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Envisioning elementary literacy methods courses: Learning to teach from multimedia images of practice


When constructing courses on teaching elementary literacy, teacher educators face a wide array of choices. For example, teacher educators must decide how to integrate current literacy theory with the exploration of classroom practices. While prospective and current teachers enrolled in teacher education programs are typically engaged in fieldwork while they undertake coursework, they may not observe or experience a wide variety practices in their student teaching placements. The K-12 websites featured in Inside Teaching provide an opportunity for teacher educators to develop a practice-centered approach that highlights K-12 classroom activities.

As visual texts and multimedia images of practice, the sites also provide opportunities for teacher educators to instruct prospective teachers in reading visual texts, a critical component of literacy teaching and learning. Furthermore, the K-12 web sites allow teacher educators to introduce a wide variety of elementary and secondary teaching practices, which become shared texts for investigation and learning.

Teacher educators face the critical task of selecting and highlighting particular practices that share the following features: they are central to teaching literacy, relatively easy for new teachers to learn, and provide openings to more complex or difficult practices. Along with our colleagues in other subject areas, we have begun to call practices with such features "high leverage practices."

This Perspective highlights some of the ways that teacher educators have used the K-12 websites to teach high leverage practices in methods classes. It includes a discussion of the thinking behind these teacher educators' choices and of the larger context of their classrooms. We have organized this Perspective to provide an exploration of particular high leverage practices in the wider context of elementary literacy teacher education courses, followed by specific examples of teacher educators addressing those practices in their own courses.

For more about the high leverage practices present in the web sites of the K-12 teachers discussed here—Jennifer Myers, Mattie Davis, Amelia Coleman, and Gill Maimon—see the sub-section called "K-12 Resources." Follow the links on the left side of that page for specific instantiations of the high leverage practices highlighted in this Perspective as well as related K-12 links that may help you develop your own strategies for teaching these practices.

As teacher educators, we have had the opportunity to use only a small number of practices in our courses, so we are fully aware that in naming certain high leverage practices, others are inevitably excluded. Furthermore, we found it challenging to determine how narrowly to frame our discussion of practice; that is, what "grain size" is most useful for other teacher educators? Therefore, we envision this Perspective as the beginning of a conversation about high leverage practices in teaching literacy. We welcome your participation in this discussion. We hope to make our thinking as transparent as possible, and we invite you to do the same.