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In "Teaching Expository Text Structures Through Information Trade Book Retelling" by Barbara Moss we as readers are introduced to the concept of expository texts and how we as teachers can teach these texts.  In this article Moss explains what the strategy of retelling is, how to teach expository texts and how teachers can assess students' retellings.

                To start off it is important as a reader and a teacher to understand why it is important that we teach students about expository texts and according to Moss she believes that "teachers are aware of the demands of living in an era when information is increasing at an alarming rate" (710).  Moss also states that "mounting pressures for improved students standardized test performance have resulted in increased attention to exposition" (710).  I agree with Moss in that we as teachers understand living in an era with information increasing at an alarming rate because as a teacher we can all remember a time five or ten years ago that information was not as readily available as it is today.  We as teachers also are able to think about the internet and how its role in text is becoming larger and larger.  Moss's second statement about standardized test also is very accurate because according to Daniels "70 -80% of standardized reading test content is expository" (710).  This once again shows us as teachers why we should be teaching about expository text and learning how to successfully teach this text is very important for our students.

                Expository text used with retelling has "shown promise for engaging students with literature as well as comprehension of expository text structures" (710).  This last sentence shows teachers, administrators, parents and all others concerned about literacy development how important teaching about expository text is to students.  Some of the reasons according to Moss why we should teach about expository texts is because it helps students in the "digital world with the ability to use the Internet quickly, efficiently an affectively which is important to success at school and in the workplace" (711).  Think about this statement, how many times a day do you use the Internet and how often is this text expository.  When you stop to think about this statement you realize nearly almost all of the sites you visit are of expository text and learning about this text is largely important to our students.  While some teachers are teaching expository text we need to remember to expose students early to this type of text (Kindergarten is recommended in the article) and teach these students to read this type of text.  When teaching this text we need to teach the common structures of "description, sequence, comparison and contrast, cause and effect and problem and solution" (711).  As literacy instructors we know that it is important that this text must have authentic literacy tasks and must provide rich opportunities for the students.

                One of these rich opportunities that is authentic is the use of retelling which is the noted strategy in this article.  Retellings are "oral or written postreading recalls during which children relate what they remember from reading or listening to a particular text, recalling as much information as possible not just the main points" (711).  As a teacher we can see that retellings seem easy but we need to remember that students are recalling what they had read which helps with their overall comprehension of the text.  These retellings will also help students develop summarization skills that are important in later grades as well as flexibility to read all types of texts.  When students retell they become actively engaged with a texts which we as literacy teachers have learned how important it is to become engaged with a text.  Engagement with a text helps to increase motivation as we have learned in class from Cambourne's conditions.   According to this article students can also "sense text organization and develop their oral language abilities.  This type of retelling is also very beneficial to ELL students" (712).  As teachers we know it is important to find a strategy that could be adapted for all students as this article explains this text shows that this retelling works and helps ELL students.

                Looking at the type of books that should be selected when using the retelling strategy we need to use "information trade books" and should be selected based on "literacy quality", "books that don't overwhelm students with difficult vocabulary" and finally "books that clearly illustrate the text structure being taught" (712).  As literacy teachers we can also align this information with research and other information that we have learned in class about align books to students making sure that the books are developmentally appropriate as well as using the five finger rule for vocabulary.  A thing to note when teaching about expository texts is that all structures should be taught individually with the easier ones being taught first and gradually moving on to the more difficult text structures.

                Learning about this retelling strategy is very important as a teacher and we need to remember that students will not automatically know how to retell so as teachers we must model this retelling and then have students practice retelling as a large group and then move to a small group for retelling.  A suggested method in this article of retelling is a "cumulative retelling which is ideal for small groups; the 1st student in the group retells the first events from the story, the 2nd student retells the next series of events but repeats the earlier events and this process continues until the entire text has been retold" (715).  As literacy teachers in ELED 3102 we have learned about the whole part whole read aloud lesson plan format which would work wonderful when using this strategy for expository texts.  Looking at this lesson plan we also know that there must be a way to assess students for the work they have done.  In this article Moss suggests using a "scale that is a holistic evaluation of retelling" this scoring method would acknowledge the "student's response as a whole, with all individual, unique features and richness, ability to identify main ideas, details, overall text structure and infer beyond text, summarize and relate text to own life" (716).  Using this way of assessment we as literacy teachers would acknowledge that fact that all students are unique and not all retellings will be the same.  We also need to remember that we want to push students to make text to self-connections to make the text more authentic for their own life.  This assessment will also allow teachers the ability to see how these students comprehend the text and if they will need further work with expository text.

                As mentioned in this blog previous it is important that we implement this strategy of retelling for comprehension through the use of the whole-part-whole lesson plan which allows for teacher modeling and then student practice.  This article is very important to refer to as a strategy guide for help when we as literacy teachers are introducing expository texts into our classroom someday.  I personally believe that this strategy is effective and could be beneficial to teachers when introducing expository texts.

Multiple Ways to Comprehend Text

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In the article "Democracy's young heroes: An instructional model of critical literacy practices" by A. Vincent Ciardiello, Ciardiello talks about the importance of students learning about different situations from multiple points of view.  The author gives five literacy practices that he suggests all readers need to use when they are reading.  These five practices are: examining multiple perspectives, finding one's authentic voice, recognizing social barriers and crossing borders of separation, regaining one's identity, and listening and responding to "the call of service". Through these five perspectives, a reader comes to understand the text they are reading in more effective ways.  They understand that the text needs to be comprehended in multiple ways to get the full meaning from it.

An example from the article, is a classroom talking about desegregation of schools in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1960.  The main person being taught about is Ruby Bridges.  By implementing the five practices of literacy the author describes, the students are able to comprehend what others in that time would have thought about desegregation.  The students are able to think about how they would have felt at the time and what they would have done in this situation.

I personally think that having students learn to understand text in multiple ways helps increase their understanding of the text later on.  They are able then to remember the information from that text more fluently and comprehensively.  It also provides them with background knowledge for later text of the same concept.

Response to Intervention

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In the article "Response to Intervention (RTI):  What Teachers of Reading Need to Know" by Eric M. Mesmer and Heidi Anne E. Mesmer, Response to Intervention is defined as a "process measuring whether a learner's academic performance improves when provided with well-defined, scientifically based interventions.  In an RTI model, the 'tests' of whether students possess learning disabilities are not standardized measures but students' measured responses to interventions."  The RTI process consists of five steps.  In the first step, all students in the school are screened on basic literacy skills, and the students' scores are compared to benchmark scores.  Students who do not meet benchmark receive additional help through scientifically valid interventions (Step 2).  In Step 3, progress-monitoring assessments are done with the students to assess the effectiveness of the interventions being used.  In Step 4, interventions are individualized for readers who continue to struggle, with the student's progress continued to be monitored.  Finally in Step 5, for readers who still continue to struggle, the student's eligibility for special education services is determined.  The authors said that they "have seen this RTI approach increase the quantity and quality of instruction for struggling readers."  Instead of having to wait while school staff discusses the problem, collects data on it, and writes about it before actually doing anything about it, the RTI model quickly begins additional reading instruction with the student to start the process of working toward improved reading and working toward the goal of reading at grade level.  I agree with the authors that this is a positive approach toward helping students improve with their reading, instead of right away just labeling the student as having a learning disability.  With collaborative efforts of school staff, effective reading interventions can be determined and utilized for students that will help them improve with their reading.

            The strategy of coaching is also referred to as interactive option because it is the teacher's decision or option to intervene when a reader is struggling during a reading lesson. A teacher may intervene and coach a student based on the teacher's observation of where and why and the student is struggling. Based on the reason for struggling, the teacher will then decide the best way to coach the student in each situation.

            One example of a coaching strategy is general cues which promote thought by the reader. These cues are non-specific in nature and prompt readers to think about word-recognition and how to apply the knowledge they have to the word recognition task. Possible questions for this method include, how are you going to figure that out? What can you do? The prompts do not point the reader in any direction which allows the reader to think for themselves.

            The opposite of general cues are specific cues which prompt readers about the word recognition task more specifically and focusing reader's attention on graphophonic   knowledge, word-part identification, and contextual supports.

            Teachers as a whole and especially us as young reading instruction teachers rely to heavily on the phrase, "sound it out" when a student is struggling reading a sentence or word. "Sound it out" can work at times, but there are not only more effective strategies, but also strategies that we as instructors need to incorporate to truly be doing our jobs as reading instructors.

            One of these strategies is called coaching. Clark defines coaching as "a highly effective instructional technique in which teachers craft instructional cues that enable students to apply their developing reading skills and knowledge of strategies as they attempt to complete a task." I agree with the strategies and methods within the larger strategy of coaching. Both general and specific prompting have their places in coaching a struggling reader. The biggest thing we as teachers need to always be aware of is the histories, progressions, and best ways in which each of our students reads or works best. By knowing our students on an individual basis we are able to implement the best coaching strategy for each moment-to-moment intervening in which we must coach and guide our students.

What Else Besides "Sound It Out"?

This was the second time that I have read the article "What Else Can I say Besides 'Sound it Out?'" and it was a great refresher as to what to do when helping students decode difficult text.  In my practicum class, I am always there during their independent reading time and I help the teacher do short reading conferences with students. This involves listening to the students read their book out loud. Students often come to a word they do not know and I must coach them in decoding the difficult text. Telling them to simply 'sound out' the word is not always helpful so knowing other ways to help students is a must.

Coaching students while reading is so important that is not being included in many university reading methods courses. It is a technique that Marie Clay helped develop. She "viewed young readers as active learners working to construct a self-extending system. One way children develop this system is through powerful interactions with teachers during reading (2)."  Coaching can also be referred to as scaffolding. General cues to promote though are "non specific in nature and they prompt readers to think about their knowledge of word-recognition strategies and how to apply this knowledge to the word-recognition task (2)."  These cues do not point readers in a specific direction so the responsibility of thinking falls on the reader. Cues to prompt specific action "provide readers with more detailed information about the word-recognition task. They focus readers' attention of graphophonic knowledge, word-part identification strategies and contextual supports (3.)"

To coach successfully, teachers must be aware of the "knowledge sources available for word recognition, have specific knowledge of students' work-recognition abilities, be able to analyze a word, and generate appropriate cues (6)." It is important to know each of your students so that you can provide cues that will be a best fit strategy.

Teachers must recognize developmental differences when coming up with instructional cues because the cues we suggest must support student's movement through the stages of word learning. The three stages of word recognition are the "selective-cue stage, the spelling-sound stage, and the automatic stage (7)." Students at the selective-cue stage should be cued to attend to print information to build their awareness and knowledge of letter-sound relationships. Those at the spelling-sound stage should be cued to fully analyze the constituent letters and orthographic patterns in words.

There are three factors that contribute to effective teacher coaching: "the teacher has considerable explicit knowledge of phonics and English orthography, they maintained a conscious awareness of students' instructional histories, and the teachers were aware of student's individual strengths and weaknesses" (10).

 (Clark, Kathleen, "What can I say besides 'sound it out' Coaching Word Recognition in Beginning Reading, The Reading Teacher, 2004)." 

Coaching Not Telling

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I reread the article "What can I say besides "sound it out"? Coaching word recognition in beginning reading" by Kathleen F. Clark. This article describe the incredibly effective teacher practice of coaching your literacy students through words they don't know how to read instead of telling them what the word it. The article describes coaching as, "teachers craft instructional cues that enable students to apply their knowledge of strategies as they attempt to complete a task."(p. 440) The teachers are in effect teaching their students how to be independent readers and to actually use good strategies they know to decode the unknown words. I think that it is interesting in the article that it describes the roots of coaching with the work of Marie Clay and correlating this practice to a constructivist theory approach, the idea that in order to learn people must work together to create/construct meaning. This happens during coaching between a student and their teacher because of the  powerful interaction that is taking place.The article focused coaching emphasis on 1st and 2nd grade learners and word recognition as learning to recognize words is extremely important for this age group. With professional development training for teachers, all teachers should be properly trained in how to effectively coach and prompt their students to yield exciting results in their students. 

This article discusses the importance of "Text Talk" and "enhancing young children's language and comprehension abilities through in depth and extensive experiences listening to and talking about stories read to them" (79).  "Text Talk" is a strategy, or approach, to be utilized during read-aloud sessions.  Text Talk is "directed towards enhancing young children's ability to construct meaning" (79).  In order to use this approach of Text Talk effectively, you must do the following: use text that is conceptually challenging; you must give children the opportunity to experience "decontextualized language", which requires them to make sense of the content within the text.  "The key to experiences with decontentualized language that make them valuable for future literacy seems to lie in not merely listening to book language, but in talking about the ideas" (79).  Giving children the opportunity to experience and experiment with analytical thinking will increase their comprehension, vocabulary, and overall literacy growth.  This article also suggests not showing pictures to your students/children while reading, but instead read to them, talk about the text, and then show the pictures, or refrain from showing pictures at all.  This will encourage your children or students to visualize what is happening in the story by listening or reading the text in the book.  This strategy will also teach them to not "rely on pictures to construct their understanding of a story" (80).  Other times, pictures can hinder a reader's understanding of what is happening.  Many times, throughout a book, a picture may not be "congruent with the text content at that point"; therefore, the reader may become confused and have a more difficult time constructing meaning of the story (80).  Text Talk also allows students to activate their prior background knowledge and connect that knowledge to the text ideas.  It is up to the teacher to activate that prior knowledge and scaffold that knowledge (or connect it) to what the text is discussing.  As children make connections between themselves and the text they are reading, they are able to better comprehend what is happening and learn further about the content at hand.  After reading this article, I would have to agree that this strategy, or approach, is an effective one.  It pulls children into the text by activating their background knowledge, allows them to think analytically about the ideas in the stories, and lets them experience constructing meaning on their own through the use of text and not just relying on the pictures. 

Effective Practices in Literacy and Language Instruction

Welcome, once again, to our literacy and language blog!  Please consider, and then write about, effective practices for teaching and learning in the area of literacy and language in elementary schools.  What does the research say about the characteristics of such practices?  How do we integrate them into our pedagogy and how do we implement them into our schools' existing instructional programs? 

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