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Ideas @ Work: Example Paper

CIERA's 10 Research-Based Principles Assignment: An Example Paper

 Nell K. Duke
January 25, 1999

An Analysis of Classroom Practices Using CIERA's 10 Principles

I have observed several of the CIERA principles represented in Mr. Smith's classroom. In the paragraphs below I will discuss three principles that are particularly evident in Mr. Smith's room.

Principle 1, about home language and literacy experiences, is addressed by several practices in Mr. Smith's classroom. First, Mr. Smith has a home reading program that promotes joint book reading among students and family members. As part of this program, students take books, magazines, and other print materials home to read each night. They are encouraged to read materials with a family member. On the child's home reading book log there is a place for the family member to sign that he or she has read the book with the child and a space for the family member to write comments about the reading material. Second, Mr. Smith encourages and highlights parental modeling of good reading habits. He invites every child's parent(s) or guardian(s) to come to class at least once over the course of the school year to talk about their career, hobbies, or other experiences. Mr. Smith asks them to describe how reading or writing is involved with these things. For example, one child's mother came in to talk about her interest in cooking. She explained to the class how she uses recipes in her cooking and brought in her collection of favorite recipes to show them. Another child's father came in to talk about his work in a local factory. He showed children Polaroid pictures of many signs in his workplace, including important signs marking hazardous materials and identifying safety materials. A third way that Mr. Smith represents the home language and literacy principle is through his weekly "TV Guy." "TV Guy" is a one-page flyer suggesting quality television programs that will be aired in the next week. For example, "TV Guy" lists the times and stations on which "Reading Rainbow" will air during the week. During a class unit on oceans, it noted an upcoming show about sharks. "TV Guy" also reminds parents to monitor and limit their children's television viewing. Indeed, Mr. Smith's classroom includes a range of practices consistent with CIERA's home language and literacy experiences recommendations.

Principle 4 of the CIERA principles, regarding primary level instruction, is addressed in many ways in Mr. Smith's room. A lesson I recently observed illustrates this well. Mr. Smith read aloud a big book about how peanut butter is made. The class was very interested in the topic of the book (in fact, they had chosen it from a catalog to be to be their class' 'new book of the month'). However, parts of the book would be difficult for many of the students to understand. So, as Mr. Smith reads, he taught or reminded students of many reading strategies, such as predicting, inferencing, clarifying misunderstandings, and summarizing, just as CIERA recommends. For example, at the end of each page, Mr. Smith reminded students to think about what might be coming next. Sometimes he asked students to share their predictions with the class. After he finished reading he and the students wrote a summary of the steps involved in making peanut butter and drew a diagram to represent those steps. In this one lesson alone, students in Mr. Smith's class were practicing many important reading strategies.

The daily routine in Mr. Smith's classroom includes time for many of the literacy events listed under CIERA Principle 5. Mr. Smith reads aloud to students every day, usually right after lunch. He and students always discuss the text before, during, and after reading. Sometimes students do follow-up activities based on the book. Mr. Smith also has a time every day in which students are to read on their own. During this time Mr. Smith either reads to himself or walks around the classroom making sure that students are using their time well. I have observed him several times helping students choose a book that is both interesting to them and at an appropriate reading level for them. I have also seen Mr. Smith stop to ask individual students how they like what they are reading or what has happened in the book so far. Finally, the daily routine in Mr. Smith's includes a lot of time for writing. There is a Writers' Workshop everyday for 45 minutes and a 15 minute journaling time every morning. During Writer's Workshop, Mr. Smith conferences with individual students about the strengths of their writing and things they need to work on. Mr. Smith told me that he keeps careful records of these conferences so he can keep track of student's progress. In this and other ways, Mr. Smith's classroom exemplifies Principle 5 of the CIERA recommendations.

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