How can I be a good literacy teacher

high quality literacy teaching demands high quality literacy teachers and any education system must attempt to maximise the expertise of teachers in teaching literacy. we, therefore, deliberately set out to investigate this linkage and our working hypothesis was that effective teachers of literacy would have a coherent set of beliefs about the nature and the learning of literacy which played a guiding role in their selection of teaching approaches. content knowledge in literacy had, therefore, also to include knowledge of the ways reading and writing were used as tools for learning. yet in order to plan effective and progressive learning experiences for children and discuss the significance of language structures with children, teachers of literacy, we hypothesised, did need to have this knowledge. if this view of learning is accepted, then in order to maximise children’s learning, teachers need to have ways of taking into account the knowledge and ideas that children bring to a particular lesson. such a knowledge base appears to consist of knowledge about content, knowledge about children and their learning and knowledge about how to teach the subject effectively. we analysed the frequency of each category and we were able to build a picture of the knowledge that these teachers said they thought was important for children. all the teachers placed emphasis upon children’s use of reading to learn, their use of a range of texts and their enjoyment of reading. what seems to be the case, however, is that the effective teachers strongly emphasised the functions and purposes of the codes of literacy as they taught them. directly before completing the test we had observed a number of the effective teachers teaching initial and final sounds and blends in ways which were clearly successful and comprehensible to the children, although we did not observe the validation teachers doing this. in order to evaluate teachers’ knowledge about the way that text, sentence and word level knowledge about literacy might be related, the teachers were asked to compare examples of children’s writing and reading. in fact, this was the most sophisticated example of punctuation in the two pieces, correctly and appropriately using commas to punctuate a list. these were shown to the teachers and they were asked to compare the readings, the mistakes and the features of the retellings. a picture of most of the effective teachers as more diagnostic in their use of children’s performance and more concerned with the children’s learning emerges from this data. although teachers’ plans were not examined in detail, all were able to identify the focus and aims of a lesson to the interviewers and this coincided with observers’ accounts of that lesson. in both situations teachers emphasised the function of literacy and the connections with ongoing, completed or future literacy activities. many of the effective teachers gave detailed accounts of what particular children could do and what the next step in their learning was felt to be. the effective teachers also told us that they had selected items of content in terms of its place in a sequence of content. it seemed a good time in the story to do this because we have been reading the book for a couple of weeks, they are thoroughly enjoying it and it came to an obvious point for them to do some of their own work on this. it appeared that the effective teachers had a greater depth of knowledge than the validation teachers and were able to use a variety of representations of particular ideas. it seems to us that the effective teachers of literacy ‘know’ their subject in quite a special way which itself has many implications for initial training and continuing professional development. we also observed the practice of a number of teachers in both samples, interviewed them about this practice and asked them to complete an attitude scale about literacy learning. the results of this analysis (given in full in appendix 3) suggest that the effective teachers of literacy were more likely to show coherence between their beliefs about the teaching of literacy and about approaches to its teaching. the effective teachers of literacy were much more likely to spend time discussing the use of a grammatical structure and defining it by illustrating its role in a sentence. they drew attention to the letters involved in the sounds, including letter names, position of these letters in the alphabet, and letter formation. it was apparently seen as a necessary, but not a sufficient, part of the teaching of reading: as a means to an end rather than as a goal in its own right. our observations suggest that the effective teachers were much more likely than the validation sample to prioritise other aspects of writing than presentation and more likely to separate the presentation aspects from composition in their teaching. the teachers were clear that these aspects of the sessions were the main teaching content and that this was what they wanted the children to learn. a number of reading and writing activities were listed and teachers asked to indicate which they had used during the previous week. the effective teachers usually asked children to read whole texts in a variety of settings. as with reading, the writing activities reported in the questionnaire by both the effective teachers of literacy and the validation teachers differed according to the age group they taught. in both reading and writing the effective teachers of literacy were able to provide a wider range of literacy teaching activities which emphasised using whole texts as a setting for learning about literacy. mrs j said the aim of her session was to teach the children in her class to write dialogue using the conventions of inverted commas and punctuation and to link this with the characters in the class novel. the effective teachers were able to draw upon their functional knowledge of language to plan deliberately for these connections. we concluded that in this way the effective teachers of literacy inducted their reception children into patterns of working which included focusing on a task and pushing themselves to complete it. both the effective teachers of literacy and the validation teachers used a wide range of questions. these types of questions in whole class or group lessons were largely confined to the effective teachers and emphasise their concern for raising children’s awareness of their own literacy use and comprehension. in a small proportion of lessons of both the validation group and the effective teachers the teacher set different tasks for different children, depending on their perceived needs. the second group were referred to a poster about the features of a letter and the main points emphasised. teachers in these classes were observed directing children’s attention to the items and using them as a support strategy for particular groups of children undertaking tasks. the questionnaire completed by the effective teachers and the validation group collected information about their use of a variety of approaches to the assessment of literacy development. some of the effective teachers appeared to monitor the whole class by walking around looking at work in progress and questioning individual pupils or groups. in writing a collection of examples was reported and the use of national curriculum levels to make periodic judgements.




so i know where those children are in the scheme of things and i know what they need to get out of a particular session. these two teachers embody many of the findings of the research and offer a flavour of the knowledge, beliefs and teaching practices of the effective teachers of literacy in the study. this had given her the opportunity to spend time in the classes of her colleagues and talk with them. a set of stories written as books and bound by the children were available for others to read. it was the start of a fairy story, as story beginnings were the writing focus for the fortnight in the class. they then worked in twos and threes to make a list of the words which would fit into the blanks. in her interview she said she had a very strong philosophy about teaching reading and writing which was based on the need for children to understand how and why they should read and write. three of these days were organised by her to bring the english advisor into school to work on school needs as identified in a pre-ofsted inspection. all the children had a portfolio of work, which they chose in conjunction with the teacher and parents to “show what they could do.” she asked the children to work in their seatwork groups and pointed out some sources of support. the beliefs section of miss l’s questionnaire suggested she tended towards an orientation in the teaching of reading which stressed the importance of communication and an orientation in the teaching of writing which stressed the writing process. in addition to researching the characteristics of effective teachers, we also made a similar study of student and newly qualified teachers of literacy. this was described in detail in chapter 2. in the study of novices, we aimed also to examine the relationship between their subject knowledge and how they were learning to teach literacy. similarly, student-teachers who did not have a strong academic background in language and literature, also referred to the pgce course as the source of knowledge underpinning their choice of content, or teaching strategies. after the lesson, she told us that the pupils had a high level of awareness of language and the ways in which it could be used. the class was then given an opportunity to examine and discuss an example of a sonnet and to experiment at creating their own. at the end of the lesson, there was then a plenary, whole class session to report back what each group had done, and a reminder of the words and concepts that had been covered in the lesson. thus there was a wide range in the extent to which the novice teachers could identify classes of words. in addition to examining the subject content knowledge of novice teachers and its relationship to their practice, we also examined what they felt pupils needed to know about literacy. for beginner writers, the following were mentioned most frequently: analysis suggested that the student teachers had a range of knowledge about children’s needs in learning to read and write; and that they recognised differences in pupils’ needs according to age and experience. this is in clear contrast to the effective teachers of literacy, who had developed coherent positions on the teaching of literacy, and taught in ways which fitted these belief systems. in interview the novices were asked about the structure of lessons and specific teaching strategies; and were asked to identify where they had learned how to do these things. the summaries of their responses are given in table 6.2 and can be compared with those of the effective teachers of literacy. as indicated already in this chapter, in both rounds of observation and interviews we asked the novice teachers in our sample how they had learned particular aspects of literacy teaching. when questioned how they had learned to teach as they did, or where they had learned to organise the pupils in a particular way, both stated that they drew on memories of their own primary school education, and one, her/his secondary school education. we have described the ways in which the knowledge, beliefs and practices of effective teachers of literacy differed from those of a validation sample of teachers and from those of novice teachers. there were some clear differences between the effective teachers and the validation teachers in terms of their subject backgrounds. we also invited teachers to offer views about the usefulness of the types of professional development in literacy that they had experienced and the literacy content included. these figures suggest that whilst many individuals in both samples had participated in a range of literacy orientated in-service opportunities, the effective teachers of literacy were more likely to have done in-service work organised from outside their schools. in a list of nine content areas teachers were asked to note those in which they had experienced professional development and to rate the usefulness of their experience of that content. or if the content of a course is really relevant to school i do use it. in some ways this is to be expected, since the validation teachers were all mathematics co-ordinators and a high proportion of the effective teachers were english co-ordinators. one of the most important factors in the development of the effective teachers of literacy was undoubtedly becoming the school english co-ordinator. at interview, many of the teachers offered very general explanations of their development as effective teachers of literacy and were unable to select the significant factors. in general, the effective teachers had been offered opportunities, beyond those provided in school, to extend and develop their knowledge and expertise in the teaching of literacy. broadly speaking, it seems that the effective teachers of literacy placed a great deal of emphasis on presenting literacy to their children in ways which foregrounded the creation and recreation of meaning. the effective teachers were also likely to use diagnostic information about children, their development and literacy progressions as a planning tool. these often took the form of regular meetings between teachers from a range of professional situations to discuss particular issues in literacy teaching and a prime example of such meetings were the english co-ordinators’ groups which several of our effective teachers belonged to. the more teachers are themselves aware of the underpinnings, theoretical and philosophical, of how they act in classrooms, the more likely they are to take a coherent approach to their literacy teaching which seems to pay most dividends. as discussed above, the effective teachers in our sample were very likely to have experienced some form of involvement with a project on an aspect of literacy teaching. many of these centre around what might be referred to as a functionalist approach to the teaching of literacy and we see this as our most significant finding. 20, 251-367. department of education and science, (1988) report of the committee of inquiry into the teaching of english language. (1993) the development of student teachers’ knowledge, competence and beliefs in the teaching of reading.

knowledge of content, i.e. what is it that children need to learn in literacy in order to be counted as successful? although teaching reading has been investigated focusing on what strategies work for the best results in the classroom, a: requirements for becoming a literacy teacher vary from state to state. to work in public schools, most states require, teaching literacy effectively in the primary school, what is a literacy teacher, what is a literacy teacher, importance of teaching literacy, how to teach literacy in primary schools.

practical strategies for teaching reading. when considering the most successful tactics for teaching what makes an effective reading teacher? 1. good teachers believe in their students. this means that teachers who complete the reading 101 modules will learn about critical skills for proficient reading and best practices, effective teachers of literacy, teaching literacy strategies, characteristics of effective literacy teachers, becoming an effective literacy teacher

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