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Laura Frericks

August 18, 2016

EDUC 640

Teaching Philosophy

A strong teachers philosophy should embody what Dr. Richard Allington describes as

exemplary, responsive reading instruction. In his article, What Ive Learned about Effective

Reading Instruction from a Decade of Studying Exemplary Classroom Teachers, Dr. Allington

discusses his six Ts of effective literacy instruction. The first T, time, refers to increasing the

amount of instructional time being placed on reading and writing instruction. Teaching time

should be spent on well-thought out, explicit instruction, rather than adding class time to read

and write. The second T, texts, refers to providing students with a rich and expansive supply of

texts. The idea of one-size-fits-all contradicts best practices in reading instruction. There

should be multi-level texts available to students all day, instead of just during an intervention

time. The third T, teaching, refers to the modeling and demonstration of strategies that good

readers use. Best practices save teachers from the arduous trial and error of finding what works.

When a teacher models the thinking that strong readers use, students gain a pathway for reading

any type of text. Students not only need to be taught these best strategies but also need time to

practice those strategies. The fourth T, talk, refers to purposeful student to student and student to

teacher talk. During instruction, teachers pose more open-ended questions to encourage

classroom discussion and debate. The fifth T, tasks, discusses the importance of giving students

longer, content-integrated assignments and projects. Often times multiple assignments and tasks

lack substance and challenge for students. The more in-depth tasks allowed for student choice
and create student engagement and ownership. The last T, testing, refers to the way in which

exemplary teachers assess their students. Best practices show that teachers should be assessing

based on effort and improvement instead of arbitrary achievement standards. These types of in-

depth assessments give all students an opportunity to achieve the grades they deserve, grades that

increase motivation and reward their efforts. These six Ts, which are strategies used frequently

and seamlessly by master educators, have also driven my teaching philosophy.

Allingtons first T, time, stresses the importance of incorporating reading and writing

instruction across all content areas. Time during a teaching day is a valuable commodity and

should not be taken up by menial tasks or activities that are merely busy work. The teaching

occurring during the school day should be based on best practices. Allington discusses how tasks

such as test-preparation workbooks, copying vocabulary definitions, and after-reading

comprehension worksheets show no evidence in best practices. These activities need to be

replaced for stronger instruction that doesnt become just a time-filler. For teachers to maximize

their impact on learning, they should engage students in what has proven to be effective:

classroom discussion, formative assessment, feedback, objectives that are stated clearly to

students, etc. These practices should be incorporated in every subject and every subject requires

reading. Many teachers just teach reading and writing during the pre-determined reading and

writing times. In my own experience, students are truly engaged when they are talking about

what they read and when I give feedback, that validation increases their motivation. By

incorporating in-depth practices throughout the day, students will gain valuable practice and

opportunities for self-improvement and growth.

The next T, texts, highlights the need for schools to have a rich supply of books.

Classroom teachers should have below-level, on-level, and above-level texts. They should have
bins with a variety of genres: fantasy, fiction, informational, and humorous. Students should be

able to read picture books or novels. These facts seem so simple, but in reality many teachers

classroom libraries are sparse and/or unappealing. Often times, district mandated basal reading

series limit teachers from incorporating rich text in their teaching. When all students are reading

the same story at the same level, teachers are failing to address the individual learner. Students

should be able to have choice in what they read. When classrooms are devoid of choice, students

become less engaged. Reading instruction then becomes a spinning wheel that isnt going

anywhere; the reading routine lulls students into a lackadaisical state, causing them to lose their

natural love of reading. Lastly, students should have access to this variety of text throughout the

entire day. Students should be able to read a novel about science, a comic book about history or a

memoir about a mathematician. Lower-level readers should have the option to pick up a book

that interests them even if the book is higher than their reading level. If we box our students in

too much, they have no room to grow. In my classroom, the addition of a reading corner,

complete with a rug and a child-sized couch and chair, drew my students to read more during

their free time. A couple trips to garage sales and a donation from my grandma provided fresh

reading content for my students. This designated space and the coziness of it, sent the message

that reading is important and encouraged, and the variety of books in this space validated my

students individual tastes.

The third T, teaching, reinforces the importance of this profession: students need teachers

who will actively instruct them. Learning can happen without teachers by the reality of cause and

effect, but active instruction makes learning happen more efficiently and effectively. Explicit

instruction of concepts and topics is paramount for students to learn at the best pace possible.

Teachers need to model the thinking they engage in as they attempt to monitor reading or decode
a word. Students cannot learn these skills on their own, and if left to do so, they will fall behind

their peers who are fortunate enough to have a teacher who is using best practices. Modeling and

demonstration are teaching strategies that master teachers use. There is a line, though, between

explicit instruction and students independent use of strategies. If we model and demonstrate too

much, students will become too reliant or too bored. Overuse of modeling can also cause

students to doubt their own creativity. While at a workshop, a visiting presenter was instructing

the teachers on Marzanos use of data driven instruction. The monotonous presentation which

modeled how to use data was so irritating I became unmotivated to listen, so I vowed to be

concise when modeling for my students. I have found a happy medium where I use explicit

instruction through modeling while at the same time encourage students independence.

The fourth T, talk, is all about purposeful classroom discussions. According to Allington,

exemplary teachers encourage and support an increased amount of student to student and student

to teacher talk during the day. This talk must be meaningful to content and not be led by the

teacher. Using talk moves, such as repeating, adding on, or giving wait time, help students feel

empowered as learners in the classroom. Using purposeful discussion and talk moves has

changed my way of teaching. Instead of direct instruction, students are able to run the show.

Instead of the traditional interrogational questions, students are able to discuss ideas, concepts,

strategies, and hypotheses with each other and the teacher. This T, talk, is all about posing open

ended questions and allowing purposeful discussions to take place. An added benefit of this

approach is how talk enriches writing. After a frustrating night of grading writing, I asked a

colleague what she thought helped students become a strong writers. She said she could only

answer the question for her personally, and then cited a college class that was rich in discussion.

She said this class allowed her to find her voice, to negotiate the contrasting ideas of her
classmates, and to sort and then articulate the ideas percolating in her mind after reading the

assigned materials. I recalled my own experiences in several classes and realized why I most

valued my communication classes: the great discussions. We ask students to write without first

asking them to think, and the best way to prompt thinking is to prompt talking.

The fifth T, tasks, connects to the importance of talking since talking is one of the tasks

in the classroom; however, there are other effective classroom activities. Best practices call for

substantive, cross-curricular, self-regulated assignments, rather than shorter, meaningless

assignments given to take up time or keep students quiet. In order to create these tasks, teachers

must be knowledgeable of all content areas curriculum, especially when it comes to pursuing

cross-curricular learning and incorporating cross-curricular assignments. Integrating subjects can

create more meaningful and complex assignments, and by adding choice to those assignments,

teachers can improve engagement and honor the individual student simply by adjusting the way

assignments are presented. For example, if students are discussing the Oregon Trail in social

studies, the teacher can integrate math into the lesson by prompting the students to figure out

how many miles could be traveled in one day; students could choose how to calculate the

number of miles and how they would present that information. They could create a PowerPoint

presentation, a poster, a skit, or a write a paper. Giving students choice then leads to more

engagement in the assignment. When students are allowed choice they feel a greater sense of

ownership to their projects.

The last T, testing, reflects the need to assess how students are learning. The progress of

students is information required for the students, the parents, the school administrators, and, most

importantly, the teacher. If the teacher realizes, through testing, that the students have not

reached the objectives, the teacher must face the fact that the lesson, no matter how elaborate,
how aesthetically pleasing, how time-consuming it was to create, does not work. The teacher

must then make a change. In other words, testing is an essential tool. This tool, though, can be

used in a variety of ways. Should teachers test progress, effort or standards? According to best

practices, teachers should grade more on effort and improvement. This way all students have an

opportunity to be validated for their growth. I have noticed that using achievement based

assessments limited the efforts of my higher achieving students. My lower achieving students

soon realized that no matter how hard they worked, they could never compare to their peers who

were high achieving students. Achievement based grading creates a situation where both teachers

and students are discouraged. Most teachers dont enjoy handing out failing grades. However,

while grading on improvement is more desirable, this approach requires teachers to have a

complete knowledge of all their students abilities in all subject areas. Without this knowledge it

is impossible to reward improvement with a grade. The subjectivity of this type of grading is

mentally challenging. Gauging effort is sometimes easier than gauging growth. Best practice

teachers do not rely on tests only to evaluate their students (a point also mentioned in the

teaching section). Best practice teachers believe that good instruction leads to enhanced

performance for students, and with active formative assessments, teachers can more accurately

identify effort and improvement, and use testing to inform and modify their teaching while at the

same time give students the kind of feedback that rewards curiosity, effort, risk-taking, and

individuality.

Richard Allington six Ts highlight best practices and the acronym concisely guides

teachers to those practices specifically in the area of reading instruction. Time, texts, teaching,

talk, tasks, testing are the Ts that, when used effectively, create exemplary teachers. Good

teaching doesnt just happen because a teacher wants it to; good teaching is an art; its a craft that
needs study and practice, but the classroom environment is complex and demanding. It is my

plan to take each of the Allingtons Ts and concentrate on them one at time until each T

becomes habitual for me. It may take some undoing of habits Ive learned from my own

schooling, and though the Ts will take time to consistently integrate into my classroom, their

implementation will undoubtedly benefit students.