"To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time"

- Leonard Bernstein




Repetition, Repetition, Repetition


    My teaching mission has always been based on the philosophy that every child can learn. This core value is informed not only by my own desire to learn, but by a passion to instill a love of learning in my students. My goal is to metamorphose this core belief into concrete results in the classroom. In order to do this, I must first establish a trustful and respectful relationship with each child. This process begins with me and the consideration I show for the students. Open communication will be encouraged. Enforcing teacher-student devised rules consistently and impartially will further student respect for the teacher and each other. Beyond modeling, the instructor can, on a weekly basis, encourage each member of the class to write a complimentary letter to a selected student. This will go far in developing mutual appreciation. Minilessons on conflict resolution can also become a systematized dignifying component.

    My next step is to develop a stimulating, diversified, child-centered learning atmosphere. To begin, all teaching strategies should be based on power standards, which focus on essential knowledge, and embody endurance (applicability throughout the studentís academic career), as well as a connection to other subject areas. Additionally, the background experiences of the children, as well as the content, instructional strategies, and assessments, all complement and inform each other throughout the learning process. As such, a balance must be found between the common core of knowledge necessary to meet the learning standard, and the diversity of endemic factors, such as the studentsí readiness, (the skill level and background knowledge of the child), gender, culture, language, interests, learning style and intelligence preferences.

    Accordingly, the lessons must be differentiated to meet individual needs. Hence, it is crucial that I actively listen to the children, learn of their interests, discern their readiness level, both formally and informally, and observe and record the multitude of ways in which they learn best. Incorporating this data into the curriculum, instruction, and assessment triad will ensure that every child is afforded the opportunity to succeed. Concomitantly, communicating clearly to the students that what they learn (the power standard) is not optional, but how they learn the material can be their choice is an essential component of this approach.


Unique Forms of Continuity in Space


Umberto Boccioni


    As a result of my studies I have also discovered many tools which will help to ensure that the totality of learning begins and ends with my students. Pre-assessments, through the use of inventories, questionnaires, KLW charts, teacher observations, conferences, parent-teacher communication, and student portfolios are important methods in enabling the teacher to differentiate instruction by becoming a student of his/her students. The teacher-parent communication is particularly important for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD) students, where vital information can be gleaned concerning language development, as well as cultural differences. Teacher discernment and apllicationof these factors is important for the childís optimum learning success.

    Depending on their pre assessed level, the children can be assigned to work in a highly structured mode, a shared independence manner, or a self guided venue. Material can be presented in a visual, audio, or kinesthetic modality. Other modifications can include placing directions on audio or video tape to provide scaffolding for needier students. Advanced students might study key concepts across time periods, disciplines, or other cultures.


"I can live two months on a good compliment"

- Mark Twain


    It is especially important for CLD students to have their identities affirmed, as well as perceive the teacherís high expectations for them. Therefore, connecting challenging material to the childrenís lives is imperative. These assignments can be best developed in the context of group activities. Not only will they learn from other students, but the instructor will gain valuable insights by listening as the children talk to each other. CDL students learn language most propitiously in the context of academic content. In order to learn the language, students need to use the language. Accordingly, the teacher must provide ample opportunities for the students to express themselves as they interact with the material, and each other. Dialogue over lecture is the key.

    As a result of pre assessments, child friendly rubrics, learning contracts, negotiated criteria, and skill building minilessons can be developed to meet the idiosyncratic needs of slower learners. Assessments can be presented in an individualistic format as well. Depending on the predisposition of the student, as well as the lessonís objectives, evaluations can take the form of selected response (multiple choice or fill-ins), essays, personal communication (teacher-student conference), performances, or products. All of these distinctive formats can be aligned to a teacher, or teacher-student designed rubric. Combining tests with portfolios of student work is yet another option. Self assessments, as well as peer reviews, can also integrate into the process.

    When creating product and performance assignments, for instance, the children should be given a variety of ways to demonstrate what they have learned. For example, the product could incorporate a museum visit which includes models and expository writing. Product assignments can also encompass essays, annotated timelines, artifacts, visuals, interviews, and technology. Performance assessments, on the other hand, can accommodate essays, dancing, plays, and tableaux.

    Assessments can be further bifurcated into two categories. Assessments of learning, in the form of evaluating his/her degree of mastery of achievement targets for content, reasoning, skills, products, and performances, can be utilized to demonstrate what a child has learned. Assessments for learning can zero in, at any point in the lesson, on whatever deficiency is impairing the studentís path to mastery. This will allow the teacher to calibrate the lesson, as needed, to enhance student success.

    A teacherís proficiency is always a work in progress. It is constantly evolving. By sharing my viewpoints with other colleagues, and by reflecting on my progress in differentiating curriculum, instruction and assessment, I hope to continually improve upon it. In addition, by setting aside time for personal reading, I hope to expand my own general knowledge base, thereby enabling me to relate to a greater number of the studentsí interests and hence, forge stronger relationships. I also plan to increase this expertise by networking with colleagues in online forums. This will enhance my knowledge base through intellectual inquiry. It is also my intent to constantly avail myself of the innovative ideas presented in professional journals, as well as to evolve into a more active listener with my students.

    All of these processes should have a salutary effect on my charges. By ascertaining their readiness level, learning of their myriad interests, languages, and cultures while observing the different ways they learn, I plan to develop relevant, individualized lessons that give them ownership and control of their own learning. In this way, each child, in the course of his/her educational endeavors can discover a way up, rather than a way out.


Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). The how to’s of planning lessons differentiated by readiness.  How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms (2nd ed., pp. 45–51).Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Reprinted with permission. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development is a worldwide community of educators advocating sound policies and sharing best practices to achieve the success of each learner.

Carolan, J., & Guinn, A. (2007). Differentiation: lessons from master teachers. Educational Leadership, 64(5), 44–47.

Corbett, D., Wilson, B., & Williams, B. (2005) No choice but success. Educational Leadership, 62(6), 8-12.

Frank, P. (1999).Become a reflective teacher: Define your teaching goals and continue to reevaluate them.  ASCD Catalyst. Retrieved May 24, 2007, from

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2007) Differentiation, parts 1 and 2) [Motion picture]. Programs 10 and 11.Designing curriculum and instruction [Motion picture]. Baltimore: Tomlinson, C. and Susko, J.

Reeves, D. B. (2001). What do all [engaging] scenarios have in common? In Making standards work: How to implement standards-based assessments in the classroom, school, and district (3rd ed., pp. 113–116). Denver, CO: Advanced Learning Press. Reprinted with permission from Dr. Douglas B. Reeves and the Center for Performance Assessment, (800) 844-6599,         





My approach to teaching various aspects of literacy (phonemic awareness, phonics, spelling, word recognition, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension), has evolved in numerous ways over the years. I will begin by reflecting on phonemic awareness, which is based on the child’s understanding that speech is composed of a series of individual sounds (Tompkins, 2006). As such, they must manipulate sounds in their minds. The ability to do this forms the foundation for phonics, as well as spelling, reading and writing (Tompkins, 2006). Phonemic awareness must, therefore, be considered as one of the keystones of literacy. Unfortunately, close to fifty per cent of children enter kindergarten or Pre K without much background in phonemic awareness. These learners lack an extensive oral experience. They have not had much exposure to read alouds or word games to heighten awareness of sound structure and language patterns (Laureate Education, 2007).  English as a Second Language students may be particularly vulnerable at this point. The instructor needs to provide pictures and concrete objects to advance their phonemic awareness. He/she also needs to incorporate the knowledge the ESL’s have in their first language (Laureate Education, 2007).
          Accordingly, these students, as well as their more advanced peers, need systematic, structured, daily exposure to activities that promote phonemic awareness. Such activities include identifying sounds in words, categorizing these sounds, substituting sounds to make new words, blending sounds to form words, and segmenting, or separating a word into individual sounds (Tompkins, 2006).  Small group settings are perfect formats for these endeavors for their diminutive size encourages children to become more actively involved. These settings also find the teacher reading and rereading rhyming books and alphabet books, as the students fill in refrains, identify members of the same word families, and recall information from earlier parts of the story.
          Children should also be encouraged to experiment with oral language by formulating nonsense words, chanting poems, dictating stories and solving riddles. They can gain familiarity with the written word by make believe writing (Cunningham & Allington, 2007).   Additionally, the teacher needs to cultivate print awareness in these neophyte learners. This can be done by demonstrating the relationship between sound and symbol, as well as modeling the left-to-right and top-to-bottom direction when reading aloud to the students (Cunningham, 2000). With a solid grounding in phonemic awareness, the children are now able to advance to phonics.
           Phonics can be defined as the ability to convert letters into sounds and consequently blend them into recognized words. It is based on understanding the relationship between sounds and symbols. In English, unfortunately, there is not a one to one correspondence between many letters and sounds.  The twenty-six graphemes (letters) are represented by forty-four phonemes (sounds). There are, however, more than five hundred ways to spell these forty-four phonemes (Tompkins, 2006). Hence, the instructor needs to emphasize spelling patterns, as well as letters, when teaching phonics. According to Gail Tompkins, phonics activities need to be taught in a direct scope and sequence modality (Tompkins, 2006). Thus, explicit instruction of small segments of the material is as important as the order in which the letters and sounds are taught, (i.e., beginning with common consonants and short vowel sounds before advancing to long vowels and the remainder of the consonants) (Cunningham, 2000).
          Using these structured, sequential activities, students will learn to isolate and separate words into sounds, while “talking slowly like a ghost”, and then blend these sounds back together again. They will also learn to categorize sounds in words and substitute sounds to make new words (Tompkins, 2006). Incidental instruction is important as well. When reading a story to the class, the educator can activate prior knowledge by asking the children to identify words exemplifying sounds or spelling patterns found in other books (Bear, Invernizzi, & Templeton, 2004).
          Interactive learning is endemic to phonics instruction. Sorting objects, pictures and word cards, (which is especially helpful for ESL students), arranging magnetic letters, writing letters or words on individual whiteboards, utilizing Elkonin Boxes and creating posters or books of words are efficacious enterprises (Tompkins, 2006). Games are instructive as well. Letter Actions is a particularly effective phonics games that teaches the children various letters in a manner that is fun and meaningful. By using different sense modalities (auditory, visual, and kinesthetic) it enhances the learning process (Tompkins, 2006). Making Words is another stimulating, interactive phonics game, in which children manipulate letters, create word sorts, and compete to guess a magic word (Cunningham & Allington, 2007). The Name Game, based on the popular song by Shirley Ellis, and Rhyming Concentration, are also great motivational tools (Bear, Invernizzi, et al, 2004).
            Finally, displaying high frequency words on the classroom wall, as well as examples of each phonics element taught, is productive. Words that the students have encountered in their reading or used in their writing are also congenial candidates for inclusion. These walls can be personalized for inspirational purposes by including the first names of each student. The entries should be highly visible, with different colors used to distinguish words that are easily confused. The teacher should provide daily practice chanting, and writing these words and require the words to be spelled correctly in all writing (Laureate Education, 2007).   
      Spelling is another conspicuous element of reading. Spelling is defined as the ability to segment spoken words into sounds and convert the sounds into letters to form recognized words. In any spelling program it is important for students to be placed at the correct developmental level. This is best achieved through sampling student writings and utilizing spelling inventories (Bear, Invernizzi, et al, 2004).
     Spelling is best taught by guiding student understanding about how patterns work. Memorizing (after understanding) rules and word lists can be useful supplements to pattern instruction. The patterns should be taught explicitly or incidentally in the context of authentic reading and writing.  The end result of this pedagogy is that students will learn to think the word out, rather than spell it out, by analyzing spelling patterns, root words and affixes, discovering analogies to other familiar words, as well as noting the shape of the word. Here are a few other propitious spelling strategies with which they should become familiar: writing down possible spellings of the word and choosing the best alternative, breaking words into syllables and spelling each syllable, consulting the dictionary or glossary or asking an adult (Tompkins, 2006).
  Here are some additional thoughts.  Prior to giving spelling tests, conduct a minilesson, and review these study steps:

  1. Look at the word and say it.
  2. Say each letter of the word.
  3. Close your eyes and spell the word.
  4. Write the word and check its spelling (Tompkins, 2006).

     After spelling tests, when drawing attention to misspelled words, inform the students how much they already know about the word, rather than just telling them what letters are incorrect. For struggling spellers, offer more explicit teaching of patterns, offer fewer words, a slower pace, and lots of practice. More advanced students can be given longer words to study, as well as the option to select words from their readings.
      Word Walls play a vital role in word identification, phonics, spelling, vocabulary and fluency. As such, I will expand a little more on this subject. To begin, they provide an interactive (the children see, hear, say, and write the words), accessible resource that aids the children in all their literacy undertakings (Cunningham & Allington, 2007).  Introducing new words to this wall at the rate of five a week is optimum. Access high frequency word lists for inclusion, (in English, about one hundred and twenty words make up about half the words we read or write).  Choose words from selected core readings, as well as any cross curricular project in which the class is currently involved. Familiarity with this content vocabulary allows the students to concentrate more readily on comprehending the material. Include the Nifty – Thrifty – Fifty list (Cunningham & Allington, 2007), which includes fifty words that contain the major prefixes and suffixes. For every one of these words they learn, seven more can be read or spelled. Lastly, by including words that are frequently misspelled in the children’s writings, the word wall provides individualized and handy remedial help for improving writing, as well as reading skills (Cunningham & Allington, 2007).
     Vocabulary is the basis of communication and is integral to success in life. It is also the single best predictor of comprehension (Laureate Education, 2007). Therefore, it is important to motivate students to become interested in words. Make your students see themselves as word collectors rather than as definition writers. Cultivate their interest in words by modeling your own interest in them. Once a week include a “Words Are Wonderful Day”, in which words are celebrated with different activities. Read books about words to your students, including works by Andrew Clements and Fred Gwynne (Tompkins, 2006).
     Children should also see reasons to learn words. Explain that wide reading is the keystone of any vocabulary program. The more vocabulary words we know the better our reading comprehension becomes, and the better readers we become, the more vocabulary words we will understand. Circular is wonderful!
     According to Patricia Cunningham, when we hear words, our brains make all kinds of connections with those words, depending on our past experiences. What our minds fail to do is think of a definition (Cunningham & Allington, 2007).  So, rather than copy definitions into a notebook, have the students include these words in the sentences in which they were discovered, and have them add their personal connections to these words. They can then append illustrations and word histories to their collections. Having the students bring real things into the classroom and anchoring words to them is another method to connect words to experiences. Introduce science and social studies units with real things, such as thermometers, or photos of natural phenomena.  Develop scavenger hunts for concrete objects to represent words, and celebrate words with pantomime and skits, and songs and poems.  Teach three words from every read aloud, choosing a difficulty level that is just right or “goldilocks” entries (Cunningham & Allington, 2007). Display these words during the read aloud, and develop discussions and activities around them. Have the children connect their own experience to the three words.  In addition, help them develop strategies for learning words independently by utilizing pictures and employing contextual analysis (clues around unknown word). In addition, have them practice structural analysis by identifying root words and affixes. Moreover, encourage active learning activities such as word sorts, concept circles and graphic organizing. Grouping words by attributes under super ordinate or broad concepts will impress upon them the interconnectedness of the words  (Vacca, R. T., & Vacca, J. L., 2002).  A variety of semantic mappings are also useful for higher level word knowledge, in which children study words for depth, rather than breadth. Vocabulary Timelines, another interactive process, will highlight the finer shadings of words, so the students can develop the habit of nuancing by choosing just the right word (Laureate Education, 2007).

     It is also profitable for the educator to encourage self monitoring. A useful tool for self evaluation is the five finger strategy (Cunningham & Allington, 2007).
One finger – I never heard of such a word.
Two fingers – I have heard the word but I don’t know its meaning.
Three fingers – I think I know what the word means.
Four fingers – I am sure I know what the word means.
Five fingers – I can create a good sentence with that word.
     Fluency is the ability to read with speed, accuracy, phrasing, intonation, expression and comprehension.  One way to promote fluency is to give children many opportunities to reread their selections. This additional practice increases not only speed and accuracy but also improves phrasing and expressiveness. This latter advancement develops primarily from discovering insights into the characters' traits and motivations, rather than from adopting exaggerated vocal tones (Tompkins, 2006). By getting to know the characters through repetitive readings, the children also increase their comprehension and inferential skills.
     Rereading can take many forms. Group reading, independent reading, as well as partnering up, reading in unison or echoing the teachers are all efficacious venues. Readers Theater is yet another format that readily lends itself to rereading. Readers Theater is a dramatic enactment of a text. As such, it offers students a dynamic context in which to practice a myriad of reading skills. Importantly, it has the built-in motivational factor of performing before an audience, (Martinez, Rozer, & Strecker, 1999).
     In the interest of developing fluency, teachers should discourage the student from looking away from the text, word by word reading, and invoking a query or inquisitive tone when encountering an unfamiliar word. What should be encouraged is a non interruptive reading environment. When a reader hesitates at a word, give him/her a five second pause to self monitor. If the correct response is not forthcoming, offer a prompt, and then praise the student’s effort (Laureate Education, 2007). Discourage the other children from offering spontaneous help.
     Assessing fluency is integral to the process. An outline for assessment includes asking the following questions:
1. Do students recognize most words automatically?
2. Do students read in phrases, or word by word?
3. Do they recognize and use punctuation to adjust their reading?
4. Do they read with prosody?
5. Are the texts developmentally appropriate for students? (Tompkins, 2006).

Comprehension has been defined as assigning meaning to what we read and write. Hence, it is the central goal of any literary activity (Laureate Education, 2007).  Subsequent reflection upon comprehension, and all things related to it, has divulged the following insights.
     In order to promote comprehension, teachers must first provide well stocked, inviting classroom libraries, which include a variety of genres. Active reading and writing is the centerpiece of their literacy program. They next offer ample opportunities for the students to discuss and further explore their reading and writing processes and products (Tompkins, 2006).   During reading lessons, as they activate background knowledge and vocabulary, have the students consider the structure and genre of the text, and have them make connections to their own lives and to other books. Additionally, encourage the successful application of such strategies as predicting, visualizing, questioning, summarizing, identifying big ideas, and self-monitoring. In the course of the activity, the teacher encourages the reader to derive real knowledge of the characters’ motivations. This results in a marked improvement in intonation and expression, as the readers adopt the personas of the characters.
     One of the most efficacious of the comprehension approaches to reading is visualizing the text. When students employ the visualizing technique, they see the setting, the events, and the characters in their mind's eye. This ultimately leads to a better understanding of the tale (Laureate Education, 2007). 
     Guided reading is included in any balanced literacy program (Tompkins, 2006).   Guided reading is a strategy that, besides being comprehension intensive, abets students in becoming silent, fluent, and confident readers (Fawson & Reutzel, 2000). It is, therefore, one of the linchpins of the literacy program and another approach I wish to further explore.
     To reap the rich harvest that guided reading offers, the teacher must first become immersed in labor intensive preparation. In initiating a guided reading program, one needs to access a number of A-R leveled texts representing the five participating publishing houses (Harcourt Brace, Silver Burdett Ginn, Houghton Mifflin, Scott Foresman, and Scholastic Publishing).
      This enterprise will take the coordinated effort of many teachers to accumulate enough texts so that each child has an individual copy (Fawson & Reutzel, 2000).   Once that challenge has been met, the next step is to assess the children’s reading abilities in order to form three or four homogenous groups, ranging in size from five to eight students (Fawson & Reutzel, 2000).  To actualize this authentic performance assessment, the teacher utilizes Fountas and Pinnell’s leveled benchmark books. During the pre reading evaluation segment, the students read aloud from these texts and a running record will be used by the instructor to record and ultimately analyze the results. When the child is able to read the benchmark book with approximately ninety percent accuracy, the student has arrived at his/her “just right” zone (Fawson & Reutzel, 2000).
    After matching the child with the appropriate leveled text, there are three additional steps to negotiate.  During the first stage, the instructor employs small group minilessons to introduce the story, emphasizing the theme, or overriding concept, while connecting it to the children’s lives, or to similar stories they may have read (Fawson & Reutzel, 2000).
     This anticipatory exercise can also include discussing the cover, reading the title, taking a walk through, all the while talking about the pictures and problem(s) in the story (Tompkins, 2006). This approach will activate the reader’s background knowledge, enabling them to connect the familiar to the unfamiliar. It will also afford them the opportunity to establish a schema, or organized plan, in their minds to accommodate the new information (Cunningham & Allington, 2007).  The children can then use this prior knowledge to make predictions, thereby establishing a purpose for their reading.    
    Next, the child participates in supported reading. To provide scaffolding for the slower students, the instructor reads the first page with them, and then allows these children to read the rest of the story semi-independently. In the course of this segment, the children read “noisily- silently" from their individual "just right” readers as the teacher observes them (Fawson & Reutzl, 2000).  As the students read, the teacher monitors their progress and provides support for their efforts. The teacher spends enough time with each child to note his/her specific types of errors in word identification, letter-sound relationships, word structures, etc., as well as his/her use of such strategies as deciphering context clues, rereading the sentence, monitoring for understanding, etc. (Fawson & Reutzl, 2000). All of these strategies play a major role in comprehending the material. As the instructor observes, he/she offers support in the form of prompts, and questions, as well as encouraging the child's attempts at reading strategy applications (Fawson & Reutzl, 2000). The instructor also makes certain that the child is making correct inferences, drawing logical conclusions, and identifying big ideas, etc. Again, a running record is kept to accumulate and eventually analyze the data.
Once they have finished their story, the more adept readers can reread it. This will afford the teacher the opportunity to observe all the group members (Tompkins, 2006). If the instructor observes problems during these observations, these deficiencies can later be addressed in the context of a mini lesson.
     Lastly, the students are invited to participate in extension activities. These activities can include a written response to the story, or responding to questions to ensure that the text has been understood by the readers. These reflections serve to broaden the child’s perception of the text, as well as initiating new perspectives on the material (Laureate Education, 2007). 
     In addition to the beneficial activities mentioned above, guided reading has other advantages.
Firstly it erases the stigma of rigid groupings, as well as facilitating fluidity in grouping. As part of the guided reading process, an improvement in a student’s reading performance can be readily recognized, and acted upon (Laureate Education, 2007). Finally, guided reading can be used in conjunction with Basal reading programs, thereby capitalizing on their many built-in resources.
     Story frames is another comprehension tool that I wish to discuss. These graphic organizers play an integral role in helping students to develop both their reading and writing comprehension skills. This strategy provides the learner with an outline for noting the setting, pinpointing and unwrapping the tale’s problem, summarizing the story, and discovering character traits. This information and knowledge are based on what they have learned from reading, or listening to a text (Laureate Education, 2007). These frames can also serve as the basis for a written response (Laureate Education, 2007).
        Research has confirmed this strong link between reading and writing (Tompkins, 2006). Readers and writers use similar strategies, as they construct meaning through print (Tompkins, 2006). We find this in the related processes stages they engage in, such as responding (reading) – revising (writing), and applying (reading) – publishing (writing) (Tompkins, 2006).  Additionally, student- devised checklists and rubrics play parallel roles as they connect these two disciplines (Skillings, & Ferrell, 2000).  Furthermore, both writer and reader are cued by previous experiences, as well as the form, purpose, and audience, as it relates to either their reading text or writing piece. It does not take too great a leap, therefore, to conclude that “reading contributes to writing development, and writing contributes to reading development” (Tompkins, 2006, p.73).  Simply put, the more students write, the more they understand what they read (Laureate Education, 2007). Hence, it behooves the teacher to imbue in the students the idea that they should write with the sense of a reader and read with the sense of a writer (Laureate Education, 2007).
    Writing after reading, therefore, is a naturally productive avenue for increasing understanding of the text (Laureate Education, 2007).  It also leads to new discoveries and fresh interpretations of the narrative (Laureate Education, 2007).  A Response Journal, and its cousin, the Character Trait Journal, are dynamic instruments for highlighting this strong connection between reading and writing. These writing mediums are designed to expand the organized, outlined information contained in the story frame into a written artifact. These writing methodologies allow the child to react spontaneously to the previously read text, revealing many inner thoughts, feelings, and connections, without being unduly constricted by spelling and grammar conventions (Laureate Education, 2007).  This approach increases understanding of characters, plots,  and settings, thereby enhancing comprehension of the text (Laureate Education, 2007). The combination of a story frame and a response journal, to be used in conjunction with a well organized story, is a perfect way to meld these two genres into a result in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. 
     Another innovative reading comprehension approach is the twin texts configuration (Camp, 2000). This technique uses a fiction and nonfiction text to work in tandem with each other. The purpose of employing the twin texts format is to utilize the more familiar style of the fictional entry as a preparatory piece (Camp, 2000). The fictionalized text will not only establish background knowledge, but will also facilitate the introduction of content specific vocabulary (Tompkins, 2006).  Consequently, this preliminary stage of the lesson will assist the children in better understanding the expository text. Beyond this, the fruitful outcomes of this strategy are numerous. By initially reading the fictional story, we not only provide and activate background knowledge, but also help children formulate questions about the subject matter. Additionally, by discussing the more easily discerned theme of the narrative text, we enable the students to later identify the big idea associated with both books (Tompkins, 2006).  All of these outcomes logically lead to a greater understanding of the material.    
      Retelling is another viable comprehension tool. It begins with pre reading strategies, such as a walk through with the resultant purpose and prediction making. Following this, the students read the story independently, and then retell the story, either orally, or in writing.  They relate the tale just as if they were telling it to a friend who had never heard it before (Laureate Education, 2007).   This exercise combines analyzing the story elements presented in the story, and then synthesizing this information from the tale into a coherent revisit.  Subsequently, the child is allowed to judge his/her own efforts by utilizing a checklist, and comparing the specific story element descriptors on it to their retelling product (Laureate Education, 2007). The checklist is important in that it helps them to self-monitor their progress, while empowering the child to affirm his/her own successful application of each story element descriptor (Laureate Education, 2007). Retelling can also be motivational in that it encourages an active, relevant, and personal response on the part of the student (Laureate Education, 2007). It can also be used as a diagnostic instrument, or instructional frame of reference, and can attend to both listening and reading comprehension assessments (Laureate Education, 2007). Retelling also offers the child novel insights into the story, and helps the student remember story information for longer periods of time (Tompkins, 2007).
     To sum up, comprehension is the goal of any literacy program, and along with the other components of reading, is hard wired to fluency skills. hence All of these components must be given balanced attention (Laureate Education, 2007). Additionally, the assessments used for evaluation of these skills should be authentic, i.e., based on everyday classroom performance with real world applications (Valencia, 1997).
        Comprehension, cannot, however, be taught in isolation.  The reading skills involved in the process are all interrelated and mutually dependent. Word study skills such as phonemic awareness, phonics, spelling, vocabulary, and fluency, each play a role in the comprehension process, and all these skills come into play every time a child reads. Hence they need to be continually reviewed if the child is to progress.
               The children will soon discover by themselves, and in their own words, that each of the elements of literacy are mutually dependent entities which must be mastered in tandem. For example, the more words children can spell correctly, the more fluently they can read. If their spelling falters, so too will their fluency. The more vocabulary they know, the more they read and comprehend and the better they spell. The more they read, the better they write and the more words they know, the more fluently they read, and so on. Balance and inclusion is therefore the key to any successful literacy program.
       As a result of these reflections, I have a renewed commitment to inculcating in the students a desire to pursue literary quests with vigor. Teaching literacy in a meaningful, authentic, interactive context is one such avenue to reach this goal. Activating and connecting prior knowledge to the subject at hand, to other books, and to the world at large, is yet another. Offering young learners a wide selection of books, and games, while appealing to their individual learning modalities is essential as well. Finally, I have realized the benefits of modeling my own love of reading, writing and words. In these ways I hope to foster in each child a love of literacy.
         So we can see that the reading process, like writing, is recursive, rather than linear, as the reader simultaneously activates, and serially revisits some, or all of the above mentioned skills during the activity. One might conclude that a student is either master of all of these skills, or master of none. Such is the nature of reading.



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Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2007)  [Motion picture]. Program 4. Post-
               Reading Strategies. Baltimore: Glazer, S.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2007)  [Motion picture]. Program 6. Integrated Strategies. Baltimore: Vacca, R.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2007)  [Motion picture]. Program 8.
          Vocabulary, Parts1 and 2. Baltimore: Watts-Taffe, S.
 Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2007) [Motion picture]. Program 10.
           Vocabulary, Part 3.  Baltimore: Vacca, R.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2007) [Motion picture] Program 12. Strategies for literacy
            instruction, part 1: fluency: Baltimore: Allington, R

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2007)  [Motion picture]. Program 12, “Writing
        Assessments.” Baltimore: Vacca, R.

 Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2007) [Motion picture]. Program 1.
             Phonemic awareness, Parts 1 and 2.  Baltimore: Cunningham, P.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2007) [Motion picture] Program 7. Strategies for literacy
              instruction: fluency: Baltimore: Allington, R.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2007)  [Motion picture]. Program 8. 
                 Vocabulary, Parts1 and 2. Baltimore: Watts-Taffe, S.
 Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2007) [Motion picture]. Program 10.
                 Vocabulary, Part 3.  Baltimore: Vacca, R.
Martinez, M., Rozer, N. L., & Strecker, S. (1999). "I never thought I could be a star": A Readers
         Theatre ticket on fluency. The Reading Teacher, 52(4), 326–334.

Skillings, M. J., & Ferrell, R. (2000). Student-generated rubrics: Bringing students into the
                assessment process. The Reading Teacher, 53(6), 452–455.

Tompkins, G. E. (2006). Literacy for the 21st century: A balanced approach (4th ed.). Upper
           Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.

Vacca, R. T., & Vacca, J. L. (2002). Vocabulary and concepts. In Content area reading: Literacy
            and learning across the curriculum
(7th ed., pp. 160–189). Boston: Allyn & Bacon
Valencia, S. W. (1997). Authentic classroom assessment of early reading: Alternatives to
            standardized tests. Preventing School Failure, 41(2), 63–70.



 A Little Light Reading

William Grimes




IN the 1930s the paperback made its appearance. Readers in Germany, Britain and the United States responded enthusiastically to the idea of a small-format book that could be slipped into the pocket and read on the bus or train. What a novelty it seemed, a streamlined leisure product fitting for a scientific age.

In fact the shrunken book was nearly five centuries old. The earliest miniature books, illuminated manuscripts that could be dangled from the waist on a chain, predated the invention of moveable type. Their dimensions made the typical paperback look gargantuan. The larger examples measured three inches or less on each side. As bookmaking technology improved, the small became even smaller. Bookbinders in Russia and Japan have published books, complete with bindings, that are about the size of the letter “a” on this page.

The books are small, but the subject is surprisingly big, embracing thumbnail-size cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia; the “thumb Bibles” first printed for children in the 17th century; and the first printing in book form of Lincoln’s “Emancipation Proclamation,” a three-inch volume distributed to Union soldiers and slaves. In descending order, collectors categorize such books as macrominiatures (three to four inches in height), miniatures (one to three inches), microminiatures (one quarter-inch to one inch) and the greatest of the least, the ultramicrominiatures (less than one-quarter inch).

Moveable type obviously aided the cause, but amazing feats were accomplished by calligraphers dipping pen in ink. Esther Inglis, a French Huguenot working in Edinburgh in the late 16th century, produced remarkable little books written in a simple, elegant script that, when magnified, turned out to consist of minute squiggles.

When the hand eventually reached its limits, type designers took over. Henri Didot, a French engineer and engraver, created a two-and-a-half-point type in 1819, the smallest ever (this sentence is printed in 8.7-point type), only to be overtaken a half-century later by an Italian two-point type called occhio di mosca, or “fly’s eye,” first used in 1878 to print Dante’s “Divine Comedy” in a 499-page volume measuring 2 1/8 inches tall and 1 ½ inches wide.
The two-point barrier still stands, but dimensions have continued to shrink. By a process of photo reduction over a seven-year period, a Worcester, Mass., publisher squeezed verses from “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” into a 1932 book measuring 4 millimeters by 6 millimeters (the required unit of measurement for miniature books, as a sixteenth of an inch is too large). In 1978 the Gleniffer Press of Paisley, Scotland, printed “Three Blind Mice” in a volume 2.1 millimeters square. Seven years later it produced an edition of “Old King Cole” precisely half as large.




Help for the Struggling Reader


"Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler."

-Albert Einstein


Success in the literary pursuits of reading and writing is considered central to the overall achievement of a school system (Strickland, Ganske & Monroe, 2002). Recently, national assessments have indicated that more children are reading better than ever.  This approbation was warmly received by all educators. On the other hand, paradoxically, many more readers were found to be struggling (Laureate Education, 2007). Consequently, the gap between proficient readers and those struggling is widening (Laureate Education, 2007). This divergence may be due to the fact that there is an increasing number of students entering school who lack literary experiences. It is also the result of linguistic and cultural differences found in many households. Another determinant is the new, elevated interpretation of what constitutes a “good reader.” These revised requirements mandate that every child demonstrates the ability to read on grade level. This is no small task. New benchmarks also indicate that in order to be defined as a good reader, the learner needs to master the concept and skills of “thoughtful literacy” (Laureate Education, 2007). Here, longer passages are offered for the students’ consideration. Answers are required to be rendered in extended written form. Justification for their thinking is also required. This summons the youngster to not just locate information, but to utilize higher order thinking aptitudes such as summarizing, analyzing, and synthesizing, in order to write about and later discuss what they have read. As a result  of mastering these abilities,  students will not only be able to answer questions regarding the reading matter, but will be able to offer deeper responses as they take part in literary conversations (Laureate Education, 2007).  As such, these new requirements place extra stress on struggling readers and classroom teachers alike. Accordingly, the implementation of these new standards has resulted in neoteric approaches to the teaching of reading.
Styled the “Whole Day Perspective” this new way of thinking places most of the responsibility for reading achievement on the classroom teacher, rather than on the resource room instructor (Laureate Education, 2007).  The guiding premise for this revisionism is that the majority of the student’s teacher - directed reading time takes place in the regular classroom (Duffy-Hester, 1999). This is not to say that supplementary intervention is being phased out. On the contrary, this vital adjunct will continue to provide intensive expert instruction as it scaffolds at- risk readers (Laureate Education, 2007).  However, the onus for providing reading success has shifted in the direction of the regular classroom educator. Accompanying this transformation is a correlating push to refine and heighten that persona’s literary teaching skills, as well as to develop more effective reading programs. Since the reactions by children who are experiencing reading problems have always ranged from feelings of ostracism, embarrassment, fright, and lowered self-esteem, teacher sensitivity to the appropriate difficulty level of the tasks is a central component in the reformation process. Tapping deeper into some of this cutting-edge thinking will, in fact, comprise an important lynchpin to wider reading successes.





Outcome RS3.2 Place students along a developmental continuum and identify students’ proficiencies and difficulties in spelling.

Rationale: concerning the literacy subject of spelling, it is very important to first evaluate a student’s orthographic proficiency before the actual teaching begins. This often calls for the use of spelling inventories, both formal and informal. An accurate interpretation of these results is critical, not only for identifying the students’ strengths and weaknesses, but also for placing the learner in the correct developmental stage.  As a result of analyzing Reba’s spelling inventory, this minilesson's goal is to successfully highlight Reba's strengths as well as address her deficiencies.

Introduction: I chose to first evaluate Reba’s spelling inventory. During this process, I discovered that Reba correctly spelled only one of five long vowel sounds. Specifically, she has misused long vowel markers by placing an /e/ at the end of float, spelling it flote, and an /e/ at the end of train, spelling it trane. Additionally, she spelled bright, as brite, and place as plais.  She seems to understand that adding an “e” at the end of a word makes a vowel long but obviously needs further instruction in long vowel patterns. I identified her developmental range as being somewhat short of the middle range of the Within Word Pattern (Bear, Invernizzi,& Templeton, 2004). I have devised a word-study activity that I feel will be that beneficial to Reba. This individualized, rhyming activity addresses her particular phonics weaknesses by giving her practice in hearing, reading, and writing the long vowel words within the entertaining context of a board game (Laureate Education, Bear, 2007). The objective is for Reba to master the long vowel sounds contained in this activity, while adding a degree of automaticity to her word attack skills (Templeton and Morris, 1999).

Literary Standard: New York State Kindergarten Spelling Standard – students will identify and produce long vowel sounds in spoken and written form.

Learning Objectives

The students will practice specific long vowel sounds by matching spoken words to print.

In addition, each student will:

After writing each correct answer, the students will participate in a board game.

Here they will:

Materials:  individual copies of poems, answer fill-ins, game board, markers, die, and pencils.


  Inform the students that they are going to use poems to review some of the long vowel sounds they have been studying. The activity will also include participation in a board game.
Ask the students to recall any long vowel sounds. List these on a chart. Hand out a copy of the poems and the answer fill-in forms to each child.
Next, familiarize the students with the game board, die, markers and game instructions.Then read aloud the title of each poem and the vowel sound they will be practicing in that particular context. Model the sound with an appropriate word. Then read the poem aloud as the children follow along. Have each child, in turn, read the poem and then read their one fill-in aloud. He/she will then write the long vowel word that has been left out in the answer fill-in. As they write, they will pronounce the word.Upon completion of a correct entry, he/she roles the die and moves the marker the appropriate number of spaces. If an incorrect entry is made, the child cannot role the die, and must wait for the next turn. The first child to reach the end of the board is the winner. 

Poem and Fill-in Samples

(ace sound)

My Race in Space
I took a trip to outer space
My rocket ship was in a race
 A happy smile was on my face
Nobody else could match my pace

Fill in the correct answer

(oa sound)

My Boat
The girl took her boat to the moat
Golly, gee did that boat float
On the boat she placed an oat
And a toad, a horse, and a goat

Fill in the correct answer

The girl took her ______ to the ________.
Golly, gee, did that _______  __________.
On the ______ she placed an ______.
And a toad,  a horse, and a _________.

(ai sound)

A Train in the Rain
Off went the train in the driving rain
Hauling hay and oats and lots of grain
All the while, we smiled and smiled
As we piled up miles and miles and miles
And reached the station on a street called Main

Fill in the correct answer

(ie sound)

Ride, Ride, Ride
Door swings wide and I step inside
It’s Saturday and time to ride
If you don’t like hay, go outside,
The horse and I take our first stride.

Fill in the correct answer

(ea sound)

The Beach, the Sea, and Tea
Take a look at me
Jumping and swimming
In the deep, blue sea
When on the beach, I eat a peach
And end up drinking a cup of tea

Fill in the correct answer

1. Take a look at _______.
2. Jumping and swimming in the deep blue _____________.
3. When on the _______ I eat a ___________.
4. And end up drinking a cup of ______.

(Low frequency long vowel words – ight sound)

Mice in the Night
Little mice, small and slight
In their holes, out of sight
The sun is dark, there is no light
All is peaceful in the night.

Fill in the correct answer

1. Little mice, small and ________.
2. In their holes, out of ________.
3. The sun is dark, there is no _______.
4. All is peaceful in the _______.

 (ay sound)

Saturday, the Fun Day
It’s Saturday, see me play
My friends can stay, hip hip hooray!
Each hour of the day we’ll play in the hay
It’s Saturday, a gay, gay, day

Fill in the correct answer

1. It’s Saturday, see me ____________.
2. My friends can ___, hip hip _________.
3. Each hour of the _____, we’ll play in the _________.
4. It’s Saturday, a _____, _______, ______.

(ee sound)

Peeps, Feet, and Hide and Seek
Five blue birds sitting in a tree
Nine little boys on one knee
Looking for stones under their feet
While the rose and grass smell sweet, sweet, sweet
The boys and the girls play hide and seek

Fill in the correct answer


The evaluation will be based on a teacher - devised rubric, as well as informal observations as the student reads, enunciates, and writes the long vowel sounds.


I have adapted this activity to address two progressive phonics skills, in addition to the long vowel sounds.  These include practice in low frequency long vowel sounds, such as light, etc., as well as practice with the common suffix –ed. Both of these phonics skills are found in the Late Within Word Pattern, a developmental range where I anticipate that Reba will expeditiously find a niche.


 Bear, D. R., Invernizzi, M., & Templeton, S. (2004). Words their way: Word study for phonics, vocabulary, and spelling instruction (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2007) [Motion picture]. Program 3.   Developmental Word Knowledge. Baltimore: Bear, R.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2007) [Motion picture]. Program 11.   Assessment of Word Study. Baltimore: Bear, R.

Templeton, S., & Morris, D. (1999). Questions teachers ask about spelling. Reading Research Quarterly, 34(1), 102–112.


How many words can you make out of these six letters, ACERST?



Partial List







The Current State of Mathematics in Our Schools


"I went back to the fourth problem for the third time and gave myself a second chance to do a first class job!"



After reading a sampling of professional math journals, I have learned a great deal about the current state of math education in our schools. The news is not all that good. It seems that traditional ways of teaching math has not worked well for 80% of the student population. It was also revealed that the United States is about average in international test results for math, despite spending a great deal more money on education than the other nations. Furthermore, our programs and curriculum have not prepared students for the math skills they will need when they enter the workforce. Clearly, supportive and enjoyable change is needed in our approach to teaching math.

    The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) has, in their search for root causes, discovered that most math teachers in the United States do not have a substantial knowledge of their subject matter. Hence, they place disproportionate emphasis on the how, or the basic computations and procedures of solving math problems, at the direct expense of the why, or the concept. Teaching the why involves teaching for understanding. This approach demands a thorough understanding of the subject matter, as well as stern preparation on the part of the educator. Instead, the instructors, perhaps bowing to time constraints, seem to unduly rely on the lockstep rigidity of memorized procedures. Consequently, the students (theirs is not to question why), are left with only a facile understanding of the underlying concepts. This methodology also serves to isolate the skill, with little hope of the children being able to generalize their knowledge.

    Hence, it is imperative for teachers to develop a more substantial knowledge of their discipline. The NCTM advocates the revamping of college coursework to imbue in prospective teachers a deep seated grounding in the material. Those already practicing the profession can reflect on their current expertise. These educators should communicate with colleagues. Rooting out the in-school "math experts" and picking their brains should become a regular activity. Additionally, we can avail ourselves of multiple resources, including the Internet. Finally, we must coordinate our efforts with the next upper grade level teachers to insure that this more profound, connected teaching does not end for the student the following June.

    The failure of the instructor to achieve a thorough grounding in his/her discipline, and its corresponding consequences, is just one of the subjects touched on by the NCTM. They also believe we must develop a classroom culture that fosters the concept of collaboration and communication among a community of learners (teachers, students, and parents). They also concur that we should deemphasize the mechanics of math and, instead, embolden students to offer problem - related conjectures to their classmates, while encouraging self invented strategies. Moreover, math programs should be tailored to teach today’s skills in a relevant manner that helps align student knowledge with real world, as well as interdisciplinary demands. This is no mean feat, but entirely necessary, if our students plan to compete in the Twenty-First Century new world order.

Practice slow urgency!

"Stand still like the hummingbird" 



 “Travel at the speed of life – 60 minutes an hour.”