readers or struggling students. For each activity, the teacher said a word and modeling how students would segment the sounds and pull a manipulative onto a line. The student would then segment each sound while touching each manipulative and then blend the whole word, reading it in its entirety. I thought it was great that the teacher utilized different visuals and manipulatives which students would find engaging. The three activities she modeled were using jewels, goldfish crackers, and a glove with Velcro and pom-poms and felt squares. One recommendation I might suggest would be to add a printed form of the word upon reading the whole word. I realize this would take the process to the next step, but I think the presentation of print is important.
The teacher in this video models how to use a bead slide to teach and practice phoneme segmentation. For each sound in a word, the student moves (slides) a bead to the opposite side of the rope. For words that contain digraphs only one bead is moves. It’s important that each sound correlates with one bead, not necessarily letters. I like that this is a relatively easy, cost-effective way to create a manipulative for students to work with when learning how to segment phonemes. I plan to use this tool with my students this upcoming school year.
Phonemic awareness instruction is of primary importance in the process of learning to read. It is most successful when introduced with a multi-sensory approach beginning as soon as possible. Children respond best when exposed to a “linguistically rich environment” according to Yopp and Yopp. A linguistically rich environment consists of a wide variety of vocabulary and varying syntax usage. Several activities at the different levels of phonemic awareness are recommended. Most importantly, sound instruction moves from large to small pieces. One appropriate learning/teaching sequence is: rhyming, syllable division, onsets and rimes, and phonemes. Fortunately, there are many game-like lessons that can be used to deliberately teach phonemic awareness to young children. They tend to like game format and learn faster than a rote approach. It is recommended that teachers include phonemic awareness activities and lessons in their early literacy programs in order to provide students with the optimum conditions as they embark on the reading process.
I created a poster with some of the most common digraphs. It’s important for young learners to have picture clues along with the printed letters when learning sounds. Posters and other visuals are great reference tools to teach students to use. I have them available for students and they use them frequently.
Strategy Instruction Critique #1
This reading comprehension mini-lesson addresses higher level thinking for both fiction and nonfiction text at the primary level. Cognitivsm is addressed through teacher modeling, visual prompting and discussion. The strategy the teacher uses is as follows:
- A particular book is selected (fiction or nonfiction). As the teacher reads the book aloud she models her thinking.
- To discuss the parts of the text and content, a visual story glove is used.
- There are different components to each genres story glove.
Fiction: title, characters, setting, problem and solution, favorite part, big idea/theme
Nonfiction: topic, 3 facts, wonderings?
I think this is a great strategy to use with beginner readers and with learners who have weaker memories. The visual support and routine allows for cues while still promoting higher level of thought.
Strategy Instruction Critique # 2
This video demonstrated metacognitive word study strategies. I liked that the teacher taught her students the word “metacognition” and defined it as “thinking about your learning”. The students use a variety of strategies when they come across words they don’t know. Some of the strategies mentioned were: use word walls in the classroom, chunk words, and ask for help. Strategies for words that can be read but not defined included: using a dictionary and reading on until it becomes clear. I was impressed at the bank of strategies this teacher uses with her students.
The Lego-Gender Remixer demonstrated the expected stereotypes. Lego’s marketed towards boys were colored with darker, more traditional colors and the theme was focused on adventure. On the flip side, Lego’s intended for girls represented more feminine colors and activities that girls are most often drawn to such as baking, dress-up, and playing with puppies. In today’s day and age it doesn’t seem that traditional gender roles are the norm that they once were. Our society is shifting, and increasingly becoming more open-minded. It is important for children’s toys to adjust with the changing world. Target marketing needs to be addressed, especially when considering the next generation that is young and developing in an ever-changing world.
In regard to gender stereotypes and literacy I think it is important for traditional roles to be explored through text since it is part of the way society has functioned for a very long time. With that being said, I do think that there will also continue to be a shift not only with toy marketing, but also with books and apps. Since our world is moving towards a more gender neutral, open-minded society, it will and should be reflected not only with toys, but also through print and other media sources.
According to the article “What no bedtime story means: Narrative Skills at Home and School”, nightly stories have a direct correlation to a child’s language development. Shirley Brice Heath performed a study to show that culture impacts how children take information in thus impacting their language development. Three diverse communities are examined in Heath’s study and the differences are noted. The area of Maintown is a community in which many middle class, economically stable families live. Their children are exposed to books and language from birth. Literacy is ranked as important in this community and parents play a role in the daily exposure to printed text as well as question and answer sessions. Children in Maintown have an increased exposure compared to students in Trackton. In Trackton, families aren’t using books to expose their children to language. Instead, children are learning language only through interaction with other humans. While acquiring language through imitation has a role, it is not the sole pathway. Providing children with rich, frequent, and diverse language components through oral discourse as well as printed text provides students with an advantage. Heath states that students in Trackton are at a disadvantage because of the approach their parents take. The most important argument in this article is that children who hear bedtime stories have a greater interest in reading and writing, persevere at problem solving, and are more creative. Exposure to stories at an early age places children at an advantage compared to peers who do not have early experiences with reading.