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Building activities and assignments from the K-12 websites


Teachers adopt practices from a myriad of sources, including books, colleagues, and teacher education courses. The K-12 web sites offer teacher educators several possibilities to introduce promising literacy practices that may be absent from student teaching classrooms. At times, the work of experienced teachers proves to be most useful to student teachers, as veteran teachers often articulate strongly held beliefs that underlie their practice. At other times, images of newer teachers who are perhaps nearer in age or of teachers who share a similar teaching context might provide more easily accessible examples of practices.

The elementary literacy teachers' sites on Inside Teaching include an array of teaching strategies. Several sites focus on Reader’s Workshop, and feature students and teachers reading aloud, partner reading, and making recordings of reading. In addition to these activities, the strategy of making connections (e.g., text-to-text and text-to-self) is explored from both student and teacher perspectives. Teachers offer insight into their teaching decisions and describe how they choose literature that connects to students' lives and to their units of study.

Strategies for teaching prospective teachers with images of practices

The teaching approaches of the teacher educators featured here may be helpful to other teacher educators who would like to incorporate K-12 sites web sites into their elementary literacy courses. The strategies for making use of the K-12 web sites mirror the trajectory of the elementary literacy course. Initially, teacher educators structure activities and assignments that provide a broad spectrum of images for the student teachers to explore and discuss, such as the assignment that Cindy Pease Alvarez constructed. Alvarez's assignment asked students to view a literacy lesson in pairs. To structure the students’ subsequent discussion of Reader's Workshop, she provided a set of questions focusing on the rationale for the teacher’s actions. Following the discussion, prospective teachers wrote a reflection paper about what they learned from the images of practice and the discussion. In this way, Alvarez helped her students become familiar with the web sites and supported them in thinking about a high leverage practice.

After such introductory activities, the student teachers may participate in classroom assignments designed to provide first-hand experience and the opportunity to critique and reflect, such as Linda Kroll's structured observation of one K-12 teacher's teaching, Jennifer Myers. As students viewed video footage of Myers’ literacy classroom, they posed questions and drew connections between the web site materials and their own field placements experiences. To help novices to better understand the strategies under discussion, some teacher educators ask students to adapt and enact these practices in their student teaching placements. Linda Kroll, for example, extended the initial observation by asking student teachers to conduct a Guided Reading Lesson, to videotape it, and to write a reflection about the experience. Teacher educators may use such strategies in an iterative manner rather than in a strictly linear progression, aiming to expose student teachers to images of K-12 practice in ways that enrich and expand notions about what is possible in elementary literacy classrooms.

Examples of prospective teacher learning

The elementary literacy teacher educators documented here offer multiple images and representations of prospective teacher learning, from students' written reflections to conversations focusing on the K-12 sites. The variety of prospective teacher work evident in the teacher educator websites reflects the range of approaches to teaching literacy as well as the influences of local context. For example, Kathy Schultz's website captures - through text and images - a student's three-fold progression from investigating the literacy practice of reading texts aloud, to trying it out in her fieldwork, to her reflection on her experience.

We have just begun to develop strategies such as these to capture what student teachers learn from the K-12 web sites. We aim to grow more sophisticated with our future efforts as we follow student teachers during their first few years of teaching. We hope we will capture what student teachers learn from this work and how it shapes their practices and abilities to make decisions and to negotiate curriculum - and the new and sometimes difficult circumstances of literacy in elementary classrooms.