Unit 2 Reading Response - Literacy & Programming

Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practice outlines three recommendations: explicit vocabulary instruction, direct and explicit comprehension strategy instruction, and providing opportunities for discussion of text meaning and interpretation.

            Two major approaches are classified under an umbrella of strategies in explicit vocabulary. One of them is direct instruction in word meaning, which implements the use of resources like dictionaries, glossaries, and the thesaurus to aid students with meanings of words. It also promotes independence as students actively look up words they’re unsure of—to expand knowledge in a specific content area/mental lexicon. This is a method I observed last year in my middle school placement. The district took visual aids/graphic organizers very seriously, and the 8th grade teacher integrated at least thirty minutes of word map practice per day. Throughout these lessons, the students would have access to their own thesaurus to find synonyms for the focus word within the word map. Not only did this increase vocabulary knowledge, it also expanded syntactic capability as students worked to locate context clues. This method combines direct instruction in word meaning and strategies to promote independent vocabulary, which includes “analyzing semantic, syntactic, or context clues to derive the meaning of words by using prior knowledge and the context in which the word is presented” (IES, 12). One of the perceptions the textbook includes is for teachers to feel like they don’t have the time to teach vocabulary. However, making that time is essential for students to progress in the content area, because it solidifies a solid foundation in each tier of vocabulary. Without that foundation, comprehension becomes more difficult.

            The next recommendation is direct/explicit comprehension strategy instruction. Various listed points for this recommendation include careful selection of text, application of strategy to multiple texts, and providing guided practice/modeling. Providing guided practice/modeling is essential for comprehension, because it provides more than one explanation for challenging language and content. For example, if a teacher is engaging the students with a plot diagram on the board for a particular story, it is important the teacher take the students through each category more than once. (Ex: rising action, climax.) In addition, there are so many creative ways to represent each plot point in a story. A teacher could do a role play, drawing, or show a video. He/she might also implement a computer program (like scratch, animoto, etc.) that allowed students to create their own representation of the story’s key developments. As we’ve discussed, actually putting the language in action is an advanced way to increase cognitive skills and content knowledge. Another strategy that’s effective in practicing comprehension is text simplification. This is extremely relevant in adolescent education not only because the readings are becoming more complex, but also because higher-level education students are often asked to draw inferences/interpretations from a text. A straightforward example of this method is when teachers provide “No Fear Shakespeare” as a recourse for some learners—even typical development students who find Shakespeare’s work extremely difficult to comprehend. In other words, the goal is to simplify a text according to the child’s level of proficiency/fluency in English. For all students it is important to do frequent check-ins to gage whether the simplification is “too simplified,” or still too advanced. Essentially, these strategies and recommendation set the groundwork for interpretation, analysis, and drawing meaning from a text.

              In my own experience, creating opportunities for instruction is the most versatile and authentic recommendation in spite of its “moderate” level of effectiveness. When the instructor uses that interaction as an opportunity to truly reach the student, they establish connections between the content and their interests. This is the primary approach I use with my 10th grade regents/11th grade advanced placement students, but it is also described as being supportive of ENL students. I find that it is the most powerful method in making relevant connections and getting to know them as individuals. “Questions that lead to good discussions are frequently described as “authentic” in that they ask a real question that may be open to multiple points of view, such as “Did the way John treat Alex in this story seem fair to you?” or “What is the author trying to say here?” or “How does that information connect with what the author wrote before?” (IES, 23). Rather than posing questions that test one’s ability to summarize or regurgitate information, posing unique guiding questions initiates higher-order thinking. With this strategy, learners may also volunteer as they please. They may feel more comfortable in knowing that they have the opportunity to simply talk about the challenging pieces they’re asked to read, work through advanced vocabulary, and explore the literature by offering their own interpretations. This approach gives the teacher so many opportunities to provide positive feedback and expand on what students have said during the discussion. Moreover, this is the most honest form of checking for comprehension—discussed in recommendation 2. Or, if a student is consistently participating during discussions and not producing good work, the teacher might take that as a cue to check in with the student and make sure everything is ok.


Programming/New language comparison:

I find many similarities between programming and learning a new language, yet this may only be so because of how difficult it is for me. However, like learning a new language, there are many “beginning” steps and skills to accomplish in programming before reaching the actual goal. Even with turtle blocks, it was possible for there to be 12 configurations to work through before the turtle made one move. With twine, we’re creating something for our students before even communicating pre-existing content with them. Ultimately, we’re combining two skills. This is a lot like learning a new language, because learning a new word requires repetition, memorization, knowing singular/plural form, or masculine/feminine possessive classification. Learning how to write a sentence requires learning the parts of speech, tenses, and grammar rules to combine those words. Finally, learning how to write a paragraph means knowing how to appropriately link those sentences together in a cohesive way. Every new skill is built from a previous step in the foundation.

Computer Science for Teachers Spring 2019

Computer Science for Teachers Spring 2019

Here is the online home for CS for Teachers at Pace University for Spring 2019.

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