Metcalf School kindergarten teacher Cassandra Mattoon and Illinois State University Interim Associate Director of the School of Teaching and Learning and Associate Professor of Early Childhood Literacy Sherry Sanden have a shared passion for honoring how early learners respond to literature. Sanden’s interest in how preschool teachers support literature discussion during a read-aloud led to a collaborative partnership that both teacher and researcher have come to value.
During their research, Mattoon planned daily read-aloud sessions, audio recording just one experience each week. The colleagues transcribed and collaboratively reflected on the transcripts once a month. Both researcher and teacher identified the audio recordings and transcriptions as the key to their success. The session transcripts provided a concrete piece of text that allowed the two to ask and answer questions. This conversation encouraged Mattoon to become more self-aware, reflect, and change her read-aloud structure, providing a richer literacy experience for her students. Not only did the collaborative reflection build Mattoon’s teaching practice, but it enhanced Sanden’s understanding of how teachers grow in their professional knowledge.
“I didn’t realize how much information I could learn about the language a teacher uses with students by recording, transcribing, and reflecting on a single audio recording,” Mattoon said.
Mattoon encourages all educators to give themselves the gift of an audio recording and the time to reflect on that literature discussion with a colleague. The transcript takes away all distractions and allows the educators to focus on the conversations and strategies used to engage the students and expand on their knowledge.
While data analysis is ongoing, the research team has determined that there is not a perfect recipe for enhancing literacy discussions in the primary classroom. There is, however, a correlation between classroom culture and the learning that occurs during a class read-aloud session. Mattoon has taught her students how to participate in a conversation without distracting from the text. Providing this structure has allowed her students to participate in more meaningful conversations.
Sanden and Mattoon encourage educators not to overlook the Pre-K and kindergarten crowd when it comes to responding to literature. “Pre-K students have a lot to say about books if teachers can support the conversation,” Sanden said. This collaborative research led the two to share what they have learned in a book. Watch Metcalf School’s social media to learn when this resource will be available.