School leaders and teachers need to integrate reading, writing and word work to harness a greater student engagement in literacy learning, according to literacy experts Sharon and Phil Callen.
On Episode 51 of The Teacher’s Tool Kit for Literacy Sharon and Phil talked about how making connections between these three elements is the most efficient and powerful teaching method in literacy because it creates richness in learning and engagement.
“We can’t actually ever talk about reading, writing, and word work without linking them. So they are always connected,” Sharon said.
Phil added: “That separation of the three becomes more apparent when we’re looking for answers around those things. And we find resources or programs that link or relate to one of those things, rather than searching out for those resources and learning that can keep those things together.
“That’s why it’s so important to develop your own teaching because then you’re in control and then you’re the person who can bring those elements together, not the program doing it for you. And when you bring them together, you have really meaningful learning and really powerful learning engaging the children.”
Sharon elaborated on the importance of teachers undergoing activities such as Read Alouds themselves, rather than relying on a YouTube video or audio, to ensure students understand the content and connections.
“If we are truly demonstrating an action from the curriculum, we [the teachers] would be reading aloud and engaging in the Mini Lesson, not the person on a YouTube clip,” Sharon said.
Sharon and Phil demonstrated the impact of connecting these three elements through using the example of teaching spelling.
“The spelling work you do needs a base level of lots of reading and writing going on in your classroom. And if we talked about the principles and practices for spelling, they are frequent purposeful writing, opportunities for children to read each other’s writing, having many opportunities to see and read print, assessing children’s writing to help us know what to teach them about words and which words to learn, modelling spelling strategies, and encouraging risk-taking,” Sharon said.
“So we’re always linking spelling to reading and writing, so that when we’re working with words, we can say if we know how to read this word. It’ll also help us to read other words, or if we can write this word that also helps us to write these words. So intentionally connecting and saying to readers and writers ‘this is how we use these things’.”
This then extends into better understanding the meaning of a word and how to apply it in different contexts, whether it be varying text types or genres.
“If we say ‘let’s look at those words, what do we notice about them? What are we noticing about the word parts there?’ That’s going to give us an idea of what that word means. So how are we using our knowledge about words to know how to get to the meaning of a word?” Sharon said.
“If we are writing in a particular form or genre, then we’re going to be reading that particular genre because to understand how a text type or a genre works, we have to read it. So we can’t write in a particular way if we are not reading or listening or thinking about how that text works. It is entirely connected.”
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