This book consists of the reports of 13 urban elementary teacher researchers' year-long inquiries around literacy topics--conducted as part of a collaborative school-university action research project. The focus is on how they attempted to transform their teaching practices to meet the needs of students from diverse ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, and how their inquiry efforts resulted in developing more collaborative styles of teaching. These teachers explore how collaborative classroom interactions occur when teachers move away from teaching-as-transmission approaches to ones in which they share power and authority with their students--viewing them not as 'at risk' but instead as 'at promise.'
Because the everyday interactions between teachers and students are realized by social talk in the classroom, classroom discourse was analyzed to study and document the teacher researchers' efforts to make changes in the locus of power in literacy teaching and learning. Their chapters are filled with classroom discourse examples to illustrate their points.
The volume includes teacher inquiries conducted in elementary classrooms from kindergarten through eighth grade. Three took place in bilingual classrooms, one in a special education class. These inquires cover a range of literacy topics, including reading-aloud, language richness, writing, literature discussion groups, drama, and 'pretend' reading.
The background and theoretical underpinnings of the project are discussed in an introduction written by the editors; in the conclusion they pull together the major themes in the teacher researchers' chapters and discuss the political implications of their efforts to change literacy teaching and learning in their urban classrooms.
"One of the most appealing aspects of the book is that the teachers tell their own stories in clear and honest voices. They admit that using a New Literacy approach-moving away from "teaching-as-transmission" strategies toward a collaborative approach where children share the teacher's power-is not easy. Nevertheless, they have found the effort worthwhile. The teachers involved represent kindergarten through 8th-grade classes in two Chicago public schools serving low-socioeconomic populations of primarily Latino and African American children."
"An inside look at teachers who are creating successful literacy learning contexts for urban children....Portrays the real problems, the efforts, struggles, successes, and reflections of teachers concerned with developing literacy in diverse populations of students....I was captivated by the stories told by these teachers....As they describe the collaborative nature of learning, they also demonstrate the value of reflective practice, the helpfulness of collegial dialogue, and the adventure of inquiry in the teaching/learning process....What is writ large across these varied accounts are the spirits of teachers who are growing and learning in an effort to provide the best learning experiences for their students."
—Marcia S. Popp
Southern Illinois University