Discussion Table

Major Aspects of written, oral and visual literacy

The Language Arts

·       Listening: understanding spoken language

·       Speaking: communicating ideas through oral language

·       Reading: understanding written language

·       Writing: communicating through written language

·       Viewing: understanding visual images and connecting them to accompanying spoken or written words

·       Visually Representing: presenting information through images, either alone or along with spoken or written words

Written Literacy

·       Pattern of writing

·       Ability to write and have confidence and knowledge in your writing

·       May vary by culture or student

·       Involves integrating speaking, reading listening, writing, and critical thinking skills

Oral Literary

·       Use of speech and speaking using the patterns of language

·       Ability to understand and interpret

·       Involves integrating speaking, reading, listening, writing, and critical thinking skills

·       Can be seen as early as four weeks in infants

Visual Literacy

·       Ability to interpret and make meaning from an image—based on idea that pictures can be “read” and therefore meaning can be communicated from the picture.

·       Ability to perceive information from a visual

·       Ability to understand ideas through visible action or images

How to use Reading Circles and Other Student-Centered Approaches to Studying Literature

Teachers use RAFT to create projects and other assignments to enhance students’ comprehension of novels they’re reading and information they’re learning in thematic units (Holston & Santa, 1985). RAFT is an acronym for role, audience, format, and topic, and teachers consider these four dimensions as they design projects:

  • Role. The role is the person or people the student becomes for this project. Sometimes students take on the role of a book character, historical figure, or contemporary personality, such as Oprah, and at other times, they are themselves.

  • Audience. The audience is the person or people who will read or view this project. They may include students, teachers, parents, or community members, as well as simulated audiences, such as book characters and historical personalities.

  • Format. The format is the genre or activity that students create. It might be a letter, brochure, cartoon, journal, poster, essay, newspaper article, speech, or digital scrapbook.

  • Topic. The topic is the subject of the project. It may be an issue related to the text, an essential question, or something of personal interest.

Writing Responses:

·      Teachers can provide a list of questions for students to use as a guideline for their writing.  Before, during, and after reading a text students can write responses to the literature they read.  Rather than looking for on the question answers to questions, students’ answers are based on their own life experiences and feelings.  This makes the connection to their reading and understanding of the reading much deeper.

Using Responses to Guide Instruction:

·      (classroom or group discussion)  Students respond to a writing prompt in their journal and then discuss what they wrote. 

Visual Representations “story trails”:

·      Students create illustrations that depict significant events from the story.  They reference a page number and quotation for each of their illustrations, as well as a description of the event they illustrated.

Oral Performance:

·      Students perform scenes from the story for the class.  In small groups they decide which scene they want to perform and write a script, making sure all group members have a role.  Props, music, and costumes can be used in their performance.

Literature Circles:

·      The teacher either places students in groups or they choose their own group.  Group members choose a book and then have meaningful discussion on the book.  The teacher gives discussion expectations to the group.  Students determine their own pace and discussion questions.  Discussions will come from the rolls assigned to each member which may include the following or some variation:

  1. Vocabulary enricher/detective: In this assigned role, the students look for vocabulary that may need to be defined and explained.
  2. Illustrator: By creating pictures of key moments and events in a literary text, this student supports his or her group by facilitating the visualization of the text.
  3. Questioner: Developing and asking questions is central to any book discussion. This role facilitates question generation, which springboards the students into greater analysis and discussion of the text.
  4. Note-taker: Taking notes about the discussion is important since the students will need a record of their ideas.

Strategies to help students become reflective readers

·       Making Connections

1.     'Make connections between the story and their own lives

2.     'Teachers assist in helping students recognize the connections between their own lives and the characters in the stories they read.

·       Asking Questions

1.    Students need to feel comfortable enough in their classroom to ask questions about the story—teachers need to assist by proposing guiding questions.

2.    Question guides either broken down by chapters or sections help students dissect large amounts of information in manageable chunks.

·       Understanding Inferences

1.    Teachers help students make connections in the story by explaining inference

2.    In order to understand inference, students need to take what is written in the text and connect it to their own lives/experiences.

Strategies for building comprehension and vocabulary skills in reading

Reading Quantity

Richard Allington, a professor of education at the University of Tennessee, argues that readers improve when they read high volumes of accessible texts written at, or even a bit below, their reading level. If a text is accessible, the student will able to accurately decode 98 percent of the words. Most of the assigned reading in school will be at or above the frustration level for struggling readers causing them to miss too many words to build meaningful comprehension. By reading a high quantity of accessible texts, high school students can build the word recognition, fluency and background knowledge that are necessary for better comprehension.

Modeled Comprehension

At any grade level, students need reading role models -- teachers, parents and other competent readers -- to demonstrate what comprehension sounds like when a skillful reader thinks about a text. Meaningful comprehension demands more than recalling and retelling what the text says. Readers need to interpret the author’s language, make inferences from clues in the text and explain the relevance of the content. That type of thinking is unfamiliar territory to struggling readers. Hearing the way good readers think can facilitate better thinking when struggling readers go at a text on their own.


Cris Tovani, a Denver-based literacy consultant and high school English teacher, encourages students to write down what they are thinking as they read. Tovani uses this method, called annotation, to help students become aware of what she calls their inner thinking voice. Tovani says struggling readers often read with a reciting voice -- just reading the words without constructing meaning -- or they fake read, looking at the page while daydreaming or thinking distracting thoughts. Annotating the text by writing in the margins, on sticky notes or on separate paper keeps readers in touch with their thinking voice, makes the thinking more permanent and gives the teacher a means to assess her students' comprehension levels.

Reading Strategies

Struggling readers need strategies they can fall back on when they have trouble with a text. First, they need to monitor their comprehension and recognize when they are confused. Then, they need strategies to fix faulty comprehension. These include rereading portions of the text, using context clues to decode difficult words and trying to connect new or unfamiliar ideas to concepts they already know and understand. Long passages of complicated text can intimidate readers, unless they learn how to break passages into smaller chunks and skim and scan for important information. Readers also need to accumulate comprehension, adding new facts to information they have already learned in the reading to form an understanding of the entire passage.

Explicit instruction

In 1997, a 14 panel that was appointed by the 'Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) researched what strategies were most effective for reading comprehension.  Their results were published under the title Teaching Children to Read and found the the below resferenced eight strategies, according to their research, were the most effective:

      Comprehension monitoring

      Cooperative learning

      Graphic organizers

      Story structure

      Question answering

      Question generating


      Multiple Strategy '


Appropriate Meaning-Making Strategies

·       Compare and contrast ideas or information found in difference parts of the book or from various sources

·       Make predictions as to what they believe the outcome of the story will be.

·       Be able to discern the viewpoint, opinion, attitude of the author

·       Be able to tell who the audience is

·       Use higher level (Bloom’s critical thinking questions)

·       Create a flow chart depicting the cause and effect

Forms of Criticial Analysis for understanding text and novels.

·       Predict—as the reader reads they try to figure out what will happen next

·       Visualize—the reader should be able to see what they are reading (picture in their mind)

·       Connect—the reader should connect to the story in some meaningful way.

·       Question—the reader should ask questions about the material they are reading.

·       Clarify—periodically, the reader should stop and review what has happened in the story so far and check anything they are unsure of.

·       Evaluate—the reader should form some kind of opinion about what they are reading.


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