|Archive article #9904
Book Club Workshop:
The Re-Engaging Low-Achieving Readers project is a three-year line of research within the Policy and Profession line of inquiry at the Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement (CIERA). This report conveys one of our primary activities within year one. In this introduction, I begin with an overview of the line of research and related goals within each of the three years of the project. I then discuss how the course described within this report reflects one critical strand within the first year of the project.
The Re-Engaging Low-Achieving Readers project takes as its model the idea that to change literacy practices effectively within classrooms, we must begin with teachers professional development. Our ultimate goal is to create a literacy intervention that (a) is grounded in principles of conversation-based learning, (b) features literature study, (c) integrates language and literacy instruction (i.e., intradisciplinary) and integrates between those processes and the study of cultural practices (i.e., interdisciplinary), and (d) supports struggling readers language and literacy development within a literacy-rich and meaningful context. The instructional intervention, Book Club Plus, was designed to be developed collaboratively by university and school-based researchers who had shared experiences within such learning approaches and who could work together to create a curriculum targeted initially for third-grade students.
The project focuses on creating the collaborative team, developing the intervention, and then studying its impact on students literacy learning. In the first year, our research efforts concerned site development. We were building from an existing network of teachers who had been associated with the masters degree program in literacy instruction at Michigan State University (MSU) (see CIERA Report 3003), extending that network from the Lansing area to southeast Michigan. We were building our conceptual base on integrated instruction (see CIERA Report 2001). We were engaging teachers from the southeast Michigan area, including but not limited to Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb counties, through a course that I developed for the masters degree program in reading and language arts at Oakland University.
Now in the second year of our project (199899), we are examining how participation in conversation-based learning around themes related to cultural identity influenced (a) the curriculum development that teachers engaged in to create the units within the Book Club Plus intervention, (b) their understanding of themselves as cultural beings and literacy as a cultural practice, and (c) the inquiry stance they take to study their own literacy instructional practices. Further, we are extending site development efforts to include teachers working within Michigans major urban school district. In the third year of the study, 19992000, we have two goals. First, we will examine howparticipating in the units developed within the Book Club Plus model influences third-grade students literacy learning. Second, we will explore the implementation of the Book Club Plus model at younger grade levels (i.e., grades one and two) and study the developing teacher network as it expands across southeastern Michigan.
The current Book Club Plus CIERA research collaborative consists of two university faculty, six volunteers who took this course during the 199798 academic year, and two teachers who were members of the Literacy Circle from MSU (described below). Book Club Plus group members are: Susan Florio-Ruane, CIERA/MSU; Taffy E. Raphael, CIERA/Oakland University; Kathy Highfield and Amy Heitman, Holly Public Schools; Mari Anne George, Rochester Public Schools; Karen Eisele, Lansing Public Schools; Kristin Grattan, Mason Public Schools; Molly Reed, Bloomfield Hills Public Schools; Jennifer Szlachta, Davison Public Schools; and Marcella Kehus, Berkeley Public Schools.
In this report, I lay out the process of the course development at Oakland University and its relationship to the issues that Susan Florio-Ruane and I are addressing in our line of research. I also provide a syllabus with relevant readings and professional activities
The Book Club Workshop
Challenges Facing Literacy Educators
Innovations Connecting Literacy In and Out of School.
changes in textual materials (e.g., moving from commercially prepared short stories and text excerpts as a basis for instruction to using original literature);
Burbules (1993) has written that status quo professional education practices encourage teachers to support learning that is dialogic in nature and aimed at framing and solving complex problems, but our professional education rarely provides teachers opportunities to experience directly such teaching and learning. At best, this creates challenges for today's teachers; at its worst, it leads to frustration and even disenchantment for teachers, students, administrators, and parents.
Balance in the Literacy Curriculum.
Diversity Between Teachers and Students and Among Students.
First, most of the teachers with whom we workand typically in the profession as a whole (National Center for Educational Statistics, 1995, cited in the New York Times Education Life, 1996)are Euro-American, monolingual speakers of English, female, middle income, and in their twenties and thirties. They tend to be rather naive with respect to their own cultural practices and beliefs, and how these have influenced their own learning and their approaches to teaching. Many work with students who do not share their economic, racial, ethnic, or linguistic backgrounds. These teachers face challenges relating to their students, including these students literacy backgrounds and cultural experiences. In this case, culturebecause of differences among teachers and studentsmay serve as a barrier to students school learning. In contrast, other teachers work with students who are so similar to themselves that culture becomes transparentsomething that is not visible in their lives and thus not recognized or discussed. Instead, a false sense of sameness can pervade school interactions, doing little to prepare youngsters to live and work in an increasingly diverse society. Thus, one of our goals was to help teachers come to understand themselves as cultural beings, to understand literacy as cultural practice, and to extend these understandings to their curriculum development and instructional practices.
Second, diversity plays out in terms of students' academic achievements, especially for students who aren't reading at grade level. Because of our focus on struggling readers, we often lose sight of the importance of (a) children who may know how to read, but choose not to; and (b) struggling readers who are never asked to think critically about books that are age-appropriate. This doesn't mean we stop worrying about helping them build skills and strategies, but students who are in upper grade levels need to be asked to think critically about books written for their age levels, not just to practice decoding and other skills with texts more appropriate for early elementary students.
Helping Teachers Develop as Professional Literacy Educators.
I had been working with teachers in Book Club who were using dialogic methods to teach literacy, but who indicated their own discomfort due to their never having experienced book clubs themselves. Thus, I was looking for a substantive set of issues that teachers teaching with Book Club could read, write, and talk about in their own book clubs. The combination of the two lines of work seemed to us to be perfect. We began our joint research by studying what teachers felt they gained from participating in book clubs where the focus was on literacy, culture, and autobiography. We studied the impact this participation had on teachers own professional development and on the way they planned their curriculum and taught their students.
Why autobiography and why use the Book Club model? Jerri , one of our teacher participants, once said, "I was one of those people in the beginning who (thought) I had no culture. Theres nothing to me. Ive had no experiences." Getting culture "on the table" for discussion was an important first step. One means for doing so is through engaging one another in dialogue about rich textual material (Vygotsky, 1978; Harré, 1984; Gavelek & Raphael, 1996). However, in our practice, which tends to emphasize social scientists' discussions of culture, this dialogue reflects a limited range of voices. By drawing on autobiographies, written by authors of diverse social, cultural, racial, and linguistic backgrounds, as well as representing both genders, we could bring a broader range of voices to the table for discussion. Jerri described the reading of autobiographies as providing "experiences, even though I havent (had them). Its given me a better understanding for some of those things."
Another observation Jerri offered, after participating on the project for several months, was that "one of the most important (reasons for participating) for me was mostly as a teacher actually because it gave me a feeling for what the kids are trying to do in the classroom Whenever I participate in things my kids do, it gives me a lot more insight as to what theyre trying to do more ideas." Hannah, another teacher, noted that "for me it was an excellent, excellent experience because I use book clubs in my classroom. So it was terrific for me to be able to participate in something that I ask my students to participate in." Jerri's and Hannah's comments reflect our second focususing autobiography with adult book clubs. They were members of the first course for practicing teachers that combined Susan's research on autobiography with my research on Book Club. Susan taught the course and I worked as a participant observer, primarily maintaining field notes, gathering students course assignments as artifacts for later study, and so forth. Two research assistants worked with us, also as participant observers, and one of these research assistants interviewed the teachers. We read the same six autobiographies Susan had used in the Future Teachers' Club, but we embedded their discussions within a model of instruction based on the students' Book Club Program (see Florio-Ruane, Raphael, Glazier, McVee, & Wallace, 1997).
After the course, the teachers wanted to stay together, so we formed the Literary Circle, a voluntary group. We initially met at Susans home, and everyone from the course participated. Since each of the authors covered had written at least one additional book, we decided to continue with the same group of authors. Over subsequent years (the next two, and continuing today), we moved our meetings from Susans home to a private room at a local coffee shop/book store. We take turns recommending a book weve read in advance that fits our theme of literacy and culture, broadening our text selection to include not only autobiography, but autobiographical fiction such as Amy Tans The Kitchen Gods Wife Zora Neale Hurstons Their Eyes Were Watching God, and books such as Peggy Orensteins School Girls that explore related issuesin this case, gender examined through a series of case studies.
In the masters course I created when I moved from MSU to Oakland University, I decided to build on this autobiography and culture focus and created the Book Club Workshop, I a course in which teachers engage in three types of activities. First, I continued the autobiography book club tradition. We read four autobiographies in the course, each one over two nights. From this experience, teachers reported many of the same responses as did Hannah and Jerri. Second, I drew on Jane Hansen and Kathy Aus insights on the importance of uncovering our own literacy histories(Au, 1997; Hansen, 1998). Each student developed three entries that related to how literacy had played roles in her own life. Third, each teacher created a Book Club unit she could use in her own teaching. For example, Karen Damphousse, a middle-school teacher, emphasizes cultural practices as students explore different cultures' traditions for coping with grief and death, centered around an author study of Cynthia Rylant and a key book, Missing May, but also drawing on poetry, essays, and other genres.
The course has been taught during each fall and winter semester since 1997. From this course has emerged a small group of teachers who have formed an adult book club to continue reading and discussing books that examine our storied lives, such as Robert Coles (1989) Call of Stories. How long we will continue or what direction we will take is yet to be determined. What its existence says to me is that there exists a need to have opportunities as professionals to examine our own lives and literacy practices, and to do so in a context that helps connect these experiences to our roles as teachers and learners. The syllabus that follows is based on the course I taught during the Fall 1998 semester.
A Syllabus for the Book Club Workshop:
Expectations for Participation:
1. Attend all classes and participate actively in class discussions and activities.
2. Come to class prepared. Do the assigned readings before class. Readings are needed as background. Come to class with questions, comments, or concerns from the readings. You are responsible for the information in the readings even if it is not covered in class.
3. Maintain a literature-response log, capturing your responses to the autobiographies. Your written responses are the basis for your sharing in literature discussions. Your log is to be turned in on the date indicated in the class calendar.
4. Consider your own literacy histories as you read about the lives of others. Develop at least three vignettes based on an artifact you have saved or can replicate to share in class. These vignettes serve as a basis for your Literacy History portfolio.
5. Ask for clarification about activities, projects, and lectures as needed.
McMahon, S. I., & Raphael, T. E. (with Goatley, V. J., & Pardo, L. S.). (1997). The Book Club connection: Literacy learning and classroom talk. New York: Teachers College Press.
Raphael, T. E., & Au, K. H. (1998). Literature-based instruction: Reshaping the curriculum. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon Publishers.
Angelou, M. (1969). I know why the caged bird sings. New York: Bantam Books.
Conway, J. K. (1989). The Road from Coorain. New York: Vintage.
Tan, A. The Kitchen God's wife. New York: Ballantine Books.
Welty, E. One writer's beginning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Optional Resource Materials
Raphael, T. E., Pardo, L. S., Highfield, K., & McMahon, S. I. (1997). Book Club: A literature-based curriculum. Andover, MA: Small Planet Communication. (A Teachers' Guide see www.smplanet.com, or call 1-800-475-9486).
Raphael, T. E., & Hiebert, E. H. (1996). Creating an integrated approach to literacy instruction. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace College Publishers.
Course Assignments/Evaluation: Grades derive from written assignments, discussion leadership, Book Club participation, and class participation. Because weekly assignments and papers relate to class discussions and participation, no late papers are accepted.
(1) Book Club Unit. Each participant will develop, teach, and evaluate a unit designed along the Book Club model, thematically-oriented, and based in quality literature. The unit assignments are divided into three parts (see Appendix A).
(2) Reading Log and Reflective Writing. For each of the books you are reading, you should write your reflections in a reading log to prepare for the book club discussions during class. Your reflections should include questions the text raises for you, personal responses to the text, connections among the books you are reading, connections between your experiences as a Book Club member and the teaching practices you are attempting, and so forth.
(3) Literacy History Portfolio. Three entries are required (see Appendix B for an example). Identify three areas of influence in your own literacy development. Talk with your family members, examine your "treasure boxes" as well as your own memories. In the past, students have examined early reading experiences, early writing experiences, family stories of literacy among parents and grandparents, holiday traditions within their family and related literacy activities, and so forth. For each entry, select or create a representative artifact or a set of artifacts. Then, write a one-page essay explaining its or their significance. Try to select, over the course, three different categories of entries to write about. You will have the opportunity to share each entry and hear others' during the course.
(4) Participation. Participation includes weekly attendance in class and active contributions during formal class sessions, participation during the adult book clubs; activities related to group work in unit construction; and participation during discussions related to sharing literacy histories.
Burbules, N. (1993). Dialogue in teaching: Theory and practice. New York: Teachers College Press.
Coles, R. (1989). Call of stories. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Florio-Ruane, S. (1994). The future teachers' autobiography club: Preparing educators to support literacy learning in culturally diverse classrooms. English Education, 26(1), 5266.
Florio-Ruane, S. (1997). To tell a new story: Reinventing narratives of culture, identity, and education. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 28, 152162.
Florio-Ruane, S., & deTar, J. (1995). Conflict and consensus in teacher candidates' discussion of ethnic autobiography. English Education, 27(1), 1139.
Florio-Ruane, S., Raphael, T. E., Glazier, J., McVee, M., & Wallace, S. (1997). Discovering culture in discussion of autobiographical literature: Transforming the education of literacy teachers. In C. K. Kinzer, K. A. Hinchman, & D. J. Leu (Eds.), Inquiries in literacy theory and practice: Forty-sixth yearbook of the National Reading Conference. Chicago: National Reading Conference.
Gavelek, J. R., & Raphael, T. E. (1996). Changing talk about text: New roles for teachers and students. Language Arts, 73(3), 182192.
Gavelek, J. R., Raphael, T. E., Biondo, S. M., & Wang, D. (in press). Integrated literacy instruction. In M. Kamil, P. Mosenthal, P. D. Pearson, & R. Barr (Eds), Handbook of reading research (Vol. III). New York: Longman. (Also available as CIERA Report 2001, Integrated Literacy Instruction: A Review of the Literature.)
Goatley, V. J., Brock, C. H., & Raphael, T. E. (1995). Diverse learners participating in regular education "Book Clubs." Reading Research Quarterly, 30(3), 352380.
Hansen, J. (1998). When learners evaluate. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Harré, R. (1984). Personal being. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Lipson, M. Y., Valencia, S. W., Wixson, K. K., & Peters, C. W. (1993). Integration and thematic teaching: Integration to improve teaching and learning. Language Arts, 70, 252263.
McMahon, S. I., & Raphael, T. E. (1997). The Book Club connection: Literacy learning and classroom talk. New York: Teachers College Press.
National Center for Educational Statistics. (1995, January 7, 1996). Female and far from diverse. In The New York Times Education Life, p. 22.
Pearson, P. D., & Raphael, T. E. (in press). Toward a more complex view of balance in the literacy curriculum. In L. Gambrell & L. Morrow (Eds.), Balanced literacy instruction. New York: Guilford Press.
Raphael, T. E., & Au, K. H. (Eds.). (1998). Literature-based instruction: Reshaping the curriculum. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon Publishers.
Raphael, T. E., Brock, C. H., & Wallace, S. (1998). Encouraging quality peer talk with diverse students in mainstream classrooms: Learning from and with teachers. In J. R. Paratore & R. McCormack (Eds.), Peer talk in the classroom: Learning from research. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Raphael, T. E., & Hiebert, E. H. (1996). Creating an integrated approach to literacy instruction. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace College Publishers.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. (M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner, E. Souberman, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
On designated days in class, you will have 45 minutes to meet in grade level groups to share progress, provide feedback to each other, and explore questions you may be facing. In addition to the time you are spending discussing your units in class, you may wish to meet outside class as well. Thus, on the first day of grade level groups, please exchange phone numbers with the other members of your group.
Phase 1. Identifying Your Organizing Framework for Your Unit
As Pardo (1997, Chapter 11; 1998, Chapter 10) suggests, literature selection is crucial. However, selecting literature is complicated regardless of grade level or experience teaching book club. Pardo lays out the range of ways that literature contributes to a Book Club unit, including a read aloud book, book club books, classroom library books, and resource books. Other chapters that may be useful are Sipe, Chapter 3, RA; Grattan, Chapter 13, MR; Harris, Chapter 2, RA). There are lists of books in the Raphael et al (1997) book that relate to suggested units for upper elementary grades that may help you think about the number of books you will need to identify. Hiebert describes selection issues for lower elementary grades in Chapter 9 of Raphael & Au.
Organize the books in terms of lists for read alouds, book club books, classroom library books, and related resource books.
Phase 2. Developing the Curricular Focus
Consider your selected texts and draft the mini-lesson sequence that would make sense for the unit. Think about the order of the lessons, how you would link to the literature read that day, and the nature of the reading log entries you might suggest to your students.
Many of the readings will help you identify and develop particular lessons, such as Sipes chapter on literary critique; Raphael & Au on the curriculum framework; the chapters on book club, reading, and writing in the McMahon & Raphael book; Denyer & Florio-Ruane on writing; Chapters 58 in Raphael & Hiebert.
Phase 3. Accountability Issues
Related readings from Raphael & Au:
Related readings from McMahon & Raphael:
The example below is based on a series of artifacts I have collected related to communications among members of my family. The communication artifacts I have saved include three letters my youngest brother, Dennis, sent me when I was away at camp; a series of letters that my father sent me, from the first letter sent while I was at camp, to letters sent to me while I was in college; cards my mom had sent to me while I was in college; my parents letters to each other during World War II; my brother Ralph's two sons cartoons or letters to me while they were at camp; an email from Dennis announcing the birth of his daughter, my first and only niece; and a fax from Dennis of our most recent addition to the family, my youngest nephew. The essay about these items follows.
ESSAY: ARTIFACT SET #1Literacy History Entry #1: Letters in My Family
My father was an extremely shy man well-known for his reluctance to stand in line. Sometimes this served him well family lore has it that he went down to buy bonds to support the war effort, and on his way decided to enlist in the Marines (which if you'd ever had the chance to meet my father would be immediately apparent as a major mis-match), but the lines for both the Marines and War Bond purchases were too long. Instead, the line for joining the Navy was quite short, so that's where he ended up, serving as payroll master on a destroyer in the South Pacific.
My mother was a buyer for Wiebolts, working in women's lingerie, when my father's brother-in-law introduced them. My mother is a very outgoing woman, at the time writing to many different military men around the world which was typical of young women's contribution to the war effort throughout World War II. When he was home for a brief leave, his brother-in-law took him in to meet my mother. She asked my father what he would be doing in town. He replied that he was busy that night. She thought he was an idiot. And that was ALMOST the end of that. Thank heaven for letters...
My father's brother-in-law asked my mom to write to him, convincing her he was a nice guy, lonely overseas, and that this was the least she could do. Over the next two years, they wrote. Interestingly, they both saved all of each other's letters, except the first one each had sent. I have their entire courtship in these letters, which my mom is now reading and taping commentary about what she remembers of that time in their lives. Letters are crucial in our family. I wouldn't be here without them.
My father encouraged us to writeand letters have continued to be one of the ways. I have my fathers letters to me from summer camp and from college. There aren't many but they're treasured. And recently, my mother just sent me three letters she had come across that my brother sent to me when I was at camp. These letters are crucial in providing irrefutable evidence that despite his suggestions that I was a horrible older sister who mistreated him, this was apparently not true.
Letters are infrequent today, replaced for many years by phone calls. But camp once again, as well as technology has actually brought a bit of a return. I treasure the occasional letter from camp, this time from my nephewsone a cartoon, the other more traditional. It was by email that I learned my youngest brother and wife were expecting their first child. It was also by email that I learned that I had a niece named Alex. It was by fax that I learned and saw the first picture of my nephew Sam. And most recently, I received my first letter from Alex, in scribble-writing, but hopefully the continuation of a long and cherished family literacy tradition. The written word changes, but it has no less impact on my family's lives.
Describe "Cat and the Hat" activity using Book Club groups and responses as identified in Sipe (1998).
Bibliography of Books [9/9512/97]
From the Reading Culture in Autobiography Project, funded by the National Council of Teachers of English, co-directed by Susan Florio-Ruane, Michigan State University, and Taffy E. Raphael, Oakland University.
Angelou, Maya. (1969). I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York: Bantam Books.
Angelou, Maya. (1974). Gathered Together In My Name. New York: Bantam Books.
Bateson, Mary C. (1990). Composing a Life. New York: Penguin Books.
Chang, Jung. (1991). Wild Swans. New York: Doubleday.
Chernin, Kim. (1994). In My Mothers House. New York: Harper Perennial.
Conway, Jill Ker. (1990). The Road from Coorain. New York: Random House.
Conway, Jill Ker. (1994). True North. New York: Random House.
Hoffman, Eva. (1989). Lost in Translation. New York: Penguin Books.
Hoffman, Eva. (1993). Exit Into History. New York: Penguin Books.
Hurston, Zora Neale. (1937). Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial.
McBride, James. (1996). The Color of Water. New York: Riverhead Books.
McCourt, Frank. (1996). Angelas Ashes. New York: Scribner.
Morrison, Toni. (1987). Song of Solomon. New York: Penguin Books.
Orenstein, Peggy. (1994). School Girls. New York: Doubleday.
Paley, Vivian G. (1979). White Teacher. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Paley, Vivian G. (1995). Kwanzaa and me: a teachers story. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Rodriguez, Richard. (1982). Hunger of Memory. New York: Bantam Books.
Rodriguez, Richard. (1992). Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father. New York: Penguin Books.
Rose, Mike. (1989). Lives on the boundary. New York: The Free Press.
Rose, Mike. (1995). Possible Lives. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
Santiago, Esmeralda. (1993). When I Was Puerto Rican. New York: Vintage Books.
Tan, Amy. (1991). The Kitchen Gods Wife. New York: Ballantine Books.
Welty, Eudora. (1983). One Writers Beginning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
This research was conducted as part of CIERA, the Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement, and supported under the Educational Research and Development Centers Program, PR/Award Number R305R70004, as administered by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education. However, the contents of the described report do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the National Institute on Student Achievement, Curriculum, and Assessment or the National Institute on Early Childhood development, or the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.