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Spotlight on Walden // Sep 07, 2012

Literacy: The Foundation of Learning

A former high school English teacher and English language arts chair for her district, Dr. Barbara Weschke has always had a love of language, words, and reading. “It has been my passion to help students relate to reading and interact with the text in order to bring them along on a literary journey. Reading must be authentic and relate to readers’ lives,” she explains.

For the past seven years, Dr. Weschke, as the program director for several of Walden’s MS in Education literacy specializations, has helped her faculty ignite this same passion and excitement in their graduate students, who can in turn spark a love of reading in their PreK-12 learners.

In recognition of International Literacy Day on Sept. 8, Dr. Weschke shares with Spotlight on Walden a few insights from her “In the Classroom” workshops on engaging and effective tools teachers can use to help students demonstrate their reading comprehension and fluency.

Ask questions to ascertain knowledge and experiences. As a pre-reading activity, ask your students “Have you ever had experience with …” so they can bring their authentic experiences to the reading.

Encourage collaboration with peers to gain perspective. By encouraging your students to collaborate and learn from others, new and different experiences and perspectives will be shared, which fosters essential literacy skills.

Know your individual student and how he or she learns. Every student learns differently. Some may be visual learners while others may be auditory or tactile learners. Create lessons that address all of these styles to offer something for each type of learner.

Dr. Weschke also recommends that educators know their own learning style and take a learning style assessment. “Often teachers teach from their own learning style,” she says. “However, not all students learn the same way, so it is important to understand the different ways students learn and to address those needs accordingly.”

So what’s ahead for literacy and comprehension in our classrooms? Dr. Weschke highlights the importance of sharing content area knowledge across disciplines, thus making connections with other subject areas. “Passion increases when what we are teaching in one area impacts another area. We aren’t teaching in a silo but instead are part of a group responsible for each child’s learning.”

To learn about the positive connection between graduates of Walden’s M.S. in Education program with a specialization in Elementary Reading and Literacy (PreK–6) and student outcomes in reading and language arts, read Walden’s recent study, Master’s Degrees and Teacher Effectiveness: New Evidence From State Assessments.