This chapter discusses some topics that I do not have a firm grasp of yet. I have been trying to understand them better as I read more and look into them. Schema is a generic concept, composed of our past experiences and our knowledge organized and filed away. I have a hard time remembering that definition of schema. Schema is a representation of what knowledge students already have about different ideas and concepts. These experiences are what help students begin to form ideas about new concepts that are presented to them. Students develop many of these experiences before they come into the classroom. These experiences may happen at home or other places around the community. Students’ experiences will all be different and relate to what type of life they come from. There will be students who have been blessed with easier childhoods than others. There will be students with both parents at home, and students will also come from homes with no parents at home or homes with one parent home part of the time.
Teacher preparation is a big help to students’ ability to understand different lessons. When a teacher is well prepared, a student may have a difficult question or a lesson may not be going the way the teacher had prepared, but they can gather themselves easier and help the class learn still. A teacher that is not prepared will have an exasperating time trying to gather the class’ attention after something that goes off topic or a different direction of the topic. The preparation is vital to teaching because of the unpredictability of the classroom. Teachers can have a good idea of how the day will go, but life happens at home and makes its way into the classroom. Teachers that are prepared will be able to handle those situations with calmness that teachers whom are unprepared will not be able to handle them. Preparation is something that I need to work on and become better at because I think that I do a good job when I write a lesson, but then when I go to teach it or talk about it I become flustered and frustrated when things do not go as smoothly as they were in my mind. I know that I can write good lessons, and I can be a good teacher, but I am glad that I have time to learn still.
Vocabulary has a multitude of effects on students’ learning processes. An extensive vocabulary opens students up to possibilities that they may not have encountered yet at an early age or earlier in their schooling. Students with limited vocabulary resources are limited in their learning because it is more difficult for them to learn using different strategies such as context clues and looking at the meaning of other words around certain words. A limited vocabulary can cause a student to not be able to express him or herself as thoroughly as they want to or need to. This hang-up can cause students to become shy, or fall behind in the classroom because of embarrassment. There are ways for teachers to help students expand their vocabularies, but many of the strategies require students to do a lot of extra work that they may not be receiving help with outside of the classroom. This lack of help outside of the classroom can also be the main cause of the student’s limited language.
Students go through four stages of learning new words. The first stage is the first encounter of the word, when a student has never seen the word before. The second stage comes when the student has heard of the word but does not know what it means. In the third stage, students can recognize the word within certain contexts; they know that the word has something to do with a topic but they do not know the word completely. The final stage of learning the word is knowing the word. Students may encounter the same word many times before knowing it. Helping students learn new words can be a difficult task. One of the best ways to do it is to use the word in ways the student may be able to relate to easier. The concept in which the student would encounter the word the most is usually the easiest way for a student to learn a new word.
Students will often recognize words that come from environmental print faster than words that do not. A brand name of a fast food chain with the picture next to it will be easier for a student to relate to than a single word on a page. Students encounter environmental print everyday of their lives. It is impossible to not encounter it because environmental print is everywhere. I think a good strategy for helping students learn new words is to use the environmental print to their advantage by having students look for similarities in words that they see often to words that they do not.
I have a tendency to become aggravated or frustrated by the anticipation guide questions that begin each chapter. I wish I could say that chapter 9 was a different story, but it is not. The second statement really grinds my gears. It says, “Except for phonics, the most valuable word-analysis strategy is the use of context clues.” This is a decent statement to have at the beginning because it generates thought, but the person who had this book before me check marked agree. I would rather it be blank and not know this person’s thoughts. In my opinion, phonics can be very valuable, but I also think that some students will benefit more by context clues than they will phonics. It will not be the case for all students, but I think there is always a good chance that students will learn differently. There is a lot of research out there to agree with me.
The chapter discusses ways to approach syllable lessons and teaching students how to recognize different syllables and use that to their advantage. I think this is a great idea, especially with the pattern approach, which starts with a single-syllable word and shows how multisyllabic words are related to it. So the base word gets added onto to add more syllables such as adding syllables to out to make outside, which is a compound word.
Chapter 9 also presents teaching dictionary skills to students. I think that this is a skill that many students never learn properly at an early age, so when they become older they do not have the skills necessary to look words up in a dictionary to find meaning or spelling. I do think that finding spelling in a dictionary is hard for many people because if you do not know how to spell it then it is going to be difficult to find in the dictionary. These days, students may be more inclined to use an electronic dictionary in a CD-ROM program or even online. I know that I use online dictionaries a lot more than I used to because of the ease of access that I have to it. I think it is an invaluable resource for all students and teachers. Knowing how to use a dictionary is a functional tool that students can use on their own to help them learn the meanings of different words which they can use as context clues to determine the meaning of other words, or they can look up the word instead if they know how to use a dictionary.
The third statement before the chapter says, “Vowel spellings are so irregular that instruction should focus on consonants, especially in the early stages of learning to read.” I do not agree with this statement because I believe that vowel spellings are pretty regular and have some spellings that are irregular. I know that the statements at the beginning are there to provoke thoughts within the readers, but sometimes I get on a rant about the statements because there must be people who think that way. I do not mean to offend anyone with my opinions or views, but that statement is absurd. I think it was pulled out of nowhere and makes no sense.
Chapter 8 discusses phonics and how phonics can be taught to different readers. The first strategy that is presented is decoding. I believe in the idea of decoding and teaching all students to decode. I think that the better students learn how to decode early, the better they will be able to read later on. Decoding is a process that allows readers to look at words and determine what sounds are within the word to decipher the word and the pronunciation of the word. This process of decoding is a tool that all readers can use when they come to a word that they are struggling with. It is a tool that many young readers will use many times while still learning to read and recognize different words and the sounds of different letter combinations. There are only 26 letters available to use, but there are many more possibilities for words and letter combinations to be used and created.
One of the biggest keys to successful reading is phonics. Phonics are word-analysis skills that allow people to analyze the way a word is organized to determine the way in which it is pronounced. I believe that phonics are very important to help students develop into good readers, but I also believe in a top-down approach which starts with whole learning instead of the bottom-up approach that would start with phonics. I do not believe that bottom-up is wrong, but it is not my favorite overall style. I think that the best teaching style is a balanced approach of top-down and bottom-up to help all students feel comfortable and fill in gaps as necessary that the top-down approach may leave.
The second question of the pre-reading anticipation guide for this chapter says “Early interventions should not be started too soon, because some students may simply need more time to mature.” I want this to be developed further. How soon is too soon? When does too soon become too late?
According to Sulzby, emergent literacy can be described as the reading and writing behaviors of young children that precede and develop into conventional literacy. I believe that a more straightforward definition is that emergent literacy is the reading and writing kids do before they actually know what they are doing. So this would include scribbling, looking at pictures of books, listening to stories, writing letters or trying to write letters, and similar activities.
The chapter includes a reference to a study where 5-year olds with little to know help before school have the same literacy development as 4-year olds with an enriched literacy background. I think that this study may be fairly true, but I know that there are always exceptions to the rule and that there are more studies out there with different results. I believe that the 4-year olds would be more advanced than the 5-year olds, not at the same level. I have a 3-year old son who is an emerging reader. He memorizes stories that have been read to him and he his making up stories to match pictures in books that he does not have memorized. He looks at the pictures to draw conclusions of what may be going on in the picture. I believe that 5-year olds with no previous literacy experience would not be at that level yet. I think that they can get there, but I would not put them on the same level as him.
I really believe that reading starts at home. It is great to be at a preschool or daycare where books are read and reading is encouraged, but if parents or guardians are not reading with their kids at home then the kids are missing out, and as a parent, I think the parents are missing out too. The experiences that parents can have with their children when reading are unbelievable. It is something that as an outsider looking in on the situation, it would be hard to understand and appreciate, but for me, as a student working towards becoming a teacher, and as a parent, when my son wants to read to me, it is the best feeling in the world. There is nothing like it to know that he wants to read and wants to be smart. I wish I would have wanted to do that at his age.
I wrote a lot of this blog about my opinion on intelligence tests. I just wanted to put that first before you got into and thought I was ranting. I do a little bit of that, but I have never been a big fan of comparing students’ performances on a test to one another without the test being necessarily fair for all students.
As I read the questions that come before the chapter starts, I find myself thinking about what intelligence actually is. To me, it is almost impossible to define, and I cannot think of a way to accurately define it, so how is intelligence tested? I think that it is based on relevance, but that changes each year, with each subject, and in each setting that someone is in. I may seem more intelligent in a group of my peers that have not taken as many higher level college courses as me than in one of those classes.
According to Gunning, “What we call intelligence is the result of interaction between heredity and environment. The richer the environment, the more fully our mental capabilities are developed,” Gunning used this definition that came from Carnegie Corporation. I believe that intelligence is an interaction between heredity and environment, but I still do not think that it can be accurately measured with one assessment.
There are many parts to an intelligence test and there is more than one type of intelligence test that can be used. One of the biggest flaws of intelligence tests is that they carry bias against a poor or struggling reader. Someone who has difficulty reading will score poorly on an intelligence test because of their difficulty reading. This leads to low expectations in school, which can carry, into life after school. I am really skeptical about intelligence tests because of the bias that they often create. I want a way to test students’ abilities to read with little to no bias. I know that there will always be some type of bias, but as an educator of ALL students, I think that I should strive to have as little bias as possible towards struggling students, regardless of the subject or topic area.
Testing a student’s ability to listen and comprehend or understand language may give me a better view of their ability to read effectively. Reading is not just the ability to read words fluently and out loud. I think that an excellent reader should be able to read fluently and out loud, but I think that there are more parts to reading than reading out loud. The abilities to comprehend, decode, and interpret text-using context clues are all skills that students need to have to be able to read as well.
There are a couple of processes that are necessary for being able to read. They are decoding and comprehension. These processes are able to be assessed by the teacher through many different variations of formal and summative assessments. The goal of assessing students’ reading processes should be on their ability to use the processes, not necessarily on the effectiveness of the processes. Students need to be able to know how to use the processes before they can use them with complete success.
One of my favorite ways to assess comprehension is through retelling. I think that students should be able to retell a story if they understand it. Understanding leads to knowledge, in my opinion. The problem with retelling a story for some students is language processing. Students who struggle with language processing are students that will struggle with retelling stories, but may comprehend the story just fine. When retelling is a problem for students because of language processing, students may be better assessed through answering questions that pertain to comprehension but also allow students to process the questions.
Also discussed in chapter 5 is writing. Learning to write begins when students first start scribbling and making marks on paper with any type of writing utensil at a very early age. This beginning writing is a vital step in the development of writing. Students start writing letters and numbers at a young age as well. They begin this when they begin learning the letters and numbers. Their writing develops as they learn more about language development. I think that young children need some instruction before going to school to be able to succeed in school. I think that students will be behind if they have no prior instruction before reaching kindergarten.
Students’ spelling ability will progress when they begin understanding phonics and have more phonemic awareness. I think that students will progress gradually through early elementary.