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Colton Myhre

EDUC340 Literacy and the Learner

Case Study/Reflective Paper
Part I: All teachers are teachers of reading...
I think of teachers as guides that help students learn how to
learn, and to me, reading is synonymous with learning. Mastering the
way in which we comprehend and interpret content is what students
practice in school, and what teacher facilitate in their classrooms.
According to Dr. Seahorn in her lecture, literacy involves not only
reading, but writing, speaking, and thinking as well. All teachers are
teachers of reading because they help students pull meaning from the
page, put it into their brains, and apply that knowledge to their lives.
From the different literacy strategies weve studied in class,
figuring out ways to best translate content/knowledge into a students
mind in a way that works best for them has been a huge focus. I really
realized this problem when studying the Close Reading Protocol
strategy in Ms. Baldridges class. The activity involved the students
defining different parts of speech in sentences, and recording their
answers. I remember this activity being especially hard because many
of the students had trouble reading the sentence in the first place. On
top of that, I had trouble explaining the parts of speech in ways that
made sense to each student. I remember working with Talene on a

sentence and trying to explain what an adverb was. The way I

described it was in reference to other parts of speech, i.e. an adverb
describes a verb, but without a clear understanding of what verb was,
my explanation was useless to Talene.
This experience helped me realized an important aspect of
teaching reading, being that so many students have vastly different
grasps on literacy and comprehension, and our job as teachers is to do
our best to effectively accommodate these different learners. When
trying to teach student how to learn and comprehend content, we need
to consider their prior knowledge, and current grasp on reading. This is
different for every student, and requires the teacher to use strategies
that best accommodate every students needs as effectively as
Another aspect of teaching reading is the fact that students
minds work in so many different ways, and the pathways that content
takes to reach a students brain is different for every individual.
Strategies I really liked that addressed this aspect were Semantic
Maps, and Verbal/Visuals. The ways students think and comprehend
content is so diverse, and these strategies are super effective in
incorporating different ways of thinking. For example, when working
with Hayden on a subject-predicate Verbal/Visual activity, I noticed he
always started with a personal example sentence before moving on to
any definitions or pictures. Talene, however, preferred to draw the

picture first. This literacy strategy not only shows the different ways of
thinking that students might prefer, but accommodates them
effectively as well.
The task of learning and comprehending is daunting enough, but
just as important, I believe, is the task of applying whats learned. A
strategy that I think really helps students apply what theyve learned is
the Level of Questioning. According to Bloom on the AVID comparison
chart received in recitation, higher-level thinking requires students to
evaluate and create. This means students dive deeper into content by
applying what they know and what theyve learned to create what
Costa refers to as output. One example of this being done was when
Ms. Holman showed us the RAFTs her students did about space. The
students applied what they learned in an imaginative way and created
something that expressed new perspectives and connections. The
students really engaged in the content and applied it into the letters
they wrote.
By teaching students how to learn and how to engage with what
their learning, all teachers are teachers of reading. Whether that
reading involves sentence structure and parts of speech, or reading
and comprehending equations about space travel, students are
engaging in different way to translate that
knowledge into their memory and apply it in creative and innovative

Part II: Applying these strategies to English

Many of the literacy strategies, such as the close reading
protocol, apply directly to comprehending words on a page. These
types of strategies are incredibly useful in helping students learn and
understand literature. Other strategies such as RAFTs, character maps,
and text connections are really effective with helping students reach
the higher levels of thinking communicated by Costa and Bloom. These
strategies along with Cornell Notes and paragraph maps to help
organize students ideas, are really cool literacy strategies that I would
apply to my content area.
Brainstorming in recitation about RAFTs really got me excited
about using them in my content area. I love the freedom students have
to write about something that they care about, in a creative and
academic way. According to chapter one in Willis, Research-Based
Strategies to Ignite Student Learning, long-term memory is enhanced
when students have personal meaning/connection to the content, as
well as an organization that works best for them (Willis, 2006). RAFTs
are effective in the flexibility they allow for each student to engage in a
text in a way that works for them. They also require students to think
more critically about a text and consider different perspectives as they
create something. For example, requiring students to write two letters
from the perspectives of foiled characters, such as Hamlet and Laertes

can offer interesting perspectives. RAFTs are a really cool and fun way
for students to go in-depth with the text we read in class.
Another strategy I would use is character mapping. Our
discussions in recitation, again, excited me about this strategy. I like
the idea of comparing different characters, or the same character at
different points in the novel and having students visualize and create
the similarities and differences. For example, as an after reading
activity, I would ask students to make a character map for Okonkwo
from Achebes Things Fall Apart. This would require the students to
compare and contrast the protagonist at the beginning and end of the
novel. Students would be able to visualize Okonkwo as a dynamic
Another strategy I would use to engage students in higher-level
thinking is text connections. I love the idea of students reflecting on
the significance of texts, and how they can relate to other things we
study. Willis states in chapter 1 of Ignite Student Learning, that crosscurricular learning helps students make connections in their mind in
order to remember content more easily (Willis, 2006). Having students
make connections to themselves, other texts, and to world events all
help students not only remember content more effectively, but think
more critically and beyond just the text itself. One assignment I would
love to have students do is a text-to-text comparison of Things Fall
Apart by Achebe and Heart of Darkness by Conrad. I studied this in one

of my literature classes in high school, and it was an incredible way to

not only study post-colonial literature, but to study perspective as an
aspect of that as well.
These strategies are really great ways to have students reach
higher levels a questioning, but I think having strategies to help
students organize their thoughts is important as well. I would definitely
incorporate Cornell Notes into my content area because I think they
are an effective way for students to record information and study it for
later. I would also have a space for a quick-write or a pre-write on the
top of every page. This allows students to journal their thoughts about
a work as they read, and go back and see their thought process later.
This not only helps students organize the content they are learning,
but have a place for their personal thoughts as well. As we read a
novel, I would have students quick-write at the beginning of class
about that nights reading. This requires them to synthesize thoughts
on the works, as well as warm up and prep their minds to discuss the
work in class.
I also would use the claim, evidence, and reasoning paragraph
format when having student write essays. Literature essays are as
much argument-based as essays in other content areas, and this
strategy helps students logically support the claims they make about a
work. The Vacca/Vacca chapter, Writing Across the Curriculum in the
custom textbook, explains the importance of writing as a way of

facilitating learning. Writing helps students explore and clarify what

they are thinking (Vacca/Vacca, 2010), and paragraph mapping is an
excellent way to help students organize their thoughts. I like the idea a
having students go through their own essays (or a peers essay) and
highlight with different colors each claim, the specific textual evidence,
and their reasoning behind it. Being able to more easily visualize the
structure of their essay will help them improve.
Among many other strategies I hope to use when teaching
English, I love these specific strategies as ways to help students think
beyond the surface-level of a text, and beyond the text itself. Being
able to make connections, write from different perspectives, and
organize these higher-level thoughts, is incredibly important and can
help a student with their thinking and learning beyond just literature.
This kind of organized critical thinking is vital in helping students have
ingenuity and be innovators in life.

Work Cited

Seahorn, J. (2015). Lecture presented in EDUC340.

Vacca, R., & Vacca, J. (2010). Content Area Reading: Literacy and
Learning Across the

Curriculum (10th ed.). Pearson Education

Willis, J. (2006). Research-Based Strategies to Ignite Student Learning.

Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum