Learning about Literacy with Beach Analogies

Hello from sunny Holden Beach, North Carolina!  This week, I've been visiting Holden with my family (minus our oldest who is off on a college trip to Mexico), and the beauty of the beach got me thinking about a few life lessons and how the little things we see at the beach can be related to literacy instruction. Honestly, the same can be said for lots of places we visit. Just look around you and think how important reading is in your life. From road signs to restaurant menus to food labels, reading is a skill we all must have. 

The first ocean object that came to my mind was the seashell. Just look at this collection (left by all the visitors of the home we rented). No two shells are alike, and each is unique and special. Their color and shape are influenced by the ocean. They are tossed around and are constantly changing until they wind up on the beach. No two readers are the same either. Each has special interests and needs that are as unique as they are. They have reading preferences such as where they like to read most, what they read, and how often, and each brings something different to the reading table. We can learn about our students as readers by lots and lots of talking about reading which helps us tap into our students needs and how to support and help them grow. The lesson from seashells...learn about your students, their preferences, their strengths and weaknesses, and take them to the next step.

Are your students beginning readers, fluent readers, or somewhere in between? Fluent reading is certainly the goal for all students, and seagulls are a great reminder of how fluent reading should be...not too slow, not too fast, but just right. Fluent reading glides along without hesitations. Reader voices soar with highs and lows for added interest.

How do you get this?  Reader's theater, radio reading (recordings), repeated readings with poetry, choral reading, echo reading, and partner readings are just a few ideas that have worked well for me.  

Take time to "pier" into our students' thinking. Getting students to "stop and jot" about their reading, questioning them to see what they're learning or understanding from their reading, and writing before/during/after reading helps teachers clarify thinking for students who may get derailed.  Help your readers tie the new reading to old through creating connections. Those connections will be tomorrow's schema for future readings.

Sometimes, students will experience barriers. The brain is a mystery, and it isn't always our student's friend. Some have challenges with processing print.  Some struggle with attending to lessons and text meaning. Some have limited access to books.  Some have limited experiences (schema) for the reading we require.  Some have limited cognitive ability, so they may need differentiated materials or repetition.  Some have limited experience with English. No matter the barrier, our students need us to help them cross those barriers to learn and grow.

We all know the importance of the reading and writing connection, but the sand also reminds us to make impressions too. We need to make sure things stick. We learn that using different teaching modalities works for different learning styles. For tactile learners, we can write in sand or use a salt tray for word building.  We might also spread shaving cream or pudding on your desk or counter top. We used shaving cream the last day of school, and the bonus, it cleans off desks too. Add in auditory cuing to segment sounds or syllables as well as the visual final product, and you hit them all.

But, let's get back to the sand on a beach. Wow, the miles and miles of it and the memories created for those walking along the shore. Just think of the stories our students can create while staring out at the sea. Just down the road from where I am sitting, there are crazy pirate stories being spun. During the summer, I hope our kids are recording their memories in journals for future reflections and reading about such great ocean tales as Eric Carle's House for Hermit Crab, Marcus Pfister's Rainbow F, or one of my favorites, Pam Munoz Ryan's Hello Ocean.

Well, I aimed for ten lessons from the beach, but I believe this is my final. In 2010, we met my family at this same location. Sadly, that was the last family vacation we had with my father. Ironically, we took all kinds of family pictures that trip, and each of us has a beautiful book with the memories of that trip. I decided early this week that I wanted to do this post, and my family members willingly posed for a selfie with me to make this collage which reminds me how important it is to do what makes you happy.  That fits with books too. Why waste time on books that you just don't like? We need to match our kids to books they love to help them grow. I tell my kids to give a book two chapters. After that, they can switch. I want them reading, so it is just not worth battling over.  Let them abandon it and find what works.

Okay, I was able to think of one more important beach tip. When you're at the beach, be sure to put sunscreen on even if you're just reading.  Otherwise, you'll get burned!  I know that's a profound statement, but it's the voice of experience.  I will spare you the pleasure of that visual and will leave you with the fact that sunburns hurt!
Until next time...stay in the shade, read away, and come back soon!
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  1. Carla! I love this post!!! Your beach analogies are beautiful! I can tell you are an amazing teacher - it's in your heart all the time! <3 You inspire me!
    Peggy @ Primary Flourish

    1. Oh Peggy! You have no idea how much that means. What a sweet comment to come home to after our week. The post kind of came to me when we were out shelling, so I started taking pictures. :-) It was fun to put it together and reflect some on my dad at the same time. We missed him for sure!

  2. What a beautifully written post - I love how you made these connections!
    And I'm glad your family had such a nice trip to the beach - although I know how those memories are bittersweet when we are missing a loved one. How wonderful that you got those great pictures on the trip with your Dad, and that your family was so sweet to pose for selfies on this trip!
    I love your blog and have nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award :o)
    You can read the details on my blog!
    xo Pam

    1. Pam-I appreciate your sweet note! Thank you so much for the nomination too! Heading over to check it out!


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