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MILLER MASTER’S PORTFOLIO !

Language Arts & Literacy Framing Statement

Perhaps the most important skills that children develop in school are those rooted in

literacy. Engendering deep and pervasive knowledge about how and why we use language

provides students with a central system with which they are able to interact with a plethora of

facets of information. Ensuring that our students are capable and critically skilled in reading and

writing, from informational texts to literature and grammar to spelling conventions, provides

them with the powerful tool sets crucial to thriving in the academic setting. In this diagnostic

case study of a intermediate level student, I was given the opportunity to examine the

foundations, motivations, and interests of a seventh grade student in a qualitative investigation to

develop an in-depth literacy profile and provide informed recommendations for further

education.

Reading is seeing the world an author writes by decoding symbols and applying our

personal experience to what we understand those symbols to mean. The education of the

intermediate reader should address both the more personal experience of constructing meaning,

as well as the technical considerations of patterns in letter-sound relationships. In Reading

Process, Constance Weaver (2009) suggests an approach I wholeheartedly believe in. This is the

“shared reading experience” in which “progression from whole texts to words and word

parts” (pg. xix) marks a comprehensive awareness of phonetical concerns which is secondary to

the experience of the process of reading. Phonics skills are only a small part of the strategies and

skills employed by readers when they make meaning while reading. The reading experience “is a

process of orchestrating various skills into effective strategies for processing text” (pg. xvii).

Indeed, reading should be an experience.


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In order to make meaning from what they decode, students need to be able to relate it to

their personal knowledge, or schema. Once they make personal connections to the words that

phonemic awareness allowed them to comprehend, they rely increasingly on other aspects of

literacy to help them construct the bigger picture. Shared reading experiences give students

opportunities to hear how words fit and flow in relation to one another. These same read-alouds

and group reading exercises will give them an ear of familiarity with broader concepts like

structure and genre. We should be adding to students’ repertoire of personal knowledge by

reading to and with them, as well as having discussions about those readings, scaffolding the

conversation to link it to their zones of proximal development.

Students also need to be led to and taught the myriad strategies available to help them be

better readers. Neufeld (2005) stresses the importance of explicitly teaching students how to use

and apply strategies (pg. 302). Going through the process of introducing, modeling, and

gradually releasing the responsibility of understanding text is crucial to the independent

application of these strategies. Strategies that involve modeling reading habits, guided reading,

and reflecting on what they read provide the strongest link between the reader and the text. The

interrelated acts of listening and speaking, as well as writing also aid in the transmission of these

instructions.

Strickland, Ganske, and Monroe (2002) explain in great detail many engaging reading

and writing strategies students and teachers can use before, during, and after reading to improve

overarching and deeper comprehension, and encourage proficient expression. Motivating readers

by creating a book-rich classroom environment with a teacher who models a love of reading and

writing while offering reading choices, opportunities for social interaction, and access to a large
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volume of books are the most effective incentives to motivate kids to read and write. Students

who struggle with comprehension benefit from strategies that introduce them to text structures

and pictures as sources of information, help them monitor their understanding by asking quality

questions, and learn to summarize what they read. Students who have trouble with writing or

who are intimidated by writing need safe, supportive classroom environments where writing

instruction mirrors the writing process, with strategies for each component of the process:

prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. Writing can be encouraged by engaging

students in oral brainstorming and utilizing mentor texts for guidance in structure.

While I firmly believe in the crucial role cooperative learning plays in reading and

acquiring literacy skills, comprehension in reading and proficiency in writing is very

individualized. The strategies employed in classrooms have a varied affect on the diverse ways

that students learn. Personalized reading and writing choices as well as progress conferences are

effective ways to individualize student goals and the means by which students will reach them.

Atwell (2015) provides students with the time and attention to look together at student strengths,

struggles, areas for improvement, and guidance in making those improvements.

My experience working closely with a middle school student and examining her literacy

skills, habits, and preferences gave me the opportunity to reflect upon how early literacy

experiences shape and determine achievement to a certain extent. Engaging the student in

conversations about her reading and writing experiences revealed not only patterns in her own

development, but confirmed many of the tenets about the influences on literacy that I hold to be

true. Early and frequent exposure to high quality literature and having reading role models are

two positive influences that have powerful and lasting implications for student success.
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Diving deeper into the technical details of the student’s reading habits, I found that the

miscue analysis I completed on the student provided some valuable information about her

strengths in reading and allowed me to make appropriate and informed recommendations to her

teacher for further reading. Examining writing samples from the student and assessing the quality

based on the six traits of writing and her spelling development stage, I was able to consider her

strengths, areas where she needed additional support, and offer her teacher individualized

suggestions for the student’s improvement.

References

Atwell, N. (2015). In the middle: A lifetime of learning about writing, reading, and adolescents.

Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Neufeld, P. (2005). Comprehension instruction in content area classes. The Reading Teacher.

59,4: 302.

Strickland, D. S., Ganske, K., & Monroe, J. K. (2002). Supporting struggling readers and

writers: Strategies for classroom intervention, 3-6. Portland, ME.: Stenhouse.

Weaver, C. (2009). Reading process: Brief edition of reading process and practice. Portsmouth,

NH: Heinemann.