Sunday, March 4, 2012

Shaping Classroom Literacy through Self-Awareness

How do kids learn to read and write? Wouldn't it be easiest if we just sent them to school, the teacher did some basic lessons, and all students left reading and writing at the same level? Unfortunately and fortunately, literacy learning is much more complicated than that. Fortunately, literacy learning can be very exciting because all children develop in unique ways, and they bring their personal experiences and habits into the classroom. When children are assisted in developing literacy skills using the best methods for them individually, reading and writing become fun and personally meaningful. Unfortunately, the fact that children are so different from each other can make it difficult for teachers to address the unique needs of each student.

The enjoyment and success of literacy in an early elementary classroom can very much depend on the teacher's discourse - the way the teacher views the children's literacy achievement according to his or her beliefs about literacy learning (Wohlwend, 2009). If a teacher views students as young people who are not ready or able to write, or as robots who follow generic instructions in order to learn, he or she will not be allowing the children to develop their full potential, or to show how much they already know about literacy. On the other hand, if a teacher sees students as creative, social beings who already have so much to offer in literacy work, he or she will be likely to promote a classroom environment where student work is shared and valued every day. This environment encourages children to love reading and writing, and gives them confidence in their abilities.

It is important to understand our own literacy discourse as teachers, parents, and caregivers because it is our own self-awareness that shows us how we can help our students improve their literacy skills. When we know how we view our students and believe that we are doing our best work for them, we will be able to see the necessary next steps for their literacy development. In today's world, teachers are bound by standards and testing, but we should not let this completely drive our teaching. We alone can see what is best for the children in our care, and we should plan instruction based on their interests and development. When children are given the opportunity to experience literacy through developmentally appropriate but challenging social activities, they will enjoy learning as well as perform better on standardized tests.

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