Saturday, October 20, 2012

Hot Topics in Literacy Education for 2013

The International Reading Association released its annual list of "hot" topics in literacy education. Conducted by Jack Cassidy and Stephanie Grote-Garcia, the 2013 survey polled 25 leading literacy scholars and researchers to find what's hot and what's not.


  • Common Core State Standards
  • Comprehension
  • Adolescent Literacy
  • College and Career Readiness
  • Informational/Nonfiction Texts
  • English Learners/ESL
  • Motivation/Engagement
  • Struggling/Striving Readers (4th grade +)
  • Vocabulary/Word Meaning
  • Writing
  • New Literacies/Digital Literacies
  • Content Area Literacy
  • Early Intervention (K-3)
  • Political/Policy Influences on Literacy
  • Response to Intervention
  • Text Complexity
  • High-stakes Assessment
The experts agree; these two topics are
  • Phonics
  • Phonemic Awareness

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Literacy Playshop: Playing and Storying with Media

To address the realities of early childhoods, we need to think beyond even our best practice in literacy teaching--our  familiar reading and writing workshops--and envision a play-enriched and technology-inspired literacy curricula that makes sense for today’s video-saturated world. In other words, we need expand reading and writing workshops into vibrant and creative classroom studios that I'm calling “literacy “playshops” with media-rich literacy curricula where children produce storyboards, live action plays, and digital films. I documented how literacy playshops bridge literacy, children’s peer culture, and popular media when I spent a year and a half in one kindergarten conducting research for my book, Playing Their Way into Literacies.

Now in a forthcoming book with four graduate students, we have documented how six preschool and K-1 teachers studied, planned, and taught in Literacy Playshop. The teachers supported children’s video explorations and collaborative film projects as we researched in their classrooms to understand how children  produce new kinds of literacies as they make texts together during play and media production. The shift was dramatic. In play spaces where film can now capture the otherwise temporary play scenarios, children created stories on their terms using the materials and narratives that they know best.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Back to School: Support Your Global Kindergarten Teacher

With the steady drumbeat of testing, testing, testing in accountability and reformist discourse, it's crucial to recognize the teachers who rise above it all and focus their attention on creating amazingly responsive learning environments for our youngest learners. It's equally important for these committed professionals to find communities that affirm and reinvigorate their teaching practice.

Some lucky teachers are able to form practitioner inquiry groups to share ideas and coach each other in their local schools or districts. For the rest of us, global connections in social media provide places for early childhood educators to gather and support one another on Facebook groups or Twitter chats. Education chats include a range of options tailored to specific teaching interests and issues: #kinderchat, #ecetechchat, #ellchat, and many more. These groups meet virtually for an hour each week and followers can read or tweet along by typing the hashtag chat name into the Twitter search bar. For example, #kinderchat meets on Monday nights at 9 Eastern time.

The following tweets by two of the kinderchat moderators exemplify the kind of child-friendly, positive teaching that this early childhood professional community promotes:

RT@Matt_Gomez @happycampergirl we discussed our one class rule today - Be Brave! They were so proud to have that rule #kinderchat

RT@happycampergirl Told my partner teacher today: I refuse to rush them for 1st 4 wks. Lots of time, no hurry. #kinderchat

So find a community and join in-- follow, tweet, and support these wonderful early childhood educators!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Putting a New Spin on Reading Assessment with Spider Charts

I want to share an interactive tool here that I developed as a way to see how young readers are coordinating complex reading processes as they learn to read. Spider charts, a standard feature in Excel, help teachers visually display the information readers are noticing and coordinating as they problem-solve print on a page. These charts are useful for illustrating the relationships among semantic, syntactic, and graphophonic cues.

Knowing the kinds of cues that a reader uses--and the kinds of cues that a reader overlooks--can help you target your teaching. On a spider chart, a lopsided corner visually "points" to the kind of cues that readers are using more often or sometimes overusing.

If you know how to conduct a miscue analysis, you can instantly visualize the data here and create your own spider chart by typing miscue data into the yellow cells in the chart below.  For very young children, you might need to do this twice: fill in one chart to show the processes they use as they "read the pictures", then create a second chart to show how they attempted to read the words. As children become more proficient, they learn to integrate all the cues to get meaning from the pictures and the words.

The tool here is interactive in real time: enter your scores in the yellow boxes and the chart below changes instantly. (For a version that works with running records, click here.)

© 2012 Karen Wohlwend 
You can download your graph by clicking the download icon above.

Briefly, the chart corresponds to 4 questions that teachers consider as they listen to readers:
  1. What % of sentences fit language patterns (syntactically acceptable)? 
  2. What % of sentences make sense (semantically acceptable)?
  3. What % of sentences retain the meaning of the overall text (no meaning change)?
  4. What % of miscues (words) resemble the letters/sounds of the corresponding word on the page (miscues with high or medium graphophonic similarity)?
For examples and an in-depth explanation for using spider charts with miscue analysis for kindergarten readers, see:
For more resources on conducting miscue analysis in general, see:
Goodman, Y. M., Watson, D. J., & Burke, C. L. (2005). Reading miscue inventory: From evaluation to instruction. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Owocki, G., & Goodman, Y. M. (2002). Kidwatching: Documenting children's literacy development. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.