The Missouri Reader Vol. 42, Issue 1 - Page 30


In my perspective, multicultural education should not focus only on minorities. All students are equally important, although different from each other.



comprehension processes, and written responses to text as children engaged in the understanding and enjoyment of quality literature. The final portion of the literacy block was writing workshop. Writing workshop was a portion of the literacy block where children grappled with their ideas and the experimentation of language, as they began to find their voices as writers.

Upper Elementary Grade Literacy Block

Cunningham’s and Allington’s research (2011) advocated for intermediate aged children to have larger blocks of time in the classroom to pursue reading, writing, and research. They refer to this framework of instruction as Big Blocks and support the integration of at least one subject area within reading and writing instruction. Guthrie (2002) supported the idea of linking reading and writing to content learning as a way of both maximizing instructional time along with engaging students in meaningful reading. Cunningham and Allington (2011) found that intermediate classrooms that allocate time to more than a dozen subjects per day “is antithetical to our current understanding of how people learn” (p.239). They remind us that intermediate-aged children need larger blocks of time than primary grade students in order to pursue reading, writing, and research.

Maintaining a comprehensive literacy approach in the middle grades, an approach in which equal time for reading, writing, and skill development is sufficiently developed on a daily basis, is critical to the academic success of students at that level. Additionally, providing an adequate amount of time for quality instruction and learning is important so that students have enough time to experience a variety of opportunities related to both literacy processes and the content they are learning. When scheduling the literacy block, educators must be conscious of providing ample amounts of time on a daily basis to afford children the opportunity to grow as readers, writers, and thinkers. Adequate time, in combination with expert instruction, will help students to use literacy as a tool that gives them the power to find the information they need, to express their opinions, and to defend their positions (Fountas & Pinnell, 2001). A sufficient daily literacy block allows students the time to develop as critical thinkers who read a wide range of material for efferent and aesthetic purposes. It is critical that the amount of time devoted to middle grade literacy be structured and differentiated in a way that children have time to read, write, and work with words. In order to ensure balanced literacy, the literacy block should include instructional reading, independent reading, teacher read-aloud, writing workshop, and literacy skills’ instruction (Tompkins, 2010).

A comprehensive approach to literacy instruction in the middle grades includes all of the components that help children to develop as readers, writers, and thinkers. The literacy block is an extended period of time during which teachers instruct and facilitate the processes, skills, and strategies related to reading and writing (Mercurio, 2014). Elements of differentiation within the literacy block include whole class, small group, and individualized instruction (Tomlinson, 2005).

Fortifying Literacy in Upper Elementary Grades

According to the International Literacy Association (ILA) position statement on Adolescent Literacy ( 2012), “Adolescents entering the adult world in the 21st century will read and write more than at any time in history to date.” Advanced levels of literacy will be needed for all aspects of daily life: job performance, role as citizens, and personal life. In addition to the ILA position paper, many state reading organizations have created their own position papers on this topic. For example, the Keystone State Reading Association (KSRA) published Reconfiguring to meet the needs of today’s adolescents (2011) in which they support the ILA statement and report that even ten years later there is an even stronger need for instruction that is based on data and skill applicability. The KSRA paper purports that the original position of ILA resonates even more strongly today.

Finally, independent Reading Next, a report published after Reading First’s focus on the critical aspects of primary grade instruction, addressed the critical nature of exemplary instruction in upper elementary/intermediate grades as well as in secondary education. The purpose of the Reading Next report was to purport the importance of effective literacy instruction beyond the primary grades. However, Biancarosa and Snow (2004) report in Reading Next that eight million young people from fourth grade to twelfth grade struggle to read at grade level. Recommendations have been suggested to help narrow the widening gap between the expectations and capabilities of young