Reading, writing, speaking, and listening working together : A case study of a literacy assignment
D'Abate, Rosa Lucia Anna
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Teachers are expected to design, plan, and enact integrated reading, writing, speaking, and listening instruction. This case study focused on one teacher's planned and in-the-moment decision-making and her fifth grade students' enactment of an English language arts (ELA) assignment that integrated the practices of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. There were four components to this assignment 1) student reading: students chose a text to read on a daily basis for independent reading, 2) student writing: on a weekly basis students wrote a letter to their teacher about their independent reading text selection, 3) student speaking and listening: on a weekly basis students read their letters to the class and then led a question and answer period, and 4) teacher responses: on a weekly basis the teacher wrote a letter responding to each student's letter, and participated in the question and answer period. Data was collected over 16 weeks during the 2012-2013 school year and included video/audio recordings, written artifacts, teacher and student interviews, a student survey about attitudes toward reading, state assessment scores, and classroom observation field-notes. Analysis was conducted on two levels: as a whole data set of 40 student participants and their teacher (survey results; assessment scores; and tallies and patterns across books read, letters written, and time on floor during the question and answer period); and as a reduced data set of six students and their teacher (codings of student written letters and teacher written feedback; tallies of types of student and teacher turns of talk, and characterization of student-to-student interactions). Findings articulate how this on-going and integrated assignment supported student literacy development and student engagement while satisfying the Common Core State Standards' call for text complexity, close reading, and student-owned learning. They point to three recommendations for teachers to consider when planning assignments: 1) Create a dialogic space for student-to-student interactions 2) Offer students choice in text selection and in writing topics 3) Provide students with integrated and coherent experiences that require reading, writing, listening, and speaking to work together for meaning-making. Planning conducted under these parameters requires a teacher's commitment to contingent practices. This study is important because it illustrates how teachers can simultaneously support student engagement, integrative literacy practices, and college and career readiness as explicated by the Common Core State Standards.