"Sir, tell them we are rising!": Situated descriptive accounts of how K--2 "balanced literacy" classrooms constructed success in three urban schools that serve low SES students

Jean M Landis, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

In spite of school reform efforts over the last several decades, many low SES students from diverse cultures still experience persistent and disproportionate school failure. Instead of taking a deficit view, this research documented instances of school success while listening to the voices of African American students as they participated in early “balanced literacy” experiences in school. The major organizing question investigated the “best practices” in K–2 classrooms that were implementing a comprehensive plan of balanced literacy, observing what happens when reading and writing were “to/with/by” children. To investigate this phenomenon, I collected data as a participant observer while working as a mentor for balanced literacy intern teachers, utilizing a descriptive approach within a qualitative research design. Data were triangulated through interviews with teachers, principals and administrators, detailed transcriptions of classroom observations and collections of school documents. A major finding was that even though the classroom teachers and literacy interns had access to the same professional development, there was a wide-range of implementation, demonstrating the complexity of literacy instruction. It also became evident that high implementation classrooms had built-in support systems outside the classroom as well as common attributes within the classrooms that contributed to their success. Vignettes of “best practices” illustrated a detailed descriptive analysis of “balanced literacy” in action. Students were engaged in their learning. Teachers demonstrated that teaching phonemic awareness and conventions of print could be fun and motivating. Moreover, teachers claimed that more students demonstrated their enjoyment of reading and writing, and more students were reading at grade level or above, compared to previous years before the Reduced Class Size/Balanced Literacy Initiative was implemented. Another key finding, demonstrated that African American students' insider perspectives of literacy helped to inform the curriculum, as was evidenced in the children's discussions of their racial identities and their home literacies. Findings expanded the boundaries of the “balanced literacy” discourse and also raised questions about how schools define student success. ^

Subject Area

Education, Early Childhood|Education, Elementary|Education, Teacher Training|Education, Reading

Recommended Citation

Jean M Landis, ""Sir, tell them we are rising!": Situated descriptive accounts of how K--2 "balanced literacy" classrooms constructed success in three urban schools that serve low SES students" (January 1, 2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. Paper AAI3124696.
http://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI3124696

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