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MelanieBurchard

TE843
LiteracyInquiryProject

IntroductionDescribingtheContext
Throughthisstudy,itwasmyintentiontoexaminehowtobettermotivateandengagemy
studentssothattheymayconsciouslyapplytheirlearningtotherealworld.RealizingIneeded
tocollectdata,Iwonderedaboutthehomeliteracyskillsmystudentsengagein,andhowIcould
begintomorepurposefullyincorporatetheseexistingskillsintomyclassroom.Thisstudywas
conductedwhereIcurrentlywork,atacharteredmiddleschoollocatedinSouthwest,Detroit,
Michigan.Theschoolconsistsofgrades68andincludesapproximately600students.
NinetythreepercentofthetotalstudentpopulationisHispanicandallstudentsreceivefree
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breakfastandlunchdaily.Idecidedtocollectdatafromtwoclassesoftheincoming7
grade

studentsLanguageArtsstudentsusingaLikertsurvey.Thesurveyincludedgeneralstatements
aboutattitudestowardreadingandwritingaswellasquestionsconcerninghomeliteracyhabits.
Thestudentssurveyedrangefromtheagesoftentotwelveyearsold,theirethnicitiesare
representativeofthemajorityoftheschool(seeFigure1.A),andthemalepopulationislarger
thanthatofthefemalepopulation(seeFigure1.B).Duringmyinquiry,Ikeptinmindthatmy
futureclasseswillincludestudentswithspecialneeds,aswellasEnglishLanguageLearners
(ELLs)whohavevaryinglevelsofEnglishproficiency.


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Figure1.AThispiegraphrepresentstheethnicityofthepopulationoftheincoming7
gradestudentssurveyed.

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Figure1.BThispiegraphdemonstratesthegenderofthepopulationoftheincoming7
gradestudentswhoweresurveyed.

Part One- Analyzing the Data


According to the data collected, most of the students speak, read, and write in
English, or in both English and Spanish at home (see Figure 2.A). It is rare for their home
language facilities to be singularly Spanish. Not surprising to myself, more students have
bilingual speaking capabilities than they do reading and writing. In fact, most students are
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required to take Spanish in the 7
grade where they encounter Spanish reading and writing

instruction for the first time. Being aware the fact that most of my students engage in
bilingual literacy activities outside of school has helped me to find success in utilizing
teaching strategies for ELLs in the classroom in the past. I realize now that I should have
incorporated listening in my Likert survey, seeing as it is the fourth domain of language
development and is an important element of communication. Though this may have been
somewhat complicated, it could have encompassed music, television shows, movies, audio
books, etc. By not including listening, I neglected to consider types of literacies that may
actually be very prominent in my students lives outside of school and could have been
utilized to further their engagement and understanding in the classroom.
Figure 2.B demonstrates that these students use a wide variety of literacy skills
when they are not in school. Most frequently, they spend their time reading text messages,
video games, song lyrics, and websites. Text messages, lists, and social media posts are the
most frequent type of writing the students create. Of the students surveyed, 91% reported
that they had access to the Internet outside of school and 75% had access to an actual
computer within his or her home. These results align with the societal shift toward use of
modern technology. Though some students continue to write journal entries, create

comics, read manuals, or even write short stories, they are most often engaging with texts
through technological means. In other words, they tend to communicate in ways that are
efficient, convenient and accessible.
Finally, Figure 2.C shows that the majority of the students disagree with the idea
that reading and writing are boring though there are still some that hold these beliefs.
Those that do not find reading and writing to be interesting may have had negative
experiences with these subjects in school or may not realize how much they actually do
read and write outside of school on a daily basis. The majority of the students also strongly
agree that reading, writing, and use of technology are important; however, many of them
perceive their own writing and reading abilities to be lower than those of their classmates.
Though they understand that these types of communication are important, they have most
likely been assigned negative reading identities in their pasts, causing them to feel inferior
to classmates (Hall & Comperatore, 2014).

Figure 2. A This chart demonstrates the home literacy skills of the students surveyed. Other was included as an
optional response yet, it was never selected by the students so I eliminated it from the chart above.

Figure 2.B This chart illustrates the literacy habits of the students surveyed when they are outside of school.

Figure 2.C This chart reflects the beliefs of the students surveyed concerning reading, writing, and technology.

Part Two Reflecting on Goals and Curriculum


Our school has adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English
Language Arts, but we have freedom over selecting the texts we draw upon to teach our
standards. Through the CCSS, now more than ever, students need to be able to navigate
informational text, integrating ideas from complex sources while supporting claims with
textual evidence. We have shifted away from a heavy focus on requiring students to share
their personal experiences and in doing so, it has become more challenging for students to
view the content as relevant. In the coming school year I am aiming to help my students
have more positive reading identities, engaging them in classroom material, and helping
them to view Language Arts skills as being applicable to their own lives. Additionally, after

analyzing the data collected, I hope to increase the amount of technological literacy in my
classroom, utilizing the existing skills of my students and building upon them.

Part Three Integrating Adolescent Literacy and Goals for Instruction


I believe it would be most beneficial to create an inquiry-based curriculum as an
over-arching means to achieve my goals. As I understand it, in its most basic sense, this
means that students will be driven to address problems through essential questions. In
doing so, they will create a deep understanding of classroom materials, while
demonstrating why learning is important both today and in the future (Wilhelm, 2007).
Adopting an inquiry-based approach will also align with fostering positive reading and
writing identities for my ELLs, and with increasing the use of multimodality in my
classroom.
Initially, I was somewhat resistant to this idea of creating an inquiry-based
classroom. It has been an on-going challenge for me to balance teaching, with standardized
test preparation. Admittedly, in the four years I have been in the classroom, I have become
extremely data-driven due to the large emphasis modern-day education places on
standardized-testing. I feared that inquiry would move my instruction away from methods
I have found produce positive results when analyzing data. Yet, according to Wilhelm
(2007), increasingly, students who learn through inquiry actually do better on
standardized tests (p. 14.) It is my hope that inquiry will finally allow me to fully focus on
what I know is best for my students, while continuing to implement best-approaches to
teaching ELLs. The largest shift I perceive in creating an inquiry-based classroom will be
actually working to explicitly share the essential questions I create for each unit with my

students. Such questions would then be the driving force of instruction, focusing classroom
skills around a real-world problem, in turn making learning more relevant and engaging.
The most compelling idea Wilhlem (2007) suggests incorporating into instruction is
having my students converse with the authors we read. In doing so, I will need to frame
each author in the way that Wilhelm describes: as a teacher we must learn from, though we
do not have to agree with, which could deepen my students enjoyment as well as their
understanding of each text. Additionally, I plan to ask them to reflect upon completing each
text, by considering the author's intentions and truly teaching them to read as writers do.
In order to prepare my students to engage in such a reflection, I plan to modify the Hillocks
hierarchy based upon the abilities of my students (p.148). This form of questioning is
appealing because it shows precisely where students need more support through formative
assessment.
In attempting to achieve the goal of helping my students to have more positive
reading and writing identities, I would first need to allow my students to express
themselves. During the beginning of the school year, as suggested by Hall & Comperatore
(2014), I plan to inquire more deeply into who my students believe they are as readers and
writers, and how they would like to improve over the year. During instruction, I will help
the students to connect assigned texts with working toward their goals. I think this would
not only allow the students to feel more confident in their reading, but also to keep them
engaged in classroom practices. Hall & Comperatore (2014) suggest that teachers regularly
discuss reading struggles with students, even celebrating them. It is also stressed that as a
teacher, I should demonstrate that everyone, even myself, can struggle depending on the

specific text presented. This approach to struggling will help students to feel safer when
admitting they need help with texts. It aligns directly with the mindset of inquiry, where
teachers and students learn together to create understanding. Finally, I can challenge the
students who already have positive reading identities by asking them to engage more
deeply with the texts, rather than to merely hunt for the right answers at a surface level.
In order to more frequently utilize my students existing literacy skills, I plan to take
a multimodal approach to inquiry. According to the data, these students engage in
multiple literacies outside of school to make sense of the world around them. Therefore,
they should not only be exposed to print-based texts in my classroom but should view
multiple text forms in order to utilize their existing literacies and construct meaning from
all four language domains (Boyd & Tochelli, 2014). Specifically, I could require them to
analyze popular song lyrics or social media posts from respected members of society,
tapping into their specific literacy trends to connect to essential questions. This type of
instruction is highly supported by the CCSS and will truly prepare students for college and
career readiness because it will provide them with opportunities to practice critically
reading the world around them.
If I were to further study the literacies of these students, I would have them track
their own behaviors over the span of a week so as to get a more telling account of the types
of literacies they engage in on a frequent basis. Additionally, I realize that the survey I
created has flaws in that some students did not respond to all of the questions. The data
might be skewed because the students could have misinterpreted questions. Lastly,
because of the idea of multiple literacies, it was difficult to make a survey that was

all-inclusive. I also realize that I may not have all of these specific students in the fall, and
will be gaining additional students who were not surveyed. Though this project provided
me with an excellent opportunity to begin to utilize students home literacy skills in my
classroom, I understand that there is always room for adjustment and improvement once I
meet my entire roster in the fall.

Works Cited
Hinchman,K.A.,&SheridanThomas,H.K.(Eds.).(2014).Bestpracticesinadolescentliteracy
instruction.NewYork:GuilfordPress.
Wilhelm,J.(2007).Engagingreadersandwriterswithinquiry:Promotingdeepunderstandings
inlanguageartsandthecontentareaswithguidingquestions.NewYork:Scholastic.