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Richelle Conine

TE 843
Spring 2017

Literacy Inquiry Project

Context

The students who participated in the survey live in Laingsburg, a small rural town in

Michigan. According to the 2014 census, Laingsburg had a population of 1,227. (Laingsburg

michigan, n.d.). The demographics of Laingsburg during this time breaks down as follows:

1,227 whites, 23 classified as two or more races, 18 Hispanics, 5 Asians, 5 African-Americans,

and 5 American Indians. (Laingsburg michigan, n.d.). The median income for this rural town

was $53,596. (Laingsburg michigan, n.d.). The size of Laingsburgs area measures at 1.69 mi.

(Laingsburg michigan, n.d.). During the 2014-2015 school year Laingsburg High School had

379 students in attendance. (Search for public schools, 2015-2016). There were 87 students in

the 10th grade. (Search for public schools, 2015-2016). The demographic breakdown

Laingsburg High School during the 2014 2015 school year was as follows: 359 white, 15

Hispanic, 2 Asian/Pacific Islander, 2 classified as two or more races, and 1 African-American.

(Search for public schools, 2015-2016).

Analyzing the Data


The three students I surveyed are in 10th grade at Laingsburg High School. Analyzing the

data I to found the majority of the three students (2:3) I surveyed for this project did not find

reading interesting and, therefore, do not read books outside of school with regularity. All the

students found reading to be exciting and fun when they initially learned how to read, because it

made them feel smart. These students have good reading skills and strategies, however, they

found reading boring. Students stated that they often struggled focus on what they were reading.
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It seems what students find most engaging to them are books, which are not permitted reading in

school. For example, Stephen King books seem to be quite popular amongst this population,

however, this type of literature is not permitted in the classroom setting. Students also noted that

they like to read historical fiction and non-fiction. Reading genres they enjoy also increases their

engagement and interest in reading. One student felt if they read about their culture in school

they would find reading more interesting. The same student thought they would be more engaged

to read in class if what was being read in class were discussed after the reading.

Based on the students reading scores reading comprehension does not seem to play a

role in students lack of outside reading. The students surveyed were frequently read to as

children, which most likely led to their ability to be strong readers themselves. They often found

watching TV and playing video games more entertaining than reading. One student noted getting

off of their phone would help them to read more. Students stated on average they text about two

hours a day during the week and up to four hours a day during the week. They do not use

Facebook, but do use Twitter and Instagram on average an hour every couple days. Students did

not connect typing and reading as methods of literacy. They identify reading as reading a book or

other hard copy, physical texts. According to these students, writing is identified as the physical

act of using a writing utensil on paper.

Failure to read texts that appeal to students interests and intrigue them in school, seems

to be the highest reason for lack of reading outside of school. Also, this lack of exposure to a

multitude of genres, authors from various cultures and backgrounds represented in the classroom
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TE 843
Spring 2017

reading limit students ability to select text outside the classroom. This interferes with overall

reading engagement.

Reflecting on Literacy Goals and Curricular Commitments

As a result of my not currently be in the classroom I will be placing survey participant in

the context of the readers writers workshop curriculum, I previously taught 10 years ago, in

Aurora, Colorado. This district is broken up into many sub-districts and the district that I taught

in no longer teaches readers writers workshop. Also, the current standards for district and state

significantly very from 10 years ago, when reader writer workshop was implemented within this

district. Currently the district website only lists novels that are approved for each grade level.

This does not necessarily mean these books are all taught within the school year per grade level.

It could mean these texts are approved for teachers to choose from in order to address current

curriculum standards. I cannot make any further assumptions about how these novels support the

current curriculum, or are implemented within the classroom.

The premise of the Readers Writers Workshop curriculum is discipline literacy. The

structure of the curriculum encourages student to write like writers and to read like writers to

promote authentic reading and writing experiences. When students read a text they are analyzing

and identifying the authors purpose and biases, writers craft, tone, and themes. Students

analyze elements of writers craft while they read, and write them down in their writers

notebooks so they can implement these techniques in their own writing at a later date. As

Bomer and Fowler-Amato (2014) stated a notebook allows writers to return to and reflect on
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Spring 2017

their thinking over time a writers notebook is a compilation of entries, each with the potential

to be part of a bigger conversation. (p.162).

This application of the writing devices is what is referred to as try on. While students read their

thinking about the text, questions they have is the reading, any connections they identify (text to

text; text to self; text to world) and other annotations regarding the reading in a readers

notebook.

There are no specifically required texts for this curriculum. The primary reading within

this curricular framework texts are articles the teacher finds best addresses specific curricular

standards for the grade level. The texts must be from various resources such as: online resources,

magazine articles, newspaper articles, books, and mentor texts. Although the teacher makes

texts selections, they must ultimately be approved by district and building administrators. There

is a pacing guide to determine what concepts are to be taught, when each standard will be taught,

and in what sequence. Genre studies are also a fundamental component to the Reader Writers

curriculum. District policy prohibits teachers from teaching students concepts below grade level

according to state standards. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Curriculum is conducted a block schedule, which means each class is an hour and a half

in length. Each class is divided up accordingly: 30 minutes of independent reading, 10 minutes

of whole group reading instruction, followed by 20 minutes of students independently try on

with the reading strategy addressed in instruction, and 10 minutes of whole group writing

instruction, followed by 20 minutes of students independently try on the writing strategy

addressed in the writing instruction. During the 30 minutes of independent reading the teacher is
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Spring 2017

to work with a small group focusing on a predetermined reading or writing strategy. Small

groups are determined by students level of mastery for the particular strategy being taught.

Teachers can also to conduct one-on-one writing conferences with students as they finalize long-

term writing projects while the other students are engaged in 30 minutes independent reading.

Bomer and Fowler-Amato (2014) explain:

The purpose of a writing conference is to understand the writers intentions and to teach

a strategy that can help her pursue those intentions, not just for this particular writing

experience, but so that she can use the same strategy in the future. (p. 165).

Reading conferences are conducted in a similar manner to assess: what students are

reading independently (does it meet their reading level?; appropriate reading for age?), what

reading strategies they are using as they read, is their level of reading compatible with the text

they have selected, and what are their thoughts about the book they are reading? It is essentially a

reading interview. During whole group mini instruction teachers model how to implement

specific reading strategies and writing strategies. Bower and Fowler-Amato (2014) elaborates,

When students are writing during class and the teacher is conferring with individuals, it

becomes clear to the teacher what kinds of things everyone in the class could benefit from

hearing. These become topics of mini-lessons (p. 166).

After the whole group instruction students are given time to try on the strategy just

modeled for them in whole group instruction. Mentor texts are proficient examples of writing.

These can be written by students (and should be if possible), written by a published author, or the

teacher. Mentor texts are used as a sort of writing template to improve the structure and
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TE 843
Spring 2017

application of writing techniques and craft in student writing. Bomer and Fowler-Amato (2014)

state:

Writers can learn to think about design from studying and discussing the ways other

writers have constructed published texts that are considered high-quality in this discipline

or general form, then trying to apply some of the same structures they have discovered

empirically from those texts. (p. 157).

Assessments occur in the following ways: small group work, readers/writers conferences,

readers and writers notebooks, final projects at the end of each unit, state standardized tests, the

district standardized tests, and the federal standardized test.

Literacy acknowledges proficiency and fluency, skill and task based, in a whatever

context it is applied. Reading literacy is the ability to apply various reading strategies, critical

thinking, and analysis to make meaning of a text in a variety of genres in a variety of mediums.

Writing literacy is the ability to use the written word to communicate using a standard means of

language, and tools shared by others to explore the exchange of ideas and feelings. Discipline

literacy focuses on the application of specific reading strategies to a specific genre for a

particular purpose. It requires the reader to read like a historian when reading a history text or a

scientist as they read a scientific text. This is a different type of literacy in that although there is

an application of reading strategies, this is not the primary instructional focus. Being a literate

establishes a person as being well-educated to the point of mastery.

My literacy goals for my students is for them to acquire the necessary literacy skills

allowing them to be able to read material, and synthesize the information in a way that moves
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TE 843
Spring 2017

them into political action, which serves to secure and promote all peoples civil rights. Students

should be able to read and critically think about what they are reading in a way that allows them

to make their own understanding of information. This means not taking written information at

face value, but to be able to consider the motives, biases of the author or authors, and the context

of the writing. This promotes students thinking for themselves, which allows them to infer a

greater truth beyond the written word. This ability to infer beyond what is written deepens

students awareness of the world around them allowing them to not only recognize injustices, but

to also initiate self-actualization. This level of literacy requires students to be able to consider a

multitude of possibilities within a variety of contexts to arrive at a specific opinions or thoughts.

Through this awareness students can critically think and recognize injustices all around them.

Once students are able to recognize injustice they can think of peaceful and effective ways to

increase justice where justice is lacking. Reading and writing literacy improve the brains ability

to think deeply about a variety of topics and contexts, which promotes well higher-level thinking

required to do such tasks. Tatum (2006) writes, Characteristically, these texts were enabling.

And enabling text is one that moves beyond a soul cognitive focus-such as skill and strategy

development-to include a social, cultural, political, spiritual, or economics focus. (as cited in

Tatum, 2014, p.5).

For this reason, texts students connect to have a powerful impact. Tatum (2008) states:

These are also texts that move adolescence to feel differently about themselves, their

views of themselves and others, and move them to some action in their current time and
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TE 843
Spring 2017

space because of ethnic, gender, personal, or other connections with texts. (as cited in

Tatum, 2014, p.5).

Therefore, I will include enabling texts in my curriculum to empower students.

Students data, my goals, and curricular demands overall are in alignment. Students

reading what they enjoy and what they want to read is totally compatible with my goals and

curriculum. The Readers Writers Workshop establishes how literacy is taught, but it is not

specific to particular genres, authors, or texts. Curricular constraints and interference with the

specifics of content come from bureaucrats and other external top parties. Tensions would

occur if a genre students want to study is not included in their grade level curriculum as a result

of decisions made on behalf these external parties. The pacing guide and state standards are

examples of this kind of external interference with the flexibility of Readers Writer Workshop.

Another tension would be students attraction to technology and our inability, at the district level,

to provide access to such technology. Implications of what Ive learned about the students

inform me about their needs and the shortcomings of the curriculum to attend to their needs.

Therefore, the implications are their reading outside has become very minimal. Changes need to

be made to their in-school reading their needs must be better served or their level of literacy will

be useless to them.

Integrating Adolescent Literacy and Literacy Goals for Effective Literacy Instruction

After reading the students surveys, I have learned there are a few which have a negative

impact on outside reading, which include: boredom with reading, technology use more

appealing/fun, and difficulty focusing while reading. To address these hindrances and make use
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of students and what to formulate lessons and to select texts for my instruction I would do the

following things: implement reading surveys, select texts that vary in genre, cultural

perspectives, and align with students cultures. Tatum (2014) writes, Responsive teaching and

curricular focus on powerful and authentic text for adolescence that help them bridge in school

and out-of-school discontinuities that exist for many students across ethnicity, gender, and

language. (p.13).

My literacy goals are in alignment with students reading needs because it promotes the

type of reading they find intriguing, want to read, and addresses topics they find important from

culturally diverse perspectives. Utilizing a reading survey multiple times a year to assess what

students enjoy reading, genres/topics/authors they have not been exposed to, want to read, and

significant life experiences they have had, can greatly inform my text selection. This provides me

significant information to make effective and engaging reading selections. This also allows

students to give input about text selections, which validates them as people, and, in turn, this also

encourages reading engagement.

This survey provides insight about what types of texts that appeal to students and are

relatable to them, which are keys to student reading engagement. When students read they want

to be entertained. The reading survey establishes an awareness of what students generally enjoy

reading, which will promote reading engagement and participation.

Establishing a balance between texts students enjoy reading and texts they have not been

exposed to will be important in promoting reading engagement. For students who have not yet

determined genres, topics, or authors they enjoy reading, through this exploration of diverse texts
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Spring 2017

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they may discover genres, topics, and authors they do enjoy reading. Although it is very

important to expose students to a variety of genres to increase students reading exposure it is

also important to read the genres they already know they enjoy. Another important consideration,

which the reading survey also provides me insight, is information about students lives and their

personal experiences. This helps me to select texts that are relatable to students. Being able to

connect to characters and experiences in a text can be a powerful engagement factor. Tatum

(2014) states, Or students are disengaged from texts because they assess the texts as being

irrelevant, teacher-driven selections mandated by school curricula that are more exclusive than

inclusive to students with varying cultural and linguistic histories and experiences. (p.4).

For this reason, I will make sure that culturally diverse perspectives and experiences are explored

in texts. Part of this cultural diversity will reflect the perspective of the students cultures. These

readings will include, but not limited to, stories from authors such as: Sherman Alexie, Sandra

Cisneros, Maya Angelo, and Frederick Douglas.

Also establishing why a text is relevant through whole group discussion can help support

student interest in reading texts. Often providing a context for a text can spike students interest

and engagement because it provides background knowledge students may lack, which can

interfere with their reading comprehension and engagement. The information collected from

students reading surveys and mandated curriculum requirements then has to be carefully

balanced to fulfill my responsibilities as a teacher.

A means to improve students outside literacy to accomplish my in-school goals would be

to encourage students to read for 30 minutes daily. After reading the students would be required
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to write a short summary detailing what was read during the 30-minute session and share

opinions/thoughts/questions they had about the reading. This could be for extra credit or for a

grade, if mandated. I can provide the reading selections for students if they struggle to find their

own. These reading selections would address a multitude of genres, cultural perspectives, and

topics. The reading selections I provide students, for this task, would focus on specific reading

strategies we have practiced in class and students are struggling to master. This exercise would

not only encourage students to read outside of school, but to also improve their overall reading

strategies.

Since technology was a common deterrence outside reading, for the students surveyed, if

students have access to technology I would incorporate technology reading. As students read a

text they would either email, blog, or chat about their reading. In this way, they could use

technology as a means of interacting about a text. They would receive credit after showing me

their work in whichever medium they choose. (There would be specific guidelines provided to

students like with any other assignment.) This would give their frequent technology use outside

of school a academic purpose. This implementation of using technology for academic purposes

would expand students concept of literacy to their common daily practices of technology usage

such as: texting, reading texts, reading posts online, and writing posts online.

To achieve such literacy as I have described students contexts must be considered in lieu

of curriculum development. Curriculum would be designed with teachers who work with the

students input to ensure it serves all students. Curriculum would have to allow flexibility

permitting teachers to make adaptations which allow them to meet the students where they are.
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This flexibility would also allow for some variation in the specified amount of time delegated to

each part of the daily schedule. Flexibility would also allow teachers to determine which genres

and concepts are pertinent to the students they serve. Readers Writers Workshop is best

implemented with smaller class sizes because it would increase the time teachers have to

delegate to each student during reading and writing conferences supporting deeper learning

during these sessions. Technology needs to be provided in every classroom, to every student to

expand literacy genres, better engagement, and improve technological literacy.

After reviewing students data has made clear that outside reading is in grave danger of

extinction. Those making curricular decisions and teachers must make significant changes to the

methods and types of literacy students are exposed to in order to prevent this extinction. Texts

must reflect, to some degree, genres students enjoy and their identities to promote reading

engagement. Adolescents want to know about their cultures and where they come from as the

determine their identities. Teachers through reading should promote this and provide support for

this fundamental right of students. Developing literacies is to develop the whole child. Selecting

texts that reflect students interests and innovative topics will lessen the boredom of reading

expressed in the students surveys. Since technology is winning out over reading, technology,

reading, and writing should be married to increase students interest. Students failure to connect

technology to literacy demonstrates schools failure to effectively, or in any capacity, to

implement technology in ways that promote such connections. As technology evolves and

physical texts diminish, students must be prepared to function as technologically literate beings.

All of these factors must be considered to create literate adults who can function in the world,

and make informed decisions about their lives and social/political issues.
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References

Bomer, Randy and Fowler-Amato, Michelle. (2014). Expanding adolescent writing: building

upon youth practices, purposes, relationships, and thoughtfulness. In Kathleen A.

Hinchman and Heather K. Sheridan-Thomas (Eds.), Best practices in adolescent literacy

instruction. (154-168). New York, New York: Guilford Press.

Tatum, Alfred W. (2014). Texts and adolescents: embracing connections and connectedness. In

Kathleen A. Hinchman and Heather K. Sheridan-Thomas (Eds.), Best practices in

adolescent literacy instruction. (3-19). New York, New York: Guilford Press.

Laingsburg michigan. (n.d.). City data. Retrieved from http://www.city-

data.com/city/Laingsburg-Michigan.html

Search for public schools. (2015-2016). National center for education statistics. Retrieved from

https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/schoolsearch/school_detail.asp?Search=1&InstName=Laingsburg

+high+school&SchoolType=1&SchoolType=2&SchoolType=3&SchoolType=4&Specifi

cSchlTypes=all&IncGrade=-1&LoGrade=-1&HiGrade=-1&ID=262055005727