The Missouri Reader Vol. 41, Issue 2 - Page 13


An important consideration also should be kept in mind, especially as children advance into the second and third grades. Measurable growth in phonics and phonemic awareness is constrained (Paris & Paris, 2003) once children sufficiently achieve competency in these skills. Meanwhile, measurable growth in vocabulary and comprehension is unconstrained since vocabulary and comprehension are grounded in meaning-making rather than skill-based (Paris & Paris, 2003; Paris, 2005). Children demonstrate gains at differing times in constrained skills or unconstrained skills, and the growth can have differing developmental trajectories (Paris, 2005). Paris (2005) cautions against instruction that over-emphasizes constrained skills while neglecting unconstrained skills, especially among children who already achieved competency in constrained skills.

Advocates of whole language (Goodman & Goodman, 2014; Hoffman, 2017) argue in favor of socially interactive, literature-rich approaches that promote the affective and personal development of a child (Brophy & Good, 1986). We believe that a balanced approach to early literacy should include aspects of both phonics and whole language. Further, we agree with whole language proponents that reading instruction should direct the development of both constrained and unconstrained skills toward the ultimate goal of comprehension (Goodman & Goodman, 2014).

A program of differentiated instruction based on students’ individual needs should be carried out. Over the years, we have found that workshop teaching which includes conferencing and a guided reading component can provide that needed differentiated instruction.

Workshop teaching, when implemented well, provides additional differentiation for students when the methods of the mainstream curriculum do not work. The child needs freedom to learn in ways that suit their individual learning style. Workshop teachers proceed with the assumption that such students can and will learn when appropriate support and scaffolding is provided.

The organization of workshop teaching includes large group instruction, small group instruction, conferencing, and mini-lessons. In our opinion, conferencing is the heart of workshop. Anderson (2000) is considered by many to be a seminal work in conferencing. We recommend that teachers become familiar with the various forms and purposes for conferences included with his book. We also recommend Johnston’s book Choice Words (2004) as a good resource to inform ways to improve “teacher talk” within all classroom instruction, including conferencing. Much of the work suggested in the remainder of this article can be accomplished within the conferencing setting. Teachers should be aware that ideas about how to teach things to students developed during conferences can become a rich source of ideas to inform their large group instruction. Strategy groups (Calkins, 1994) can be formed when several students seem to require a conference around the same thing. Instead of doing three or four different conferences, the teacher can address the same strategy with all students who need similar instruction at once.

In summary, we recommend the following:

● Literacy curriculums should emphasize the teaching of literacy in a way that achieves the goal of creating motivated lifelong readers.

● Both an analytic and synthetic phonics component should be included in any literacy program.

● The synthetic component should include the direct major letter-sound correspondences, including short and long vowels and digraphs. Instruction should be done in a direct and efficient manner in order to preserve more teaching time for other elements of the literacy program.

● A meaning making component is critical to any literacy program.

● A workshop model can be employed to provide the additional differentiated instruction needed by students who fail to thrive using the adopted literacy curriculum.

● Regular student conferences and ad hoc strategy groups done within the workshop structure are two of the ways the additional differentiated instruction can be provided.