Role of the Literacy Specialist and How It Has Changed Over Time
The role of the literacy specialist started with Title I funds to provide a role where a teacher was specialized in teaching students how to read. It tends to be schools with a higher number of struggling readers who hire a literacy specialist. This person’s original role was to work directly with students in a small group who were identified as struggling readers and were pulled out to receive instruction (Dole, 2004). A literacy specialist is someone who has special training in reading, usually a master’s degree. Sometimes they have training in teaching dyslexic students (Kelly, 2014). It tends to be grade schools that have literacy specialists. It seems the role of the literacy specialist is changing from working with small groups of students to working closely with teachers in a mentorship role and coach instead. The new role of the literacy specialist is to help teachers understand curriculum, assessment, and instructional cycles to develop a plan for teaching. They are also there to help teachers with planning, modeling lessons, and organize their classes for instruction (Dole, 2004). It also seems like the role of the literacy specialist varies from state to state and even from district to district.
Historical Change in Literacy Development
Researchers have been going back and forth between which method is best for teaching children to read: the bottom-up approach (phonics-teaching sounds to make the whole word) or the top-down approach (whole word-teaching the word then teaching how to sound it out if there is time to get to that part). This has been an ongoing battle for centuries but recently researchers have used the blended approach where you teach the two together where some words are taught by learning the sounds and some words are taught by just knowing them by sight (Parker, 2019). Another method of teaching reading that has been around for a while are the five pillars of reading: Phonics, Phonological Awareness, Comprehension, Fluency, and Vocabulary (Anderson, 2009). These five parts of reading are taught together in some form to balance out all parts of reading.
Theory of Reading Development
A theory of reading development that a literacy specialist could use is guided reading. With guided reading a teacher has a student do a running record to see which level he/she is reading at. Then students are grouped by like reading levels to make up a small group. Students should be able to read at this level with 90-94% accuracy (Cannon, 2017). The reading specialist or teacher will pick a specific skill that students will work on and introduce it to the group before reading the text. The text will reinforce this skill. Students are taught strategies to problem solve through unknown words. Teachers will discuss the text with students after reading to work on comprehension skills. These groups are meant to be flexible so that students can move up a group as needed or groups can be changed as needed (Fountas & Pinnell, 2017).
Theory of Writing Development
A theory of writing development is writing workshop. Writing workshop has four components: mini lesson, writing, conferring, and share time (Heinemann Publishing, 2017). Writing workshop allows writers to write for their own purpose and even learn to enjoy writing. The mini lesson is a short 5-10 minute lesson teaching a specific skill. It could be focused on capital letters and punctuation or finger spaces between words. The writing period could last 35-45 minutes depending on the needs of the class. Writing could be about a specific topic or students could write about anything they chose. While students are writing the teacher can walk around and confer with different students. They can focus on the needs of the specific child at this point. This could also be the time the teacher finds an idea for the next mini lesson. The last part is giving students time to share. During this time, they can read what they wrote and other student can ask questions to help guide the writer where to go next with their writing.
Components of Language
A child in the age range of 5-6 can follow the meaning of conversation. This child can follow multi-step directions. They are developing more words in their vocabulary. He/she will pretend or act out stories. They can use time words like yesterday, today, and later. He/she can explain attributes of an object. They can use and answer how and where questions. If the previous milestones are not met by this age, the child may have difficulties socializing. He/she may be unable to follow directions or have difficulties following routine. The child may have difficulties being understood and may be unable to express thoughts verbally or written which may cause trouble in school. The student may also have trouble finding the right words causing disruption in the flow of speech (Kid Sense, 2019).
Students go through five stages of writing development: scribbling/drawing, letter-like forms/shapes, letters, letters and spaces, and conventional writing and spelling. In the beginning stages of writing, children are developing their grasp on their pencil and learning to control the pencil to make marks (Byington & Kim, 2017). Children will move on to learning that marks on a page mean something and eventually will learn how to make letters. In later elementary, students will start to turn letters into words and words into stories. They will learn the correct way to spell words that are familiar to them and learn to sound out words to spell them the way they sound. No matter what stage children are in, it is important to provide them with the supplies they need to practice writing. This could include a variety of writing tools like pens, markers, and crayons as well as a variety of types of paper. Paper types could include colored paper, index cards, or journals. Providing children with the tools will help them become more creative and even learn to enjoy writing.
Anderson, C. (2009). The Five Pillars of Reading. , (2), 22–25.
Byington, T. A., & Kim, Y. (2017, November). Promoting preschoolers' emergent writing. Retrieved September 22, 2020, from https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/yc/nov2017/emergent-writing
Cannon, J. (2017, November 15). What is guided reading? Retrieved September 09, 2020, from https://edublog.scholastic.com/post/what-guided-reading
Dole, J. (2004). The changing role of the reading specialist in school reform. The Reading Teacher. 57(5), 462-470. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/240773254_The_Changing_Role_of_the_Reading_Specialist_in_School_Reform
Fountas, I.C., & Pinnell, G. S. (2017). Guided reading: Responsive teaching across the grades. Heinemann.
Heinemann Publishing. (2017, August 29). What are the 4 components of writing workshop? Retrieved from https://medium.com/@heinemann/what-are-the-4-components-of-writing-workshop-26502ab171d6
Kelly, K. (2014). What does a reading specialist do? Understood. https://www.understood.org/en/learning-thinking-differences/treatments-approaches/working-with-clinicians/what-is-a-reading-specialist
Kid Sense. (2019). Stages of language development chart. Retrieved from https://childdevelopment.com.au/resources/child-development-charts/stages-of-language-development-chart/
Parker, S. (2019). A brief history of reading instruction. https://www.parkerphonics.com/post/a-brief-history-of-reading-instruction