Literacy Teaching Practices

Effective Literacy Instruction: The Integration of Literacy Expertise and Pedagogical Competency

While my graduate courses, internship, and dissertation afforded me a deep understanding of literacy, I would not be prepared to provide effective literacy instruction without the experiences I had in the College of Education at SLU. There, I taught courses and supervised field-based teaching for prospective secondary teachers, the majority of whom were English Education majors. I also coordinated a student development program for which I facilitated workshops and provided 1:1 coaching to help prospective teachers prepare for their exams in Reading, Writing, and other subjects. Through these experiences, I learned a great deal about many aspects of instruction and improved my teaching in ways I never thought possible. Integrating these competencies with the literacy expertise I gained during my graduate studies has prepared me to provide highly effective literacy instruction and this document serves to illuminate my capacity for doing so.

Below, I address the following items with regard to the teaching of integrated literacy:

  • Instructional competencies;
  • Techniques for collaboration (i.e. CoLTs) and engagement (i.e. SETs);
  • Tools and techniques for reading, writing, and inquiry; and
  • Practices relevant to formative and summative assessment.

Instructional Competencies: What I Can Do as a Literacy Instructor

Select and Evaluate Texts

  • Assemble and use multimodal text sets
  • Incorporate a variety of genres and sub-genres
  • Evaluate textbooks based on 19 criteria
  • Incorporate technology (e.g., digital texts, tools)
  • Choose texts based on student characteristics
  • Identify pop culture texts relevant to course content
  • Use multiple tools to measure readability
  • “Level” or adapt texts based on on specified targets

Plan Units and Lessons

  • Develop thematic (interdisciplinary) literacy units
  • Address the knowledge gap–a known impediment to comprehension
  • Plan units/lessons aligned to standards and goals
  • Write measurable objectives and sub-objectives
  • Plan lessons using various formats (e.g., gradual release, 5E)
  • Sequence unit content in a logical manner (i.e. easy to complex)
  • Reinforce concepts and skills throughout a unit and across multiple units

Use Effective Teaching Practices

  • Teach “content and process together” (Bean et al., 2017)
  • Address disciplinary literacies, particularly in English and Social Studies
  • Integrate multiple literacy processes (e.g., reading, writing)
  • Model strategies used by expert readers and writers
  • Provide opportunities for authentic reading and writing
  • Apply the B-D-A model and principles of comprehension to all text-based activities
  • Teach strategies for vocabulary, comprehension, writing, and study skills
  • Teach inquiry-based writing, which uses evidence from credible sources
  • Teach and facilitate, in various ways, all steps of the writing process
  • Differentiate content based on readiness, interest, and learning profile
  • Use technology to promote inquiry, reading, writing, etc. (e.g., WebQuest, cybrary)
  • Use student-centered techniques to support literacy (e.g., seminar, literature circles)

Use Continuous Assessment

  • Develop and administer interest inventories
  • Develop and administer content and digital reading assessments
  • Utilize a wide array of formative assessments
  • Provide the most effective types of feedback
  • Help students identify their strengths and weaknesses
  • Develop objective, alternative assessments, and performance-based assessments
  • Create and use rubrics and other assessment tools
  • Provide multiple opportunities to demonstrate learning and use assessment recursively
  • Interpret results from standardized tests and use item analysis to pinpoint difficulties
  • Develop improvement plans and contracts for individual students
  • Identify and describe validity and reliability problems in assessment tasks of all kinds

Engage in Critical Self-Evaluation

  • Evaluate myself using the Content Literacy Practices Assessment
  • Use student outcomes to consider my own effectiveness
  • Identify and describe my strengths and weaknesses
  • Develop and implement a self-improvement plan

My CoLTs and SETs: How I Foster Collaboration and Active Engagement

The list below includes techniques for promoting collaboration (CoLTs) and student engagement (SETs). Many of these techniques also integrate reading, writing, and inquiry; therefore, they are also listed in the section below.

  • Send a problem
  • Jigsaw (reciprocal teaching)
  • Socratic seminar
  • Book clubs
  • Literature circles
  • Structured academic controversy
  • Town hall discussion
  • Analytical teams
  • Silent discussion
  • Fish bowl
  • Rehearsals
  • Role-play or simulation
  • Gallery walk
  • Inner circle, outer circle
  • Group collage (small or large group)
  • Take a stand
  • Four corners
  • SU-HU-PU (musical mingle)
  • Stations (learning centers)
  • Case studies (in groups)
  • Wikis
  • Group organizer

My Tools and Techniques: How I Promote Reading, Writing, and Inquiry

The following list represents the tools and techniques I use to engage students in reading, writing, and inquiry. I nearly always address these processes in an integrated manner. However, since some tools and techniques are more conducive to one process than another, I have marked each tool or technique as follows: Reading (R), Writing (W), and/or Inquiry (I).

  • WebQuest (R, I, W)
  • Wiki (W, usually after R/I)
  • Blogpost (W, usually after R/I)
  • Subject sampler (R, I, W)
  • Case study (R, I)
  • Hotlist (R, I)
  • Inquiry charts (I, R, W)
  • Literature circles (R, I)
  • Reading workshop (R, I)
  • Structured academic controversy (I, R)
  • Socratic seminar (I, R)
  • Analytical teams (R, I)
  • Multigenre project (I, R, W)
  • Silent discussion (W, usually after R/I)
  • Response polls (W, usually after R/I)

Assessment Practices: How I Engage in Continuous Assessment

Although classroom assessment once required little more than an end-of-unit test, it now demands a wide array of objective and performance-based tasks situated at various points throughout a unit of study. Accordingly, I routinely use a variety of formative assessments to check students’ understanding of new concepts and to provide meaningful corrective feedback. I also assign several summative assessments so that students have multiple opportunities to demonstrate what they have learned. Below, I offer examples of the types of assessments, assessment tools, and scaffolding I might include in an integrated reading and writing course

Diagnostic & Pre-Assessment

  • Reading interest inventory
  • Content reading assessment
  • Online reading assessment
  • Timed in-class writing (baseline)
  • Text-dependent questions

Formative & Informal: WTL

I would review students’ oral and written responses to tasks such as:

  • What Stuck With You?
  • Quick Write
  • Journal entry
  • Inquiry chart
  • Group collage
  • Literature response journal
  • Double-entry journal
  • K-W-L
  • Choice board
  • Graphic organizer
  • Plot diagram
  • Annotated text
  • Poll response

Formative & Formal: Scaffolded Writing

  • Planning or brainstorming activity (e.g., T-chart for/against, concept map)
  • Draft of introductory paragraph (i.e. hook, background, thesis)
  • Draft of body paragraph(s) (e.g., thesis alignment, transitions, counter)
  • ICE practice (i.e. introduce, cite, explain)
  • Timed in-class essay (practice)
  • Annotated bibliography
  • Concept development paragraph
  • Sentences using specific constructions

Summative: Formal Assignments

  • Argumentative essay (revised and edited)
  • Works cited page
  • Expository essay
  • Literary analysis
  • Timed in-class essay
  • Newspaper article
  • Formal letter or email
  • Book review or book talk
  • Compare-contrast essay
  • Writing portfolio with various writing samples

Scaffolding & Assessment Tools

  • Exemplars
  • Rubrics
  • Checklists
  • Process charts
  • Procedural documents
  • Written feedback