Messenger - Vol. 4, No. 1, Page 5
A literacy connection

     It's a contagious situation. If the teacher gets excited about a
new reading format, then the kids get excited, too." Susan Bunting,
supervisor for elementary instruction in the Indian River School
District, Sussex County, Del., is speaking about a new approach to
teaching reading and writing in her district, a change that is a
direct outgrowth of the Literacy Connections program sponsored by the
University's College of Education.
     Under the Literacy Connections program, school district
representatives attend a summer training institute on teaching reading
and writing and then design a plan to support literacy teaching in
their home districts. The next school year, each trained leader holds
development seminars for other teachers in the district, helping them
implement the new approach in their classrooms.
     According to Carol Vukelich and Mary Roe, directors of the office
of inservice education at the University, two school districts in New
Castle County, Del., also are participating in the program. "Since the
new, statewide assessment tests are more performance-based, teachers
are thinking more about how best to teach reading and writing,"
Vukelich says.
     Bunting, who attended the summer institute in Dover, Del., chose
one person from each school in her district last year for after-school
training sessions. "At the elementary level, we chose the reading
specialists, but we also included teachers from the middle schools and
high schools. Now, the second layer of training is occurring and we
are having inservice sessions led by the people I trained," she says.
     Typically, reading programs have used a basal textbook with grade
levels for the elementary curriculum, Bunting says, and workbooks are
linked to the textbook. In the new approach, teachers can use trade
books or paperbacks and children choose what they want to read,
whether it be novels, biographies or history books. Teachers monitor
these self-selections for variety.
     "On a typical day, the teacher might give a brief skill lesson
first-5 or 10 minutes on something like character analysis or
punctuation-followed by a day of student reading and writing. Then,
there is a short, sharing session at the end of the day," Bunting
     The workshop approach to reading and writing in conjunction with
student portfolios probably will be used along with some older
teaching methods, Bunting says, but she does not expect a continued
reliance on a basal textbook. "We exposed the district's language arts
committee last year to the state of the art in reading and writing
instruction, and we already have teachers trying these new things and
saying their students are more enthusiastic."
     In addition to each participating district's professional
development sessions, Literacy Connections' participants receive
monthly newsletters describing quality teaching of reading and writing
in Delaware schools and providing a forum for publishing outstanding
student writing. A yearly conference will allow teachers from across
the state to share concerns and successes.