CURRINS 553: Teaching Language Arts and Children’s Literature, Grades 1-3


This course addresses teaching methods related to language arts and children’s literature for diverse primary learners in grades 1-3.  It includes concurrent teaching experience.  This course includes content related to the knowledge and skill indicators for the MCEA program.

Course Objectives

  1. To demonstrate understanding of language arts as interactive/transactional processes and apply this understanding to assessment and instruction. (UWM-WI Standard 4)  Link to assessment:  Teaching Lessons
  2. To demonstrate understanding of the diverse nature of middle childhood (grades 1-3) learners’ literacy development (UWM-WI Standard 2)  Link to assessment:  Child Study Project
  3. To plan and implement instructional strategies included in a balanced literacy framework in motivating ways to meet the needs of diverse learners.  (UWM-WI Standard 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, & 8)  Link to assessment:  Teaching Lessons
  4. To utilize on-going assessment as a tool to monitor growth and development and to guide instruction. (UWM-WI Standard 2 & 8)  Link to assessment:  Child Study Project, Teaching Lessons
  5. To select and use appropriate children’s literature and instructional materials for diverse learners.  (UWM-WI Standard 4)  Link to assessment: Literature Database, Literature Discussion Groups
  6. To demonstrate understanding of yourself as a reader and writer.  (UWM-WI Standard 9)  Link to assessment:  Literature Database
  7. To begin to develop a critical, questioning perspective around issues of power and privilege that shape urban education and our role in it. (UWM-WI Standard 4)  Link to assessment:  Critical Literacy Project
  8. To improve ability to assess and instruct through reflection (self-monitoring and self evaluation.) (UWM-WI Standard 8 & 9)  Link to assessment:  Teaching Lessons

Course Texts

Bear, D. R., Invernizzi, M., Templeton, S., & Johnston, F. (2012).  Words their way: Word study for phonics, vocabulary, and spelling instruction, 5th edition.  Columbus, OH:  Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.   (**Note that this text will be required again for CURRINS 555.  It is recommended that you keep this text for block 3.)

Farris, P. J. & Werderich, D. E. (2010).  Language arts: Process, product, and assessment for diverse classrooms.  Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.

Course Assignments

Child Study Project (40 points) – You will identify a student with whom you will work over the course of the first several weeks of your field experience.  You should select your student in consultation with the teacher supervising your field experience.  The child study project will be comprised of the following:

  1. Administration of Assessments – WritingYou will write with your student on a topic that derives from your student’s interests and experiences.  Spelling:  You will select and administer an appropriate spelling assessment from Words Their Way.  You must have both the writing sample and the spelling test in class on Session 7, when you will be given time to analyze both in class with the support of your classmates and myself.
  2. Final Report – The final report of your case study project will be an analysis of the above assessments and is due session 8 or 9.

Teaching Lessons (80 points) – You will work in “Lesson Planning Work Groups” of 3-4 in order to plan and implement 2 lessons as follows:

  1. Word study lesson (35 points) – Based upon the results of the spelling assessment you administered during your child study project, you will plan and implement one word study lesson.  You should use the appropriate chapter in Words Their Way to identify a lesson.  Drafts of this lesson will be written in class. These lessons will be peer reviewed during session 8.  This lesson will be conducted with the one student identified in your child study project.  Final copy of your lesson and reflection due Session 11.  Options for submission:  Electronic-The final draft of lesson, lesson reflection and photographs of artifacts used in the implementation of this lesson will be submitted to D2L; non-electronic-These same materials will be submitted in hard copy in class.
  2. Small group 6 trait writing lesson (45 points) – You will plan and implement a small group 6 traits writing lesson based upon the needs of the student in your child study project.  You will conduct this lesson with a small group of 3-6 students.  This lesson will address one of the 6 traits. Session 10, you will you will multiple copies of your draft of this lesson to class for peer review.  By Sunday of that week, you will revise the lesson and submit it to D2L.  You will receive written feedback from me that should be incorporated into one more revision of the lesson.  You will bring your revised draft of the lesson to class during session 11 when you will meet with me and your lesson planning group to answer any final questions about the lesson prior to conducting it in the field.  Final copy of the lesson, artifacts created in the implementation (photographs of the product are preferred), and reflection due Session 12 or 13. Options for submission:  Electronic-The final draft of lesson, lesson reflection and photographs of artifacts used in the implementation of this lesson will be submitted to D2L; non-electronic-These same materials will be submitted in hard copy in class.

Literature Database (30 points) –This semester, you will read at least 15 children’s books and make entries into the literature database. Each entry will include: identifying information, genre, cross-curricular connections, quality rating, reading level, urban issues addressed, awards and book summary, and teaching applications.  Session 5-8 you will bring printed copies of your database pages for review.  You may access the database at    Final collection of database entries due to D2L Session 8, 9, or 10.

Literature Study Group & Leader (10 points) – For this assignment, you will form “Literature Study Groups” of four or five students.  For 4 weeks you will meet to discuss the different genres of children’s literature.  Each week you will bring children’s books matching the genre study that week AND a print out from your literature database entry for the books you bring in. In addition, one week you will be the Study Group Leader.  This role includes researching the genre (definitions, features of the genre, …), preparing 3 higher order questions to ask your group about the genre, and preparing a one-page handout for group members that includes definitions, features of the genre, and teaching resources. You will provide your group members with a hard copy of the handout and submit it to a D2L dropbox.  Due dates vary.

Critical Literacy Inquiry (30 points) – The purpose of this assignment is to provide a space to build a working definition/understanding of critical literacy and identify examples of classroom teachers enacting a critical literacy philosophy.  You will work in groups of 4 – 5 and will have four in-class meetings in which to accomplish the following:  1) engage in real reading and real writing to create a working definition of critical literacy; and 2) identify examples of teachers and their students engaged in critical literacy.  I will provide materials for the first three group meetings that will engage you in discussions around a definition of critical literacy. For the final group meeting, each group member will select a reading from the list found in this syllabus and in the Course Support Packet.  The readings will be available on D2L.  For this group meeting you will prepare a reading summary (5 points, due Session 4).  At the conclusion of each group meeting, you will make an entry into a learning log (10 points, due Session 6).  This log will track your learning, discussions, and questions.  This process will culminate in one final individual piece of writing (15 points, due session 6) that represents your own personal understanding of critical literacy that includes at least one scholarly reference and examples of classroom teachers enacting a critical literacy philosophy.  The writing may be in any genre and any format except expository. In other words, you may not write a research paper!  To summarize, during Session 6 you will submit your learning log, evidence of your preparations as discussion leader, and your final piece of writing.

Professionalism (10 points)  – You are expected to be active in the learning community created during class meetings each week.  Elements that will be considered in this part of your grade include attendance, preparedness, active participation in all class activities, and providing critical feedback to classmates.


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