The Oklahoma Reader V55 N2 Fall 2019

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ISSN 2640-1649 (online) ISSN 0030-1833 (print) VOLUME NO. 55 // ISSUE NO. 2 // FALL 2019



Finding Inspiration through reading and writing

Recommended: Books that Challenge, Delight, and Inspire



Children's Books pg. 3 Young Adult Books pg. 7 Dr. Suzii Parsons Oklahoma State University


Editors’ Expressions


Children’s Book Reviews


Young Adult Book Reviews


Teacher to Teacher Column


Teacher Talk Column


Research Summary


Tech Talk


Policy and Advocacy


Letter from the OKLA Chair


Conference Flyer


Call for Proposals


Back Matter

Windows and Mirrors: Community Building through Literacy Instruction


Dr. Lisa Delgado Brown Oklahoma City University Dr. Laura Wilhelm Oklahoma City University Dr. Elizabeth (Liz) Harden Willner Oklahoma City University

Building Stronger Readers and Writers through Character Analysis


Dr. Roberta D. Raymond University of Houston-Clear Lake

Embracing Diversity - Professional Development Heightens Awareness of Economically Disadvantaged Children

On the Cover: Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on


Dr. Karen Bates Emporia State University Dr. Deborah Larson Emporia State Universiity


We are pleased to share the latest edition of The Oklahoma Reader, the journal of the Oklahoma Literacy Association (OKLA). We hope the articles and regular features in this edition provide interesting information and new book titles for your consideration. The featured articles in this edition bring you a range of information and strategies to strengthen your knowledge of literacy instruction. Dr. Lisa Delgado-Brown, Dr. Laura Wilhelm, and Dr. Liz Willner conducted research encouraging beginning Oklahoma elementary teachers to stay in education through mentoring, building community, and building capacity. Dr. Roberta Raymond discusses the importance of character analysis in developing both reading and writing. Dr. Karen Bates and Dr. Deborah Larson present professional development for preparing teacher candidates to work with at-risk and impoverished students. In our Teacher to Teacher Column, Karen Coucke discusses opportunities for written and oral language development in kindergarten classrooms; and in our Teacher Talk Column, Sarah Tham reframes the important act of self-reflection in the teaching process to help busy teachers find time for it. We are sure you will enjoy Dr. Suzii Parsons' children's literature column, featuring books highlighting families in a variety of contexts which all share the most important family characteristic of all - LOVE! In the young adult literature column she shares books which demonstrate the persistence of individuals to make the world a better place. Dr. Linda McElroy's Research Summary shares two articles about morphological instruction and its effect on reading comprehension. In the Technology Column, Shelley MartinYoung shares Part One of "All Things Google," featuring add-ons and extensions to enable student learning and publication. Dr. Julie Collins shares Oklahoma Legislative Updates in the Policy and Advocacy Column. We are thrilled that you are including The Oklahoma Reader in your professional reading! Please note the Guidelines for Authors near the back of this edition and consider submitting an article, a column, a book review or a teaching tip to be included in a future edition! You will also find information about the upcoming Reading Matters! Oklahoma Literacy Association Conference on Saturday, April 4th, 2020! We look forward to hearing from keynote speakers Kylene Beers and Robert Probst! You will also find the registration form and Call for Proposals near the end of the journal. Sincerely,

Donita Shaw, Julie Collins, Lynn Debolt Schroeder, and Shelley Martin-Young

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RECOMMENDED: BOOKS THAT CHALLENGE, DELIGHT, AND INSPIRE Sue Christian Parsons, Ph.D. Fall 2019: In Celebration of Families Family is a universal experience yet the ways we experience family are myriad. The books featured in this edition not only celebrate the marvel of family, but also the many ways families are formed and nurture the people within them. Reaching across cultures and settings, in a wide variety of situational contexts, family in these stories binds and launches, guides and nurtures, forgives and celebrates—and love abounds. The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke, illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd. (2018, Candlewick) The spirited narrator of The Patchwork Bike joyfully describes her “mudfor-walls” home, her “crazy brothers,” her “fed up mom” and the siblings’ antics. They build sand hills to slide down and climb trees in the “no-go desert,” but best of all is the bike they have patched together from foraged parts that can, as she marvels, bumpetty-bump through the village, glide right through our mud-for-walls home carrying me and most my brothers past my fed up mom. The playful, rollicking language exudes enthusiasm and celebrates resourcefulness. The family obviously lives in poverty, but love and joy reside there as well. Home in the Rain by Bob Graham. (2017, Candlewick) Tenderness floods this lovely story—tenderness between a parent and a child but also a tender look at the vulnerable world around them and grace that abounds in small moments. Francie and her pregnant mother are driving from grandmother’s house to their own, but a torrential rainstorm forces them to pull off the road and wait. As they shelter, eating the picnic grandmother sent along, Francie wonders when her father will return from his faraway job and what her new baby sister will be named. Meanwhile, Graham gives us glimpses of life outside the car—a soaked boy who regrets fishing on such a day, a baby rabbit diving for cover, and a miserably wet field mouse who is lucky, too, as the rain shields him from the kestrel’s view. Back on the road, Francie and her mother find a gas station and, as life happens all around them, one perfect moment in the midst that they will remember forever. I Really Want to See You, Grandma by Taro Gomi. (2018, Chronicle Books) Yumi lives on a hill; Grandma lives on a mountain. One day, each gets an intense yearning to see the other so, out they go. Grandma takes a train to Yumi’s house, but the bus Yumi rides passes over it. Oh, no! Grandma hails a taxi while Yumi catches a ride with a neighbor carting a cow in a truck. But darn the luck—they pass each other again. Finally, each determinedly sets off on a scooter, meeting in the middle with unbridled joy. The illustrations speak volumes as frantic neighbors point out the problem, Yumi and Grandma’s expressions register shock, determination, and frustration, and once united, launch elatedly toward each other. Gomi’s expansive illustrations animate the simple story, a celebration of love accessible to emerging readers but enjoyable for all ages. 3

Bowwow Powwow by Brenda J. Child and Jonathan Thunder, with Objibwa language version by Gordon Jourdain (2018, Minnesota Historical Society Press) Uncle regales Windy Girl with stories about Objibwe traditions, including various dances and important values, such as gratitude and sharing, they celebrate. Windy Girl adapts the stories to her dog, Itchy Boy, who dances for treats and to show his enthusiasm and gratitude. When Uncle and Windy Girl attend a Powwow together, she soaks it all in—the dances, the foods, and the vibrant community—until she falls asleep under the stars, the drums ushering in an elaborate dream powwow where the celebrants are Itchy Boy and other dogs. Both art and text, from one gorgeous endpaper to another, glow with love and life, and an Objibwe translation furthers the authenticity and educational value. With all contributors connected to Objibwe culture, readers of Bowwow Powwow will come away warmed and informed. Drawn Together by Minh Lê and illustrated by Dan Santat. (2018, Disney Hyperion) Drawn Together is a book of few words but much heart. The initial wordless paneled spreads show a boy with a decidedly disgruntled expression being dropped at his grandfather’s house. The grandfather, who looks thrilled to see the boy, prepares two dinners—traditional Thai for himself and a hotdog for his grandson. They attempt dinner conversation—the boy’s words noted in English and the grandfather’s in Thai—to no avail. Watching television doesn’t provide common ground either. Eventually, the bored boy decides to draw, prompting his grandfather to fetch his ink and sketchbook and, in a FLASH, they begin to communicate by co-creating a world in art. Instead of panels, the pages erupt in full spread art with narration, with grandfather’s and grandson’s creations playfully sparring and intertwining on the pages. Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (2018, Candlewick Press) Coming home from the pool where he swam with his Nana and her friends, Julian sees people dressed as mermaids. Julian loves mermaids! In a magical wordless spread, we see Julian imagining himself transforming into one. Back at their apartment, Nana goes to take a bath and Julian decides to dress as a mermaid, using plant fronds for hair and a gauzy curtain to create a tail. When Nana returns and surveys the mess, she looks none too pleased. She walks away and Julian waits, uncertainty on his face. Nana returns, gives Julian a set of beads to complete his costume, takes his hand and sets out down the street to where the Coney Island Mermaid Parade is about to begin. Like you, mijo, says Nana, Let’s join them. And they do. Love’s colorful illustrations pop against brown paper backgrounds and carry much of the emotional action in the text.. On the two pages where Julian is alone and transforming (in dream and then in dress), we see his actions across two-page spreads with multiple portraits of him showing sequence of events. The effect is to invite us to linger with Julian and get to know him.


Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and Ebony Glenn (2018, Salaam Reads/Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers) When the narrator stands inside her mother’s closet, surrounded by beautiful, flowing khimars, her little hands riffling through them and her face pressed into to inhale her mother’s sweet aroma, she feels surrounded by love and possibility. She furls them, twirls them, and twists them about her, imagining she is a queen, a bird, a shooting star, a superhero. Throughout the book, her parents, grandmother (who happens to observe a different faith tradition), and women at the Mosque lovingly care for and celebrate her. Glenn’s illustrations almost literally radiate love and joy and Thompkins-Bigelow incorporates explanations of Muslim traditions without erring from the story itself. Night Job by Karen Hesse and G. Brian Karas (2018, Candlewick Press) After the sun goes down, a boy climbs on the back of his father’s motorcycle and they speed across a bay bridge to a darkened school. The boy narrates what they do every night to clean the school. While his father sweeps the gym, the boy shoots hoops. In the library, the child reads to the father as he works then falls asleep on the green vinyl couch. At 4:00 a.m. the father wakes him for the chilly ride back across the bay to home. Karas’s blue and gray scenes strategically splashed with light offer a sense of mystery while Hesse’s direct but poetic text evokes every sense: the smell of old fish over the bay and lilacs at the school door, the echo of the basketball in an empty gym and the swoosh of the broom down the hall, the crisp cold air from the back of the motorcycle and, most important, the warmth of a sleepy embrace between father and son as day dawns and they fall asleep.

Suzii Parsons believes that books truly matter in the lives of young people. She is the Jacques Munroe Professor of Reading and Literacy at Oklahoma State University. You can contact Dr. Parsons at


ENGAGING PERSPECTIVES: THE YOUNG ADULT READER Sue Christian Parsons, Ph.D. Fall 2019: Finding Hope in the Hard Stuff Wordsworth writes, “The world is too much with us.” Many of us feel the weight of the world quite tangibly lately. Teachers may feel that weight more fully in our hope to bear it for our students. Perhaps you, like me, seek escape in light stories that offer a giggle or a nice tidy resolution. Our students do need to laugh when they read. They need to relish solving a good mystery, marvel at nature, and settle in cozily with families and communities that resonate with love. But they also need to read the hard stuff. We—adult readers and the young people we care for—need to read about the wrong in history. We need books that challenge oversimplified and inaccurate societal narratives often passed down in schools. We need to know war and injustice, loss and struggle. We need to read these stories because, collectively, they hold the hopeful truth that we are capable of great courage, creativity, resilience, that we can speak up and fight against wrong, that hope is stubborn and joy resides in the most marvelously unlikely places. The books featured in this article show individuals finding voice, facing adversity, identifying solutions, fostering community, and furthering justice. The stories they tell span time, space, and culture. They re-infuse the stories we think we know well with truths and voices that have been silenced or pushed aside. They invite readers to revisit and re-envision persistent narratives that shape the way we view our lives and the world around us. Each book holds power but exploring common themes across texts brings readers to consider more deeply. These books, together, highlight persistence in society—the dread persistence of harm and hate, the dependable buoyancy of joy and hope, and the ever-present possibility of transformation though imagination, strength of conviction, and determined action. They also offer insights into what it takes to change the world for the better. Note that the books offered here include picture books appropriate for a wide range of readers as well as books aimed more directly at middle to young adult readers. All the books foster discussion about what is and what might be. They Called Us Enemy by George Takai, Justin Eisinger, Stephen Scott, and Harmony Becker (2019, Top Shelf Productions) In this graphic novel memoir, well-known actor (Star Trek) and activist George Takai recalls his childhood imprisoned along with his family in an American internment camp. While the horror of losing everything is evident in the portrayal of his parents’ experiences, the reader views the experience through George’s child-view. His innocent acceptance (It’s cool to sleep where the horses slept and tags identifying prisoners are like train tickets) makes the cruel injustice stand out even more starkly. The memoir continues to follow the family’s return to Los Angeles upon release, having lost everything they’d worked for, forced to live on the street, and dealing with pointed racism and the related shame. Takai points to current contexts that frame ethnic groups as enemies, urging us to learn from the past and do better.


The War Outside by Karen Hesse (2018, Little Brown Books for Young Readers) During World War II, in addition to the internment camps for Japanese-Americans who lived on the West Coast, the U.S. Department of Justice ran internment camps for people, mostly men and most of Japanese, German, or Italian descent, identified as “enemy aliens” accused of colluding with the enemy. The camp in Crystal City, Texas was deemed a family camp, imprisoning the men and their family members who chose to join them there. Haruko is angry with her father who she knows is hiding something and worried about her brother who is serving in the Army. Margot’s pregnant mother fears another miscarriage and her father, frustrated and angry, is being actively courted by Nazi factions in camp. Teens Haruko and Margot meet at the camp. Though vastly different they find connection in their worries, but a prison camp is not a place for teens to grow and these two find themselves changing. Fred Korematsu Speaks Up by Laurie Atkins, Stan Yogi, and Yutaka Houlette (2017, Heyday) In 1942, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Korematsu family was rounded up along with more than 100,000 Japanese Americans living on the West Coast of the United States. 23-year-old Fred refused to go and went into hiding. He was found, arrested, and charged with defying government orders. Fred sued. The courts ruled against him, ruling that internment was necessary for national security. Forty years later, though, a historian discovered documents previously hidden from the courts showing that the Japanese-born citizens had not committed any treasonous acts and should not have been imprisoned. Fred’s case was reopened, leading to a 1983 ruling that overturned Fred’s conviction. Fred kept speaking up, leading eventually to the U.S. Government issuing an official apology and providing monetary reparations to every victim of the incarceration. Atkins and Yogi offer a multimodal text, employing poetry, historical explanations, paintings, timelines, and historical photographs to help Fred’s life and message speak to young readers.

Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis and Traci Sorell (2019, Tu Books) In the late 1940s and through the 50s, the U.S. government sought to terminate tribes and relocate Indians to urban areas. In this novel based on the childhood experiences of author Charlene Willing McManis, Regina’s Umpqua tribe is terminated. Stripped of their identity and unable to pay the inflated price of their land, the family is forced to move to Los Angeles where Regina’s father is to be trained for a new kind of work through the Indian Relocation Program. Regina and her family struggle to find their way without the support of their community and in a world marked by racism. This earnest and affecting historical fiction work expands our vision of the Civil Rights era by depicting a great injustice little known outside the Indian community.


The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw (2016, Sky Pony) Kathleen Burkinshaw’s mother was four when the atomic bomb dropped on her hometown, Hiroshima, Japan. Burkinshaw’s historical fiction novel The Last Cherry Blossom draws upon those experiences. The novel begins with everyday life. Japan is at war and there, as in the U.S., war efforts influence every aspect of daily life. U.S. planes buzz overhead and sirens sound, sending everyone scrambling for cover. But life goes on for Yuriko. Her widowed father is getting married as is her aunt, mother to her annoying younger cousin—and they are all moving in together. Yuriko and her classmates practice protecting themselves with bamboo spears in school, and a favorite jazz record—banned along with other Western products—becomes a secret pleasure. As life changes, Yuriko is also changed when she learns some troubling family secrets. And then the bomb drops. Burkinshaw doesn’t shy away from depicting the horrific effects of the bombing—something readers absolutely need to understand—but there is hope as we witness Yuriko’s determination to survive. Burkinshaw’s additions of radio transcripts, newspaper snippets, and propaganda posters provide additional authenticity. The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch by Chris Barton and Don Tate (2015, Eerdmans Books for Young People) The Civil War happened and slaves were emancipated, right? In much school curriculum, our country’s entrenched racist history may not be mentioned again until the study of the mid-twentieth century Civil Rights Movement. In this piece, Barton and Tate explore the reconstruction period, when the granting of freedoms propelled African Americans forward and incited violent backlash that solidified again the racist structure of our society. John Roy Lynch emerged from slavery to become the first African American speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives. U.S. Congressman or not, a black man could still find himself barred from certain hotels. But that wasn’t the worst of it—not by far. Back home, white terrorists burned black schools and churches. They armed themselves on Election Day to keep blacks away. They even committed murder. In a way, the Civil War wasn’t really over…. The good people of Mississippi were not outnumbered, but they were outgunned and on their own. Reading and talking about this book should foster important conversations about the persistence of racism and very present struggles related to race and rights. Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes (2019, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) Jerome is shot and killed when his toy gun, on loan from his friend Carlos in hopes that it will deter bullies, is mistaken as a real one by a police officer. As a ghost, Jerome witnesses the aftermath of the events that took his life: the grief and struggles of both families and Carlos, court proceedings, and broader effects on the community. He also encounters other “ghost boys”--including, significantly, the ghost of Emmett Till--who seek to stop history from repeating itself. The only living person who can see Jerome and the other ghost boys is Sarah, the daughter of the officer who killed Jerome. Together they try to find a way to heal the suffering and help their loved ones find a way forward. By examining the deadly persistence of racism and the human toll it takes on individuals and society, Rhodes prods readers to consider how we might begin to do better.


Voices from the Second World War: Stories of War as Told to Children of Today (2018, collected by Candlewick Press) This unique volume is populated with stories of individuals who lived through World War II, many as told to children who interviewed the survivors. Originally published in Britain, an extension of a series in a British children’s newspaper, the book focuses primarily on the European theater but includes stories from Japan and Africa as well. Tales include memories from the perspectives of children, adult civilians, and combatants. One section is devoted entirely to women’s experiences and another to the resistance efforts. From the U.S. perspective, we read an account by the navigator on the Enola Gay juxtaposed with another from a man who was 8-years-old in Hiroshima when the bomb detonated. The book overflows with photographs and other primary source artifacts. Voices from the Second World War is ideal for giving readers young and old an idea of the enormous scope and impact of this war and of the lasting effects any war has on the people who experience it. Refugee by Alan Gratz (2017, Scholastic Press) Alan Gratz tells the harrowing and heart-rending stories of three families in crisis, each fleeing for survival in a different decade but connected in various ways. Refugee is historical fiction, but the contexts and events are historically accurate. Josef, a Jewish boy, and his family flee Nazi Germany to Cuba in the 1930s. Isabel’s family joins the treacherous exodus of Cubans seeking refuge in the United States in the mid 1990s. Mahmoud’s story brings us to the present as he and his family are on the run after their home in Syria is destroyed by a missile. Gratz’s young protagonists take the lead in their stories and he doesn’t sugar coat the realities of these treacherous journeys. The result is a gripping experience that brings readers to understand the grim realities of immigration and care about the people affected. The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown (2018, HMH Books for Young People) What happens when war comes and takes away your home? Where do you go? Who will help you and protect you? What will happen to you? When Syria erupted in violence in 2011, refugees flooded out to neighboring countries. Though some were welcomed, the very numbers of desperate seekers overwhelmed the destinations. This drain on resources led to resentment and, fueled by a growing global antiimmigrant rhetoric, even hatred and violence against displaced people. In this affecting graphic novel, Don Brown tells the stories of individual refugees including moments of great trauma and heartrending hope. Just as he did with 911 and Hurricane Katrina, Brown captures the complexity of crisis and the very human toll exacted by violence.


Words on Fire by Jennifer A. Nielsen (2019, Scholastic Press) Whether she is creating fantasy worlds or setting her stories in real historical times, Jennifer Nielsen crafts complex, courageous, and captivating characters, placing them in difficult situations where they embark on quests filled with suspense and intrigue. Words on Fire is her latest historical fiction, set in 19th century Lithuania during Russian occupation. Russia sought to crush the culture by outlawing the Lithuanian language and any book written in that language. 12-year-old Audra has become adept at avoiding the Cossack soldiers but when they arrive at her family home, her parents give her a package and tell her to run. Audra’s parents are arrested and their home is burned. Delivering the package leads Audra to discover her parents’ involvement in a smuggling ring bringing books written in the Lithuanian language into the country. Audra joins the smugglers in this dangerous endeavor in hope of saving her parents and her country. The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys (2019, Philomel Books) Lithuanian-American author Sepetys is known for historical novels that bring lost or silenced history into focus. In The Fountains of Silence, she zooms in on the terror resulting from General Francisco Franco’s brutal dictatorship in mid-19th Century Spain, and on the broad silencing of his countless victims. Daniel, an aspiring photojournalist and the son of a wealthy Texas oilman, explores his mother’s birth country while his father brokers a business deal. There he meets Ana, a hotel maid assigned to care for Daniel’s family. Her father was killed and mother imprisoned for their part in the resistance, so Ana’s very survival depends on maintaining silence. But Daniel, beginning to notice the darker sides of the country through his lens, pressures her to tell him more. Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed (2018, Nancy Paulsen Books) Amal wants to know everything there is to know and dreams of becoming a teacher. When, as the oldest daughter, she has to leave school to care for her younger siblings, she holds to those dreams. But when Amal stands up to the son of a wealthy landlord, he retaliates by having his father call in a debt Amal’s father owes. Her father cannot raise the money, so Amal is forced into indentured servitude for the Khan family. Miserable and lonely despite some kindness from her mistress, Amal finds solace in reading poetry she pilfers from the family library and begins to teach the other servants how to read. Ultimately she is befriended by a teacher at a local literacy center who helps Amal discover her own agency and work, with others, toward freedom.


Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein by Jennifer Roy and Ali Fadhil (2019, HMS Books for Young Readers) 11-year-old Ali is a fan of America. He reads Superman comics, loves watching American TV, and English is his favorite class. But now his hometown of Basra, Iraq, is being bombed by the coalition of forces seeking to stop Suddam Hussain. Ali’s well-to-do Kurdish family is sheltering from bombs, living off rations, and missing his father. The experiences are narrated by Ali, who laments that his beloved America is now going to try to kill him. Ali chronicles the daily changes in his life, including a litany of traumas, from the regrettable loss of his beloved comic book collection (burned for fuel), persistent fear his father may be dead, and unspeakable terrors such as being forced to watch a public execution. Based on co-author Ali Kadhil’s real-life experiences, Playing Atari with Saddam Hussain narrates the reality of war in a way young readers can grasp, and reminds us of the human toll of a war dubbed in America as “the video game war.” Suzii Parsons believes that books truly matter in the lives of young people. She is the Jacques Munroe Professor of Reading and Literacy at Oklahoma State University. You can contact Dr. Parsons at


Dr. Lisa Delgado Brown, Dr. Laura Wilhelm, and Dr. Elizabeth (Liz) Harden Willner ______________________________________________________________________________

Windows and Mirrors: Community Building through Literacy Instruction Nationwide our schools are facing a crisis: our teacher education programs are graduating new educators at lower rates, yet K-12 enrollment continues to grow (US ED Title II report, 2015). Stagnant pay and attrition aside, recent articles discuss poll results indicating that teachers are disenchanted with the field and report feeling more stress than they did in decades past (Brown, 2015). A U.S. Department of Education longitudinal study of 1,990 first-year public school teachers from 2007-2012 found that of those new educators, about 17% left the profession within the first 5 years (Gray & Taie, 2015). In Oklahoma, the State Department of Education reported that a higher than average percentage of teachers have left the profession since the 2012-2013 school year (just over 10% in Oklahoma, compared to the national attrition rate of 7.7%) (Dekker, 2019). Further, the report shows that beginning teachers also leave the profession at higher than national rates- 81.8 % still taught after 3 years, but only 53.9% remained in the profession after year 5 (Lazarte-Alcala, 2018). Of those beginning teachers who stayed in the profession, having a collaborative mentor was the most valuable factor for retention, according to a large-scale study through the National Center for Educational Statistics (Gray & Taie, 2015). Similarly, Ingersoll & Strong (2011) found that participation in a program that offered support for beginning teachers resulted in not only higher rates of retention, but also more effective classroom instructional practices (including classroom management, organization, and lesson planning) and higher levels of student achievement (described as higher scores or gains). Thus, the need for mentors who work collaboratively with new classroom teachers was found to be both valuable and effective. The authors are professors at a university located in a major urban community in Oklahoma. The first author has expertise in special education and literacy education; the second author has expertise in early childhood and urban education, and the third author has expertise in elementary and literacy education. Collectively, we wrote and received a grant through the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education titled Windows and Mirrors: Community Building through Literacy Instruction. There were two main goals of the grant: 1) to mentor elementary teachers in their first three years in the profession and to provide time and tools for them to develop their own professional learning goals and 2) to build the capacity for beginning elementary teachers to use literacy instruction to support classroom community building. In addition, we hoped to not only provide mentorship to beginning teachers, but also encourage them to build a community of supportive peers. Participants included seven administrators (five building principals and two assistant principals), and nine beginning teachers (grades represented included Pre-K (2), first (1), second (2), third (2), and sixth (2) grades). Seven teacher


participants were female and two were male. Participants taught at five elementary schools all within the same urban school district. Community Building through Literacy Instruction Effective literacy instruction provides an opportunity for teachers to focus on individual students as well as the whole class. Interestingly, love, consistency, engagement, and support are elements that Prior (2014) found to be the foundation of a successful learning environment in elementary school classrooms. Windows and Mirrors sought to allow teachers the tools and time to provide these four elements in three ways: 1) teaching children about themselves and others through oral storytelling and inviting them to tell their own stories, 2) having daily shared reading of quality children’s literature that allows children to see outside and inside themselves, and 3) providing meaningful assistance to struggling readers as they participate fully in a wide variety of language and literacy activities with their classmates. Windows and Mirrors addressed classroom community building through literacy instruction because, as Lifshitz (2016) writes, “seeing yourself reflected in a book is one way to believe you matter, you are worthy, and you belong” and “walking into a classroom filled with books that represent all sorts of people sends a message that everyone is welcome, and most important, safe” (p.25). Salmon-Grosswirth (2016) brings the power of literature to bear as she writes, “Each of us is unique and has something special to share with the universe. It is incumbent upon us as educators to shine a light inside each of our students and bring their potential to the surface” (p. 43). The implementation of Windows and Mirrors showcased the potential for thoughtful mentoring to “shine a light” on each of the beginning teachers’ strengths and “bring their potential to the surface” by supporting and strengthening their classroom community building through literacy instruction. Grant Project Design and Activities The Windows and Mirrors: Community Building through Literacy Instruction project allowed us to act as collaborative mentors to a small group of beginning teachers. Each professor partnered with three beginning teachers and their site administrators to support the new teachers’ developing abilities to engage the students in their classroom communities as they sought to strengthen the literacy skills of all students. We began with a dinner meeting in January that included the nine beginning teachers, five administrators, and the three professors. During this meeting, the overall goals of the grant were introduced, and the beginning teachers completed the pre-survey instrument and signed the participation agreement. We then conducted three workshops in January, February, and March. The foci of them were (in sequential order) interactive storytelling, supporting struggling readers, and effective read-alouds. Each workshop included time at the beginning for teachers and professors to socialize, an interactive presentation by one professor, time for participants to consider how the workshop topic could work in their classrooms, and additional time for teachers to share their thinking and add to their list of ideas. Following are short descriptions of each workshop. The interactive storytelling workshop, led by Laura Wilhelm, included a presentation on the value of storytelling to build classroom community and opportunities for the teachers to participate in group storytelling. They also practiced simply putting down the book and telling


the story. They were provided with materials including a list of books that would translate easily into oral stories. In addition, the value of children’s own stories was emphasized and methods such as partner sharing and using props that engage children in telling their own stories was presented. The teachers then shared their own ideas for how they could incorporate storytelling in their own classroom in ways that could build rapport between and among students. The workshop focused on supporting struggling readers led by Lisa Delgado Brown, included a presentation on research-based strategies to include all readers in classroom reading activities. We looked at how to use visual media to inspire students to relate to other struggling readers, such as Malcolm Mitchell’s inspirational journey towards loving to read (Hartman, 2014), and to use as resources within their classrooms, such as Storyline Online. Teachers shared the types of literacy assessments they routinely conducted and as a group, we brainstormed additional ways to assess students and to infuse the results of said assessments into their future lesson planning and teaching. Teachers were also encouraged to share classroom activities that they found to be successful for their struggling readers and writers. Finally, we talked about sample strategies that might be of use in increasing student achievement, including Reader’s Theatre, Think Alouds, Open Mind Portraits, SQ3R, among others. The workshop on read-alouds led by Elizabeth (Liz) Willner included a guided activity during which teachers learned and practiced specific strategies to improve their own oral reading, including ways to sit; methods to vary one’s volume, tempo, and pitch; and ideas for including students in the reading while encouraging them to share their responses to stories with each other. We then considered the text and illustration features of books that lend themselves to engaging read alouds. The final activity led the beginning teachers in practicing book talks that are short and help students make decisions about books they might like to read alone or with classmates. Beginning in late February, each professor planned to bring their teacher candidates to the classrooms of the three beginning teachers’ they were mentoring. The teacher candidates worked in their university classes to develop activities for groups of 4-5 children relating to that professor’s workshop topic. Laura’s teacher candidates learned to tell stories using props and led activities related to the stories, Lisa’s candidates developed activities to assess and support struggling readers and Liz’s candidates fine-tuned their oral reading of one book, interviewed each student about his/her reading tastes, and presented book talks on books they thought their students would find engaging. While the teacher candidates were working with their students, the professors and beginning teachers observed and shared perceptions of what they were seeing related to the classroom community and literacy instruction. They responded to each other’s questions and ideas of ways to use literacy instruction to support the classroom community. The two final grant activities occurred on the same day. First, the beginning teachers and professors attended a state literacy conference which included two keynote speakers and two breakout sessions of the attendees’ choices. After the conference, the teachers and professors met for a wrap-up meeting. Together, we discussed the ideas from the conference that could be used in each teacher’s setting and shared information about breakout sessions so those who attended different ones could learn. We then reflected on and shared the elements of each of the three grant workshops that the beginning teachers had implemented in their classrooms and each teacher completed the post survey. The day ended with the professors presenting each teacher with the professional development books they had selected at the previous workshop. This, of


course, was the most exciting part of the whole day. Please see Appendix B for a listing of the various books that the beginning teachers selected. Windows and Mirrors supported and strengthened beginning teachers as they developed their own visions (windows) and reflected (mirrors) through community building in their classrooms. The project also provided a way for the teachers to build supportive professional communities outside their own classrooms and schools. In fact, our overarching aim was to build upon the strengths these beginning teachers already had and support them in developing visions for their classrooms developed through literacy-related experiences, collaboration with peers, collaborative work in their classrooms with a professor, and opportunities to select their own professional development readings. The grant activities were developed based on our adaptation of the Practical Inquiry Model: Perception, Conception, Action, and Reflection (Garrison, 2007). We chose this Deweybased constructivist model because we wanted to strengthen and explore the cognitive and social dimensions of participating teachers’ actions within their classrooms. Each element of the adapted model is explained below. Figure 1 Conception (Ideas)

Perception (awareness)

Adapted Practical Inquiry Model

Action (practice)



Perception/awareness: The first stage of the project was to help each teacher develop a vision for creating a community of learners in his or her own classroom. We facilitated this journey through three workshops focused on creating community through storytelling, reading aloud, and assisting struggling readers and by helping to establish an open professional discussion with their peers. Each of these areas of literacy instruction had the potential to positively impact the classroom community by building skills and strategies that served to help teachers adjust instructional activities and expand opportunities students have to interact with each other and the teacher. This goal was measured through the pre- and post-survey questionnaires. Conception/ideas: Each professor worked directly with three teachers and their building administrators to facilitate the teachers’ journey through the time of the grant. We reached out directly to the teachers we were working with to arrange for teacher candidates to come to the class and to listen, share advice, clarify workshop concepts, and support the implementation of classroom practices related to the workshop topics.

Action/classroom practice: 1. When each professor brought her class of teacher candidates to work with small groups in the participating teachers’ classrooms, beginning teachers had the opportunity to see the workshop topics come to life. At each workshop meeting, those who had experienced the teacher candidates’ teaching shared with their peers what they had noticed about their own students’ engagement, relationships with other students, and their learning. Besides discussing with the professors, the needs of their students in general, this allowed the professor and classroom teacher to consider additional options for literacy instruction that could serve as a bridge to community development. 2. Toward the end of the school year, teachers attended a state reading conference with the other teacher and professor participants and met afterward to connect the day’s learning with their current literacy practices and future professional development goals. 3. Throughout the time of the grant, as the teachers and professors gathered for the introductory dinner, three workshops, classroom visits with teacher candidates, and the last meeting after the conference, a community of like-minded practitioners developed. Teachers provided ideas for each other and shared the elements of the workshops that most affected their literacy teaching and community building.  Reflection: Experiences throughout the time of the grant helped beginning teachers become more intentional about planning their own professional development. They were afforded the time and resources to observe and act on their use of literacy to create a positive sense of community within their classrooms. Taking time to collaborate with peers and share ideas with each other was another reflective strategy that emerged as one that was important to the participating teachers. Reflection was infused throughout the monthly meetings. We sought to encourage participating teachers to reflect upon how the strategies or activities we suggested could further enhance both their classroom communities and overall teaching. Participating teachers specifically addressed ideas presented during our monthly meetings that they wanted to add to their own teaching. One commented that they liked a “video about a football player who struggled with reading and writing [because] I think my students could really relate.” A few commented specifically on collections of books we introduced or on using books to teach about broader concepts. Further, another said that they appreciated the “hints about bringing joy back.” Being able to reflect upon and respond during the monthly meetings served to encourage the participating teachers to infuse new ideas and methods into their teaching. Each participating teacher developed a vision for a community of learners in their own classroom based upon their individual awareness and perceptions. They selected professional literature that they believed would support their vision for the classroom community and the grant provided the funds to purchase the books. Many requested copies of titles we referenced when they ordered their professional development materials. Data Collection and Results The Windows and Mirrors project included multiple data collection strategies to determine if the project goal and objectives were met. The data included an initial vision


statement by each teacher, demographic information, pre-/post-assessments, and three workshop response writing activities. The writing activities encouraged self-reflection and were used to aid in the creation of action plans for the participants’ classrooms based on the information provided by each workshop. The professors took careful notes of the oral responses and visual cues from participants at the dinner, workshops, classroom visits, and conference and used these observations along with the response data at our review meeting after the project was complete. Further, each professor recorded field notes during and after each time the teacher candidates were in the teachers’ classrooms. Windows and Mirrors had a positive impact on participating teachers according to the data collected. Especially significant was the change in the question which asked “Rate your knowledge about creating and cultivating a strong community in your classroom.” In the initial pre-survey, no teachers rated their knowledge as “strong”, six rated it as “in progress,” and two rated it as ‘limited’. In the post-survey, five teachers rated it as ‘strong, three rated it as ‘in progress”, and no teachers rated it as ‘limited’. Although there was a small positive change in the item ratings where participating teachers were asked to “Rate your knowledge about using literacy activities to create and cultivate a strong community in your classroom”, many teachers commented that they had become more aware of possibilities and wanted to continue to learn more. This stance of life-long learning is really the ultimate goal of all teaching, so we feel confident about this outcome. Participating teachers developed new ideas for teaching as evidenced in item # 5 on the post assessment. In the pre-survey, six different ideas to create community in the classroom were generated as having been ‘very effective,’ in the post-survey, that list grew to 23 different activities that the teachers rated as ‘very effective’. Some of the ideas that they planned to add included general strategy use such as inserting pregnant pauses or fresh read-aloud strategies, or new teaching methods, such as utilizing Reader’s Theatre. Participating teachers had on-going opportunities to reflect on their own understanding and practices through the workshops, written reflections, conference sessions, and into the future as they read and implement ideas from the professional development books they ordered. Overall, the goals of this grant were achieved and the approximately 250 students in these nine teachers’ classrooms that school year, as well as their future students, will continue to benefit from the philosophical growth and improved skills of these teachers as a direct result of this grant. Discussion Windows and Mirrors was an entirely new experience for us and choosing to combine literacy instruction with classroom community building is not prominent in the literature. The response was positive overall. Many participating teachers requested that it be started earlier in the year, and be continued over more than one school year. Participating teachers also reported that they enjoyed having the teacher candidates work with small groups in their classrooms and would like to have more of that. This is an implication for improved practice for all teacher education programs. As professors, we found scheduling times for our classes to visit all the teachers, organizing the workshops, collecting data, and ordering the requested library materials to be very time consuming. A long-term implementation of the interventions attempted through this grant would need more personnel to become sustainable. The scope was wide, addressing Pre-K through 6th grade teachers. Although it was not insurmountable, a narrower band of grade levels would have allowed more focused activities. Additionally, our research has implications


that may be of interest to administrators and PK-12 teachers. There were elements of what we did as part of this grant that could be replicated in a PK-12 setting, including establishing and facilitating collaborative partnerships amongst beginning teachers. Many school districts have established Professional Learning Community (PLC) groups within the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, but encouraging beginning teachers to meet gives them a support system that they seemed to not only enjoy, but wanted to continue to participate in. Giving these beginning teachers time to intentionally collaborate could have huge implications in terms of feeling supported and valued by peers and district administration. Mentor teachers or curriculum coordinators could facilitate and offer support to the groups. Through this grant, new teachers became intentional in using literacy instruction to create positive communities within their classrooms. They were each allocated grant monies with which they could purchase professional development books which reflected their personal goals as literacy educators. This finding highlights the research by Harnett (2012) indicating that professional development will only be effective if it involves teachers in their own professional decision making. Further, teachers need to bring these actions into their classrooms in order to enable their instruction to be effective. The grant provided this opportunity as well. While literacy instruction is of unlimited merit for its own sake, it was found to support classroom community development in this project. Because building a positive classroom community was the end goal of this grant, we will summarize the project through the lens of Prior’s (2014) research that uncovered four foundational elements for a successful elementary classroom community: love, consistency, engagement, and support. Following are descriptions of how these elements were borne out in the grant activities and in the classrooms of nine beginning teachers Love and Consistency. We found a sense of joy permeated the workshops as the teachers began to share their successes with each other. One teacher considered the oral reading workshop and wrote, “I really liked the ideas for adding joy to our story times,” while another responded to the storytelling workshop, writing that s/he “liked the interaction and practicing with fellow teachers.” Some additional phrases from the beginning teachers’ responses to the end-ofworkshop prompt, “I really like…” are as follows: “…the stories, the smile on my face, and even the chills…hints about bringing back joy…fun new books…book ideas for engaging struggling readers…interaction and practicing with fellow teachers.” It was obvious that through the year, they became more confident as well as more consistent in their focus on classroom community building. During the storytelling workshop, teachers responded excitedly as they worked together to tell a story as a group. Subsequent discussion led them to consider ways to continually draw all their students into literacy activities and to use storytelling as one method to do so. The professors, as well as the teachers, regularly shared community building ideas that dovetailed with literacy instruction. Some examples include making “Why?” the teacher’s best friend, allowing students to talk during oral reading of children’s literature, and inviting children to use their imaginations daily. Engagement and Support. We found that both the experiences of the beginning teachers and the time and guidance to reflect were crucial components for our participants as they sought to adapt their practice to more effectively engage and instruct their students. One teacher offered that she will “definitely will use the part about allowing s[students] to talk and raise [their] book[s] to recapture attention. Love the idea of letting them talk.” It was obvious from statements like this that reflection was occurring as they were getting ideas from the sessions. Additionally, research by Harnett (2012) demonstrated that professional development would not


be effective if it involved a passive recipient of information, stating, “If professional development is to bring about lasting change it must involve the teachers concerned in analyzing, critiquing, reflecting upon, and improving their own classroom practice” (p. 382). Active professional development is the key to effectively support educators to act as “agents of democracy” within their classrooms. Thus, our professional development was designed to actively empower participating teachers so they could in turn empower and better support their students. Inherent in the design of our sessions was time for the participating teachers to reflect and highlight ideas that they would use in their classroom. The International Literacy Association’s 2018 Literacy Leadership brief discusses transformative practices in literacy teacher preparation and posits that experts in the field should position themselves as coaches supporting students in “making sense of their experiences and growing their practices” (p. 6). In essence, that is precisely what we set out to do: support our teacher participants as they listened, reflected, and envisioned new paths for literacy learning that also supports the classroom communities in their own classrooms.

Dr. Lisa Delgado Brown is an associate professor at Oklahoma City University. She may be reached at

Dr. Laura Wilhelm is an associate professor at Oklahoma City University. She may be reached at


Dr. Elizabeth (Liz) Harden Willner is a professor at Oklahoma City University. She may be reached at References Brown, E. (2015, April 30). Study: Far fewer new teachers are leaving the profession than previously thought. The Washington Post, Retrieved from Dekker, M. (2019, February 13). ‘Staggering’: 30,000 Oklahoma teachers have left the profession in the past 6 years, report shows. Tulsa World, Retrieved from Garrison, D. R. (2007) Online community of inquiry review: Social, cognitive, and teaching presence issues. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 11(1), 61-72. Gray, L., and Taie, S. (2015). Public school teacher attrition and mobility in the first five years: Results from the first through fifth waves of the 2007–08 beginning teacher longitudinal study (NCES 2015-337). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved [May 2018] from Harnett, J. (2012). Reducing discrepancies between teachers' espoused theories and theories-inuse: An action research model of reflective professional development. Educational Action Research, 20(3), 367-384. Hartman, S. (2014, September 12). Football star shows you can’t judge a book by its cover [Video file]. Retrieved from Ingersoll, R., and Strong, M. (2011). The impact of induction and mentoring programs for beginning teachers: A critical review of the research. Review of Education Research, 81(2): 201–233.


International Literacy Association. (2018). Transforming literacy teacher preparation: Practice makes possible. Retrieved January 24, 2019, Lazarte-Alcala, N. R. (2018). Oklahoma educator supply and demand report: Trends, projections, and recommendations. Retrieved February 27, 2019 editorial/7/6e/76e43e12-685e-580a-96a4-c80fd898be4d/5c7429a866e43.pdf.pdf Lifshitz, J. (2016). Curating empathy. Literacy Today, 33(6), 24-26. Philipp, R. A., & Thanheiser, E. (2010). Showing your students you care: Seeing the individual trees in the classroom rorest. New England Mathematics Journal, 42, 8-17. Prior, J. (2014). Focus on elementary: Love, engagement, support, and consistency: A recipe for classroom management. Childhood Education, 90(1), 68-70. Salmon-Grosswirth, R. (2016). In your words: A go-to list of books. Literacy Today, 33(6), 43. Learning Policy Institute, Retrieved from U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education (2015). Higher Education Act Title II Reporting System.


Appendix A: Pre- and Post-Survey Windows and Mirrors: Community Building through Literacy Instruction “If professional development is to bring about lasting change it must involve the teachers concerned in analyzing, critiquing, reflecting upon, and improving their own classroom practice (Harnett, 2012, p. 382). 1. Describe the climate of your school: 1 2 3 4 Cold and uninviting Warm and inviting Please explain your response.

2. Describe the climate of your classroom. 1 2 3 Cold and uninviting Please explain your response.

4 Warm and inviting

“We have identified two challenges that nearly every teacher encounters: (a) managing a classroom of students; and (b) addressing the needs of individual students� (Philipp & Thanheiser, 2010, p. 8). 3. Rate your knowledge about creating and cultivating a strong community in your classroom.

o Strong (I know a lot about what a classroom community is and how to develop a positive one in my classroom.)

o In Progress (I know some about what a classroom community is and how to develop a positive one in my classroom.)

o Limited (I know a little about what a classroom community is and how to develop a positive one in my classroom.) 4. Rate your knowledge about using literacy activities to create and cultivate a strong community in your classroom.

o Strong (I know a lot about how to use literacy activities to develop a positive classroom community.)

o In Progress (I know some about how to use literacy activities to develop a positive classroom community.)

o Limited (I know a little about how to use literacy activities to develop a positive classroom community.)


5. Describe the practices you have used to create a sense of community in your classroom and rate their effectiveness as Very Effective: 3, Somewhat Effective: 2, Not Effective: 1. Then explain your rating. Practice Rating Explanation of Rating 3 2 1


6. List three areas in which you would like support to enhance your classroom community. Explain briefly what kind of support you would like and how it might impact your classroom community. Area 1




“The piece of children’s literature that really moved my students was Peter Reynolds’ The Dot. Each of us is unique and has something special to share with the universe. It is incumbent upon us as educators to shine a light inside each of our students and bring their potential to the surface” (Salmon-Grosswirth, 2016, p. 43). 7. Describe how you could use the following literacy activities to build a positive sense of community in your classroom. Storytelling

Reading Aloud

Supporting Struggling Readers


Appendix B: List of Books Requested by Beginning Teachers Gottschall, J. (2013). The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human. New York, NY: Mariner Books. Harp, B. (2005). The Handbook of Literacy Assessment and Evaluation, 3rd Ed. New York, NY: Rowman and Littlefield. Karia, A. (2015). TED Talks Storytelling: 25 Storytelling Techniques from the Best TED Talks. Scotts Valley, CA: CreateSpace. Marcus, L.S. (2012). Show Me a Story!: Why Picture Books Matter: Conversations with 21 of the World’s Most Celebrated Illustrators. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press. McKenna, M. C. (2002). Help for Struggling Readers. New York, NY: Guilford Press. McKenna, M.C. & Dougherty Stahl, K. A. (2015). Assessment for Reading Instruction. New York, NY: Guilford Press Miller, D. (2009). The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Miller, D. (2014). Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Paley, V. G. (1991). the boy who would be a helicopter: the uses of storytelling in the classroom. Boston, MA: Harvard University Press. Teachthought Staff. 30 Storytelling Tips for Teachers: How to Capture Your Students’ Attention. Retrieved 20 May 2016 from: Trelease, J. (2013). The Read-Aloud Handbook, 7th Ed. New York, NY: Penguin Books. Tompkins, G.E. (2012). 50 Literacy Strategies: Step-by-Step, 4th Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.


Dr. Roberta D. Raymond __________________________________________________________

Building Stronger Readers and Writers through Character Analysis The students were scattered around the room with their classmates. Some were working alone, others with a partner, and some in a small group. The classroom was alive with constructive conversation as students actively discussed the characters from the books they were reading. The conversations were animated and sometimes intense. Dozens of students had their character trading cards clipped to their pants and they were discussing the latest books they had read. As I continued a student conference, two voices rose from the back of the classroom; the character literary mock trial was getting heated. There were also several students grouped on the floor developing wanted posters, creating a character analysis activity, and sharing their stories with each other. The students were bringing the elements of fiction to life in the classroom. The scenario above is not always the scene that is playing out in the classroom. Students are not always able to connect to the character, even when reading books of choice. Students do not know how to analyze the characters in the stories they were reading. This cripples their enjoyment of and connection to the characters in the story; this can create both conversational and instructional obstacles in literature circles and reader’s workshops. Character Type and Reader Motivation Different characters drive the plot of different stories, and a reader's enjoyment of a character may be dependent on the character type. Typically, a story consists of a main character, or protagonist. The story's plot is centered around the protagonist, hence a reader who cannot relate to the protagonist may experience difficulty engaging in the story's plot. Such a situation provides an opportunity for an instructor to enhance a student's background knowledge through further exploration and analysis of the protagonist, including their motives, decisions, and relationships to other characters in the story. One of the other characters in the story may be the antagonist, or character who challenges the protagonist by influencing or creating the story's central conflict. Analyzing and discussing how the protagonist responds and interacts with the antagonist is another approach to increasing a reader's engagement with the text. Because a wellwritten character demonstrates complex and multi-faceted layers of interpretation, a student's initial opinion of a character can change throughout a story, allowing for additional instructional opportunities; character type matters.


Why Character Analysis? Graves (2005) posits, Students deserve vivid characters-characters who are funny, flawed, hopeful, and triumphant. We who teach and read to children need to ensure their capacity and opportunities to become lost in books, immersed in the characters who lead them through patterns of living--patterns that are near to them, or wonderfully imagined. (p. 5) Diving into character analysis enables student readers to make connections to characters in the stories they read, so readers are then able to apply these connections to the stories as well. Often, the critical relationship developed between reader and character is so strong that students feel as if they are real (Parsons, 2013). Roser and Martinez (2005) express, “it is through characters that readers come to care about and connect with literature; characters entice us to stick around and make literary meaning” (p. VI). This strong understanding of character enhances comprehension of the story (Emery, 1996). As readers continue to connect and engage with the text, they become invested readers who take control of their own learning (Durham & Raymond, 2016). Furthermore, when students learn a concept through reading this concept transfers to their writing ability making them stronger writers. When authors create strong characters, the story comes alive for the reader. It invites the reader to become part of the story. The Transactional Reader Response theory explores the transaction between the reader, writer, and text (Rosenblatt, 2013). The reader interacts with the text and works to construct knowledge from what they read. In turn, readers bring their own perspectives to their reading based on their background knowledge (Rosenblatt, 1978, 2004; Tracey & Morrow, 2006). Rosenblatt shares that readers can take an efferent or aesthetic stance while reading (2004). The efferent stance encourages the reader to focus on what is to be learned from the text (Rosenblatt, 2019/1994). For example, while students are reading they may be learning about the effects of bullying or about different cultures from their own. The aesthetic stance enables the reader to concentrate on the “lived experiences” (Rosenblatt, 2019/1994, p. 458). These experiences allow the students to immerse fully within the text and connect with the characters. This active engagement with text allows students to control their learning and not be a passive recipient (Durham & Raymond, 2016). To build stronger readers and writers it is important to connect reading and writing. Analyzing strong characters provides students with a model to use in their writing because they are able to use the rich descriptions to develop their own characters. Reading and writing do not work in isolation. Students bridge their literacy lives together by combining all four literacies: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. In addition to bridging the literacies, it is important for students to have authentic literacy experiences (Gambrell, 2015), those experiences that can be transferred into real-world application. For example, writing blogs, creating a podcast, or writing book reviews. These authentic experiences provide meaning to what the students are doing. Our goal as teachers is to create engaged, independent readers, writers, and thinkers. Therefore, it is important for students to be actively involved in analyzing characters through reading and writing because character analysis facilitates students to critically analyze what they read and write.


Implementing Reader Response Activities for Character Analysis As students’ progress through each grade level, the student expectations for the depth of character analysis increases. This increase in complexity can be seen in the Oklahoma Academic Standards for Language Arts. Students move from a simple description of characters at the knowledge level to analyzing and synthesizing multiple characters. The following reader response activities helped my fifth and sixth grade students develop their character analysis skills, which in turn developed their comprehension, critical thinking skills, and writing. For these activities, I chose to use the story, The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by John Scieszka. This story is appropriate for all grade levels, but is especially appealing to fifth and sixth grade students, because they can make connections to the original story of The Three Little Pigs. Before teaching this story, I introduced students to point of view, which helped them look at the character from a different perspective. I began the character study by reading the story aloud to the students and then I provided eight classroom copies so that students possess the text to identify textual evidence. I started our character analysis by introducing each of the following three activities using the gradual release model also known as I do it, We do it, You do it together, You do on your own (Fisher & Frey, 2014). The I do it section centers on providing purpose, instruction, and teacher modeling. The lesson then moves into We do it, which shifts to student centered learning, with teacher support, commonly referred to as guided instruction. Next, the You do it together is the collaborative piece where students take what they have learned and apply it (Fisher & Frey, 2014). Finally, the lesson transitioned to You do on your own. During You do on your own students take complete control of their learning and apply the information learned independently. This use of the gradual release model provided students with support prior to independent work. This in turn enabled them to have confidence to dive into character analysis. Activities to Increase Character Analysis and Response The three activities I chose were character interview, advice letter, and character trading cards. You can complete the following three activities in any order, but the order shared below enables students to continue to strengthen their analysis and response through each activity. Please note that you may need to stay longer on one activity, until you feel your students are comfortable and ready to move forward. We generally spent one to two class periods working through each activity from the I do it to the You do it together. Then students were able to work the You do on your own during reading and writing workshop time. Finally, we do not want these activities to live in isolation; they are jumping off points to build analysis skills while students are reading their book of choice. Character Interview We began with character interviews which immersed students in understanding the character’s point of view. You could also create a character panel or a talk show as alternatives to one-to-one character interviews. As a class, we discussed the purpose of interviewing, how to conduct yourself in an interview, such as how to listen, how to take notes, how to respond, and finally I modeled using a character from a previously read book. I was the “character” and the students interviewed me. (I do it)


Next, we divided into partners, one student would pretend to be the character, and the partner was the reporter. The reporter asked the “character” questions using cards with the following questions on each card; (1) If you could choose three words to describe you what would they be and why?, (2) Describe your relationships with others, (3) What problems with other people have you had in your life?, (4) Describe one of your most exciting moments, (5) Describe a time in your life where you have struggled, (6) Describe a moment you were most proud of and explain why, and (7) where do you see yourself in the future? These are guiding questions for the students, but they may also add additional questions. (We do it) When the students finished, they worked together to create a newspaper article using the student interactive, Printing Press. (You do it together) This authentic writing activity motivated students to continue to write newspaper articles that focused on classroom and school events. (You do on your own) Advice Letter We continued our dive deeper into character analysis, comprehension, and working on advancing writing skills by writing advice letters. Other alternatives could include diary entries, blog posts, Tweets, or a Twitter chat. We began the lesson with the guiding question: What is advice? The students collaborated using think-pair-share about the question. We then discussed as a whole group our thoughts on the definition of advice. After students had a clear definition of advice, I shared a couple of example advice letters. (I do it) After reading the examples, we brainstormed the essential components of an advice letter and mapped it onto an anchor chart. We came up with the following: a salutation such as “Dear” or “Hi,” a thank you or an acknowledgement for writing in for advice, two suggestions for their problem, and a closing such as “Thank you,” “Sincerely,” or “Yours truly,” and “Signature.” (We do it) The students then worked together in small groups to give advice to the Third Little Pig, see Figure 1 for an example of the letter they answered. The groups took turns sharing their letters. (You do it together)

Figure 1. Advice letter Finally, each student was able to choose a character from either their book of choice or from the True Story of the Three Little Pigs and give them advice. They had to provide textual evidence to support their advice. The students had access to a variety of writers' tools to assist in publication, such as stationery, markers, stickers, computer, etc. Writing advice letters enables students to demonstrate their higher-order thinking skills. (You do on your own)


Character Trading Cards Finally, we wrapped up our character study with character trading cards, which enabled the students to take everything they learned and apply it to an individual project. (You do on your own) Students used the interactive trading card maker found at to create their own character trading cards. Students considered five categories about their character. They were description (source, appearance, and personality), insights (thoughts and feelings), development (problem, goals, and outcome), memorable interactions (quote, action, interactions), and a personal connection. Please note these categories are from the trading card creator. When students completed their trading cards they printed them and carried them around to share with their classmates. Closing Thoughts Analyzing characters through these reader response activities help students think deeper and more meaningfully about character. The stories come alive for them, which in turn builds their comprehension and writing skills. While these activities are centered around one story, they are not meant to remain that way. As students begin to understand the different modes of response they will then have the ability to choose the characters they want to develop further. Ultimately, it is important for students to transfer their learning into their independent reading and writing lives. These activities can be adjusted, so that they will fit into most elementary and secondary classrooms. In essence, the text will drive the complexity of the activities. As students continue to dive into characters they will have a richer understanding of story analysis and writing which will increase their proficiency in literacy.

Dr. Roberta Raymond is an assistant professor at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. She may be reached at


References Durham, P. & Raymond, R. D. (2016). Building cognitive reading fluency through ‘tagging’ for metacognition. Texas Journal of Literacy Education, 4, 46-56. Emery, D.W. (1996). Helping readers comprehend stories from the characters’ perspectives. The Reading Teacher, 49(7), 534-541. Fisher, D. & Frey, N. (2014). Better Learning Through Structured Teaching: A framework for the gradual release of responsibility, 2nd ed. Alexandria: ASCD. Gambrell, L. B. (2015). Getting students hooked on the reading habit. The Reading Teacher, 69(3), 259–263. doi: 10.1002/trtr.1423. Graves, D.H. (2005). The centrality of character. In N.L. Roser, M. G. Martinez, J. Yokota, & S. O’Neal (Eds.), What a Character! Character Study as a Guide to Literary Meaning Making in Grades K-8 (pp. 2-5). Newark, DE: International Reading Association. Parsons, L.T. (2013). An examination of fourth graders’ aesthetic engagement with literacy characters. Reading Psychology, 34(1), 1-25. Rosenblatt, L.M. (1978). The reader, the text, the poem: The transactional theory of literacy work. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. Rosenblatt, L.M. (2004). The transactional theory of reading and writing. In R. B. Ruddell & N.J. Unrau (Eds.), Theoretical models and processes of reading (5th ed., pp. 1363 – 1398). Newark, DE: International Reading Association. Rosenblatt, L.M. (2013). The transactional theory of reading and writing. In D. Alvermann, R. N.J. Unrau, & R. B. Ruddell (Eds.). Theoretical models and processes of reading (6th ed., pp. 923-956). Newark, DE: International Reading Association. Rosenblatt, L.M. (2019). The transactional theory of reading and writing. In D. Alvermann, R. N.J. Unrau, Sailors, M., & R. B. Ruddell (Eds.). Theoretical models and processes of literacy (7th ed., pp. 451-477). NY: Routledge. Roser, L.N. & Martinez, M.G. (2005). Why character. In N.L. Roser, M. G. Martinez, J. Yokota, & S. O’Neal (Eds.), What a Character! Character Study as a Guide to Literary Meaning Making in Grades K-8 (preface). Newark, DE: International Reading Association. Scieszka, J. & Smith, L. (1996). The true story of the three little pigs. New York: Puffin Books. Tracey, D. & Morrow, L. (2006). Lenses on reading. New York, NY: Guilford Press.


Dr. Karen Bates and Dr. Deborah Larson ______________________________________________________________________________

Embracing Diversity –Professional Development Heightens Awareness of Economically Disadvantaged Learners Teachers are highly cognizant of the fact that elementary classrooms today have a wide range of students, in terms of abilities, personalities, and motivations. Students also come from all types of families, representing varying parental arrangements, cultural backgrounds and socio-economic levels. Regardless of the range of students who arrive in classrooms, teachers are expected to develop a caring environment, plan instruction that advances students’ abilities and nurture students to become their best selves. As our country become increasingly diverse in nature, these are worthy but lofty expectations for teachers today. In order to help beginning teachers and teacher candidates who will become beginning teachers prepare for these lofty expectations, the authors felt it was important to incorporate professional development designed to assist novice teachers in learning more about the students populating their classrooms; we especially wanted to help our mainly middle class teacher candidates to become more knowledgeable about the backgrounds of our at-risk students in order to develop effective ways of working with and supporting them as learners and as individuals. Rationale Since we are teacher educators, we use our university’s Conceptual Framework when planning our work in developing educators. This framework, however, could also be applied to any professional development work done with adult learners, including mentoring beginning teachers in schools and districts. Our Conceptual Framework defines the philosophy, purpose(s) and goals of our work and features six “pillars” which include (1) service to society,(2) application of interdisciplinary and scholarly knowledge,(3) engagement in effective practice, (4)response to uncertainty and change, (5)reflection especially self-reflection and (6) belongingness to the professional community. (The Teachers College Conceptual Framework, Emporia State University, 2016). Underlying the Conceptual Framework are proficiencies set out for the professional development and growth of teachers and other school personnel, including diversity (The Teachers College Conceptual Framework, 2016). As former classroom teachers, we are fully aware of the need for educators to be able to respond to increasing uncertainty related to our ever-changing world; we know that there are many and variable students’ needs presented as our classrooms more and more reflect our global society. Beginning teachers need to improve communication techniques in order to develop positive learning experiences. Above all they need to work with students in such a way so they can be successful as they grow and progress toward becoming increasingly mature in this ever-widening world. All of these expectations are in service to the goal of preparing “teaching professionals.”


The singular pillar that drives this particular professional development work (related to our diversity) is the pillar which states that professional educators need to be able to respond to uncertainty and change. We know classroom teaching can be daunting; many of our beginning teachers have come from cultural and socio-economic backgrounds which are different from those of their future students. Historically teachers are more likely to be Caucasian and middle class while increasing numbers of elementary students are reflecting the dramatic mix of cultures, backgrounds, and languages found in today’s greater society. It is also worth noting that we, as educators, place our beginning teachers into schools with large populations of at-risk and impoverished students. We feel a calling to provide additional support for teachers of these students but we also place our novice teachers in these settings to provide them with experiences with at-risk learners in order that they are better prepared for the genuine work of teaching in current classrooms. We know that the beginning years of teaching can be both eye-opening and overwhelming for novice teachers because these new teachers tell us they were not very familiar with the students coming to them from impoverished backgrounds nor did they know very well how to deal with the challenges associated with many of these students. We would be remiss if we failed to mention that we subscribe to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1943, 1954). The original hierarchy which included five stages suggested a linear (one directional) progression from one stage to the next. His first four stages include physiological needs, safety needs, love and belongingness needs and esteem needs; we find these relevant because they are all aspects of working with learners, especially at-risk learners. Maslow (1987) later came to believe that one’s needs may be evidenced in a flexible, rather than a fixed, order (not necessarily one-dimensional) and that behaviors may be determined by one or by multiple basic needs simultaneously. Regardless of the order of these needs or whether dealing with one or many of them, we believe that understanding Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is important for beginning teachers as they begin to establish solid rapport and effective working relationships with their young students. For the above reasons, we have chosen to focus our diversity professional development work on at-risk learners coming from low-income situations. Working with students in poverty is something many beginning teachers have not done often or at all and, while many teachers have a big heart for the work, we felt it was important to help to better prepare them to become more effective teaching professionals. Background Information Since 2010, most states have updated their standards, making them increasingly rigorous. Some 41 states have adopted Common Core standards (one other state did a partial adoption); eight others opted to create their own standards to reflect their own state priorities with similar rigor (e.g. Virginia, Nebraska, Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas, Indiana, South Carolina, Alaska). State leaders from these states have reported that their versions are substantially similar to Common Core Standards. Clearly there was movement in the last decade to upgrade expectations for high school graduates but to also try to have fairly equal expectations across the various geographic regions. As these changes were taking place, another change was also brewing. By the year 2013, it was becoming clear that the United States was experiencing a shift in the socio-economic levels of public school students. That is, a majority, rather than a minority, of K-12 public school


students were reported as growing up in poverty conditions such as low-income environments, according to data related to eligibility for free and reduced-price lunches (Suitts, 2015). An analysis of data collected from the states by the National Center for Educational Research (NCES) about the number of public school students who qualify for free- and reduced-price lunches showed that, in 2013, 52% of students fit this category (Suitts, 2016). How did we get to this place? According to Steve Suitts, former director of the Southern Regional Council and an author-historian who has extensively studied poverty in education, less than 32% of US public school students grew up in poverty in 1989, according to data kept by the government. By the year 2000, however, that percentage grew to over 38%. After the Great Recession of 2008, poverty rates continued to grow and by 2011, the percentage of those growing up impoverished had grown to 48%. Over the next two years, the rate came to exceed the 50% threshold such that in 2013 low-income students became 52% of the population of public school students. This is the basis for Suitts’ claim that impoverished students have become the “new majority� (Suitts, 2013).

We did our own mining of data from the federal government. We are able retrieve data from the most recent year it was reported, 2016, (information accessed from and found that as of 2016, of 73.7 million US students, 13.3 million are children in poverty. This represents 18% of US children. (This data source did not separate children in public schools versus private or other schooling arrangements.) We looked at the geographic regions reported by the federal government and found that southern children fared the worst in terms of percentage in poverty (20%), but the Midwest region was next lowest with 17.3% of children living in poverty. Both percentages represent more than 12 million children, by any measure a staggering number. To try to bring the focus to an even more local view, we looked at the data for two states, Kansas and Oklahoma, to delve deeper into state details. In Kansas, the 2016 poverty rate for children under 18 was 16.8% and in 2017 it was 13.8%. In Oklahoma, the 2016 poverty rate for children under 18 was 22.9% and in 2017 it was 21.5%. These compare with the national rates:


in 2016, the national poverty rate was 18.0% while in 2017 it stood at 18.4%. It appears that the Kansas poverty rate was lower than the national average while Oklahoma’s rate was higher than the national rate in 2016 and 2017. (Sources include and as well as and School funding is a related issue closely linked to children in poverty. Over nearly two decades, economic and political conditions have caused many states to cut their education budgets many times. Since 2001, the US public school low-income population has grown by more than one-third while over the same time (number of years) per-pupil spending increased at a rate less than half of the growth rate of students in poverty, barely 14% (Suitts, 2007; Suitts, 2013). Low-income students are typically those who are most vulnerable, needing school assistance to address weak or poor academic progress and/or often those with inconsistent attendance; sadly, some of these students go on to have criminal justice system entanglements. It a sad realization that, over time, outcome differences tend to increase over the years of schooling, often for economically disadvantaged students, which can result in lower graduation rates. Returning to state specifics, the graduation rates for two midwestern states follow: Kansas had an 86.1% graduation rate in 2016 and in 2017 it was 86.9%. During those years, the free/reduced lunch rates (indicative of poverty) were 81.7% (2016) and 82.7% (2017). These compare with the national graduation rate of 84.1% in 2016 and 84.6% in 2017. Oklahoma had a 2016 graduation rate of 82% and a 2017 graduation rate of 83% (rounded up from 82.6%). Their economically disadvantaged rates for the same years were 76% (2016) and 77% (2017) respectively. It appears that Oklahoma’s graduation rates are lower than the national average. (Sources include and (Kansas K-12 Report Guidelines). Suitts (2016) believes that as teachers we know what needs to be done to ensure that lowincome students be given opportunities for academic success and that this should begin at the school level. “Public schools must ensure that they have the resources to help low-income students reduce school absences (Suitts, 2016, p. 38). There is much speculation about the reasons for the inequality of impoverished children’s learning outcomes; one school of thought puts the blame squarely on parents and families who supposedly do not prepare their students well for the school environment. Some blame teachers for not enhancing student performance enough. Others suggest that teacher educators do not do enough to prepare teacher candidates to work specifically in economically- and ethnicallydiverse locations (Comber, 2016). Rather than laying blame, we felt obliged to work to enhance the preparation of beginning teachers in order to help them become more effective in working with diverse (and impoverished) students; thus we are sharing what we have developed in an effort to help others who work to assist beginning and novice teachers to be better prepared for the challenges of today’s classrooms. Details about the Orientation Session Our beginning teachers are required by the state to student-teach in schools of diversity. Many of our teaching candidates are middle class students with little or limited experience working with and communicating with economically disadvantaged students. To prepare them for their daily teaching in today’s classrooms, we include, as part of their orientation, a targeted


professional development session focused on working with impoverished students in the schools. Simultaneously, these teacher candidates are in a “real-world” Title I school setting, and have already started working with students coming from challenging economic situations. This orientation is scheduled for the candidates just as their final semester gets underway but they are also working full time many days in their classroom setting. What we do for orientation has been continually revised and edited for much of the last ten years, with some changes in content and ordering of activities along the way. What is reported here is what we have been doing since about 2015/2016. (Our initial orientation session is generally 2-3 hours, though the orientation could be done over several shorter sessions if a longer block of time was not available.) Prior to meeting for our session, the teacher candidates are given a pre-test in the form of an anticipation guide consisting of 15 questions (included in Appendix A at end of article). The questions are intended to assess their before-orientation knowledge and experience with working with students in poverty/with diverse backgrounds. Later, at the end of the session, they will be re-assessed using the same questions after the poverty session to help judge whether learning (and changes to thinking) have occurred as a result of the experiences during the orientation. To illustrate the type of statements posed to interns, an example follows: one of them states that drug and alcohol abuse is more prevalent in impoverished families, to which they must respond either true or false. Our teacher candidates are greatly surprised to learn that this is not the case. We have observed that most of the teacher candidates register a change of thinking as to their view about whether or not ELL students are linguistically deficient (a second example). At the conclusion of the session, most participants reported that they had biases that they were unaware of and stated that the professional development session helped them to understand that they need to be a great deal more sensitive to the needs of the impoverished students they will be teaching. One teacher candidate even stated, “I will not assume things about the students because I do not know what is happening at their home” (personal conversation, SD). The topic of reserving judgement and not engaging in assumptive teaching is a significant theme that arises from our discussions and that pleases us greatly. One of the activities during the professional development session is the break-out of teacher candidates into small groups, with each participant being assigned to read/study an article related to poverty and working with diverse low-income students. (A bibliography for the articles is included in Appendix B.) Teacher candidates are asked to review their assigned article ahead of the orientation session. During the orientation itself, they are provided time to work in their respective groups to discuss and organize the most salient points about their article’s content. They are asked to become “experts” on their article and be prepared to teach/present it to the larger group. The articles were chosen for their relevance and especially to help the teacher candidates better understand the challenges of students from economically disadvantaged situations and offer some practical ways to help these students learn in the classroom setting. To facilitate the presentation, each group sharing an article is provided with a bag of materials to use to prepare their presentation. All materials have been strategically planned in advance to have varying amounts and types of materials. Some have a large number of materials, including poster board, construction paper, scissors, glue sticks and shiny decorative stickers; other bags contain fewer and far more rudimentary items, even broken crayons, partially dried up markers and newsprint paper or paper scraps. Bags are distributed randomly to groups who must work only with those materials provided to them to prepare for their presentation. During the presentations, it becomes obvious that there were varying amounts and types of materials


provided. The teacher candidates generally comment on how the different bags with varying resources brought home to them that students in their classrooms may not have the same or even adequate resources when asked to do their everyday schoolwork.

Because we do not have time to include book-length texts, we use carefully selected articles instead. The articles are chosen for their content and for their length. We also want them to know of and read a variety of authors who are knowledgeable and recognized for their work in 37

the area of impoverished students. We have found that several appropriate articles could be found in Educational Leadership as this journal has featured short, powerful and relevant articles for our topic. The teacher candidates are required to read one of these for their poverty presentation; however, all articles are made available to every participant so they can have access to each author’s work about students coming from diverse backgrounds. We chose to include an article by Ruby Payne (“Nine Powerful Practices”). In it she suggests such strategies such as building respectful relationships, making learning relational, teaching students to ask questions and more. Payne has also written a book about poverty, which is a bit long to use during our orientation. But if time permits, we include a chapter from Payne’s book, A Framework For Understanding Poverty, which discusses language (see Appendix B: Bibliography of Texts for the Diversity/Poverty Session). We also provide a variety of articles written by other noted authors (e.g. Eric Jensen) so that participants will have resources from which to draw. A glimpse of aspects of a few of the articles follow. Please refer to the articles themselves for more details (see Bibliography). The chapter by Payne discusses the importance of language in school and the difference between casual and academic register. Many young students entering school (and most teacher candidates) are familiar with the casual register, the everyday language used for living and for survival. However, the academic register may be less than familiar to students (and even sometimes to the soon-to-be-teachers) so this is a concept that we focus on and discuss at length. Academic or formal register consists of talking in complete sentences, being able to follow multi-step directions and using sophisticated terms for school work to summarize and compare/contrast ideas. The academic register is needed in order for students to succeed in academic work. It is the language of the standardized state testing that they will encounter and as well, an important concept for our teachers-to-be to understand and facilitate as they begin working in their classroom settings. They often seemed quite intrigued to consider language in this manner as we discuss this topic. Another article chosen, by Eric Jensen, is entitled “How Poverty Affects Classroom Engagement.” His premise is that there are some significant differences between middle-class and low-income students which teachers need to understand and in so doing they will be better able to help lessen the negative effects of being impoverished. A few of the differences include lesser health and nutrition, a far less developed vocabulary, and Jensen included a healthy discussion about the “growth” versus the fixed mindset. Jensen feels teachers are uniquely situated to help all students, especially those from impoverished backgrounds, to grow and develop by providing enriching experiences and sharing coping strategies regularly. He has sections entitled “What You Can Do/Change” for each difference he describes that provide recommended actions educators can take. Jensen has written two other books on this topic, including Engagement with Poverty in Mind (ASCD, 2013) and Teaching with Poverty in Mind (ASCD, 2009). See the listing of articles and the articles themselves for more specifics. After the presentations, the teacher candidates discuss how they felt about the supplies they were provided. As they discuss the variability in materials in their own presentation resources, they also talk about how they felt as they “figured out” the variable nature of the supplies provided to them. This leads to discussions about how classroom resources in their school settings are handled, including talk about how teachers can help students have or get the school supplies they need even if they are not able to provide these on their own and about the even broader topic of greater resources for students. Topics that come up include back-to-school items and but also learning materials and even breakfast items, reminiscent of Maslow’s Needs,


as well as how they are provided, distributed and organized at the various school sites; sometimes the ways of handling these bring up topics of equity and compassion. Some of the teacher candidates seemed to be amazed to be considering school supplies differently as items that can be hard to come by for some; many report they have never considered basic learning materials in quite this way. As time permits, we discuss the national children-in-poverty picture, reviewing the US data ( Participants are asked to review and analyze the data and look at what the data tells us, including trends and take-away ideas. Usually the discussion turns to that of children living in varying parental configurations (single parents versus two-parent families) and their experiences with these. We also discuss whether the national percentages by ethnicity reported are similar to that which they are experiencing in their own school sites. (See Appendix C). Two activities are included to bring our initial orientation session to a close. A privilege walk (McIntosh, 1989, included as Appendix D) is the first part of our closing activities, an experience designed for adults to be able to see diversity in their own lives. This is one activity which we do NOT recommend doing with young students. To facilitate the privilege walk, a series of statements are read and participants step forward or backward in response to the statements. Everyone starts off at the same starting line but by the end of the experience, if participants respond honestly, they are almost always spread out across the room, depicting the variance in “privilege and need” that they themselves have experienced. Statements alternate between presenting a more privileged scenario followed by a more impoverished one; e.g. a/ If you had more than 50 books in your home growing up, take one step forward, b/if you ever had to skip a meal or go hungry because there was no food or money to buy food growing up, take one step back.) Visually seeing the differences across their peers brings home how diverse our own group of adults are and even more so, how diverse the classrooms in which they will teach are likely to be. The overwhelming majority of the participants responded at the conclusion of the session that this was the most memorable activity of the session. One teacher candidate stated that “the privilege walk was something that showed that people can overcome adversity. It showed us that diversity is everywhere.” Another one said that “the walk was so powerful and amazing. It showed the differences in our class, yet how we have all made it to the same place in life. It was very representative of how our classroom might look.” These experiences and comments help us to see that novice teachers are growing in their awareness of the diverse nature of the work they will be doing and the diverse nature of the students who they will be working with. They also begin to see the power they will hold to help support students on their learning journeys. To help the teacher candidates see the big picture of privilege and need, we show them a YouTube video entitled “If the World Were 100 People” (Cullan, 2010). We have found this to be a calm and quietly effective way of helping beginning teachers to realize how fortunate they are to have reliable resources, food, clothing and shelter. They often comment that not everyone in the world is quite so lucky. Slowly they come to realize that they are uniquely positioned to positively influence students’ welfare, well-being and development, and see that for many of their students, school is often their primary source of consistent support, encouragement and routine. While it is true that many decisions in schooling reside with the administration, it is still the classroom teacher who can daily boost student confidence, set a welcoming and accepting tone and guide students to grow and thrive. Many had not quite realized how truly influential


they can be in the life of their students; we enjoy this final activity because love to close our session in an upbeat, encouraging manner. Ongoing Discussions – The Professional Development Goes On We believe learning takes place best over multiple sessions of professional development for any topic and this is equally the case for our diversity orientation. To continue the work of learning new information developed in the initial session, the teacher candidates return to their work in the classroom, and the conversation continues using a collaborative group discussion board. Here participants are expected to make connections about the information from the initial orientation session to share with other participants related to what they are observing at their own teaching sites. They post their own original comments about initiatives such as weekend (food) backpacks, in-school dental visits, school supply drives, teachers helping individual students and much more. Slowly the teacher candidates begin to understand and personally embrace that they are teaching students who are living in economically disadvantaged situations and can be boosted up by caring educators. Teacher candidates also respond to the postings of others, creating connections, questions/wonderings and observations for all to see. This seems to bring home many of the shared ideas and helps the teachers-to-be internalize what they are learning about diverse and impoverished learners. One participant observed, “It’s pretty crazy how so many students have such difficult lives at home, but then show up to school with such positive attitudes and determination to learn. I know it means a lot to them to have their teachers always there for them.” Our hope is that this orientation, with its activities and follow-up discussions, will help beginning teachers to see their full potential and also that of their students, so they can respond sensitively in working with their diverse students in their own classrooms. The words of Susan Neuman both resonate with us and motivate us in our work of preparing beginning teachers: We try to be leaders who “encourage faculty to be mindful of themselves as teachers, mindful of their kids, not just as learners but as people” (Neuman, 2016, p. 29). We believe that with knowledge each of us has the power to positively influence the outcomes of young learners, especially those who, through no fault of their own, are impoverished, to fully realize their best selves. This seems highly reminiscent of the words of the late Christa McAuliffe (d. 1986) – “I touch the future. I teach.”


Dr. Karen Bates is a professor at Emporia State University. She may be reached at

Dr. Deborah Larson is a professor at Emporia State University. She may be reached at


Appendix A Anticipation Guide – Working with at-risk students, especially those from impoverished conditions What do you know about the topic of poverty in schools? In the left column circle true or false based on what you believe about each statement. You will complete the right true/false column later. True or False True or False

True or False

True or False

True or False

True or False

True or False True or False

True or False

True or False

True or False

True or False

1. Research studies confirm the existence of a “culture of poverty.” 2. Children growing up in lower SES conditions have a smaller vocabulary than middle and upper-class children but this does not affect their risk for academic failure. 3. Parents of children in poverty attend fewer school functions and volunteer less in schools because they care less about their children’s education. 4. Everyone has a distinct fund of knowledge developed from life experiences; people tend to assume that everyone thinks the way they do. 5. Drug and alcohol abuse is not more prevalent in impoverished families as compared to families in other socioeconomic groups. 6. Those in poverty who speak language variants of English other than Standard American English are linguistically deficient. 7. No significant learning takes place without a significant relationship. 8. Realizing the differences in the funds of knowledge does not help educators understand the contrasts across socio-economic conditions. 9. Low SES children who demonstrate cognitive difficulty such as poor attention span, distractibility, lack of selfmonitoring and problem-solving skills, cannot be taught to improve their cognitive capacity. 10. Classroom misbehaviors often occur in students from poverty because they usually lack at-home stability and have not been taught a variety of appropriate responses to stress or social factors. 11. Mental models, such as stories, analogies or visual representations, help students better understand abstract concepts and should be used regularly when teaching children from disadvantaged backgrounds. 12. Teachers should not explicitly teach the hidden rules of school but should allow students to figure these out on their own.

True or False True or False

True or False

True or False

True or False

True or False

True or False True or False

True or False

True or False

True or False

True or False


Appendix B - Bibliography of texts for Poverty/Diversity session Gorski, P. (2008). The myth of the culture of poverty. Educational Leadership, 65(7) , 32-36. Jensen, E. (2013). How poverty affects classroom engagement. Educational Leadership, 70(8), 24-30. Payne, R. (1996). A framework for understanding poverty (4th revised edition) (chapter 4 – Characteristics of generational poverty, pp. 47-62). Highlands, TX: aha! Process, Inc. Payne, R. (2008). Nine powerful strategies. Educational Leadership, 65(7), 48-52. Templeton, B.L. (2013). “Why is that child so rude?” Educational Leadership, 70(8), 72-74.


Appendix C - Children in Poverty US figures (information accessed from 2012 73.7 million

2013 73.6 million

2014 73.6 million

2015 73.6 million

2016 73.7 million

16.0 million

15.8 million

15.5 million

14.5 million

13.3 million






Breakdown by ethnicity African American 38.4% Hispanic 33.8% Caucasian 12.3%

33.4% 33.0% 13.4%

37.3% 31.9% 12.3%

33.6% 28.9% 12.1%

30.9% 26..6% 10.8%

Overall total number US children Number of children in poverty (ages 6-17) % of the population

Based on poverty threshold (2016) of $24,339 (for 2 parents and 2 dependent children) Percent in 9.7% 9.9% 9.3% 8.9% 8.2% extreme poverty*

Married vs. single parent

Comparison by status of the parents 11.2% vs. 10.1% vs. 10.6% vs. 9.8% vs. 47.6% 47.4% 46.4% 42.6%

8.4% vs. 39.0%

Breakdown by ethnicity African American 14.9% vs. - married vs. 53.9% single

10.3% vs. 49.9%

13.3% vs. 52.9%

11.0% vs. 46.9%

10.7% vs. 45.6%

Hispanic – married vs. single

23.6% vs. 55.4%

19.6% vs. 53.2%

21.2% vs. 53.3%

19.5% vs. 48.7%

17.0% vs. 48.3%

Caucasian – married vs. single

6.2% vs. 37.3%

6.6% vs. 39.6%

6.4% vs. 35.7%

6.0% vs. 34.8%

4.8% vs. 34.3%

18.4% 17.2% 19.0% 22.1%

15.6% 17.3% 17.0%

Northeast Midwest West South

Comparison by geographic region 17.5% 18.2% 17.8% 17.0% 20.1% 18.8% 19.5% 20.8% 21.2% 22.9% 24.2% 23.8%

*Extreme poverty is below 50% of the poverty threshold; In 2016 that was $12,170 income level for a family of 4


Appendix D - Privilege Walk (We amended this to shorten it slightly) – designed to develop an awareness of personal privileges associated with race, class, gender and ethnicity and the intricacies of privilege; a powerful demonstration exercise that should receive discussion time afterward. This activity helps demonstrate how social identifiers which are out of the participant’s own control have affected their privilege and cultural experiences. Requires a level of trust to have been developed. Have students all stand at a baseline in a large area such as a gymnasium or large room/space, shoulder to shoulder in a straight line. They are instructed to listen carefully to each sentence and take a step as directed if the sentence applies to them. They should be encouraged to be as honest as they can be. Statements: 1. If your ancestors were forced to come to the USA not by choice, take one step back. 2. If your primary ethnic identity is American, take one step forward. 3. If you have ever been called names because of your race, class, ethnicity or gender, take one step back. 4. If your parents are educated professionals (doctors, lawyers, company executives, etc.) take one step forward. 5. If you were raised in an area where there was blight, drug activity, prostitution, etc. take one step back. 6. If your family owned the house where you grew up, take one step forward. 7. If you started school speaking a language other than English, take one step back. 8. If you had more than 50 books in your home growing up, take one step forward. 9. If you ever had to skip a meal or go hungry because there was not enough money to buy food when you were growing up, take one step back. 10. If you went on regular family vacations, take one step forward. 11. If one of your parents was unemployed or laid off, not by choice, take one step back. 12. If you attend private school or summer camp growing up, take one step forward. 13. If you have ever been homeless or if your family ever had to move because they could not afford the rent, take one step back. 14. If you have ever been offered a good job because of your connection to a friend or family member, take one step forward. 15. If you were ever discouraged from academics or jobs because of race, class, gender or ethnicity, take one step back. 16. If you were told that you were beautiful, smart and capable by your parents, take one step forward. 17. If you were ever denied employment because of your race, class, gender or ethnicity, take on step back. 18. If you have inherited or are likely to inherit money or property, take one step forward. 19. If you ever felt as though members of your community were feared or unwanted members of American society, please take one step back. 20. If you were encouraged to attend college by your parents, take one step forward. 21. If you were raised in a single parent household, take one step back.


22. If you were ever treated poorly or less fairly than others because of your race, class, gender or ethnicity, take one step back. 23. If your parents told you that you could be anything you wanted to be, take one step forward. 24. If you have ever been made uncomfortable by a joke related to your race, gender or ethnicity but felt unsafe to confront the situation, take one step back. 25. If you saw, while growing up, members of your race, gender and ethnicity well represented in a range of roles in the culture (books, toys/playthings, on TV and in the media), take one step forward. Immediately afterward, if possible, have participants sit where they are and allow a few minutes for reflection, for them to consider what they learned (and especially what was learned about the impact of privilege that they did not know before). The latter would more specifically guide their thinking, the former is a more open-ended way to enter a post activity conversation.

Process questions to guide the post-activity discussion:  What do you see around the room/space? Who do you see in the front? In the middle? In the back?  In what ways do the people near you reflect or not reflect your culture/community?  How do you feel about where you are relative to the others in the room? How do you feel about where the others are in relation to you?  What does your position in the room say about the societal messages about your worth and the worth of the people with similar placements (privilege levels)?     

What went through your mind as you moved forward and backward? What were you feeling? Which of the statements did you find the most meaningful and eye-opening? Why? Which of the statements did you find painful and/or hurtful? Why? Consider whether privilege has affected you. How has it affected not only you but also your family and your community, in terms of opportunity and access? How has privilege affected you, your family and your community, in terms of opportunity and access? How are social class and privilege tied to prejudice and discrimination?


References Cullan, B. (Dec. 11, 2010). If the world were 100 people (video). Available at Comber, B. (Sept-October, 2016). Research that makes a difference: Rekindling optimism and speaking back to deficit. Literacy Today, 34(2), 12-13. Kansas Poverty Rate information, retrieved from report/ Kansas K-12 Report Generator, retrieved at Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370-396. Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and personality. New York: Harper and Row. Maslow, A. H. (1987). Motivation and personality (3rd ed.). Delhi, India: Pearson Education. McIntosh, P. (July/August 1989). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible backpack. Peace & Freedom (a publication of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Philadelphia, PA), 0-12. (The Privilege Walk is adapted from the work and writing of McIntosh). Neuman, S.B. (2016). Code red: The danger of data-driven instruction. Educational Leadership, 74(3), 25-29. Oklahoma High School Graduation Rates, retrieved from Oklahoma Poverty Rate information, retrieved from Oklahoma Department of Education, retrieved from Suitts, S. (2015). A new majority research bulletin: Low income students now a majority in the nation’s public schools. Atlanta: Southern Education Foundation. Suitts, S. (2016). Students facing poverty: The new majority. Educational Leadership, 74(3), 3640. Suitts, S. (2013). Update: A new majority: Low income students in the south and nation. Atlanta: Southern Education Foundation (available at Suitts, S. (2007). A new majority: Low income students in the south’s public schools. Atlanta: Southern Education Foundation (available at The Teachers College Conceptual Framework (2016). Emporia State University. Emporia, Kansas. Available at


Teacher to Teacher Column by Ms. Karen B. Coucke

Hello? Hello? Kindergarten Calling During a busy literacy center rotation in my kindergarten classroom, located in an urban school district with high-poverty and high number of English Language Learners, the dull roar of the students’ chatter fills our spacious classroom. The diverse group of 28 students stands, sits, and kneels at various literacy centers scattered throughout the room. When the timer buzzes, I remind students to clean up their centers for the next rotation. They quickly scurry to clean their centers, in order to find out their next activity. A group of four students lets out a collective cheer when they choose to play in the dramatic play kitchen center. This center is one of the most popular places to play in our classroom. A plastic red push-button phone is the most sought-after item. The phone has no fancy noises when buttons are pushed, no lights flash on or off, no touch screen display beckons, and no computer voice asks questions from the other end. It is a simple, plastic red phone. I listen to a conversation of a student on the phone at the start of this center rotation: Student 1: “Hello? Hello? Hi Grandma! OK, see you soon!” Student 1 to the other students in the center: “Hurry, hurry! Grandma is coming over. We have to clean the house and cook something to eat!” Student 2: “We better hurry! I’ll sweep the floor!” Student 3: “I will take care of the baby.” Student 4: “What will we cook to eat?” As they begin to discuss what they should “cook” for Grandma, I realize this plastic red phone is a link to language development and play, one I almost overlooked. The phone was given to me by another teacher who was cleaning out her classroom. I thought about telling her I didn’t want it as I thought the phone wouldn’t captivate my kindergartner’s attention. Little did I know, the unassuming, red phone would spark language development in my classroom and lead to children-focused ideas to build further conversations and literacy engagement which helps all of my students advance in literacy and language development. Centers and Play Center rotations are a foundation for learning in most early childhood classrooms and provide different experiences for students to practice new skills and engage with peers (Wellhousen & Giles, 2005). Centers provide students opportunities to explore concepts with classmates and create situations in which they are familiar with and include imaginative play. A prominent theory in the field of early childhood focuses on the importance of play and social development of the child (Bodrovra & Leong, 2007). However, with the pressures of meeting rigorous standards and testing accountability, this theory seems to become an old toy no longer wanted; it seems a teacher-centric focused classroom has become the norm. Bowdon (2015) examined data from two nationally identified kindergarten groups, one from 1998 and one from 2010. This data included teacher reports on how instruction in their classroom was organized. Findings indicated child-selected activity declined in both high- and 48

low-poverty schools. In 1998, 68% of kindergarteners had an hour of child-selected activity time, while in 2010 only 44% had the same opportunity. As a kindergarten teacher in a high-poverty classroom with a diverse group of learners, I struggle with finding the balance between teacherled time and student-led activities. The plastic red phone in my kitchen center was a catalyst in helping me find the balance. Student-led Activity My students’ excitement preparing for grandma’s “visit” in the kitchen center led to a whole class discussion and writing activity. To facilitate these activities, I chose three books with grandmas and families as the central theme. Feast for 10 (Falwell, 1993) depicts an AfricanAmerican family shopping for food to prepare for a large family dinner which includes grandparents. Another book we incorporated into our discussion, My Nana and Me (Smalls, 2006), is full of wonderful pictures and depicts an African-American girl and her nana together at home. The third book, Abuela (Dorros, 1991), involves a young girl and her grandmother in an urban setting pretending to fly above the city and talk about what they see in Spanish and English. These books captivated my students’ attention and created rich class discussions about grandmothers and families. This enthusiasm spilled over into linking our discussion with our writing activity. Students were asked to draw and write their family’s experiences similar to any of the three books we read together. Each student was asked to describe their picture with a table partner and then shared in our whole-group discussion. As depicted in the drawings in Figures 1, 2, and 3, our classroom has a wide range of skills as well as verbal ability. Regardless of ability, all students generated meaningful discussion and writing relevant to their life.

Figure 1 “Me and my grandma and my mom. We have to cook all the food. We are getting ready for her to come over.”


Figure 2 “We are cleaning up because my grandma is coming over.”

Figure 3 “Mommy, brother and grandma. She is going to come to my house.”


Reflection The majority of my students enter kindergarten lacking foundational skills needed to successfully begin their school careers. Our classroom is comprised of a wide array of students with different needs and backgrounds. Some students in our classroom attended Pre-K and others did not. Additionally, some of my students have limited English knowledge while some have less stable home environments. Providing time for play and using student interests can lead to engaging activities. Simple objects, such as a plastic red phone, can lead to language development using student-centered ideas.

Ms. Karen B. Coucke is a PhD student at the University of Oklahoma, Norman. She may be reached at

References Bodrovra, E., & Leong, D. J. (2007). Tools of the Mind: The Vygotskian approach to early childhood education (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. Bowdon, J. (2015, May). The common core’s first casualty: playful learning., 96(8), 33-37. Fallwell, C. (1993). A Feast for 10. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company. Dorros, A. (1991). Abuela. New York, NY: Puffin Books. Smalls, I. (2006). My Nana and Me. United States: Xist Publishing. Wellhousen, K., & Giles, R. M. (2005) Building literacy opportunities into children’s block play: What every teacher should know. Childhood Education, 82(2), 74-78. doi:10.1080/00094056.2006.10521350


Teacher Talk Column by Ms. Sarah Tham ______________________________________________________________________________

Self-reflection? Have You Seen My Schedule? Reframing Self-reflection for the Busy Teacher Teachers understand that self-reflection is an important skill to learn and practice. Selfreflection at its basic form has been described as “the inspection and evaluation of one’s thoughts, feelings and behavior” (Grant, Franklin, & Langford, 2002, p. 821). Generally, selfreflection involves a framework which guides teachers to think about certain aspects of their learning, instruction and professional development. By fostering reflection, teachers are better equipped to know which best practices to carry out but also why to do it. However, as student teachers progress into full-fledged teachers, many face challenges in keeping up with selfreflection as more and more demands are put on their time. How can teachers incorporate this important activity in their professional day? Korthagen’s (1985) ALACT model of self-reflection is systematic and structured. It helps teachers to reach insights into self and practice, and supports the implementation of positive changes in their instructional practice. The ALACT model is built on the assumption that by nature teachers reflect on their experiences, but that systematic reflection may lead to more effective instructional practices. Self-reflection using the ALACT model is continuous and may span over time depending on you and what you hope to achieve. So your self-reflection can happen over a period of time and you won’t feel rushed trying to get every phase covered as soon as possible. Phase 1: Action –What do you wish to reflect on? Was there a situation that stood out in your day? Was I directly involved in the situation? What did I do? What was the result of my action? Phase 2: Looking back- What exactly happened? What are the details? Did I see anything? Did I do anything? What was I thinking? How did I feel? Phase 3: Awareness of the essential aspects- What is the significance of the issue? What does my actions mean to me? What aspects in myself are preventing me from positive action? 52

What can I learn from it moving forward? What positive changes can I make? What discoveries about myself can I identify? Phase 4: Creating alternatives- What can you try out and test in the classroom? How can I affect change in my actions and classroom? What alternative methods do I see working based on what I know about myself and my classroom? What are the pros and cons of each alternative? What will I remember for next time? Phase 5: Trial phase-What alternative actions are you going to actually carry out? Is there something specific I want to see happen? Should I look out for anything specific? Do I understand what I am seeing? Then the cycle continues. Self-reflection has been described as an iterative process involving “repeated cycles of examining practice, adjusting practice and reflecting upon it, before trying it again” (Grushka, McLeod, & Reynolds, 2005, p. 239), rather than a one-time event. ALACT can help busy teachers incorporate self-reflection into their busy schedules as it allows teachers to work through something over an extended period. Often teachers do not realize that they are already doing some form or part of the ALACT phases. As a busy teacher, spreading out the ALACT reflection process helps teacher gather better information that can better inform their decisions. Not only will self-reflection help teachers make good decisions in the classroom but Korthagen (1985) argued that a key element of reflection is making one’s concrete experience explicit, looking at the experience from one’s frame of interpretation and adapting this frame to improve one’s performance. That means becoming a better teacher, person, and individual. There is so much to gain professionally and personally as teachers look at self-reflection, not as a dreaded task but a wonderful tool to have and use in their classrooms. Structured self-reflection makes it easier to work through. As a busy teacher, you decide what you want to focus on. Only you know the background and the essential aspects of yourself and your classroom. You are the best person to create alternatives that work for YOU. You are the one who understands your time limitations and the only person who can determine how your trial phase will look like. Self-reflection can be personalized for you.


Ms. Sarah Tham is a Doctoral Candidate at the University of Kansas, finishing up her dissertation on the America Reads program and self-reflection. She may be reached at

References Grant, A. M., Franklin, J., & Langford, P. (2002). The self-reflection and insight scale: A new measure of private self-consciousness. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, 30(8), 821-835. Grushka, K., McLeod, J. H., & Reynolds, R. (2005). Reflecting upon reflection: Theory and practice in one Australian university teacher education program. Reflective Practice, 6(2), 239-246. Korthagen, F. A. (1985). Reflective teaching and preservice teacher education in the Netherlands. Journal of teacher education, 36(5), 11-15.


Research Summary by Linda McElroy Morphological Instruction: A Support for Developing Reading Comprehension Editor’s Note: The International Literacy Association’s website has archived a series of podcasts with authors of articles that have been published in Reading Research Quarterly (RRQ). One of those featured articles is reviewed in this column, along with a related article from The Reading Teacher. The podcasts can be found at this site:

The following articles are included in this research summary: Levesque, K.C., Kieffer, M.J., & Deacon, S.H. (2018). Inferring meaning from meaningful parts: The contributions of morphological skills to the development of children’s reading comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly, 54, 63-80. doi:10.1002.rrq/219 Manyak, P.C., Baumann, J.F., & Manyak, A-M. (2018). Morphological analysis instruction in the elementary grades: Which morphemes to teach and how to teach them. The Reading Teacher, 72, 289-300. doi:10.1002/trtr.1713 Teachers are committed to helping students become successful, engaged readers. We understand that there are many components that contribute to the developmental process, including those famous “five elements” identified in the Report of the National Reading Panel (phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension) (2000). Beyond those five elements, many other factors are part of the process. My own experience as a reading specialist working with children in upper elementary and middle school makes me very conscious of challenges as children move beyond simple phonics patterns to trying to decode multiple-syllable words. Therefore, I was intrigued by a recent study in RRQ. Inferring meaning from meaningful parts helps children notice and use morphemes, the smallest units of meaning in the words they encounter in their reading. The research study from RRQ analyzed two related concepts and the ways that they impact reading comprehension. Morphological awareness refers to the awareness of, and ability to, manipulate morphemes. Morphological analysis refers to the use of morphemes to understand the meanings of unfamiliar multiple-syllable words. The research study analyzed these two types of using morphemes, as well as their relation to reading comprehension. This research study was a longitudinal study conducted over two years with children while they were in third and fourth grades. Two research questions were addressed. First, researchers tested morphological awareness and morphological analysis as possible unique predictors of gains in reading comprehension from grade 3 to grade 4. The second question analyzed the relation between morphological awareness and morphological analysis. In addition, the researchers assessed students’ reading comprehension, with controls for word reading, vocabulary, phonological awareness, nonverbal ability, and age.


Participants in the study were children from 14 elementary schools. The participant sample included 197 children (91 boys and 106 girls) who averaged 8 years, 10 months at the beginning of the study. The participants were mainly Caucasian, consistent with the population of the school locations. All of the participants spoke English as their first language. They were mainly from middle to upper middle class families, based on income. Researchers administered two spoken measures of morphological awareness at each grade. One was a test of morphological awareness where participants were asked to change a target item to complete a sentence (farm: My uncle is a [farmer]). Half of the 28 items were phonologically transparent (accept…acceptance), and half were phonologically opaque (revise…revision). Half of the items asked the children to produce a derived word from a base (farm…farmer), while half involved the decomposition of a derived form to its base form (growth…grow). The second measure of morphological awareness was a word analogy task which assessed participants’ awareness of morphological changes in a set of words that followed an analogy (A:B::C:D). Participants heard the first pair of words, followed by the first word of the second pair, then they were asked to complete the analogy (run:ran::walk, walked). There were 20 test items, with equal numbers of inflected and derived words, both of which included phonologically transparent (walk…walked) and phonologically opaque transformations (stood…stand). Next, the researchers administered a morphological analysis task which was presented orally by the experimenter and was provided in print to the participants. Each morphologically complex word was presented in a multiple-choice format with the correct response being a higher-frequency synonym or a paraphrase that captured the meaning of the base word and the suffix. Other assessments were given for reading comprehension (Gates-MacGinite Reading Tests), phonological awareness (Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing), nonverbal ability (Matrix Reasoning subtest of the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence), word reading (Test of Word Reading Efficiency, including subtests for real English words and for pronounceable nonwords), and vocabulary (Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test). Multivariate autoregressive path analysis carefully examined the results. The research results described a developmental trajectory. Increased success with morphological awareness predicted success with morphological analysis. This sequence, in turn, predicted gains in reading comprehension. Because of the influence of morphological instruction on students’ reading comprehension, strategies for supporting morphological skills will be important for classroom instruction. Teachers who are supporting children in developing these morphological skills can find ideas to use in their classrooms in the Reading Teacher article. This study focused on instruction in morphological analysis. It followed several earlier studies by members of the research team. The current study was part of the Vocabulary and Language Enhancement (VALE) project in a third-grade class to develop a multidimensional approach to teaching affixes. The instruction is focused on teaching students the meanings of affixes (prefixes and suffixes) and of word roots and a strategy for using knowledge of these morphemic elements to infer the meanings of unfamiliar words. Extensive earlier research was cited for the identification of three principles about teaching affixes:


Instruction in word parts contributes to word reading and enhances students’ ability to infer word meanings. • Morphological awareness instruction should include: (1) awareness of the morphological structure of words, (2) meanings of specific affixes and root words, (3) analysis of how a word’s morphemes contribute to its meaning, grammatical function, or spelling (4) strategies for using morphological analysis to infer word meanings (p. 290). • Affixes and base words differ in being semantically transparent (dishonest) in comparison to words that are less transparent (discard). In addition to other insights from previous research, the researchers worked to balance explicit instruction and highly participatory activities, foster student engagement, prompt students to engage in metalinguistic talk, and provide ongoing review of taught meanings and strategies. For the instruction in the VALE project, affixes were chosen that met a strict definition of prefix or suffix (must be attached to a base word, such as dislike, unfair, hopeless, and teacher, in contrast to words that have absorbed or assimilated prefixes such as accept or erase). Affixes were chosen that have consistent, concrete meanings such as the prefix dis- that consistently means “not” or the suffix –ful that consistently means “full of”. Affixes were chosen that have the highest frequency, and they were organized into semantic groups with similar meanings. In the third-grade classroom, four activities constituted the multidimensional VALE affix instruction. Each week, the teacher provided explicit instruction for one of the prefix families and a word-part strategy, followed by three extension and review activities. The article described ideas for explicit instruction in affixes and the word-part strategies, including large charts (to display word parts) and PowerPoint lessons. One example of the interactive activities included the third-grade students holding a card with a word that shared prefixes and suffixes with words on their peers’ cards. The children found peers whose words share the same base word (redo, doable, overdo, undoable), then sat down together to talk about the words and work out the meanings. Instruction followed a sequence described below, where an example was given for teaching the “not” prefix family. 1. Introduction: show a chart of three prefixes that mean “not” (dis-, un-, in-) 2. Analyze words: explain that when a word has these prefixes, say “not” in place of the prefix (when you see unhappy, say not happy) 3. Examine affixed and pseudo-affixed words and talk about what makes sense (discuss the difference between unhappy, which means “not happy” and uncle, which doesn’t make sense as “not cle”) 4. Practice building words (show a column of prefixes and a column of base words and ask students to build specific words (build a word that means “not kind”) 5. Quiz: ask students to fill in the blank with a word that combines a prefix and base words to make sense in a sentence. (The moment I broke the dishes, I wished I could . [disappear]} 6. Collection challenge: challenge students to find words that include the target affixes and add them to a wall chart, with the incentive that when they have •



added a certain number of words to the chart, the class will play a game of Affix Jeopardy. The Jeopardy games reviewed previously taught affixes. Columns of clues were displayed on an Affix Jeopardy Board, with items at the bottom of the board earning lower points than the top of the board. For example, the columns might include “Not” prefixes (dis, un-, in-, im-, non, il-, ir-), “place” prefixes (pre-, post, mid-, inter-, intra-, trans-), other useful prefixes, or sentences where the child would need to supply a word to fill in a blank. The children were in small-group teams, and the teacher called on a student to respond. If a team did not answer correctly, other teams had a chance to respond. To assess the morphemic analysis instruction, the research team constructed the Morphemic Analysis Assessment, a 53 item test that assessed students’ ability to segment words into individual morphemes, match taught affixes and roots to the meanings, and select the best meanings for low-frequency affixed words not included in the lessons. A 42 item version of the original test was administered at the end. All of the students, regardless of their initial performance, responded positively to the affix instruction. Qualitative observations of the morphological analysis instruction documented consistently high student engagement in the lessons, a sophisticated level of student discourse related to word parts and their meanings, and students’ enthusiasm for locating words that included the taught affixes. The article included ideas for introducing the process with children younger than third grade, as well as for helping older children with guided practice in using the wordpart strategy to infer word meanings. This type of instruction will be especially helpful as the number of morphologically complex words increases in the texts that students read. Ultimately, reading comprehension will be supported, and that is the ultimate goal for what we do!

Dr. Linda McElroy is a professor at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. She previously taught in Oklahoma schools as a classroom teacher and as a reading specialist.


Tech Talk: Making the Most of Technology in Your Classroom by Shelley Martin-Young All Things Google, Part 1 The possibilities for learning in the classroom using Google are endless. Google tools and resources help teachers and students create, collaborate and build digital skills for the future. With Google, there is a broad selection of apps, activities, lesson plans, digital literacy tools, extensions, and games to promote learning in classrooms of any grade level from Pre-k through college. Google can transform teaching and learning and assist students in becoming creative problem solvers and effective collaborators. According to Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, “Technology alone will not improve education, but it can be a powerful part of the solution” ( In this article, I will share my favorite digital tools that will help students create, collaborate, and build digital skills. Google Add-Ons and Extensions Google Add-ons are customized extensions that work inside programs such as Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets. Google Extensions are small programs that add new features to your browser and personalize it for your personal needs. Some of my favorites include Pear Deck, Story Speaker, Mindmeister, Grammarly, Kaizena, and Read and Write for Google Chrome. Pear Deck is a Google ad-on that is used with Google Slides. Pear Deck adds formative assessments and interactive questions right from Google Slide. With Pear Deck you can ensure that all of your students are engaged, see who is confused, and who is on target. Google has a library of templates to use with Pear Deck. You can add an exit ticket, poll, quiz, and more to your presentations. You can also create your own activity or questions and personalize it to fit your needs. You can add videos, animations, and GIFs with Pear Deck. Here is an example of a presentation about Brown vs. The Board of Education using Pear Deck. Story Speaker is a Google ad-on for Google Docs. Story Speaker allows the user to create talking, interactive “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories. Templates are provided that allow students to make their own story. When done making your story, it can be read right there in Docs or can be played on any Google Home or a device with the Google Assistant app. The tool reads the story aloud and then lets the listener speak their responses to then move the story forward. Listen to the creator explain how to use it with Google Home, but it can also be used in the classroom with Google Docs. Mindmeister is another Google Docs ad-on. Mindmeister is a mind mapping tool made into an ad-on. Mindmeister allows you to turn a bullet-point list into a mind map to insert straight into your Google Doc. The bulleted list becomes a beautiful visual to add to your document. Mindmeister is great for brainstorming, note taking, and project planning. For a tutorial on using Mindmeister click here.


Grammarly is a Google extension that is a must for any classroom. Grammarly is a writing assistant and editor for all things Google. As an extension Grammarly will work in your Gmail, on Twitter, Facebook, Google Docs, and basically any place that you write. Grammarly not only finds spelling mistakes, but it also explores grammar, style, and tone in your work. Grammarly is much more than a spell check program. Grammarly can help you achieve high quality writing by finding places that your writing is wordy and unclear. Grammarly also has a built-in tone detector which will assist in assessing how your writing will come across. Kaizena is a Google ad-on that takes feedback to a new level. Kaizena allows you to give feedback with voice comments directly on a Google Doc. Feedback has been proven to be more effective than one on one tutoring and is equivalent to eight extra months of class time (Education Endowment Foundation). With Kaizena, giving individual or group feedback is easy. You can also track student skills progress and link students to online lessons to scaffold their learning. Kaizena also helps to streamline grading writing. For an example, click here. Read and Write for Google Chrome is an ad-on for Google that helps students with study skills. It is really useful for younger students and English Learners (Els). With Read and Write for Google Chrome, you can highlight words on a web page and then pull those words into a new document or a vocabulary list. Hover speech reads the words for you. The dictionary feature will not only look up words, but it can also give you a picture of the word. Documents can be translated into the language of your choice. Students can read aloud and then send that reading to the teacher and the teacher can leave notes in Google Docs by using the Voice Notes. There is a premium feature that has some costs but some of these features are worth it – for example predictive type that helps beginning writers with their writing skills. A how to guide can be found here. I have only listed my top six Google ad-ons and extensions here, but there are so many more useful Google tools that make teaching more powerful and technology more useful in the classroom. For a list of more of my favorite extensions you can check out my Google Slide presentation.


Google Activities and Lesson Plans Google is so much more than a search engine. Google is a powerful tool for use in classrooms from Kindergarten through higher education. No matter what subject or age level you teach, there is something on Google just for you. From creativity tools to gaming in education, coding with Google, ready-made lesson plans, and visual arts, Google is a resource I encourage you to explore. Below are just a few of my very favorites. Google Arts and Culture is a great way to bring art to your students. Many students have never been to a museum and funding often times does not allow for field trips. Google Arts and Culture features content from over 1200 museums and archives. Students can virtually explore various museums’ galleries, explore artwork, and compile their own virtual collection. Some of the galleries even include video and audio materials. Some of the museums and content include a White House Gallery page with a welcome video filmed by Michelle Obama, Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum, has exhibits including 400 hours of video of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is included along with the Tate Gallery of London, and so many more. There are also activities that students can participate in along with the ability to find your art look alike just by taking a selfie. The ability to share some of the famous artworks from around the world with students is a powerful thing. As a former science teacher who still has a passion for science, I love Google Sky. Any classroom studying space needs to utilize Google Sky. Using this Google tool, students can get a close up look at our solar system and so much more. Students can get a close up look at the planets, learn their distance from the earth, see a close up look at the moon, and see glimpses of other galaxies. Content from several organizations is included with Google Sky. For example, students can access videos from the Hubble Space Telescope and news and images from NASA. Much like Google Earth, students can get a “street-view” of the universe. The newest addition to Google Sky is access to Slooh Space Center where students can see live coverage through a telescope. No matter what subject you teach, you can bring the wonder of the night sky to your students. CS First is a free computer science program that makes coding easy. Our students live in a rapidly changing world. 65% of the jobs our students will have when they become adults have not even been invented yet. Our students need computer science skills to thrive in the real world. Teachers have the ability to create a class and make assignments to their students. Students can learn coding through video and hands-on lessons. CS First uses Scratch to teach coding. There are coding activities that involve storytelling, music, fashion and design, art, and even a cartooning program that works in cooperation with Cartoon Network. Google has a plethora of free tools and resources that help bring our classrooms into the 21st century. I have just begun sharing my favorite Google activities. In the next issue of The Oklahoma Reader, I will be sharing more of my Google favorites in All Things Google part 2.

Shelley Martin-Young Oklahoma State University, Doctoral Candidate Graduate Teaching Assistant ~ Teaching Language Arts and Children's Literature



Oklahoma Legislative Updates Regarding Reading Education Reading education is currently a hot topic, attracting the attention of parents, teachers, and policy makers. The goal of this column is to bring readers up to date on recent actions in the state regarding reading education in the state of Oklahoma before the next legislative session begins in February. The Oklahoma Dyslexia and Education Task Force was created by House Bill 2008, authored by Speaker McCall and Representative Stanislawski in 2017, and amended by House Bill 3313, authored by Representatives Baker and (Mike) Osburn and Senator Bice in 2018. The task force was charged with creating a dyslexia handbook to provide guidance for schools, students and parents in Oklahoma. The task force was composed of twenty-one stakeholders, including parents, administrators, teachers, a student, members of the Oklahoma Legislature, an Academic Language Therapist Instructor, a counselor, a speech-language pathologist, a school psychologist, a professor, and representatives from the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE), Cooperative Council for Oklahoma Schools (CCOSA), Office of Educational Quality and Accountability (OEQA), and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. The Oklahoma Dyslexia and Education Task Force met during the 2018-2019 school year to create the Oklahoma Dyslexia Handbook: A Guide to Literacy Development and Reading Struggles was completed in June, 2019. The handbook is now housed with the Oklahoma State Department of Education, in the Special Education Division. You can access a copy of the handbook on their website. House Bill 1228, authored by Representatives Sanders, Albright, (Josh) West, Boles, Townley, and Lawson, and Senator Smalley (2019), adds dyslexia professional development to the requirements in every school district, beginning in 2020. The handbook is intended to provide information for these information sessions each year. The minimum requirements of these sessions are to provide awareness of the characteristics of dyslexia, effective instruction for students with dyslexia, and information about available resources for teachers, parents, and students. The handbook is also expected to be a source of information for parents. Senate Bill 601, authored by Senator Stanislawski and Representative Nollan (2019), revised the requirements of the Reading Sufficiency Act. One of the changes is that students in kindergarten who are not meeting grade level expectations by mid-year based on approved assessments shall have a program of reading instruction written for them. This bill also requires that the grade level performance of third-grade students to determine promotion and retention shall be based only on the portions of the statewide assessment measuring reading foundations and processes, and not any other language arts portions of the assessment. Senate Bill 194, authored by Senator Bice and Representative Miller (2019), removed the requirement for Early Childhood and Elementary Education candidates enrolled in institutions within the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education to pass the Oklahoma Reading Test prior to graduation. Candidates in Special Education program continue with this requirement.


Bills are currently being filed for the upcoming 2020 Oklahoma legislative session. The bills are not yet posted on the website of the Oklahoma State Legislature, but should be soon. Watch the Oklahoma Literacy Association site and Facebook page for updates on legislation affecting literacy education.

Dr. Julie Collins is a professor in the College of Education and Professional Studies at the University of Central Oklahoma. She can be reached at


Sheri Vasinda OKLA CHAIR Greetings, As you know, as your state literacy chapter of the International Literacy Association, our transition from the Oklahoma Reading Association (ORA) to the Oklahoma Literacy Association (OKLA) has been in process for over two years. We have just about taken care of all of the details of the transition and are ready to start our new norms. One of those new norms is the changing of the leadership title from OKLA President to OKLA Chair. As Chair for the Oklahoma Chapter, my role is to make sure we continue to work toward our goal of providing teachers and leaders with resources and expertise to support and inspire students and each other. This journal is just one of those resources. Twice a year, you’ll find new research, ideas, and perspectives on ways to support the readers and writers you influence each day. Your Board of Directors purposely voted to make this resource open access so that anyone who can log onto the Web can use and benefit from this resource; however, we don’t want to stop with access only. We want to engage in ongoing conversations about topics, issues, and challenges, in literacy education to support hard-working educators around the state. One of the goals of OKLA is to keep members connected and informed beyond our annual conference through ongoing professional conversations. We are constantly looking for ways and formats to keep us connected and welcome ideas from all. This summer, we offered opportunities to engage in continued conversations from John Hattie’s work on Making Learning Visible through examining the results of his continuing research that compiles hundreds of research studies to examine the effects of our practices. After an informative and inspiring keynote from Doug Fisher at our spring conference, we followed up with a summer Facebook book study of Visible Learning for Literacy, Grades K-12: Implementing the Practices that Work Best to Accelerate Student Learning (Fisher, Frey, & Hattie, 2016). Teachers from around the state engaged in conversations to discuss the effect of different instructional strategies and reconsider some of our practices. We also learned to understand the concept of effect size to better equip ourselves in decision making and articulating the rationales for our decisions.

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The spring edition of this journal highlighted a new book, Literacy Engagement through Peritextual Analysis edited by Shelbie Witte, Don Latham, and Melissa Gross. Prior to this book many of us, myself included, had never heard of peritext. Like others, I discovered it is something many of us use over and over again in our work in developing readers, but now we know how to harness its power intentionally. We extended and widened the conversation from the journal to a fall Facebook book study co-sponsored with the Oklahoma Council for Teachers of English to support more thinking and conversation around this topic. We will have a Facebook live event with the editors and participating authors soon, so watch the website and Facebook page for the date. If you were unable to participate, this wrap-up event will bring you into the conversation and frontload an opportunity to explore this topic. We are constantly on the lookout for ways to keep our members engaged in conversation about the passion we share: literacy, specifically literacy for all. I invite you to stay connected and in conversation with us to support and inspire each other! Sheri Vasinda OKLA Chair 2019-2020


Dr. Sheri Vasinda is a literacy professor at Oklahoma State University.




Call for Proposals The theme of the Oklahoma Reading Association’s 2020 Conference is “Reading Matters.” The conference committee is looking for teachers, librarians, undergraduate and graduate students, and university faculty to present at our conference on Saturday, April 4, 2020, at Oklahoma City University. We welcome presentations representing a variety of ideas in the area of literacy and literacy teaching. We would love for you to come share an innovative project or teaching strategy with our participants! Presentations will be scheduled for 45 minutes in length. Please submit your proposal to Julie Collins by e-mail at Please use the format on the attached page for your proposal. Deadline for receipt of proposals is Wednesday, January 8, 2020. Notification of acceptance will be sent by Friday, February 7, 2020.

All presenters must register for the conference. THANK YOU

for submitting a proposal to present at the April 4, 2020, OKLA Annual Conference!


Conference Note: All breakout session rooms will be equipped for your presentation. You may bring a USB drive or your own laptop. 1. Proposal Title (no more than 10 words): Please be sure that your session title clearly describes what the session is about. 2. Proposal Summary (no more than 25 words): Describe your session. This will be the description used in the conference program. 3. Description of Proposal (no more than 500 words): • Describe the objective(s) for the participants • Describe the elements/order of your presentation • Describe how you will engage participants • Include citations to support your presentation Include the following on a SEPARATE page: A. Name and contact information for lead presenter: Name Institutional Affiliation Mailing address including zip code Daytime phone number Email address

B. Include the above information for each additional presenter. Please note that the lead presenter is responsible for communicating with other presenters. The notice of acceptance will only be sent to the lead presenter.

All presenters must register for the conference. THANK YOU

for submitting a proposal to present at the April 4, 2020, OKLA Annual Conference!


Authors are requested to submit only unpublished articles not under review by any other publication. A manuscript should be typed, double spaced, not right justified, not hyphenated, and should follow APA, 6th Edition guidelines (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association). Tables and graphs should be used only when absolutely necessary. Include a cover page giving the article title, professional affiliation, complete address, e-mail and phone number of the author(s). Special sections have specific requirements that are described below. The editors reserve the right to revise and/or edit all copies.


The Oklahoma Reader welcomes manuscripts that support the growth and development of classroom teachers, reading specialists, and other literacy professionals throughout their careers. Manuscripts should successfully translate literacy research into practice through concrete strategies and techniques. Considering that the main audience of The Oklahoma Reader consists of PreK-12 teachers, manuscripts that offer practical ideas for successful literacy instruction are encouraged and prioritized. Manuscripts should be limited to 4000 words including tables, figures, and reference(s). Submit the manuscript electronically as a Word document attached to an e-mail message addressed to Manuscripts will be reviewed anonymously by three members of The Oklahoma Reader Editorial Advisory Board. Manuscripts are evaluated on the basis of clarity, interest, organization, content, and style. If accepted, revisions may be requested. Manuscripts must be original work which has not been previously published nor is undergoing simultaneous review in another journal. The Oklahoma Reader also seeks submissions dealing with instructional practices (teacher-to-teacher), and classroom research (teacher research). These are described as follows. All submissions should be submitted electronically as a Word document attached to an email message addressed to Teacher to Teacher: Submit descriptions of teaching activities that have helped students learn an essential literacy skill, concept, strategy, or attitude. Submissions should be no longer than 1500 words and align with the following format: Title (if adapting from another source, cite reference and provide a bibliography Purpose of Activity, including the literacy skill, concept, strategy, or attitude the students will learn Description of activity with examples, questions, responses. Please provide enough detail so someone can implement the activity. How activity was evaluated to know if purpose was achieved. Teacher Research: Submit manuscripts that describe research or inquiry conducted in classrooms. Submissions should be 1000-2000 words and align with the following format: Description of the question or issue guiding the research/inquiry, including a short review of pertinent literature. Description of who participated in the study, what the sources of data were, how the data were gathered and examined. Description of the findings and conclusion from the research/inquiry. Title, author, publisher of the resource. Short description of the resource. Critical review of the resource including strengths and weaknesses. Short discussion of how the resource might be useful to a teacher.Â




FALL 2019



Donita Shaw Julie Collins

Oklahoma State University University of Central Oklahoma

Lynn Debolt Schroeder Shelley Martin-Young

Oklahoma State University Oklahoma State University

Tammi Davis Rebecca Marie Farley Sylvia Hurst Sharon Morgan Claudia Otto Brian Thompson Liz Willner Debby Yarbrough

Oklahoma State University Oklahoma Baptist University University of Central Oklahoma Oklahoma State Dept. of Education Oklahoma State University Sand Springs Public Schools Oklahoma City University Woodward Public Schools

Oklahoma Literacy Association Officers



Sheri Vasinda

Oklahoma State University

Chair Elect

Sylvia Hurst

University of Central Oklahoma


Rebecca Marie Farley

Oklahoma Baptist University


Debby Yarbrough

Woodward Public Schools

Past President

Linda McElroy

Univ. of Science & Arts of Oklahoma

ILA Coordinator

Linda McElroy

Univ. of Science & Arts of Oklahoma

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