Carolyn's EDU344 Blog

Chapter 13 Reflection

       Building writing strategies is something that is important to do with struggling readers. I love to write and I can have trouble organizing my ideas at times, especially if I have to write about something that doesn’t interest me. Struggling readers have trouble with that also, and often have poor spelling skills and messy handwriting. How would you feel if you were being asked to write and had no idea how to spell half of the words you wanted to say? For this reason and many others, writing can be harder than reading for those who struggle. This chapter lays out a process approach and other strategies to help struggling writers.

                Gunning states that between 12-18% of students in grades 4-12 are at below basic writing level. He also says that writing a narrative tends to be easier than writing an informative piece. I saw a little bit of this in my Writing Workshop last semester with a group of third graders. I had one student who struggled and I noticed that some of his best writing was when he talked about an event he went through than anything else. I think it was because he knew it, he experienced it, and it was interesting to him, so I can see how that could come easier to him.

                The process approach to writing that this chapter talks about comes in 5 steps: Prewriting, Composing, Revising, Editing, and Publishing. All of these steps are important and should be helpful to those who struggle, since it maps out each step they should take in order to effectively prepare to write a piece. All of the steps are pretty self-explanatory, so I won’t go into all of them. It might also help the writer if you post this routine of the writing process in the room so when you are having writing time, they can use this for reference and to track their steps.

                In addition to all of this, it is important not to forget to teach basic grammar skills, such as spelling, punctuation, capital letters, etc. There are also different stages of writing levels, and it is important to be aware of these and know which level certain students are at, so you can grade them accordingly and make sure they get the most help possible.

                I really enjoyed that this chapter talked about using Writing Workshop. It’s a great way to put the writing process model to practice and really get kids familiar with it. In a small group setting, like the one I participated in, you are able to adapt each lesson for the needs of a specific child. Struggling readers can have their own differentiated instruction, and that can be really effective. Usually it’s not in a small group setting, but it was cool that I got to experience that.

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Chapter 11 Reflection

When I read the title of Chapter 11, it immediately caught my attention. Reading comprehension has been my main focus throughout this course on struggling readers and writers. The introduction alone brought different points to my attention that I hadn’t even really considered so far, so I knew this chapter was going to be informative, helpful, and interesting as well.

I never thought about how I as a reader foster comprehension. What I didn’t consider was when I am reading a textbook and studying for a class. How do I remember what I have just read, especially if the content is dry and boring? Usually I highlight, or underline things I believe will be important to remember. I also write things down and make my own little study guide from time to time.

Comprehension is something that many children struggle with. It appears to be a common problem among readers of all ages. There are many different factors that attribute to poor comprehension. A lack of background knowledge is a huge reason. When a child is reading something that is essentially foreign to them, how are they supposed to remember it? It can be hard enough to remember most things that you read, let alone something you know virtually nothing about. It is important to keep this in mind when evaluating comprehension skills, and selecting pieces that you have control other. Foster the reading selection towards the desires and needs of your students. When students encounter something, they place it in a schema, or their brain. Later on when they see something associated with that word or concept, they are able to draw that from their schema. The more things children have encountered and placed in a spot in their brain, the easier it will be for them to remember. It is important to really develop these schemas.

A couple techniques that I have used to far in my fieldwork include making graphic organizers to put together what they just read. Every time we read a story, I always casually ask them what we just read about. If it is a longer story, I ask at a couple different points throughout the story, since it can be a lot for them to remember. I am always surprised by the minute details that they remember from the story. It’s correct, though! They just sometimes miss some of the more major points. All in all, you have to do what works best for the different students. Help them to organize and recall information in the way that comes most easy for them.

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Chapter 10 Reflection

In chapter 10, Gunning states that vocabulary deficiency is the primary cause of academic failure for disadvantaged students in grades 3-12. This just saddened me. Fortunately, there is a solution. These children have simply not acquired as many words because they haven’t had the opportunity to read as much. Imagine being thrown into a book when you don’t read at all at home. How would you feel looking at the foreign words on the page? That’s how the kids feel, and teachers need to immerse them and really help them out.


There are four different stages of word knowledge:

  1. I never saw it before.
  2. I’ve heard of it, but I don’t know what it means.
  3. I recognize it in context—it has something to do with…
  4. I know it.


When assessing a child, you must know what stage they are at in order to get an accurate reading. There are also some assessments that can help you decipher which level they are at. It is also important that you teach only what the children need to know. If they already know something, there is no need to teach it again. This could cause them to tune out, and really miss the important stuff!


Vocabulary is a HUGE part of any curriculum, and I think it is something that I will certainly emphasize in my classroom someday. One way to help struggling kids is to have a class word wall for everyone. If someone is stumped by a word, we can add it to the word wall, talk about it, and figure out how to spell it or what it means. It’s a great way to make these words readily available for kids to use on a day to day basis.


When working individually with students, it’s important to make goals with them. Give them something to work towards. Some kids need that sort of motivation to really get them going, whether it’s intrinsic or extrinsic. As I mentioned before, it’s also important to build off of what they already know. Relate to the students’ lives and make them interested. Make it memorable for them. Things will stick better when there is interest involved. Graphic organizers of all kinds can also be helpful when building vocabulary. Finally, there is no better way to increase vocabulary than by immersing the students in text. The more they experience it, the easier it will come as well. Keep in mind the best interest of the students, and make sure you still make it interesting and fun! There is no reason any child should fail anything. 

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Chapter 9 Reflection

I am currently enrolled in a college course about the English language. We have done a lot of work on morphemes, specifically letter sounds. Being in this class, we had to break down words, discarding a morpheme every time. If we didn’t know what a word meant, certain morphemes, such as prefixes or suffixes, helped get us a step closer to the accurate definition. How cool that even at the college level, I am still using elementary techniques in a sense to figure out words. These concepts might seem so simple, but in reality, they are a necessity in order to achieve full knowledge of reading words.

While this is on a totally different scale, I can relate, and I can also attest to the importance of having knowledge of roots and basic phonetics. The concept of syllables is something that can be learned at a very young age. There are activities you can do that help understand that, such as simply holding your chin when you say words, and knowing that every time you feel it move, that is generally another syllable. This can be a good place to assess children, as some have trouble with multisyllabic words. If the sound is only prevalent in multisyllabic words, it may be unfamiliar for them, causing them to struggle. I have seen evidence of this in the early observations of my case study child. In larger words, she knows some of the sounds, but appears to be guessing on the rest of the word. This is certainly something I hope to expand on with her.

What makes syllables interesting is that they often fall into patterns. You can give a child a list of many words that emphasizes their weak syllable point in reading, so they can really work on that and see where these sounds are found. There are many other strategies that can be used to teach syllables. The most important thing is to not give students the answers. Encourage them along, giving them stepping stones if necessary. Let them figure it out on their own. Help can obviously be adjusted as needed.

Teaching morphemic elements is something that should be taught based on what the children already know. Take certain morphemes, prefixes, or suffixes that the children already know, and put them on the word wall. If in your reading and writing they come across something they are unsure of, you can add it to the wall. Encourage them to search for syllables like this and figure them out. Making connections is an important part of reading. It might be good to ask, “What parts of this word do you recognize?” The more familiar they become with these words, the easier it will be to pick them out in words, and be able to branch off and find new words.

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Chapter 8 Reflection

      Phonics is something that I have grown extremely interested in throughout my college career. Decoding, sounds, and words in general are just so amazing. Even though I know a great deal about these things, I still encounter words every so often that I don’t know, and I must use the early skills I learned to try and decipher them. Now imagine being a young reader trying to decode simple words. If you haven’t mastered this skill, this could be a difficult situation. It is important to really learn and instill the basics in young children so they can continue to use it throughout their lives.

            In Gunning’s Chapter 8, he listed and described the phases in learning to read words. Being an early childhood minor, I find the early years of literacy development especially interesting. The prealphabetic phase is first, where children don’t even really know what they are reading. They simply know these words or signs because they are high frequency or memorize the words in some way. Pictures can also be used to help them guess the words. While this can be a helpful technique, it can lead to faulty assessment and really not make for an accurate grasp on where the child is in the reading category. For example, the child might know a sign says “Subway” just because they’ve been to the restaurant so many times. In their reading, they are really making no letter-sound connections.

            Next is alphabetic, when they start to use these relationships to decode words. Words are becoming more familiar to them, and they can use the knowledge that they have to decode simple words. This makes it easier for the children to learn. Sounds are typically viewed all individually; the kids look at them separately and put them all together to form a word. This differs from the final phase, consolidated alphabetic, as they start to see units in words. They put sounds together in chunks before they form the whole word. They gain even more knowledge about strange sounds, like double vowels, and spelling comes easier to them.

            Another thing I found interesting and helpful was the use of pictures next to letter sounds. It’s a good way for children to visualize and understand what certain sounds occur in certain words. They can use these devices to help them. This reminded me of an example my mom shared with me from her classroom. She has a student in her classroom that is extremely speech delayed and talks at about the same level as a two year old. Their class has been working on letter sounds, and there is a video or website of some sort that has an action that goes along with each letter sound. For example, the [k] sound showed someone doing karate. When she was being assessed on her knowledge of these sounds, she did the action with every single one, and got nearly all of them right. It was an effective device that worked really well for her, and she knew how to portray what she wanted to say. This is a perfect example of finding something that works best for certain students. 

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Chapter 7 Reflection

Teaching reading in the early, emergent literacy years can be so difficult. You automatically want to assume that all kids are on the same level and can benefit from learning the same thing. In reality, some kids enter kindergarten not knowing any of their letters, while other children can already read as well as some second graders. I happened to be on the more advanced end of that spectrum. I remember reading very well in preschool. This just goes to show how important differentiation is. How can you prepare something that reaches all of these different reading levels?

Personally, I am a firm believer in beginning to promote literacy at a very young age, like in preschool. A variety of different, simple things can really increase literacy naturally in children, from reading stories out loud regularly, having a classroom library, and to making books and writing materials available for kids to choose during their free time. This is something that I certainly plan to have in my classroom, along with a few other different centers.

Being a Language Arts major, this is the stuff I’m really interested in. I want to get the kids excited about reading, so I hope I can design units that can use great, rich texts to do this for them. I also plan to have a literacy-rich classroom where literacy tools surround the children. This includes labels, signs, posters, papers, etc. Another important thing to do is really work on orally discussing and then recording ideas that were talked about. Reading aloud can help with these two skills.

Before any of this, though, we often forget that we have to teach them the basic concepts of print. Can they recognize the front and back cover of a book? Where is the title and the author? They also need to know that we read from left to right and top to bottom. Other basic building blocks include that we have letters that make up words that make up sentences, words are composed of sounds, and letters all have specific sounds. Reading is meaningful and they need to learn how to construct meaning from these things.

All children learn and acquire these skills at different rates. If the child hasn’t had opportunities to acquire these skills, of course they’re not going to know them! This is where it is the job of the teacher to teach these skills and determine the best way to do that.


Chapter 6 Reflection

“Your child might not be capable of doing this.”

Those are words that a parent never wants to hear. Some hear it before the child is even born. Not only are these words oftentimes untrue, but they are also unnecessary.

Intelligence. What does intelligence even mean? Most would say how smart someone is, but how can this even be measured? They might be used to find a child’s “limitations”, but who are we to say what they can and cannot do?

While there are intelligence and aptitude tests that assess this sort of thing, these, like all other assessments, can be inaccurate. This is because of a variety of difference factors including how they test, and their personal, home, and school lives. Children learn from their parents first and the most, so their home can play a HUGE part in their cognitive ability. A child may be performing poorly if their parents aren’t using the most effective parenting skills, or if they aren’t modeling the educational skills that they need to develop. Laissez-faire parents who just kind of let their kids do whatever they want might not get the best results when their child takes one of these assessments. If the parents don’t encourage exceptional behavior, it certainly won’t happen. I’m in a parent partnerships class right now and I can’t stress the importance of parenting and how much it can effect a child and their educational abilities.

After reading in Chapter 6 about Frank, my mind immediately jumped to a savant. Savants are individuals who are autistic, and typically score quite low on intelligence tests, yet are absolutely brilliant in another specific area or ability. Some of these areas include math, art, or memory skills. A child who scores low on an intelligence test might be characterized as “stupid.” Savants are by no means dumb or unintelligent in any way. While this is called “savant syndrome”, it is not even recognized as a mental disorder. Just because Frank shows very little success or interest in reading does not make him unintelligent.

Reading problems are common, though, and this chapter offers many different tests that cater to certain disabilities or areas of difficulty. There is a test for everything from memory to word-finding and comprehension to reasoning. This is why reading difficulties can’t be grouped together, as different struggles require different needs. It is important to properly diagnose these problems so the right actions can be taken when getting the child the help they need to be more successful.

This chapter brought a lot of random thoughts to my head, so I just thought I’d share a few of those with everyone.

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Chapter 5 Reflection

Reading comprehension is something that can be difficult for people of all ages. It is important to instill this process in kids from the beginning. While I didn’t struggle with comprehension so much as a child, I find that it is becoming more and more difficult for me, especially when the material I am reading is very boring, dry, and uninteresting. This is why it is important for teachers to make sure that the material they have children reading is, for the most part, something that is of interest to them, especially if they have difficulty in other areas of reading.

Other parts of reading can be simple to assess, but comprehension can be more difficult to assess. Gunning gives a variety of factors that can cause poor comprehension in students, including “inadequate background, lack of necessary concepts or vocabulary, poor use of strategies, lack of basic decoding skills or fluency, lack of attention or concentration, poorly developed thinking skills, or inadequate language development” (Gunning 128). These factors can be made worse if the material is too difficult, not strong, or if the instruction is poor.
Assessments that are designed to check reading comprehension can be one of two extremes: they either make understanding texts too complex or make it too simple. They focus on strange things and don’t really give teachers an accurate reading. There are some things you need to be conscious of as well. When administering an assessment to a student that requires them to retell a story, tell them to pretend that the person they are telling it to hasn’t heard it before, or else they might leave out important details if they assume you, the teacher, already knows the story. There are some prompting questions you can ask, but you really shouldn’t give them too much help. It’s important they come up with as much as they can on their own. Some other prompts you can use include think-alouds, interviews, and questionnaires, where asking questions is key.

As you can see, there are many different ways you can assess student comprehension. It is important to know the student well and observe them in their element so that you can perform the assessment that would be most beneficial to them. Just like in other areas of education, observation is SO important and it can tell you a lot about reading comprehension. Just be sure to observe them in their natural element so you can see them for who they truly are.


Annotated Bibliography

Carter, M., Desai, L., & Tierney, R. (1994). Portfolio assessment in the reading-writing classroom. The Reading Teacher, 48(2), 181.

   Portfolios are an effective assessment tool that teachers still use widely today. They are great to use and have on hand in the classroom, especially when it comes to writing. It’s easy to gather and make copies of a student’s writing collection and have it to show them or their parents. This article is about a book written by the authors of this book. It offers a few suggestions and techniques from four different K-12 teachers in Ohio. The authors took this information and made a tool that models questions to ask about a single piece of writing.

  Even though this article is a little bit outdated, I feel the information is still applicable and useful. There are example questions to get the students minds working. It really has the students reflect on their piece of writing and why they chose it for their portfolio. It’s a way to get them to really think about their writing and look at it more closely than they might have in the first place. I believe that a student can be a super effective critic of his or her own work. I wish this article was more in depth about portfolios since they are so commonly used today. It just left me wanting more information.


Cirino, P.T., Linan-Thompson, S., Prater, K., & Vaughn, S. (2006). The response to intervention of english language learners at risk for reading problems. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39(5), 390-398.

   English language learners can be extremely difficult to work with and diagnose when they have learning or reading disabilities. How can you know if they have a real reading problem or if the language barrier is the only struggle? This article begins by talking about how they went about intervening with those students they believed to have reading problems. They did this to determine the proper response to intervention (RTI) they had to take to best help these students. It also has to be effective. There is a tiered model system that is followed when working with these students. Like every other assessment, there can be errors and problems with this type of help and intervention. Different approaches can be taken to help these students.

  Working with English language learners is something I find extremely interesting. Although I have only taken one class about the best method of instructing them, I have experienced some different languages and cultures firsthand at the preschool where I work. Granted teachers aren’t exactly teaching them phonics yet because they are three, they are already working on immersing them in the English language. I just think it would be hard to say if an English language learner had a reading disability when the problem just could be they don’t understand English. I guess there are steps that can be taken to rightly determine this, though.


Fargo, J. D., Jones, C. D., & Reutzel, D. R. (2010). Comparing two methods of writing instruction: Effects on kindergarten students’ reading skills. The Journal of Educational Research, 103(5), 327-341.

            This article is about a study that compared the effects of two different forms of classroom writing instruction: interactive writing and writing workshop. They were trying to see if these helped kindergarteners develop early reading skills.  Data was collected for 16 weeks from over 150 students. It came to the conclusion that both were equally effective. These two methods are very different in regards to the role of the teacher, the content, and the sequencing of skills. Writing is very important to have in a kindergarten classroom, as it can increase early reading skills, which is something that the children will need to learn and start using very soon. Interactive learning is when children can start to learn letters, sounds, and words to create a meaningful text. Children learn basic print concepts and phonemic awareness to really start gaining reading and writing skills.

            Reading and writing is so important to start immersing children in, even directly from birth. The fact that this article talked about writing workshop was especially neat to me since I took part in one last semester. It’s a great experience for kids and it really gets them to dive into writing, but most of the components didn’t really help with the increase of their writing quality. I believe that different methods would work differently and more effectively for different children. I think it’s best to maybe try a little bit of both and get to know the kids to see what method would work most effectively for each child.


Mayo Clinic Staff. (August, 2011). Dyslexia. Retrieved from

            According to the Mayo Clinic, “dyslexia is a learning disorder characterized by difficulty reading” (Mayo Clinic). This is very common among children. Usually the child that suffers from it has normal vision and intelligence. It’s all from inherited traits that relate to your brain function. Dyslexia also can go undiagnosed until adulthood, which can be painful and hard to live with. Although there is no cure, most children can still be successful in their schooling with the help of a tutor and adjustments made by their teacher.

   Dyslexia is something that many kids suffer from, and it can easily go undiagnosed. It is important to really know the symptoms and steps you can take to help the children that suffer from it so they can be as successful as possible. It’s important for parents as well as teachers to be emotionally supportive as well, since this can be hard on a child. This site offers many different ways to diagnose and test for dyslexia, all of which you can find with help from a doctor. I think it’s important to really know where dyslexia comes from, and the origins of it. We need to understand what it is and how it affects children before we go about tossing around diagnoses.


Zirkel, P. A. (2012). The legal issues of identification and intervention for k-12 students with dyslexia. Perspectives on Language and Literacy38(3), 13-16.

   This article by Perry Zirkel uses an illustration about a girl named Fran Doe who always seemed to struggle through the early grades, especially in reading. Her parents brushed it of, though, as they believed she was still developing, just differently than the other children. Once she got to fourth grade, they decided to consult someone about Fran’s difficulties. Soon after, she was diagnosed with dyslexia, and they along with their psychologist started to come up with educational ideas to best suit Fran and her needs. Thinking she is eligible for a certain kind of help, and then finding out she is not, the parents go through a lot of obstacles to try and get their daughter the help she deserves.

   In all honesty, this article kind of made me sad. The fact that such drastic legal measures had to be taken just to get this little girl the help that she needs to succeed broke my heart. Just because this girl’s disability wasn’t “severe” enough, some necessary actions couldn’t be taken. The ultimate goal should be to help this child succeed, not to closely follow some handbook or rules. It’s sad how education is so strict and taken right from the textbook about so many different things. Maybe it’s just because I don’t understand all the legalities of the rules and guidelines that need to be followed. To me, it just complicates things and interrupts from the success of the children. 


Chapter 4 Reflection

Chapter 4 of Gunning’s textbook is about placing and monitoring your students based on their reading level. One of the first sentences in this chapter talked about making sure they child has an appropriate challenge. My mind immediately jumped to the zone of proximal development. This concept says that we need to make sure our students are being challenged appropriately; the work is not too hard where they become frustrated, and it is not too easy where they are bored. The level of challenge is just right where they are at their full learning potential. This is where they learn the best and the most.

Shortly after, Gunning starts to talk about an informal reading inventory (IRI) which is an assessment that teachers use to determine a student’s reading level based on their performance when reading various word lists and passages. An analogy he used that I found very interesting was relating IRIs to trying on shoes. As a teacher, you want to make sure your child’s “shoe” or reading level is a perfect fit for them. You might have to try on some different pairs before you find just the right size. Teachers can use commercial inventories, as there are many different kinds for all sorts of different age groups. The book has a list of 14, but I’m sure there are more. A more affective type of assessment would be a curriculum-based assessment (CBA). In one of my other classes, our professor was talking about the importance of making sure your assessment aligns with instruction, or what you are teaching in class. It just makes sense that tis would be the most affective way to place the students and really know where they are at, especially if the information they are reading is familiar to them and something that they will be able to use throughout the year.

However, teachers don’t always have time to write their own assessments based on the curriculum, or fully assess the students based on the inventories. The inventories usually have students orally and silently read different passages, as both use different skills, but oftentimes teachers skip over the silent reading section. This can lead to a decrease in the validity and reliability of the assessment, which ultimately does not help the student at all. Teachers are very busy, and I am aware that I will have little time for myself when I am a teacher, but they really have to think about what is best for the students. Their goal should be the success of all students.