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Reading Philosophies

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Constructivism and explicit teaching styles almost appear to be opposites of one another, especially when used in the contexts of the classroom. The more I read about these two styles the more I thought that if a teacher could use both styles in a harmonious balance the students would have the greatest benefit. Not many students want to sit and listen to the droning lecture of a teacher. Memorizing facts, reading chapter after chapter with no connection to how it will be used outside of school. This old fashion way of teaching typically does not assist students in retaining information. Nor does this help with motivating students to continue reading. I also believe that each style could be use more or less depending on the grade level of the students being taught, perhaps also depending upon the subject matter.

Constructivism teaching models are more about what children can do and how they can use new information rather than simple learning about something. The teacher’s role is less of the sole authority of the topic and takes on a role as a guide in the education process. Tetzlaff, author of Constructivist Learning Versus Explicit Teaching, really explained what this could look like in the classroom. She stated that the instructor guides the learning though questions and discussion not lectures (Tetzlaff, 2009). In reading concepts such as phonics, vocabulary or comprehension is not taught through a lecture but rather introduced by the teacher.

The teacher would jump-start the activity giving the students a basis to begin and then setback and assist in the learning process. Interactive actives, games and lesson are used to teach a topic. The instructor can then dig deeper into the knowledge that the students are gaining through questions and additional guidance. Additionally “various types of materials are used, all chosen with an attempt to use items that are concrete, colorful, appealing to the interests of learners, developmentally appropriate, and accessible to a variety of ability levels (Evangelisto, 2002).

The explicit learning model is how I remember school being in almost every class. The teacher had a pre-determined goal that the students were to reach in a set way. The route of how the students learned the information was basically the same. In a classroom with explicit instruction the teacher has a very clear objective and lesson plan. The teacher teaches to meet that goal not necessarily allowing the students to deviate from the goal or the path to get there. The education is very much teacher-directed. As a student this is how I remember all of my classes.

When I became a Freshman I was able to take biology, I was extremely disappointed when we read from the textbook day after day. I desired a hands on classroom with much less note taking and more exploration. In some instruction this can be very important. A kindergarten teacher has to ensure that the class all learns that the alphabet has a correct order. They have to learn that the symbol represents a letter and a sound. This will all build up to teaching that the letters when combined create words. Explicit teaching style believes that students use their internal understanding to comprehend external information where as constructivist is reversed.

As a child I began reading in first grade. I have never had any reading difficulties or struggles. By the time I was is second grade my mom had to threaten me nightly, grounding me from books because I would get lost in the stories and stay up way past bedtime. Books always have surrounded me. Everyone in my extended family also read. I think this natural love for books was simply instilled in me not by force but as a passion. I remember curling up on my Oma’s swing reading, The Secret Garden. In school the only hesitation I have ever experienced in reading involved public speaking due to high anxiety. My own children have the same love for reading that I have. I have often had to use reading as punishments because I cannot get them to put a good book down to complete other housework. My children have often been in trouble in class for sticking a chapter book inside of a textbook and sneaking the book in class.

Last year I worked in first/second grade classroom with thirty-three students. I was a paraprofessional working under a twenty-year veteran, who was amazing. This teacher was the perfect balance of constructivist and explicit teaching styles. We had reading groups setup that allowed us control over what the students was reading ensures the appropriate level. The reading groups also allowed us to listen to every student each day in class. The students would work on comprehension, vocabulary, phonics retell it was fantastic. She was also very big on centers the students would be able to make independent choices on what activity they choose to do during the block. The games reinforced the intended outcome. The most important part was that the students were always reading. They read the math direction to the teacher. They researched information for small group projects including weather, human body, winter traditions, and ocean animals. They had to find the material, take notes, and prove the facts. It was like magic watching this teacher at work.

The teacher would explain the goal to the class but the products were never the same. She pushed the students to be successful in everything they worked on. Researchers showed that when this delicate balance in teaching methods is attainted the students even in low-income community had higher level thinking skills (Garcia, Pearson, Taylor, Bauer, & Stahl, 2011). Additionally the concern remains on how to spark an interest in reading that will continue through a child’s life. The teacher must actively involve the student in the reading process. The more confidence a child has in their reading skills the more likely the student is to continue reading and less likely to loos interest in future school years (Ciampa, 2012).

As a first year teacher it amazes me the various attitudes in regards to reading. I do not have very much experience teaching yet but it is very obvious how much early literacy at home can affect a student’s attitude and abilities within the classroom. This can be seen at the parent’s teacher conference. The aloof attitude from the parents breaks my heart but also fuel a fire to really fight for these students while they are in my classroom. The community that we live in does not help either. The community spans fifty miles of rural area including poverty, reservation students, single parent abuse, and foster care. One amazing way our particular school works to helps parents with improving reading skills is to host reading factories at that the school where the parent can come and play the games that we are teaching the students. The most important factor in the classroom is to find that balance between both constructivism and explicit teaching. When the students remain engaged with the instruction and can apply it to their world outside of school their love for reading will remain lite through their education.


Evangelisto, T. (2002). Constructivist Approaches to Teaching and Learning. Palm Springs, California. http://www.tcnj.edu/~evangeli/constructivism.htm Facts About Reading Aloud. (n.d.). Retrieved January 11, 2015, from http://www.rif.org/us/literacy-resources/articles/facts-about-reading-aloud.htm Garcia, G. E., Pearson, P. D., Taylor, B. M., Bauer, E. B., & Stahl, K. D. (2011). Socio-Constructivist and Political Views on Teachers’ Implementation of Two Types of Reading Comprehension Approaches in Low-Income Schools. Theory Into Practice, 50(2), 149-156. doi:10.1080/00405841.2011.558444 Tetzlaff, T. (2009). Constructivist Learning Versus Explicit Teaching: A Personal Discovery of Balance. (A Synthesis Project). University of Massachusetts, Boston. Ciampa, K. (2012). Electronic Storybooks: A Constructivist Approach to Improving Reading Motivation in Grade 1 Students. Canadian Journal Of Education, 35(4), 92-136.http://www.cct.umb.edu/tetzlaff.pdf

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