The concept of allowing the student to select their writing topics is an important concept. Students should have the opportunity to choose their writing-topics based on their interests and what they confidently know about, so they will be more engaged in writing, but this is not always possible (Thompkins, 2010, p. 53). As a teacher, I give my students a variety of topics allowing my students to take pride and ownership of their writing. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) prioritizes the holistic literacy of twenty-first-century students.
For a student to be classified as fully literate, they must display proficiency in the new literacies of 21st- century technologies (Coskie and Hornof, 2013, p. 57). Guiding and modeling for Zion to become more tech-savvy in her writing ability means shifting her from traditional writing strategies to the implementation of more research opportunities from reliable sources. Teaching her how to use GoogleDocs as a tool for revising sentence fluency and conventions would have guided the process of improving digital writing by allowing her to publish her writing using GoogleDocs.
Technology would push her towards becoming a more developed distinguished writer, meeting the criteria of the Common Core initiative. By personally completing the Teachers’ Self-Assessment of Efficacy in Writing and the Teaching of Writing allowed me the opportunity to reflect on my skills as a writer as well as bring to my attention the areas where I need to improve my instructing of writing. Completing the self-assessment reminded me of the importance of teachers taking the time in identifying their strengthens as well as weaknesses.
I feel that if I do not take the time to pause and self-reflect, I am only cycling through the same ole lessons. As a teacher, I believe I need to stay abreast of the new teaching practices and pedagogies to help students like Zion enhance their writing abilities effectively. Zion demonstrated the writing ability of a fourth-grade early-intermediate writer. Early-intermediate writers typically are in the fourth through the sixth grades making it unrealistic to set a goal for Zion to move to a more advanced writing level. To ensure she met the goal of improving and growing as an intermediate writer, I provided tasks allowing for Zion to choose her writing topics. Choosing her writing topics allowed her to feel more engaged and eager to use more details and further deepen her ideas. Last, to accomplish the digital literacy goal, I implemented the use of technology in my instructing of writing. Defining Comprehension Strategies and Instructional Strategies Strategies enhancing reading comprehension are both demonstrated by teachers and students. Teachers conduct instructional moments modeling and guiding students towards the improvement of their reading comprehension. Instructional tasks focused on comprehension allow teachers to support students’ awareness and ability to comprehend content read (Hollenbeck & Saternus, 2013, p. 562). Personal strategic methods applied by the student to guide their thinking on texts read are student-controlled comprehension strategies. Advanced growth in comprehension development achieved when applied strategies match the individual learning style of the reader. Zion was given a recalling or retelling assessment. The assessment had to recall or retell specific events from a story. The intended purpose of this assessment was to see if Zion applied different comprehension strategies based on the content read. Zion showed having the ability to recall events in chronological order as related to the text read. Zion applied universal strategies. When given reading passage, Zion previewed the questions first before reading the entire passage. Previewing the questions first set a purpose for reading and kept her focused as she read and applied close reading strategies used in class. Complex texts do not relay information easily; they often require close reading to understand the author’s intended purpose and organization of ideas (Reutzel & Cooter, 2016, p. 389). A strategy my students are familiar with is text annotation. Text annotation takes place in the margins of the text read. Students highlight essential ideas, circle unknown words, and use symbols. Symbols used for marking text annotation are an exclamation point for thought-provoking moments, question marks for strange things or a question to be answered after the completion of reading the entire text, and arrows to indicate personal connections. As Zion read each passage, I noticed her using text annotations by underlining critical ideas about the comprehension questions, circling unfamiliar words, and rereading the sentence containing the word trying to develop a contextual understanding. Zion also made marginal notes regarding the story elements of the text, and the use of text structure. Zion modeled comprehension strategies of previewing the questions, recognizing unfamiliar words, and close reading strategies benefitting her develop of understanding of the text. Coherence is a strategy for explaining how particular words, ideas, or sentences are related and show the connection of each other (Reutzel & Cooter, 2016, p. 374). The practice of coherence has proven to help Zion stay engaged and focused on the text resulting in the improvement of her overall understanding of key concepts within the text. Ray Reutzel stated, Not all strategies used by students when comprehending texts are the same strategies teachers should use when creating the conditions and contexts supporting reading comprehension (Laureate Education, 2014g). It is stated that teachers often misconstrue the implementation of comprehension tools. It is crucial for students to be independent in knowing how to display their understanding of texts on their own. I feel a vital instructional strategy an educator can model is the use of asking questions. However, the questions must be thoughtful and purposeful to guide students comprehension. The implementation of questions must follow a structure or framework to be considered valuable (Reutzel & Cooter, 2016, p. 271). Bloom’s Taxonomy Questions are useful to move students, like Zion, from a lower-level explicit understanding of the texts and authors to their own experience and knowledge about what they read and show evidence of reading development (see Appendix F). Students learning the skill in questioning texts and authors purpose to connect to their own experiences and knowledge is evidence of reading development (Hiebert & Pearson, 2013, p. 447). Another strategy implemented to advance higher-order thinking questions and grow students comprehension of more rigorous texts is the use of Question-Answer Relationships (QAR) (See Appendix G). Training students to identify question-answer relationships will results in improved comprehension and question-answering skills (Reutzel & Cooter, 2016, p. 320). The use of questions helped move Zion towards a deeper understanding of the text at the same time, provided her with a purpose for actively reading. Implementing the instructional strategy of graphic organizers benefits many readers, Zion included. Without having concrete knowledge and understanding of story structure, students must not be expected to make reasonable predictions, recall important text information, or provide a full oral retelling (Reutzel & Cooter, 2016, p. 313). The intended use of an organizational strategy provided structure, organized close reading notes, and recognized essential ideas from the readings. Graphic organizers are beneficial when used purposefully. To make sure graphic organizers are adequately demonstrated, it is vital for them to be modeled thoroughly by teacher think-aloud. When teachers think-aloud, it provides students a more precise understanding of the cognitive process used to comprehend texts. Displaying a person’s thinking with an organizer takes thoughts one step further while providing a clear picture of the key concepts. Mastery in the skill of differentiating between relevant and irrelevant information is critical and must be learned by modeling the practical purpose of graphic organizers. Allowing time for students to interact with complex texts while monitoring their understanding is essential. Teachers who want to increase student motivation and provide collaborative opportunities for their students to respond, share, think, and problem-solve with peers on a specific text need to implement the think-pair-share strategy (Reutzel & Cooter, 2016, p. 381). The evidence of practice in instructional strategies by both teachers and students result in benefiting different levels of readers, develop and master a higher-order understanding of complex texts, and advance their reading comprehension. A student has difficulty becoming motivated and engaged in comprehending content from the text if they are missing prior knowledge or the skills necessary to make connections with what is read. To understand and value the content of a story, students must understand more than the definition of the words in the story; they need to have a frame of reference to make sense of the plot (SEDL, 2013). It is vital for all teachers to make the text accessible to all students. Teachers can access students prior knowledge and build on their reading skills by pre-teaching more difficult concepts, or content-specific vocabulary, display short video clips on the fundamental concepts of text, and allow students to participate in picture walks. Both educators and students implement strategies geared toward improving reading comprehension. The strategies implemented, and the use is entirely different. The role of an educator is to support students’ reading comprehension levels by implementing research-based methods to guide them in effectively comprehend the content and information they are reading. The implementation of instructional strategies by teachers and students allows readers performing at different levels to develop and achieve a higher-order of understanding of complex texts as well as advance their reading comprehension.Selecting Texts When choosing complex texts, research states the importance of teacher understanding students may experience some levels of struggle. The implementation of complex texts in instruction supports the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The CCSS writers emphasize the importance of teachers usage of professional knowledge when matching texts to individual readers and designing specific tasks (Hiebert, 2013, p. 460). I selected for Zion two exemplary texts which align with the Common Core State Standards. The first text I selected was Simon Seymour’s Horses (see Appendix H). The text selection was an informational text conveying the different movement patterns of a horse. This text has a Lexile level of 800 and a 5.2 readability level. This is slightly above Zion’s current grade level, providing her with more rigorous content and vocabulary. Zion has shown evidence to be identified as a fluent reader but has a history of displaying comprehension disconnections. Knowing her avid love for horses helped engage her in this higher-level text. The illustrations showcased the art of horseback riding. The use of this prompted Zion to incorporate graphic organizers, which helped her stay focused on the purpose and critical contents of the text. She formulated her opinion on the techniques of horseback riding contrasted to her personal experiences. Zion is not only an avid lover of horses; she has a keen interest in science, as well. Knowing Zion interest in science, the second complex text, I chose was Melvin Berger’s Discovering Mars: The Amazing Story of the Red Planet. This informational text tells of the scattered giant volcanoes across the surface; identified volcanoes astronomers have discovered and listed a link for more information through NASA (see Appendix I). This informational text had a Lexile level of 900 and an abundant amount of text features. This book included examples of text features, including maps, charts, graphs, photographs, and fact boxes. The nature of this book used specific vocabulary as well as rigorous vocabulary, making this a higher-level text. The vocabulary complexity of this text suggested I introduce Zion to the Frayer model to help her build comprehension of more sophisticated vocabulary. Effective vocabulary instruction provides a rich exploration of word meanings by allowing them the opportunity to think of synonyms, antonyms, categories, and specific examples of the words related to the vocabulary word (Shanahan, Fisher, & Frey, 2012, p. 61). The texts chosen in my classroom hinge on the rigor of domain-specific vocabulary and interest levels of my students while including texts that are cross-curricular in the areas of science and social studies. The vocabulary level does not only identify complex texts but the details of the content. Teachers should allow students instructional time to peer-share the meaning of the text. They should pair questions requiring students to read closely for details and key ideas (Shanahan, Fisher, & Frey, 2012, p. 61). Giving students complex texts is not beneficial, but creates opportunities for close reading, critical thinking, and reflection are essential academic practices. Close reads are created to leave the reader constructing meaningful connections and inferences based on the text. It is the role of the teacher to provide texts that will promote a higher level of thinking. I now see myself implementing the Common Core exemplar texts making sure the texts are meaningful and worthy of close reading. When choosing complex texts, research states the importance of teacher understanding students may experience some levels of struggle. Anticipate students’ frustration/struggle with the text as they glean essential information from the text themselves instead of from the teacher (ReadWriteThink, 2014c). Getting to know the literacy learner has opened my eyes to the importance and value of being informed as a teacher. Using assessments to inspire my teaching is critical because it allows me to narrow down the levels and specific misunderstandings of my students. Teachers who integrate reading and writing across the curriculum and the purpose of complex texts engage students in learning. I feel it is my responsibility as a teacher to provide my students with a conducive learning environment where all levels of literacy can develop beyond their current mastery.
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