Use of Literature in the Classroom Program

Teaching Scenarios, v

Scenario #3 — the Use of Literature in the Classroom Program- Level

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Classroom Decision Making- the use of literature to teach reading literacy is well-documented in pedagogy as a way children can enter the world of literature, imagination, and genre while they learn the basic skills of reading and writing. As this progresses through the levels, though, the teacher is fortunate to have an ever increasing toolkit of resources. Literature comprises so many different ideas, concepts and plots, that it can be easily used to buttress core competency in almost every subject. Rather than simply didactic in approach, the relevancy of stories shows children how concepts are taken from theory into practice, and also clearly expand the skills of critical thinking, analysis, and synergy (Lehman, 2007). If a task is pleasant and stimulating, the child will naturally gravitate towards it — what could be more pleasurable that covertly teaching a science concept through a story about pioneers or ocean explorers.

Using a literature based approach to literacy and other core curriculum areas allows for a greater flexibility within the classroom environment. Different classroom seating arrangements can be used depending on the subject matter, the activity, and the resources available. For example, if one was studying the Columbus Day and the results, the classroom could be divided into three areas representing different points-of-view: the Columbus, the Native peoples, and the European Sponsors or Royalty. A core story or stories would be used to develop competency, and then teacher prepared excerpts with point-of-view thesis from each of the groups handed to individual groups to study, discuss, and develop. Of course, the major point would be why did Columbus come to America, did he find what he expected, and what were the overall results of his trip? Numerous activities could be assigned: illustrating the major point-of-view of the group; developing a presentation to the sponsors assessing the situation, writing a thoughtful feeling-based paragraph about the major issue the group identifies, or even using the basis of the individual group to write a short story, poem, or play. Using literature in this manner allows for a renaissance, and even Montessori-like hands on approach. One certainly has robust readings; but could bring in other disciplines as well:

Science — use of technology, disparate technologies (primitive labels), boat construction, navigation, gunpowder

Georgraphy — continent’s location, the seas, distance, topography, land mass

Politics — competition between European leaders, why colonies mattered

Economics — what was the motivation to explore, what drove the economy of the time

Medicine — disease as a weapon

Ecology — introduction of new species, disease, and pathogens to the environment

Math — distances, odds

Philosophy — morality, utilitarianism (ends justify means, etc.)

Thus, in one unit/lesson, the use of literature-based studies has not only surpassed the goal of inquiry and critical thinking, it has allowed the creative instructor to tailor the curriculum to the needs of the students, and to reinforce concepts that now have relevance (e.g. If Mixtli owned a maize field of…; if we had 100 men per ship and our ocean voyage was 42 days, how much food and water would we need to make that journey).

Part 2 — Practical Examples — Monitoring progress in literacy using literature may be accomplished in numerous ways. For instance, Children can write a short paragraph about a book they liked (or did not like). Teachers can develop checklists to fill out as they listen to children read. Teachers can observe whether the students (1) show interest in words, (2) can tell a familiar story, (3) can point to individual words on a page, (4) turn the pages at the appropriate time when a story is being read aloud, (5) can find a familiar book on a shelf, (6) choose to read a book or to write during free time, (7) notice words and symbols in the classroom setting, (8) spell words developmentally, (9) ask questions about print, and (10) are aware that print has meaning. Teachers should become continuous observers who monitor the child’s interaction with materials in the child’s educational environment (Sloan, 2003).

Indeed, one can take one of two, or a combination thereof, approach to utilizing literature as a literacy based instruction model: Teacher-Centered Approaches or Child-Centered Approaches. In Teacher Centered Approaches the function of the guide is to transmit facts, skills and values through the mastering of knowledge. This approach focuses on learning, understanding, and identifying a guided approach to the themes in the literature and allows for larger groups of students to receive knowledge. This approach does enhance literacy skills, but is not as effective in allowing other skills to come to the forefront. Child-Centered Approaches, however, do not require such a clear definition of exactly what should be taught and “received” from the literature chosen. Themes may be presented, but individual children are asked more open ended questions about what it is they learned, how they felt, and what moral or culturally relevant issues were uncovered. In this approach, it is the guide’s responsibility to elicit robust and useful questioning that engages every learner (Walsh, 2005).

Part 3 — Theory, References- Most parents will accept a teacher’s observation that a child is making progress in reading, even without the reinforcement of test results. And a child who is an enthusiastic reader by the end of the 3rd grade will continue to develop competence in the upper elementary grades (Forgan, 2003). The literature approach has been similarly documented to be superior to basal learning programs, and allows a more robust development of the language. In fact, students accustomed to reading widely using literature are less perplexed when dealing with narratives of increasing complexity (Anderson, 2000). They have been “reading” actual reading materials for so long that their task is simply to learn new vocabulary and adjust to smaller typefaces, more intricate sentence structure, and complexity of plot design (Johnson, 1987; Yiio, 2009). Literature is also quite relevant in teaching problem solving skills. Many moral isues and quandries are listed in library and teaching sources that break down the appropriate book for the concept needed (e.g. death, loss, anger, etc.).

Scenario #2 — Literacy Learning at the word level (Level 1)

Part 1 — Classroom Decision Making — Phonemic awareness is a part of phonological awareness in which subjects are able to hear, identify, and manipulate the smallest units of speech. This manipulation to the micro level requires phonemic awareness and has been found to improve children’s reading comprehension as well as help children understand the basic parts of world. For instance, the spoken word “cat” can be separated into three individual phonemes, / k/, / ae/, and / t/. The more common approach to this has been the age old aphorism, “sound it out” (Linan-Thompson and Vaughn, 2007, 1-3).

In fact, in the National Reading Panel selected PA instruction for additional review and analysis, and found that using PA in early childhood reading programs, as well as evidence-based remediation programs, significantly improved reading comprehension and scores across the board when compared with other methods. The three major reasons for such excitement regarding PA were:

First, correlational studies have identified PA and letter knowledge as the two best school-entry predictors of how well children will learn to read during the first 2 years of instruction. Such evidence suggests the potential importance of PA training in the development of reading skills.

Second, many experimental studies have been carried out to evaluate the effectiveness of PA training in facilitating reading acquisition.

Third, there is currently much interest in PA training programs among teachers, principals, parents, and publishers because of claims about their value in improving children’s ability to learn to read (NRP, 2000).

Part 2 — Practical Examples

Example 1 -Phonemic Awareness intervention – Phoneme Segmentation: Say a word, have students say each sound of the word they hear; ensure they say each sound. Repeat the word until the sounds are clear; use daily to intervene until basic phonemes are mastered. Words Read by Teacher: 1) Yes, 2) Dig, 3) sip, 4) ten, 5) Hum. Show students how to segment sounds in word and demonstrate. Follow same routine, say with word “man” — work in pairs and continue with sounds: tan, cat, mat, can, stop. Continue daily instruction until 3 and 4-phoneme word skills are mastered (“Phonemic Awareness Intervention,” 2006; Guidry, 2003).

Phonics — Use of cuing system to move from simply understanding clues of sound to clues of meaning:

The Three Cueing Systems (Source: “Phonics Interventions,” 2003).

Meaning (Semantic)

Structure (Syntactic)

Visual (Graphophonic)

What is it?

Does it make sense? making sense of text and relaying meaningful connections context clues found in the text and/or background knowledge (comes from the students own experiences)

Does it sound right? making sense of the actual words in the sentences structural cues come from the students’ knowledge of correct oral language structures the way in which language is put together into sentences, phrases, paragraphs, etc.

Does it look right? breaking words down into letters, sounds, syllables, prefixes, chunks, etc. visual cues come from students developing knowledge of letter/sound relationships and of how letters are formed what letters and words look like often identified as sounding out words

Example 2- Phoneme Awareness — Recognizing Rhyme Assessment (Klein, 2003).

Instructor: Says two-three words that rhyme: fat, cat, bat

Model: These words have the same sound at the end so they rhyme; cat and mop do not rhyme because their sound is different.


Listen to these two words:

pail – tail.

Now say the two words with me:

pail – tail.

Do these two words rhyme?


Put your thumbs up like this if they rhyme:

Listen to these two words:

cow – pig.

Now say the two words with me:

cow – pig.

Do these two words rhyme?


Put your thumbs down like this if they do not rhyme:

Assessment and Additional Words:


rug-mug-tug hat-dress-dog pan-man-tan

Bird-book-look lock-rock-sock bet-get-met cup-dog-cat

Part 3 — Theory, References- Phonics teaches English by learning to connect the sounds of the spoken language with letters or groups of letters, then blending those sounds to form words. New words are mastered by forming approximate pronunciations of sounds, and then extrapolating to newer words. English has absorbed so many other languages that the word does not always sound the same way it looks, so patterns are taught — short vowels, long vowels, shwa- sounds, closed and open syllables, dipthongs and dipgraphs. Sight words are a development from phonics, in which the picture of the object or activity (noun or verb) becomes dually associated with sound and meaning (Sensenbaugh, 1996).

The panel found that phonics are an effective way to teach reading in K-6, or when students have difficulty reading at higher levels. However, it is also important that teachers understand phonics is only one step of a total reading program, and that a significant amount of time and energy must also be spent on comprehension and synthesis (NRPR, 8-14).


Part 4 — Appendix — as a sample lesson on helping students value diversity we might utilize a book called Uncle Jed’s Barbershop (Forgran; Mitchell, 1998).

Book Summary: Uncle Jed is a 79-year-old African-American barber who always dreams of having his own barbershop. He travels to many countries cutting people’s hair and saving as much money as possible. In his travels, Uncle Jed faces many obstacles, but with determination and hard work, he finally achieves his goal.

Lesson Goal: To help students value human diversity and positively relate to others.

Prereading Activities: Preload students with questions, information about a barber. Tell them this book takes place 100 years in the past and that transporation and cities were much different. As them to listen closely and try to identify the differences.

During Reading: Can either be read aloud, popcorn style, or individually. Before revealing the final solution to the plot (Whether Jed saved enough money to open his barbershop), use the I SOLVE strategy to predict potential ideas for Uncle Jed to save and earn money.

Potential Questions:

1. How old do you think the little girl, Sara, is when this story begins?

2. Why did Uncle Jed need to travel?

3. What was Uncle Jed’s dream?

4. Why didn’t people believe Uncle Jed could save enough money for the trip?

5. What do you think the word segregation means?

6. How do you think Sara Jean’s parents felt when they had to wait for the doctor to treat all the white patient’s first?

7. How did it make Uncle Jed feel to help Sara Jean get the operation?

8. How do you think Uncle Jed felt when he heard the bank lost all his money?


I SOLVE Strategy

I: IDENTIFY the problem presented in the book (Uncle Jed did not have enough money to open up his own barbershop).

S: SOLUTIONS to the problem? a) Book solution, b) Uncle Jed could give up? C) New solutions.

O: OBSTACLES to the solutions? a) Book solution, B) if Uncle Jed gave up, he’d never make his dream come true. C) Other.

L: LOOK at the solutions and choose one: What could help Uncle Jed achieve his goal?

V: VALIDATE the solution by trying it. Role play

E: EVALUATE how the solution worked. Discuss ways it worked, did not work, or could work better.

Extended Learning Activities:

Geography — Find all the places Uncle Jed visited and describe a bit about each one.

History — What was life like when Uncle Jed was travelling? Compare and contrast that with life today?

Science — Why do people need to cut their hair? Discuss sanitation. Also travel and technology. What changes in Uncle Jed at 79 might affect his dream? (Mitchell, 1998)

Math – How much did Uncle Jed need? What are some savings plans that could help?

Psychology — Discuss perceptions and cultural attitudes. Discuss ageist attitudes.

Philosophy — Discuss morality and ethics of segregation, especially in medicine. Give some current examples and ask students to reflect.


Anderson, H. (2000). Teaching Through Texts. Routledge.

Coulson, a. (2008). “Delivering Education.” Hoover Institution Review. Cited in:

Dodson, D. (April 20, 2010). “Ready…Set…Read! Teaching Reading Fluency.” Lesson

Planet. Cited in:

Forgan, J. (2003). Teaching Problem Solving Through Children’s Literature. Teacher’s Idea Press.

Graves, M. (2008). Teaching Individual Words. Teacher’s College Press.

Guidry, L. (2003). “A Phonological Awareness Intervention for at-Risk Preschoolers.”

Harvey, S. And a. Goudvis. (2007). Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement. Stenhouse Publishers.

Havie, P. (2004). “Review of Diane McGuinness: What Science Really Tells Us About

How to Teach Reading.” Reading in a Foreign Language. 17 (1). Cited in:

Hiskes, D. (2005). Phonics Pathways: Clear Steps to Easy Reading and Perfect Spelling.

New York: Jossey Bass.

Johnson, T. (1987). Literacy Through Literature. Heinemann.

Klein, a. (2003). “Teaching Phonemic Awareness” Cited in:

Linan-Thompson, S. And S. Vaughn. (2007). Research-Based Methods of Reading

Instruction for English. ASCD Press.

Mitchell, M. (1998). Unclle Jed’s Barbershop. Alladin.

Moats, L.C. (2000). Whole Language Lives on: The Illusion of ‘Balanced Reading’

Instruction. Washington, DC: Fordham Foundation.

National Reading Panel. (2000). “Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching

Children to Read.” National Institute of Health and Human Services. Cited in:

‘Phonemic Awareness Intervention,” (2006). Cited in:

“Phonics Interventions,” 2003, Halo.Org. Cited in:


Pressley, M. (2006). Reading Instruction that Works: The Case for Balanced Teaching.

New York: Guilford Press.

Sadofsky, M. And D. Greenberg, eds. (1999). Reflections on the Sudbury School Concept.

The Sudbury School Press.

Sensenbaugh, R. (1996). “Phonemic Awareness: An Important Early Step in Learning to Read.” ERIC Digest. Cited in:

Sloan, G. (2003). The Child as Critic: Developing Literaracy Through Literature. Teacher’s College Press.

Smith, C. (1997). “Vocabulary Instruction and Reading Comprehension.” Eric Digest.

Cited in:

Steiner, S. (2001). Promoting a Global Community Through Multicultural Children’s Literature. Greenwood Publishing.

Walsh, J. a. (2005). Quality Questioning. Sage.

Yiio, R. a. (2009). Literature-Based Reading Activities. Allyn and Bacon.

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