The Student Teacher Literacy Project

Article excerpt

The Student Teacher Literacy Project provided training for university student teachers completing their clinical experiences in inclusionary classrooms, Grades 1 through 5. Twenty-one student teachers received eight, two-hour training sessions over a 15 week period. The participants indicated the training sessions sharpened teaching strategies for promoting literacy when connected to a literature-based program. The program was aligned to the state/district curriculum mandates. The benefits of training, resources, and technology exchanges assisted them in assessment procedures, learning centers, portfolio implementation, and inter-disciplinary experiences. They stated a desire for additional training in assessment (for portfolios and determining individual reading levels) and classroom library development. All trainees stated more skill acquisition for use in the inclusionary classroom and felt better prepared for professional employment.

Various philosophies have swept the elementary grades for influencing the way children should be taught to read and write (Willis, 1995). In fact, "national attention has been focused on the problem of teaching elementary students to read" (Curriculum Update, 2000, p.2). One author (Soundy, 1997, p. 153) notes when instructors know quality children' s literature and are familiar with significant children's books the "creation of rich literacy environments helps all participants become part of a reading community." Further, children's books and activities that are used can foster literacy development (Baumann, Hooten & White, 1999) and enhance abilities (Barclay, Benelli, and Schoon, 1999). It is also recognized that this approach to teaching "can improve the academic performance of learning disabled students" as it "respects a student's individuality and makes literature an experience rather than a learning tool" (Fuhler, 1993, p. 1). Thus, student teachers need to know how to be instrumental in implementing effective classroom practices that help learners be successful readers and writers.

Purpose of the Study

The Student Teacher Literacy Project (funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Education Higher Education Initiative) provided literacy training and resources for student teachers to increase support services for children with literacy needs in inclusionary settings. A partnership between Bloomsburg University and Berwick Area Elementary Schools (with 21 cooperating teachers from the five elementary schools) was developed because the school district had adopted the literature-based approach (after pilot testing the reading program the previous academic year) and because of the increase of children needing adapted support services in reading and writing. The purpose of this study was to evaluate eight, two-hour training sessions over a period of 15 weeks for 21 student teachers during their clinical experiences in inclusionary settings. This partnership was unique as student teachers acquired: (1) an increased knowledge base about implementing various reading/writing strategies to a broad spectrum of students according to state standards and district curriculum mandates; (2) a vernacular about ways to promote literacy through "chunking," graphic organizers," literacy portfolios," technology usage,"and "flex grouping" while connecting it to children's literature, and (3) an increased knowledge about assessment techniques for each individual child including teacher developed rubrics and other performance-based means of measurement.

Methodology

This study investigated student teachers' skills and knowledge base for teaching reading in inclusionary settings before and after training intervention during their clinical experiences. The population for the study was twenty-one student teachers from Bloomsburg University, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. As elementary majors, the population consisted of 16 females and 5 males. The student teachers were seniors completing their academic program. …