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Running Head: TEACHING PHILOSOPHY

Chelsie Lambert

Teaching Philosophy

LCRT 6915

University of Colorado
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Introduction

Growing up, I was never sure what career would be a good fit for me. My mom works as

a Deli Manager in a local grocery store and my dad is a self-employed builder. Neither of them

went to college and because of this, I didn’t have a clear picture of the purpose of college. I did,

however, have an opportunity to play softball at the collegiate level which opened the door to

college for me. I attended a junior college where I took the required courses to get my associates

degree before transferring to a four-year university. When I arrived on campus, I had to quickly

declare my major before I could sign up for classes. I decided upon psychology because I had

previously taken a few courses and found it to be interesting, but I wasn’t sure if I would like it

enough as a career. I took a child development class the next semester that sparked my interest in

education. I switched majors and began my journey towards a teaching degree. With each class I

had the desire to learn more and become as knowledgeable as I could within education. I soon

fell in love with the idea of becoming a teacher.

There were several professors that truly shaped my love for teaching and Dr. Barbara

Hong is the biggest influence on my education. She came into class one day to announce that she

was starting up a special education certification and to contact her if interested. In high school I

worked as a peer tutor to several students with special needs and thought that this may be a good

route for me to take. The first day in her class was fast-paced, intimidating, overwhelming, and

the standards were set extremely high. This woman was clearly a power-house. She was and still

to this day is an accomplished woman that I look up to. Dr. Hong is the type of professor that

saw potential within me before I saw it in myself and she was not afraid to push me to the limits.

During our conversations she would say, “You aren’t stopping here,” or “Just wait until you get

your PhD, which you will.” She made these comments often, as if she had seen the future and
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knew that there was more in store for me than I had ever considered. She planted the seed that

made being the first college graduate in my family, simply not enough.

The desire to continue on with my education had taken root and I started looking into

programs that were of interest. I was reminded of my final undergraduate class, an elective on

teaching writing given by Dr. Carol Bennett. Her class was engaging, hands-on, and practical. It

ignited a love of writing that I didn’t know I had. It is because of her that my mindset about

reading and writing transformed from a negative to a very positive light. Everyday she had us

write, refine, share, and discuss our writings and how to implement writing within our future

classrooms. She read us rich literature where I could literally feel her love of reading. I left class

feeling excited to teach writing and this feeling has transferred into my classroom today. My

writing block is not only my favorite time of the day, but my students as well. My students love

writing about things that matter to them, and they eagerly wait for me to make my way around

the room so they can read to me what they wrote. They also love to share their writing with the

class, and I attribute that to Dr. Bennett because when I shared in her class, she praised me in a

way that was genuine, and I felt my writing was not only decent but valued. Her class put into

perspective that writing is enjoyable. After reflecting on Dr. Bennett’s class, I knew that reading

and writing was exactly what I wanted to learn more about. I decided to apply for graduate

programs in reading and writing as well as teaching positions. The same week I accepted a

position as a kindergarten teacher, I was accepted into the University of Colorado.

I had heard that the first-year of teaching was going to be the hardest year, but I was

determined to thrive and not just survive. The first few weeks of teaching and taking online

classes was something I wasn’t fully prepared for but was exactly what I needed to better my

teaching of literacy. It was helpful to delve into literacy theories and practices and have a
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classroom of my own to put them into action. By immediately implementing practices, my

instruction truly became focused on students’ needs.

With my second-year of teaching and my reading and writing curriculum and instruction

program coming to an end, I can reflect on all that I have learned the past two years. The

information and applications of practices that I have gained has transformed me into the teacher

that I am today. As a final task of the program, I have the opportunity to write my philosophy of

literacy. These beliefs have shaped and developed throughout my experiences in this program

and in the classroom.

Beliefs

I believe that read alouds and mentor texts are powerful tools for reading and writing

development and help foster a love of literature.

A read aloud is when a teacher or an adult reads a story out loud to students in an

engaging way. During this process students are exposed to many different skills and strategies of

reading. Students learn how to track words from left to right, how to read with expression, and

are exposed to a wide range of vocabulary and content knowledge, to name a few. Text selection

is a very important aspect of effective read alouds. Burkins and Yaris (2016) states, “Generally,

the text for read-aloud is significantly above grade level, meaning that most students would find

it very difficult, or even too difficult, to read the text on their own. However, difficult should not

be synonymous with boring or ridiculously hard” (p. 30). Teachers can read texts above their

student’s reading abilities because the teacher is the one doing the cognitive load of reading, and

this frees students to comprehend through listening rather than decoding words as they try to

construct meaning. When texts are too easy or too hard, they don’t provide students with rich

opportunities to engage in literature. My students love when I read them chapter books such as
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Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown. Chapter books are above my kindergarteners’ reading level. My

students enjoy listening as the story unfolds in front of them and they learn several new words

each chapter. At the beginning of the year this chapter books is a little too challenging for some

of the students that still struggle to sit still and listen to stories, but after a few months my

students are eager for another chapter.

Text selection should also be based on what topics will be engaging for students and what

specific reading skills are being taught. I incorporate literature that goes along with our weekly

themes such as fairy tales, apples, rhymes, force in motion, etc. When selecting books for these

themes I must make sure that they are engaging for the content being taught. If the texts are too

complex for my students, I’ve taken the fun out of the learning about the theme during the read

alouds. The texts also serve as mentor texts as they help teach a specific reading or writing skill.

A mentor text is any piece of literature that teachers use to explicitly teach their reading or

writing skill. A mentor text can be a small piece of the literature such as a sentence or a

paragraph, or it can be larger pieces including a few pages or an entire book. Teachers instruct

students through read alouds and mini lessons using mentor texts to illustrate how students can

implement a concept within their own reading or writing. The mentor text is used to show

examples to students that they can transfer to their own literacy development. Bambrick, Settles,

and Worrell (2013) states, “The first step of planning your read-aloud lesson is to identify the

single reading skill you most urgently need to teach your students—and to select a text that

includes the richest opportunities possible for readers to use this skill” (p.109). Through reading

aloud mentor texts, teachers can model what good reading looks like, sounds like, and feels like.

A kindergarten favorite for this is any of Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggy books. When my

students start reading, I use Mo Willems’ books to demonstrate what good reading sounds like. I
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read one of his books all the way through in a slow-paced monotone voice. My students don’t

laugh at all during this first read aloud. Then we talk about how that read aloud was boring and it

wasn’t the book, it was because of how I read it. My students start to agree and want to give me

suggestions on how to make it more fun such as, using different voices for Elephant and Piggy,

saying some phrases loud and some quiet, etc. I decide to give it another go and give it my

normal read aloud style, complete with all my student suggestions. They laugh at all the right

moments and their eyes are glued to the book. We then talk about how the second time I read the

book I was reading it as a good reader would and they can make their own reading sound just as

good. This is only one example of how a mentor text can expose my students to how they can

better develop their reading.

Mentor texts can be used for more than just modeling what a good reader does as they

read, they can also be used to show what good readers think about as they read. This is known as

a think aloud. Burkins and Yaris states that, “Teachers may also think aloud, modeling the often

times messy process of piecing together bits of information to reach a deep understanding of

text” (p. 30). When a teacher conducts a think aloud, they serve as the example of what good

readers think about while reading. The best way to illustrate this is that, you cannot teach how to

wrap a present by showing an already wrapped present. Teachers use mentor texts to

demonstrate through modeling the steps taken or strategies to use to better construct meaning

while reading rather than simply showing them a good reader. I use think alouds to model what

strategies I could use when I come to a word I don’t know or what I should do if I’m reading and

things aren’t making sense anymore. I love to use think alouds from mentor texts to guide my

student’s writing. Often I’ll be reading and point out by saying “Hey did you notice how the

author… I think we could do something similar in our writing.” By pointing these moments out,
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my students are being exposed to the process of why authors choose to write a specific way. By

pointing out concepts such as these during think alouds, it gets students thinking like authors and

this has power to influence their writing abilities.

A final benefit on read alouds, is that it has the power to foster a love of reading. Mem

Fox (2008) states, “Children who have been endlessly entertained by wonderful stories have a

joyful attitude toward learning to read” (p. 63). For students, read alouds are an authentic way to

learn. Teachers must show their enthusiasm when it’s time to read a good book. When teachers

are excited for a read aloud, the enjoyment of reading is shared among all that listen. I try to read

three books a day to my students. Two of my read aloud books are meant to be enjoyed and they

are usually the students’ favorite books that they beg for me to read again. The other text selected

for a read aloud is a mentor text that I use to teach the targeted need for my students. Teachers

can do several things to make read alouds enjoyable. Fox mentions, “The more expressively we

read, the more fantastic the experience will be. The more fantastic the experience, the more our

kids will love books… so reading aloud is not quite enough—we need to read aloud well” (p.

40). Teachers must pay attention to the authors’ intentions within a text. Authors write in specific

ways for different purposes. For example, authors may use different style fonts, different sized

fonts, additional spacing, or words that are all capitalized. When reading aloud with these

various styles, I make sure to be engaging in my voice. This means that I fluctuate between a

high and low pitch, change pace from fast to slow, or I may drag words out for dramatic or

emotional experiences. Executing a good read aloud is an art that does take practice, preparation

and a love of reading from the reader. For students to enjoy read alouds the experience needs to

be fun. There is no need to stop on every page to ask questions or start discussions. Students can

follow along with a story easier when there are only a few stopping points and the experience of
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the read aloud is still intact. Even when my purpose for reading a text is to teach a skill, I always

make the read aloud as engaging as possible. I have a strong belief that my attitude about reading

and writing will greatly impact my students’ attitudes. If I want them to love reading and writing,

then there can be no doubt within them that I too love to read and write.

I believe that shared reading, guiding reading, and independent reading are crucial

components in learning to read.

Read alouds are a great start to developing reading, however they cannot be the only

focus in a classroom. Effective reading programs consist of a gradual release of responsibility

that stretches from read alouds to independent reading. To make this process gradual, students

must engage in read alouds, shared reading, guided reading, and independent reading.

The first important component, after read alouds, is shared reading. During shared

reading, students are given a text that is above their independent reading ability and they read

aloud in unison with peers and usually the teacher. This is something that I do often within my

kindergarten classroom because students are attentive to the text and get practice reading

fluently. Burkins and Yaris (2016) state that shared reading opportunities allow students to see

“How print works and how meaning is constructed, often creating anchor charts for reference

during guided or independent reading” (p. 54). They go on to say that “The work of shared

reading is matching the voice of the teacher to the text, which embodies the very heart of the

reading process and requires students to really read and actively self-monitor” (p. 65). With our

phonics program every two weeks or so we get a decodable reader book that is perfect for shared

reading. As we read, I pose open-ended questions that forces them to think deeply to

comprehend, they look closely at illustrations, and think about useful strategies to solve difficult

words. We keep these decodable readers and reread them weekly in shared reading with partners
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or small groups. These readings are successful because they are books that all students are

capable of reading which leads to a boost in their confidence. This shared reading component is

the bridge from read alouds to guided reading and builds students’ confidence as they progress in

their reading development.

Before guided reading can begin, assessments must be given to gauge students’ reading

levels. Jan Richardson (2016) states that students’ “…make errors, and the errors tell you how

the student is processing text. Running records determine a student’s instructional text level and

show which strategic actions a student uses and which ones he or she needs to learn” (p. 108).

After analyzing the data, students are organized into small groups based on their specific needs.

The purpose of guided reading is to apply what they have learned through the facilitation of a

teacher. Bambrick et al., compared guided reading to that of a GPS. They said that road maps are

not used often because a GPS is a more efficient and effective tool being that it guides your

direction in that exact moment. In guided reading the teacher serves as the GPS (p. 189-190).

Burkins and Yaris further explain that, “Teachers do not offer a summary of the text or preteach

vocabulary. The work of figuring out how to approach the text or noticing unknown words must

fall on the students, and the teacher wants to see up close how students recognize and puzzle

through such challenges” (p. 80). When I conduct guided reading lessons, I am the facilitator that

simply observes what my students’ needs are and then assists them to better develop their skills,

however my students are the ones doing most of the cognitive load. As my students engage in the

guided reading lesson I look for where they are and then think what I can do instructionally to

help them further.

Before I start a guided reading lesson, I spend a good amount of time planning. The first

thing I need to do, after assessing and grouping, is select texts that are appropriate for the
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students’ level and the skill being practiced. When selecting a text, I always keep in mind their

interests so that they have a desire to read and as Burkins and Yaris put it, “Select a text that will

present some problems for students to solve but not so many that it will compromise their

reading processes when reading” (p. 87). Students should be doing most of the cognitive load as

they read the text and as the facilitator, I can provide a quick interaction of support. Once I have

selected the book, it is important for me to script prompts that focus on the particular skill. The

next step is to quickly introduce the book so that students are excited to read. Richardson advises

to, “Encourage [students] to ask questions and make predictions from the illustrations or table of

contents” or even the title. (p.123). After a quick preview we get straight to reading. With limited

time it is important to spend most of the time actually reading. As students read quietly or

silently on the book, I select one student from the group to read aloud to me. As they read, I take

notes on what I notice. After a minute or so I switch to the next student who starts reading aloud

right where they are in the text. This process continues until we reach our stopping point and it is

time for our discussion. Bambrick et al., states to “Begin with a fast retell of what was just read”

(p. 208). I have found this to be most appropriate for my kindergarteners. We have recently

began using the “Five-Finger Retell” (p. 245) as Richardson describes as students using their

fingers to retell the character, setting, problem, events, and ending. The visual of using their

fingers has served as a great anchor chart that is used during read alouds, shared reading, guided

reading and independent reading. The question I ask most often throughout the guided reading

process is from Burkins and Yaris, which is, “What do you notice?” (p. 100). I have found this

question to be the most telling in how students construct meaning. The guided reading process is

the bridge from shared reading to independent reading. Bambrick et al., described guided reading

as coaching and practicing before the big game which is independent reading (p. 244).
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The last component in learning to read is independent reading. For independent reading

to be successful, students need to spend the entire time actually reading. There are two things

that Burkins and Yaris have outlined to combat this, the first is to build stamina. They stated,

“The trick to building stamina, particularly for those struggling to maintain focus, is to stop

independent reading while it is still engaging” (p. 115). Within my own classroom I set a timer

each day and increased it by 30 seconds to 1 minute until my students had built that stamina. I

always stopped independent reading when all students were engaged because it left them

wanting to go longer, which made the start of independent reading the next day very exciting.

The second thing to help combat engagement during independent reading is having a rich

selection of literature that is of interest to the students. If a student struggles to select a book

quickly and start reading, they waste time that should be put towards practicing the skills they

have learned. To avoid this, books of interest need to be easily accessible to the students.

Bambrick et al., advises teachers that, “As you build your library, there is great benefit to picking

books that reflect the diverse interests and aspirations of your students, making sure that

everyone in your class can find multiple books to love” (p. 251). My school’s population has a

high number of English Language Learners, so I have many books that are in both Spanish and

English. When we go to the library my students over the years have looked for books on

snowboarding, skiing, sea creatures, animals, cowboys, dragons, Disney princesses, etcetera, so

any time I am at a thrift store or a yard sale I look for books in these categories.

I have two main goals with independent reading. The first is for my students to

implement the skills they have learned thus far. Independent reading provides students with time

to put things into practice. When students come to words they don’t know or a section that is

difficult, they have the chance to use the strategies they have learned over the course of read
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alouds, shared reading, and guided reading experiences. Burkins and Yaris state, “Such problem-

solving opportunities not only reinforce the teaching and learning happening at other times of the

school day but also serve to help students become stronger and increasingly independent as

readers” (p. 110). It is always a focus for students to put into practice the skills they have

developed or are working on, gaining confidence in those areas is a bonus.

My second goal is for students to fall in love with reading. To further this idea, Burkins

and Yaris said it best by saying, “It means… that reading a lot of authentic texts for meaning and

pleasure is emphasized above all, and there is a contagious energy about books and the things

students are discovering in them” (p. 106). I found this to be the most beneficial concept as I

planned independent reading into my own classroom because it constantly brought my attention

back to the idea of the students learning to love reading. Later in the chapter it states, “Positive

associations with reading make the job of teaching reading much easier… Such positive

associations with reading lay the groundwork for students to adopt reading as a lifelong habit in

addition to leaning in to increasingly difficult text” (p. 109). This is my ultimate desire for my

kindergarteners. At this young age I hope to instill within them a love of reading and a desire to

always be learning through literature.

I believe that teaching writing is a complex yet crucial component in literacy development.

There are many elements to effectively teach writing. With my kindergarten students, we

always start writing by learning how to identify, build, and write their name. Richardson (2016)

illustrated the use of name puzzles, where students each get an envelop containing a postcard

sized paper with their name written on it. Their name starts off by being cut into two pieces and

the students must piece together their name. As students master this their name gets cut into

more pieces (p. 35). Another name writing tool that I used along with the name puzzle is their
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name template in a sheet protector. In previous years I have solely utilized name templates,

however this year with the assistance of both, my students learned to write their name in half the

amount of time as my students from last year. After seeing how successful the name templates

were, I started “sight word puzzles” where my students practice this same process the entire

week with a sight word that they specifically are working on.

As my students are learning to recognize and write their name, we dive into letter names

and sounds with our phonics program and our reading groups. We also start writing by drawing

illustrations. For the first few weeks our illustrations contain only a character and that character

is themselves. I have chosen them to be the character because “I” is an easy sentence starter and

their stories usually revolve around themselves anyway. Drawing a character takes weeks

because I model what shapes create a person and how characters resemble what real people look

like. I continue modeling but soon allow students time to practice drawing the character in their

story. After we have mastered our character, we conduct the same process as we learn how to

illustrate a setting and event. Now my students have illustrations that look accurate and contain

the detail that will soon be found through words.

In the phonics program, decodable readers are introduced which allows us opportunities

for shared reading experiences that introduce concepts of print. As students learn more letters

and sounds and are exposed to more decodable readers, I get to introduce students to writing

sentences. I begin to introduce writing by conducting interactive writing. Richardson defines it as

sharing the marker as students assist the teacher to write a simple sentence (p. 41). I have taken

her six steps to interactive writing and made an explicit pattern for students to do as they write.

The first step is to have students say a simple sentence aloud with me. We say it aloud together,

then we clap one clap for each word as we repeat the sentence again. Next, we say the sentence
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aloud once more as we count on our fingers one finger per word. After counting we say how

many words were in the sentence and then I draw that many lines on the board. If my sentence

was “I sat on a log,” we would say it, clap it, count it, verbalize that there are five words in my

sentence, and then I would draw one line for each word, making five total lines. Then we go

through and break down each word into letters based on their sounds. I usually draw student

names from sticks to come up to the board and write the letter they hear. My students eagerly

wait for a chance to come write on the board. Richardson shared a brilliant idea that I have

started implementing this year in my writing. She advised, “While one student is writing on the

sentence strip, the others should practice writing the letter on their alphabet chart” (p. 41). This

has helped keep all my students engaged in interactive writing when only one student is coming

up to the board.

As I gradually release responsibility, students practice writing a dictated sentence on

white boards. We do the same process: say it, clap it, count it, write the lines and then start

writing the sounds. When all the lines are written, we repeat the sentence as we point to each line

to demonstrate how every word gets its own line. Richardson said, “The lines will help children

remember to space between words” (p. 89). Once students have mastered writing all the letters in

a word together, they no longer need to clap it, count it, write it and instead they can just start

writing.

Once students have a good grasp on the format of writing, they need plenty of practice

writing. Effective writing instruction does not just require students to practice writing, they

continually are guided as they learn more about what makes good writing. My favorite quote

from Richardson is “Struggling writers need more teaching, not just more practice” (p. 242).

This leads me to one of the most important aspects of teaching writing, conferencing.
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Conferencing is defined by Ray, K. W. & Glover, M. (2008) as when, “Teachers sit

beside a child or a group of children and interact purposefully—posing problems, asking

questions, making comments and suggestions, and sometimes showing how” (p. 151). In my

classroom, students sit at their desks and write while I circulate the room to have brief side-by-

side interactions with students. During these conferences, I always start by having my students

read me what they wrote because they need practice reading what they have written. Ray and

Glover state, “Just because children have written something doesn’t mean the words are easy for

them to read” (p. 172). I have kept this in mind during conferences and it has helped my students

see the need for spaces, punctuation, and complete thoughts. After they read their writing to me,

I make a note in my conference log book of what strengths the student is showing, and I name a

few areas the student stands in need of. Then I select one of the areas to focus on for the

remainder of the conference. As I confer, I carry an extra copy of their writing paper inside a

sheet protector so I can easily reuse it for all students I converse with that day. I model one skill

or concept to the student that I think is more important and have them practice on my paper if

that is necessary. In the beginning stages we do interactive writing using their sentences and as

my students’ progress, I teach these skills in mini lessons and then have students show me the

concept from the mini lesson in their writing. Ray and Glover make an important point when

they said, “But remember that the goal is to teach the writer, not the writing…” (p. 179). This

quote is written on my conference log book to remind me of my purpose within every

conference. Conferences are not for me to correct student spelling, it’s a time for me to teach

them additional tools to keep in their toolbox that guides them to becoming better writers.

The last aspect of effective writing instruction is to allow students time to share their

writing. When students have a chance to read their writing aloud to peers it gives them a chance
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to build their confidence and it serves as another teaching opportunity throughout the writing

block. In my classroom, students love to share their writing. We usually share one at a time, but

we have done partner shares where students rotate between several partners. Ray and Glover

state “When books are made public, children’s identities as writers are nurtured” (p. 195). When

we share one at a time, I like to point out positives in students’ writing that serves as an

additional opportunity to praise by pointing out what students have done to better their writing.

I believe that effective assessments require thoughtful planning, a purpose, are frequent,

and will ultimately guide instruction.

I have come to learn that effective assessments take proper planning and preparation.

During my undergrad teacher education program, I was instructed that selecting the standard and

aligning that to the desired goals, or assessments, is the first step to thoughtful and efficient

planning. Bambrick et al., stated, “If you don’t know your final destination, you cannot draw a

map to get there. Therefore, assessment is the starting point for instruction, not the end” (p. 89).

When I align the standards and assessment goals before I plan instruction, there is a clear map of

where I need to go with my instruction. If I don’t make proper preparations before I teach my

lessons, I could get to the end and administer an assessment realizing that the skills were never

developed, and content was never learned. Bambrick et al., further shares their belief by stating

that, “Assessment can tell you not only the destination but also how to make the journey” (p.

172). By planning these assessments before I develop the instruction, I have a clear picture of

what materials or activities can get my students to reach that final destination.

Effective assessments need more than proper planning, they also need a purpose. Rona

R. Flippo (2014) states it perfectly, “When we know what our purpose is, we know where we are

going; we know when we get there; and we know what to do and what not to do with the
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findings” (p. 12). Within the field of education, everything from materials, activities,

assessments, and our attitudes have a hidden message of what is important. A teacher that spends

more time assessing reading comprehension than the ability to read nonsense words sends the

message that it is more important for students to construct meaning. Assessments specifically

sends these messages of what is most important (Flippo, 2014, p. 207). This is why teachers need

to be intentional with what skills or content they use because the skills and content send the

message of what is most important. Flippo (2014) states, “The term assessment includes all

observations, samplings, and other informal and formal, written, oral, or performance-type

testing that a teacher might do in order to gather information about a child’s abilities, interests,

motivations, feelings, attitudes, strategies, skills and special cultural or sociocultural

considerations” (p. 4). Because assessments range in their delivery, length, question types, way

of administering, and more, it is important that these assessments have a clear purpose and the

results lead to action. The purpose of assessment is not to simply assign a number or a score to a

student and then move onto the next outlined goal. Ultimately, the purpose of an assessment is to

see what students learned, and what is next in terms of instruction. Flippo adds clarity to this

purpose by stating, “Test results must be qualitatively analyzed as well, in order to get as much

information as possible from the results” (p. 35). If a test is administered and scores are assigned

but that is all, then the most valuable aspect of assessment is lost, that is the analysis that leads to

action of “now what?”.

Analyzing data from assessments must lead to immediate action. Therefore, it is

important to administer assessments frequently. In my classroom I use formative assessments

most often because I can assess at any moment during instruction which gives me a quick and

frequent understanding of my students’ learning. Herrera, Perez, and Escamilla (2015) states,
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“Formative assessments are tools and strategies that educators use to determine what and how

students are processing the information they are being taught” (p. 253). This type of assessment

becomes very efficient as teachers can gain an understanding during a lesson as they observe

students, rather than waiting to test students’ understanding at the end of a unit. Herrera et al.,

states, “Such observation then allows [the] teacher to modify the lesson while students are still

actively engaged in learning” (p. 253). I taught a writing lesson this year on speech bubbles. I

introduced their purpose, modeled what a speech bubble looks like, and had students practice on

white boards. When students were practicing, I noticed that many of them didn’t grasp the

purpose of a speech bubble. I stopped instruction right then, and pulled out a Mo Willems,

Elephant and Piggy book to provide an additional support. Then we practiced again on our white

boards and the concept of a speech bubble was now understood by all students. If students

weren’t given an opportunity to practice on white boards, I wouldn’t have observed that the

students were struggling. After seeing that they didn’t understand I was able to quickly provide

them with more guidance before continuing with instruction. This is an example of how

formative assessments are quick to administer and guide instruction.

One of the most valuable assessments that I have used is a miscue analysis. Constance

Weaver (2009) states that a, “Miscue analysis requires an understanding of the reading process

and the ability to apply that knowledge and understanding to make inferences, to look for and see

patterns, and to draw tentative conclusions to guide instruction” (p. 121). Before I conduct a

miscue analysis, I begin by sitting down with a student to interview them. I ask a variety of

questions about their likes, dislikes, opinions about reading and writing, their favorite book, who

they look up to as a good reader or writer, etc. These questions give me an insight into the

student’s mind, beliefs, and home life.


TEACHING PHILOSOPHY 19

After conducting this profile interview, we sit side by side and begin the miscue analysis.

I select a text for the student to read and as they do, I code their reading on a preprinted paper.

As I code, I am marking all the student’s miscues. Weaver explains, “… the term miscue

indicates that the reader has missed one or more language cues: graphic (word, letter pattern, and

letter cues), syntactic (grammar cues), and/or semantic (meaning cues)” (p. 120). After finishing

the text, I ask several comprehension questions before finishing the assessment. I now have

documentation of what miscues were performed during their reading and how they

comprehended what was read. After analyzing the data, I can determine which areas of language

cues that student needs assistance with. Bambrick et al., states, “The [assessment] must also be

able to provide you with clear data on where, specifically, student skills break down. If it can,

you’ll be able to analyze student work deeply, and that is the key to tailoring your instruction to

meet your students’ needs” (p. 91). A miscue analysis assessment guides my instruction based on

student needs.

Here is an example from this year. I conducted a miscue analysis and the data outlined

that my student was a proficient reader with very little miscues and read the text fluently. After

asking him the comprehension questions I realized that he struggled greatly to construct meaning

from the text. I took this data and formed a small group of students for a guided reading group

and we learned several strategies and tried metacognitive ways to gain that meaning while we

read. Had I not conducted a miscue analysis, this student could have gone months without me

being aware of this need. Assessments take time to plan and administer, they take time to analyze

and select skills based on data. The most important aspect of assessment is that it must guide my

instruction. Conducting assessments mean nothing if I don’t take the data, analyze it, and then

act by tailoring my instruction to meet the needs of my students.


TEACHING PHILOSOPHY 20

I believe that the type of questions asked and both full class and partner discussions are

important in any literacy classroom.

Just as assessments take planning and preparation, so does conducting effective

classroom discussions. When I plan a lesson, I write down questions that I have preplanned for

the reading material that guide our learning. By preplanning questions, I can visually see the

variety in higher order thinking questions. After reading Bambrick et al., types of comprehension

questions I now label the questions I create as “factual thinking”, “inferential think”, or “critical

thinking” Factual thinking questions requires students to think about the facts from the text.

Inferential thinking questions is when students will have to infer from the text using context

clues and background knowledge. Lastly, critical thinking questions require students to interpret

the text based on what clues they use as they infer (p. 213). As I label the created questions, I can

be sure that I have a good mix of the three different categories, this ensures that our discussion

includes deeper thinking.

Another reason I preplan these questions is to anticipate my student’s responses. This

helps me to think ahead and preplan prompts to continue guiding the student if needed.

Bambrick et al., goes on to say that after getting a response it is important to prompt further,

“Diving deep into a student answer isn’t just for guiding the reader on the right path when he or

she is incorrect; it’s also a tool to reveal the student’s thinking” (213). Anticipating student

responses has been helpful because then I’ve thought about all possible responses, and it has

helped shape my instruction to avoid any misconceptions.

Not only are the question types important, but it is crucial that students can discuss their

responses to the questions in organized ways. The National Governors Association Center for

Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers (2010) state, “To build a foundation for
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college and career readiness, students must have ample opportunities to take part in a variety of

rich, structured conversations” (Speaking and Listening: Introduction). When I first read this, I

thought there is no way my five and six-year-old students can conduct “rich and structured

conversations”. But after implementing what Bambrick et al., instructs, I am shocked at what my

students can do. Bambrick et al., starts by saying that teachers need to prompt in an open-ended

manner to take away the idea that the teacher is the only one to validate answers and that there is

only one correct answer. Some prompts I have used in my classroom are, “Tell me more”, “What

in the story makes you think that?”, “Why is that important?”, etc. (p. 53). These prompts are

open-ended which allows for my students to continue thinking even after one response has

already been verbalized.

Bambrick et al., further identifies four goals for the classroom that I have focused a great

deal on implementing this year. These are; maximize student thinking in answering questions,

maximize peer support, minimize teacher talk, and lastly, teach self-monitoring and thinking

metacognitively (p. 54). For discussions to be more effective, students need to learn what aspects

make a conversation good. We learn that when someone is talking, we listen and don’t speak.

We look at the person talking and stay away from distractions. When making a comment

everyone in class needs to hear what the speaker is saying or its difficult for the audience to pay

attention.

My students picked up on these quickly, which made for a good transition into teaching

them how to support each other in conversations. Bambrick et al., gave the visual of a classroom

discussion that looks similar to ping-pong. This is a conversation that the bounces from the

teacher to one student, back to the teacher to another student, and back to the teacher. A more

effective conversation involves peers. The visual they gave was that of volleyball where the
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teacher poses a question, one student responds which leads to another student response and

another student response and another student response. (p. 57) A volleyball discussion allows

more students the chance to actively participate all while supporting each other. After months of

practice, my students now can demonstrate a peer lead conversation that looks similar to that of

volleyball. This also helped with metacognitive thinking because my students learned that there

isn’t only one response and they can comment directly to their peer rather than taking that

response as the only possible answer and waiting for the teacher’s next question. My students

have grasped the concept that they can ask questions or comment directly to the previous

response. By doing this, I have also minimized the amount of talk that I do as the teacher.

When the teacher asks a question and students raise their hand to answer, the teacher has

it structured so one or maybe two students get a chance to respond, this does not maximize

student’s thinking or peer support, it instead keeps the teacher doing most of the talking. Herrera

et al., states, “To move toward effective questioning, teachers should minimize hands-up

questioning…” (p. 255). In my classroom I often pose a question and then say, “Think about it”

while I cue them visually by keeping my hand pressed to my head as if I were thinking. I have

trained my students to cue me visually by placing their hand on their head when they have an

answer to my question. When I am ready for my students to answer I have them all say their

response aloud at the same time by cuing them with taking my hand off my head and laying it

out in front of me so my students can see my palm. This type of choral response is great when I

have factual questions because their answers are usually only one to three words. When I ask

inferential or critical thinking questions, I use very similar cues however instead of shouting out

an answer I’ll have them turn and talk to their partner. All my students have an assigned partner

at their desks and at the rug and one partner is A and the other is B. I rotate these so if A starts
TEACHING PHILOSOPHY 23

then B will give their response immediately following A. When my students participate in

partner talks such as these it allows both students a chance to share their response and I can walk

around the room listening to responses. I usually call on three students after a partner talk so a

few students get the chance to share aloud to me as well. These took a good amount of planning

and practicing for me to be consistent with my cuing and for my students to become automatic.

The preparation to plan a variety of question types and structure rich discussions has impacted

my classroom tremendously.

Conclusion

I may not have known from a young age that I wanted to be a teacher, but after my first

few education courses I was excited to get out in the field. After completing my first-year

teaching, I knew that teaching was my calling in life. Not only am I in a career that I enjoy but

because I had made the decision early on to pursue a master’s degree my knowledge and abilities

within teaching reading and writing have made me a more effective teacher.

The journey here would have been impossible without the impact of two influential

professors. Reflecting on why they made such an impact, I realized it is because of the passion

they illuminated while teaching. Their influence struck a chord within me which ignited my love

of reading and writing, ultimately, leading me to the University of Colorado’s program. It is to

no surprise that I have continued to feel and in turn feed off every professor’s passion throughout

this program. My love for reading and writing has grown as I have continued learning about

reading and writing development, language acquisition, appropriate assessments, how to create a

community of life-long learners, how to utilize partner talk and discussions, and more. I have

learned that my English Language Learners will only thrive with proper guidance and resources,

which I now have the tools to do. From read alouds to independent reading, this master’s
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program has fully prepared me to effectively teach reading and writing. The teaching beliefs I

have outlined reflect the core concepts that I have learned through this program and these

examples illustrate the positive impact that this program has made on my teaching abilities and

within my students’ learning. Although my program is coming to a close, my career as a teacher

has only just begun. The knowledge I have gained over the past two years will continue to

transform my teaching throughout my career.


TEACHING PHILOSOPHY 25

Reference List

Bambrick-Santoyo, P., Settles, A., & Worrell, J. (2013). Great habits great readers: A practical

guide for k-4 reading in the light of common core. San Francisco, CA. Jossey-Bass.

Burkins, J. & Yaris, K. (2016). Who’s doing the work? How to say less so readers can do more.

Portland, ME. Stenhouse Publishers.

Flippo, R. F. (2014). Assessing readers: Qualitative diagnosis and instruction, second edition.

Routledge.

Fox, M. (2008). Reading Magic: Why reading aloud to our children will change their lives

forever- updated and revised edition. New York, NY. Harcourt.

Herrera, S. G., Perez, D. R., & Escamilla, K. (2015). Teaching reading to English langue

learners: Differentiated literacies, Second edition. Pearson.

National Governors Associations Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School

Officers. (2010). Common Core State Standards for English language Arts & Literacy in

History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects: Speaking & Listening:

Introduction. Washington, DC: Authors.

Ray, K. W. & Glover, M. (2008). Already ready: Nurturing writers in preschool and

kindergarten. Portsmouth, NH. Heinemann.

Richardson, J. (2016). The next step forward in guided reading: An assess-decide-guide

framework for supporting every reader. Grades k-8. New York, NY. Scholastic.

Weaver, C. (2009). Reading Process: A brief edition of reading process and practice, third

edition. Portsmouth, NH. Heinemann.