Not all students come from a print-rich home filled with books, posters, writing supplies and list-making activities. Students may come to school without understanding how letters, words and communication fit into their daily lives. Literacy development depends on students interacting with literacy in purposeful ways on a daily basis. Teachers need to create classrooms that foster literacy communities.
What Is a Literacy Community?
A literacy community is a group of people who use reading and writing to communicate. It is a place that welcomes student discussion about writing and reading. Literacy development depends on the richness of the literacy community. Literacy communities rely on interpersonal relationships developed around a community’s reading and writing. This means that the community introduces and discusses new books regularly. These discussions revolve around connecting books and parts of books to real life or other books. Writing centers on list-making, journaling, responding to books and making resource charts to help students understand their learning. Getting a master's degree in literacy can help a teacher learn to make literacy a part of every activity in the classroom.
Using Project-based Learning to Develop a Literacy Community
Every content area project requires communication skills. Thus, literacy development increases when teachers use projects to encourage learning.
When students learn through projects, they go through a series of steps that requires them to use reading and writing skills in motivational, authentic ways. The steps involved in developing a project include:
- Ask a question
- Research the answer
- Write about what you learn
- Read more in depth
- Discuss with team members
- Share what you learned
Teachers can learn some of the important aspects of project-based learning can by enrolling in a program to earn a master’s degree in literacy. Programs like this can inform teachers how to encourage literacy development. Teachers should allow students a voice in the selection of their projects: choosing the work they do increases the motivation to investigate the topic further. Teachers must monitor student progress carefully so that they will be able to teach discrete skills through individualized mini-lessons. Project-based learning can be a valuable and memorable experience for learning communities.
It would be impossible to create a literacy community without a literacy-rich environment. Experts in literacy development all agree that classrooms must provide well-chosen books and offer many ways for children to interact with print. Classrooms rich in literacy often look simple, but their arrangement is the result of careful planning and implementation. Well-educated teachers work hard to provide environments where students can locate the literacy tools they need to answer the learning questions they have. They organize books by genres and face them out to make them easier to locate — teachers place them where the students will need them. The organization of a classroom can make the difference between teacher-driven learning and student-motivated literacy development.
Teachers are responsible for setting the stage for a literacy community. They must model for students how literate people communicate through writing, reading, research and creation. Pursuing a master’s degree in literacy is a perfect opportunity for teachers to work together to support each other in mastering literacy development.
Learn more about the UT Arlington online M.Ed. with an Emphasis in Literacy Studies program.
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