Closing the Gap: What we say
and do matters.
“Thus the greater the gap
between the teacher and the
learner the harder the teaching
Donaldson, Children’s Minds, 1978
“ less room for error in teacher
decision–making for those
children.” that is, the ones who
are finding learning to read and
write most difficult.
Johnston, Contemporary Educational
Psychology 27 (2002) 636-647
“The learning that is essential to
cognitive development,… most
likely to occur from engaging in
activities in which it is necessary to
recognize and solve problems of
increasing difficulty.”
Wells and Cheng-Wells, Constructing
Knowledge Together, pg 55
Two requirements:
•activities that are “in certain
respects at or just beyond the limits
of the learner’s current capabilities”
•“appropriate support”, “the help
that a collaborative partner can
provide in enabling the learner to
marshal and exploit resources he or
she already has available.”
Pg 56
“Through language, children learn
how to become strategic thinkers,
not merely how to use literacy
We often encounter classrooms in
which children are being taught
strategies yet not being strategic.
Teaching children strategies results
in them knowing strategies but not
necessarily in their acting
Ivey, Johnston and Cronin, 1998
“Teaching for strategies is not
just teaching strategies” pg 31
“Simply using the Reading
Recovery framework and
engaging in the recommended
behaviors will not guarantee a
high level of success… [teachers]
must tailor their responses to
individual children’s revealed
Johnston, Contemporary Educational
Psychology 27 (2002) 636-647
Teaching must be responsive therefore
teachers must work from a “theory that
gives significance to the literate
behaviors they observe and ties their
teaching decisions to those behaviors
in productive ways”
Johnston, Contemporary Educational
Psychology 27 (2002) 636-647
“…arranging for events to be
successful…is fundamental” pg 39
“If children are not making
errors, they are not putting
themselves in learning
“Teacher’s conversations with
children help the children build
bridges between action and
consequence.” (pg 30)
Watch too much instructional talk
Clay said “you can teach a lot
without talking”
Agency and becoming
Telling- “ the teacher is explicit up front
and then the student practices what he has
been taught to do by someone else.” pg 32
Revealing- “the strategy of arranging for
a student to figure out independently,
without full awareness, and then
reflecting on it..” “ Its benefit is that the
child actually does the constructing or
Child trying to write went.
He has the t and knows the w.
Teacher: “What’s at the beginning?
What can you hear?”
Child: “I don’t know.”
Teacher: “Say it again slowly.
It starts like something in your
Child: “Watch?”
Teacher: “That’s right. So what will you
Text: We climbed over the gate.
Child: fence
Teacher: We climbed over the fence
makes sense, but look at the way
this word starts.
Most accomplished teachers do not
spend a lot of time in telling mode.
Taylor et al, 2002
“If a student can figure something
out for him- or herself, explicitly
providing the information preempts
the student’s opportunity to build a
sense of agency and
“drawing attention to their
successes and showing them how
their decisions and strategic actions
were responsible for them,
increases children’s perceptions of
their ability and the effectiveness of
their focused efforts.” pg 39
Teacher: I liked the way you went
back and tried again to check when
you weren’t sure.
“Drawing their attention to their
effort ( “you worked really hard at
that”) or their intellect (“You are so
smart.”)” is not so helpful.
Noticing and naming
“However no learner can afford to
be dependent on the teacher for
everything that needs to be
noticed, so teachers have to teach
children to look for possibilities.”
Teacher: That looks like another
word you know.
Child: Look, that word is like ‘my’.
Teacher: You are right, (getting
book with ‘my’), how is ‘fly’ like
Child: they both have ‘y’ at the end.
‘We want children to attend to
their feelings of surprise, which is
a good indicator of conflicting
patterns or theories.” pg 18
“The teacher is helping the child
notice the internal signals and
contemplate how to respond.”
Teacher: Hmm, you
stopped, what did you
Child: ‘a’
Teacher: Yes, you are right,
it says ‘asleep’. I liked the
way you were looking
more important is noticingand helping the students noticewhat they are doing well.”
In Clay’s terms attending to the
partially correct.
Text: I see a lamb
Child: horse/ lion
Teacher: It starts like ‘lion’. What
would make sense?
Child: l-amb
Teacher: Does that make sense and
start the right way? You worked it
Task: writing ‘jump’
Teacher: Wow, you just about
have it all. There is one sound
that is hard to hear. Let’s put it in
a box.(putting the word in boxes
and putting in the letters the child
had heard). Look you have those
sounds. All we have to do is hear
this one (pointing). Say it slowly
and listen carefully.
Flexibility and transfer
Teacher: You reread to make sure
it sounded right and makes sense.
How else could you check if you
are right?
Child: It starts with a ‘W’.
Teacher: You checked to see if it
made sense, sounded right and
looked right.
Teacher: that’s like what we
were doing at the board. You
thought of a word that looks
like the one you were stuck on.
“when a teacher waits for a child to
figure something out or self-correct,
it conveys the message that she
expects the child to be able to
accomplish it.” pg 56
How did you know?
How could we check?
So in both reading and writing
children learn a host of things:
•The aspects of print to which they
must attend.
•The aspects of oral language that
can be related to print.
•The kind of strategies that maintain
•The kinds of strategies that
increase understanding
•The kind of strategies that detect
and correct errors
•The feedback control mechanisms
that keep their reading and writing
on track.
•And most important of all how to
go beyond the limits of the system
and how to learn from relating new
information to what is already
Learning of this kind depends upon
children being active processors of
printed information and
constructive learners.
Becoming Literate, p326
“In general, teachers with higher
student outcomes were described as
more attentive to problem-solving
strategies- both those initiated by
children and those for which they
prompted after observing a potential
Partners in Learning, p82
Allows time for independent problemsolving
Persistent in prompting students for
what they know
Requires children to problem-solve
while reading
Questions in a way that makes
children think and act
Asks children to be responsible for
Questions in a way that helps children
check several different sources of
Helps children discount or verify
their predictions
Accepts the child’s efforts, even those
partially right
Observes and responds to child’s
Self correcting
Risk taking
Troy reading:
I can read to my bear.
“My brother says teddy bear. I used to
say teddy bear like him. I told him
teddy isn’t there. This starts with a
Samisoni reading ‘Butch By the River’
Text : Butch is
by the river.
Child: Butch is
by the sea/stream/water/tree
I don’t know, I’m just making it
up, I’ll have to look.”