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26 Nov 2013

Creating an Integrated Approach to Literacy Instruction

Taffy E. Raphael & Elfrieda H. Hiebert


Raphael, T.E. & Hiebert, E.H., (2013). Creating an integrated approach to literacy instruction. (reprint of 1996 edition) Santa Cruz: TextProject, Inc.

creating an integrated approach cover

This is a book for teachers and teacher educators concerned about literacy instruction in elementary and middle-school classrooms. We wrote this book in response to and consistent with current beliefs that promote literacy instruction as: (a) integrating reading, writing, and oral language; (b) integrating literacy instruction with instruction in school subject areas; and (c) recognizing the social as well as cognitive aspects of literacy learning. At the same time, we share a concern that literacy instruction as redefined not be considered so broadly that it becomes lost. That is, we worry that by infusing literacy instruction within other areas, it may eventually cease to exist. Thus, our purpose in this book is to explore the nature of literacy instruction with a specific emphasis on teaching students about written text: meaningful contexts in which such instruction can occur, how such texts "work," how readers and writers respond to and talk about texts, and how to evaluate text understanding and interpretation.

In writing this book, we were guided by assumptions that influenced everything from our choice of content to our organization. Our assumptions grow out of a particular orientation to learning and development—social constructivism. This perspective underscores the active nature of the learner and the importance of language. We believe learning is a social process and through language-oral and written- learning opportunities are created and meanings are constructed. We also believe that to understand today's issues in literacy instruction, we benefit greatly from considering the history that has preceded our current efforts.

In each chapter, we examine how social constructivist perspectives influence the contexts within which instruction occurs, the knowledge base used by successful teachers, and the curriculum content of the instruction itself. Our history of reading instruction, dating back thousands of years, reflects changes in our assumptions about literacy learning; changes in how teachers of literacy were perceived; changes in our knowledge of reading and its relationships to other literacy development (i.e., writing), to oral language development and discussion, and, more generally, to thinking itself; changes in beliefs about where meaning resides; and changes in what constitutes appropriate literacy instruction.

This book consists of three different sections, focusing, respectively, on building background, describing knowledge critical to successful literacy instruction, and discussing specific strategies for instruction, assessment, and planning. In the first section, building background, are three chapters. The first chapter takes a historical look at how literacy and literacy instruction have been defined over time, the impact of these definitions on instructional research and classroom practices, and how the perspective we adopt in this book-social constructivism-has emerged. The second and third chapters present two "cases" of elementary literacy instruction. Chapter 2 presents Deborah Woodman's fourth-fifth split-grade classroom in Lansing, Michigan. Deb has used a literature-based approach to reading instruction, one that attempts to integrate reading, writing, and oral language practices as she helps her students develop abilities in comprehension, interpretation, and talk about text. Chapter 3 presents Laura Pardo's classrooms when she taught third, then fifth grades in Lansing, Michigan. We focus on two units connecting literacy instruction and content area learning, one in her third grade when students studied community and the other in fifth grade as they studied the Civil War.  


What does it mean to create an integrated approach to literacy instruction? Calls for integration are becoming increasingly frequent in the professional literature (e.g., Lipson, Valencia, Wixson, & Peters, 1993;Morrow, Smith, & Wilkinson, 1994). In this book, we explore what it means to create an integrated classroom environment, what we mean by literacy and literacy instruction, and what effective pedagogy and assessment look like from such a perspective. It is our belief that to understand these ideas we must understand our history as literacy educators, how our theoretical beliefs have evolved, and how our instructional practices have changed. Thus, in this chapter we begin with our history as a profession: (a) What is literacy and how have our definitions changed over time? (b) What is literacy instruction and how has this changed over time? (c) What is the perspective that defines the "integrated" approach to literacy described in this book?