As I am starting to learn the basics of how to become an effective teacher, I am learning what type of teacher I am and what type of teacher I want to be. Growing up, aspiring to be a teacher, I never thought teachers had to learn how to do some methods I have seen. For example, teachers always knew how to capture the students’ attention again after the children would get off task. I thought this skill came naturally to teachers and I would obtain it with time.
On my adventure of this learning process of becoming a teacher, I have learned this skill is something you learn how to do and there are many other skills to learn along the way. These skills and methods come from multiple studies and research done by theorists over the decades. Learning all these theories at first was overwhelming, but over time I got a grasp on the basics of just a few theorists and their theories. There are so many researchers that have put their opinions out in the open for teachers to take into account and work from. There is Vygotsky, Cambourne, Holdaway, Piaget, Skinner, and Dewey just to name a few!
After acquiring this basic knowledge of some theories, I have come to realize that there is one theorist’s methods I agree with the most when it comes to teaching literacy. This theorist is Brian Cambourne. Cambourne is an educational anthropologist from Australia who has emphasized his research in literacy learning. He has come up with many conditions pertaining to literacy learning. His theory compliments my beliefs the best, compared to the other theories I have learned about. I believe in having students experience different types of literature.
This process allows students to become familiar with different ways of writing, and how to say things in many different ways. This also gives them a chance to figure out what style of language they like best and grasp an idea of what type of literacy come easiest to them. When students understand more types of literacy, it vastly opens up their range of vocabulary that can only benefit them in the future. This condition of students exploring all types of literacy is what Cambourne calls immersion and I find it to be a step that does not seem to be obvious to children.
I feel students do not know when they are looking at different types of literacy. I believe in making an effort in explaining what type of material the students are reading from, rather than just handing them something and telling them to read it. This is the reason why I believe demonstration is the next big important process. Demonstration is a very important step in my eyes for literacy learning. Demonstration is modeling literate behaviors, formally and informally (Cambourne).
I personally am a visual learner and prefer to have the teacher model what I am going to do before I have to employ it on my own. When a model was not available to me, I would become stressed and overwhelmed with this feeling of not knowing what I am doing. I do not want my students to become frustrated when they are reading and writing; I want them to enjoy it and be excited about it. Therefore, when I become a teacher, I especially want to practice Cambourne’s condition of demonstration by having a whole group lesson in order to formally demonstrate for my students.
This can be done while the students are at their desks, but I believe having this process done in a carpet area reminds students that what I, the teacher, am about to say is important to hear. Also, I believe in the saying, “monkey see, monkey do. ” Therefore, I believe a teacher should always speak proper grammar, self-correct, and demonstrate reading strategies at all times in front of the children because they are going to mimic what they hear and see the most by the adults in their lives. After a demonstration is complete, I believe an expectation of what the students should know is built.
Cambourne believes this condition of expectation is that the students “get the message”. I believe that if a teacher’s demonstration was done correctly, the students will know that information and the teacher can expect them to know it. Not only does expectation build, but I believe the responsibility the student has for knowing what him/herself can accomplish grows. This process of being responsible for their own learning, I believe, does not come naturally. I think the teacher must allow these students to take on these responsibilities themselves.
For example, if a teacher never lets a student choose their own book, that student will never gain the responsibility of knowing what books are right for him or her or learn how to pick the right kind of book for him or her. Learners will choose what they will explore intellectually as they go through literate behaviors (Cambourne). Once students have become aware of the skills that are being demonstrated to them, I believe the next important step is allowing students time to practice what they have learned. Cambourne calls this condition employment.
I am a strong believer in “practice makes perfect”. I understand that nothing is perfect and there is always room for improvement. So maybe “practice provides improvement” is a better quote to go by. A learner will never become better at what they are learning if it is not practiced. With students practicing what they have learned, mistakes happen. This condition is what Cambourne calls approximation. I believe it is a good thing to let the learners make mistakes as they are exploring literacy because they will only learn from it!
I know that when I become a teacher, I want to stress that making mistakes is okay and will benefit anyone because they will only learn from it. I could even purposely make mistakes in order to model self-correction as well. But learners will only understand their mistake when feedback is given in a timely fashion. Coming to Alverno, I have probably received the most feedback I ever have here compared to the rest of my educational career. I have come to firmly believe that feedback provides new knowledge for learners because it brings another perspective into their personal work.
My feelings about feedback correspond with Cambourne’s condition called response. He believes this feedback should come from someone with more knowledge, such as a teacher. I want to make sure I conference with each of my students, individually, in order to look over what they have been working with and provide timely, appropriate feedback. I feel these conferences build a student’s confidence by being told what they are doing well, and they get to understand what kind of mistakes they are making in order to fix them and grow.
After reading over Cambourne’s theory, there was nothing I could not agree with. I remember while I was reading it, all I could say was, “yes, yes, and yes! ” I do have to say developing my philosophy about literacy learning was a challenge. I feel like I am still developing my philosophy, but I have a grasp on my basic beliefs for my future teaching career. I know what kind of teacher I would like to be and when reading Cambourne’s theory I could picture myself doing each condition and feeling proud by teaching literacy in such a way.