Literacy Overview

Wordle: fourcolumns


Literacy, which begins at birth, is the ability to speak, read, and write, ultimately leading to comprehension and the ability to communicate.  Because language and literacy begin at birth (and others argue, even in utero) it is imperative that children are immersed into a world filled with good literacy role models. Examples of things you can do to be a good literacy role model are reading daily with children, your child witnessing your daily literacy activities (ex. writing grocery lists and emails, reading emails), using vocabulary to name different objects around you, and using accurate language when speaking.  In order for children all children to acquire language they need to immersed into a literacy rich environment including children who are acquiring language that is not their native language.

The purpose of this website it to help teachers, children, and parents understand the areas of literacy andto provide strategies to implement in sharpening one’s skill development.  Based on the National Reading Panel’s 2000 Report, that established key literacy pillars, we have broken literacy into four columns: Phonological Awareness, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension. On each page we have provided information and research based strategies and activities for your use  with all levels of literacy: emergent child, primary, adolescent, and adult.  We also touch on strategies to help diverse students and ways to differentiate for all levels literacy.

Levels of Literacy:
1.  Pre-Emergent and Emergent (approximately birth to kindergarten)
2.  Beginner (approximately grades 1-2)
3.  Transitional (approximately grades 3-4)
4.  Intermediate (approximately grade 5-adult)

Theories of Learning:

Before getting started take a moment to remind yourself of the theories of learning. In each classroom there should be a mix of theories at play. Remember, all students learn differently and Vygotsky would remind us that it is our job to determine how they best learn and push them within their zone of proximal development.

  1. Constructivist Theory: Meaning is constructed as we take in new information and blend it with old learning. Learning should build upon prior experiences and knowledge while adding new learning. onstructivist learning is holistic and was coined “dirty” learning by Papert (1993). Theorists who contributed to constructivism were Vygotsky, Piaget, Bruner, Dewey, Montessori, etc.
  2. Schema Theory: Schema refers to general knowledge. Schemata are the relationships between general knowledge formed in the brain. Schema Theory refers to Vygotsky’s concept that knowledge can be enhances by adding together  prior knowledge with new knowledge.
  3. Transactional Theory: Rosenblatt’s theory, very similar to Schema Theory, reasons that a readers’ rior knowledge encourages and incites personal understanding and comprehension. A ‘transaction’ occurs between the text and the reader. Two separate purposes are set for reading and with this choice, we make meaning: Aesthestic – for fun and pleasure reading & efferent – reading to learn.
  4. Behaviorist Theory: Skinner’s research determines that learning is created through training, memorization, and rote learning. We can encourage this process through reinforcement (both positive and negative) which will affect the behavior of the learner. This theory, ‘clean learning’ is in contrast to the Constructivist Theory (see #1, above). When teaching by this mode, lessons are teacher-directed with a passive learner. Tasks are individual with clear objectives moving from lower to higher level skills. 
  5. Psycholinguistic Theory: Language use is determined by cognitive processes such as biological nd neurological factors. The brain processes language components such as: sounds (phonology/phonetics), structures and relationships (morphemes), appearance of letters (orthography), patterns in sentences and phrases (syntax), word meanings (semantics), and context (pragmatics). 
  6. Sociolinguistic Theory: Language is also shaped by society. Language is picked up based on context, expectations, and norms. Language varies based on different groups of people which is seen in conversational patterns, word choice, syntax & grammar. This is known as pragmatics. Language is used in different capacities and can be switched based on context. This is known as code witching. Types of languages that offer code switching are: academic language, sports language, science language, dance language, etc.  

 The Theories at Work in Different Age Level Classrooms

Kindergarden Classroom (below)

 Fifth Grade Classroom (above)


High School Classroom (above)

photo (1)

Elementary Classroom Example (above)

photo (2)

Example Elementary Classroom (above)

To create your own classroom map and determine what theories are at play in your room, take a look at these fantastic tools: &


1 thought on “Literacy Overview

  1. Rebecca K. Fox

    Lauren, this is an excellent web site. It is both a resource for others and a reflection of your work. I look forward to hearing even more about how you incorporate areas of diversity in your teaching through cultural and linguistic lenses and using teacher research. What a resource you are to your school. Wonderful wishes and looking forward to keeping in touch with you and your teaching practice!!! Dr. Fox


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s