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NYC Helpline: How To: Teach Literacy

How to Teach Reading through Conferring in Writing Arlyne LeSchack

Reading and writing are connected and if you think about it we might do better in teaching literacy if we started by teaching writing instead of reading. After all when you are writing you are making your own marks, when you're reading you're reading somebody else's marks. For some children at least, there's stronger motivation to make their own marks and to read them back.

When very small children begin to write, they spend a good deal of the time reading back what they wrote and rereading it again. When children try to sound out their own words to write them they don't lose meaning in the same way that they might when they are reading someone else's story; they already have the meaning in their own story so if they focus on the sounds in the words there's nothing lost.

Very young children will tell their stories in pictures at first; we can use this opportunity to point out to children that the pictures in their books tell part of a story as well. Using picture clues is definitely a reading mini-lesson, and now it can be reinforced through a writing workshop conference with a young writer. Another important skill that you'll be teaching during reading workshop is one to one matching. Children need to understand that one spoken word is represented by one written word. This skill can be supported when working with children on their own writing during writing workshop.

Before children are even ready to write a sentence with several words to tell their story, they can label their picture with words. Each picture then has a word to match- another form of one to one correspondence. After the labeling stage, you might have the children point on the page to where they would put their words. This very concretely helps the child move from one stage to the next.

At the same time, we can also help the child master the letter-sound correspondence by asking them what sounds they hear at the beginning of the words they want to write in their stories or labels. Once they hear the sounds and they learn that these sounds are represented by letters, they can mark them down on their papers. For children at this stage, it might be helpful to have an alphabet chart in their writing folders. At the same time, you might use a word wall for sight words that you want the children to know. A copy of that chart can also be in their folder. These charts serve as a scaffold for the beginning writer and of course help them as readers as well.

Fluency has become a buzz word within the literacy instruction world, and what better way for students to become fluent then by having them reread their own writing. By rereading their own writing children develop their voice and style.. It can also help them think of new topics and clarify what they've already written. This works for very young writers as well as for students as they develop.

I'll continue this topic in future articles. In the meantime, if you have comments or questions, please contact me at aleschack@aol.com.


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