Using a Web Site to Provide Literacy Lesson Models for Preservice Teachers
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I teach an undergraduate course in literacy methods for preservice teachers. As part of the course requirements, each preservice teacher spends two hours a week tutoring a child at a local elementary school. The course includes current theories of reading and discussions of effective ways to develop literacy lessons that reflect those theories (Adams, 1990). My students learn to view the reading process as an individual reader's construction of meaning from texts through the lens of his or her experiential background and personal interpretation of the written words[This construction is slightly vague -- it's not clear how the word "and" functions here. In other words, do you mean to say that the "lens" of which you speak has two aspects: experiential background and personal interpretation, or do you mean to say that each reader constructs meaning two ways: through the lens of experience AND through personal interpretation?]. I have developed a lesson framework for my students to follow when making lessons for this project. Within that framework, students make choices in designing and executing effective lessons (Tancock, 1994).
[This paragraph should mention the challenge immediately, and discuss it in more depth. Also, we understood the challenge (or "problem") to be this: providing your students greater access to lesson resources. Is this what you mean? -- if not, please revise to make more clear the nature of the challenge as well.] I want my students to become intelligent consumers of ideas about teaching, and not get on the next bandwagonthe newest and trendiest ideaswithout critical reflection. Their understanding of how children learn to read, what processes occur in the mind of the learner, and what research illuminates about literacy acquisition is critical to their development as effective teachers. Armed with such information, they can select and reject ideas, techniques, materials, and strategies from an informed perspective, and they can ultimately design literacy lessons and activities that will meet the needs of their students.
In addition, the students in my courses are adept users of Internet resources, often to the exclusion of print resources. I wanted to give them access to some quality lesson models that they could then use as examples with which to compare other activities and lesson ideas that they encountered in other Internet and print sources.[Is this a second aspect of the problem/challenge you identify in paragraph 1, i.e. that students use the Internet to the exclusion of print? Please expand on this idea and its most important aspects.]
Previous Solutions[Suggest "Early Solutions"]
In my ten years in higher education, I have used various means of providing resources to my students to help them prepare literacy lessons. I have sought out texts and teacher-idea books that include activities, strategies, and techniques that reflect current theory, but I have encountered few quality resources written at a level that my students could understand, given the education they had received thus far (Roller, 1996; Tierney, Readence, & Dishner, 1990; Walker, 1996; Yopp & Yopp, 1996). [Does this citation refer to the texts that you found somewhat helpful? Or is this a citation of a study that indicates that few quality resources are written at a level undergrads can understand? If the former, please incorporate the citation better in your paragraph. Something along the lines of "Roller (1996), Walker (1996), and Yopp & Yopp (1996) are all excellent resources. However,...." If the latter, please reconcile your statement of personal experience ("I have encountered...") with your citation of published articles on the subject. Something along the lines of "As Roller (1996), Walker (1996), and Yopp & Yopp (1996) have mentioned,...."]Although these texts were helpful, I found no single resource that I could comfortably require my students to buy and use in the course.
After my unsuccessful search, I employed a new strategy. When I observed my students' tutoring sessions, I began to note instances of an outstanding activity or strategy and then ask that student to share his or her idea with the class. We also held weekly seminars in which students brought activities to share in small groups. I chose the ones that best reflected theories emphasized in the course, and ask those students to share their activities with the entire class. Students then discussed how the activities met the criteria for an effective literacy activity based on their emerging understanding of current reading theory. I noticed that many students would draw sketches of the activities and write a few notes, and I encouraged them in this activity.[Please indicate the significance of this last sentence.]
My next step was to distribute slips of paper entitled "The Best of EDRDG 430" (EDRDG [Please give the full name of the course here (i.e., expand the acronym).] 430 was the official course title). Students were flattered to receive a slip, because it indicated that their activities were "instructor-endorsed" and would be included in the notebook I kept in our literacy lab (an instructional materials center). The student provided a short description and a sketch of the activity in the notebook. [By "sketch" do you mean an actual drawing? If so, how can literacy activities be rendered as a drawing?]
Students consulted the notebook for activity and strategy ideas, but they complained that the limited hours of the literacy lab prevented them from consulting the notebook as often as they wanted. Responding to their complaints, I looked for a way to give students wider access to effective lesson ideas and strategies. Meanwhile, I was also seeking ways to introduce more technology into my courses. [It might be worthwhile to explain why you wanted more technology in your courses, in a brief sentence or two.]I came upon the idea of creating an electronic database to replace the literacy lab notebook.
I was working on my first course Web page when I started the database for the course. At first, I made a Web page for each idea in the notebook. The first set of ideas included either rough sketches of activities or descriptions with no images at all. I created a table and listed each activity by name, placing it next to the grade level for which it was most appropriate. I found it tedious to construct all of the Web pages, but I soon noticed that the site received many hits. I fondly named my site "The Black Hole," because I found that I could easily fall into the hole and lose hours developing and maintaining the site each week. To use my time more efficiently, I placed counters on each page so that I could track the number of hits per page. This allowed me to prioritize and focus my efforts on pages with the heaviest traffic.
Once my course Web page was fully functionaland in hopes of reducing my workloadI required students to submit their three best activities to me[each student, small groups of students as mentioned before, or the whole class?]. From among these, I chose the ones that best reflected current theory and added Web pages for them. I also added a scanned image or digital photo of each activity. Yet once again I spent an inordinate amount of time creating a Web page for each new activity and adding the page to the database.
Finally, I found a satisfactory solution. I taught students to use the scanner, the digital camera, and the HTML editor Netscape Composer to create Web pages for their own activities. Now, after students submit their three best activities and I choose one to be included on the Web site, students create their own Web page. We take a trip to the computer lab after I have posted the new pages, and students are pleased to see their contributions to the course Web site. They also list the URL in their resumes to demonstrate to prospective employers their ability to create Web pages.
Although the technology skills that students learn in my course are valuable, there is a cost to my decision to teach such skills. Devoting time to training students to use Netscape Composer, the digital camera, and the scanner means that I have less time to teach on the course's objectives: the teaching of reading. Currently, I spend several class sessions each semester in the computer lab for training. (I have noticed that it takes less and less lab time to teach students these tools, since each new group of students is more technology-savvy than the last.)
My hope is that soon I will no longer have to train my students to use this software and equipment, that instead they will already possess the skills to complete their work. The ability to share information instantaneously with others helps students see themselves as members of the academic teaching community. In this case, they are using technology not only to access useful information, but also to provide it to other teachers.
I have an extensive (and still expanding) Web resource that students can use to develop effective literacy lessons based on sound reading theory. Current and former students also tell me they use this database to great success in their student teaching and professional teaching positions. The Web-based format allows them uninterrupted access to these materials from anywhere in the world. It also gives me an authentic and meaningful way to teach them how to construct a Web page and operate a scanner and a digital camera. These skills are in high demand, especially in elementary schools. One final benefit is that I have a record of the work students have done under my tutelage that they can use for years to come.
For the past three years, I have been part of a group of faculty members that uses technology extensively to promote active learning. In addition to thinking of active learning, though, I think that instructors working with technology should also consider the interactive and generative learning through which students learn to communicate, collaborate, research, and share their ideas as they encounter and assimilate new knowledge. At my students' urging, I decided to remove the password from my Web site so that others could take advantage of the materials in the database and see how I chose to arrange my database [It is not clear to me why seeing the arrangement of the database would be helpful. Please make this more clear.]. The number of hits my site receives demonstrates that many review its materials. Collaboration with the faculty members in my technology group has confirmed that the time I devote to my Web site is not in vainwe in the faculty group believe that the most important power of technology lies in its ability to promote active learning. My Web site continues to grow and improve as a result of our lively discussions, which push me to consider different approaches to technology, and my students benefit from these new approaches as well.
Adams, M. (1990). Beginning to read: Thinking and learning about print. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Roller, C. (1996). Variability not disability: Struggling readers in a workshop classroom. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Tancock, S. M. (1994). A literacy lesson framework for children with reading problems. The Reading Teacher, 48, 130-140.
Tierney, R., Readence, J., & Dishner, E. (1990). Reading strategies and practices. A compendium. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Walker, B. (1996). Diagnostic teaching of reading: Techniques for instruction and assessment. Columbus, OH: Merrill.
Yopp, H., & Yopp, H. [Please give middle initials if available for these two authors.](1996). Literature-based reading activities. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.