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Teaching Literacy

Teaching Literacy
Engaging the Imagination of New Readers and Writers

April 2006 | 176 pages | Corwin

"A fascinating piece of writing, presenting ideas that are fresh and exciting."
-Katherine Taddie Kelly, Literacy Coach and Reading Interventionist
Waco Independent School District, TX  

"Focuses on enhancing students' metalinguistic awareness and not just their intuitive use of words, fostering the development of higher mental functions."
-Elena Bodrova, Senior Researcher

Bring out the fun in fundamentals of literacy!

For teachers charged with the great responsibility of helping students achieve basic literacy, delivering instruction in stimulating and engaging ways is not an ideal-it's a necessity. Recognizing this, award-winning author and educator Kieran Egan puts the fun in fundamentals of literacy by helping teachers stir students' imagination and emotions.

In Teaching Literacy, Egan rejects the notion that familiar ideas and experiences are the best vehicles for effective instruction. Instead, he champions a new approach that focuses on teaching core literacy skills using concepts ranging from fascinating to exotic to magnificent to weird. By framing the elements of literacy in the unforgettable, students more readily internalize and retain material, not only preparing them for tests, but also instilling a lifelong love of reading and writing.

This innovative resource supplies answers to the question, "But how do I do it?" by offering:

  • Tried-and-true activities from practicing classroom teachers
  • "Teachers, Try It Out" features with instructional challenges (and an appendix of possible responses) for everyday classroom practice
  • Step-by-step planning frameworks for designing and delivering engaging literacy instruction

Combining playfulness with practicality and creativity with common sense, Egan's strategies apply to beginning readers at any age, bringing about authentic, enjoyable learning experiences.

Two Sources of This Approach

Cognitive Tools in Everyday Teaching Practice

Literacy Learners, Young and Old(er)

The Cognitive Tool Kits of Language and Literacy

Planning Frameworks Using Cognitive Tools

About the Author
Part I: The Cognitive Toolkit of Oral Language
1. Using the Story Form: Meeting Objectives by Engaging Feelings
Stories and Feelings

Stories in the Classroom

Inventing Comic Characters

Personifying Elements of Language

Creating a Literacy Adventure

Teachers, Try It Out

Final Words

2. Images We Care About: Too, Two, and To
Images Aid Memory and Understanding

Tying Concepts to Images

From Images to Letter Representation

Teachers, Try It Out

Final Words

3. Binary Opposites: Goldilocks and Civil War
Using Opposites to Expand Upon Understanding

Mediating Binary Opposites

Teachers, Try It Out

Final Words

4. Literal and Metaphoric Talk: “Like a Spring-Woken Tree”
Recognizing and Reflecting on Language



Teachers, Try It Out

Final Words

5. Jokes: Drawing the Drapes
Joking and “Seeing” Language

Humor in Amelia Bedelia

Reading Puzzles

Teachers, Try It Out

Final Words

6. Rhyme and Rhythm: Mickey Mouse’s Underwear
Echo Rhymes

Rhyme and Rhythm: Ring, Rang, Rung

Nursery Rhymes

Teachers, Try It Out

Final Words

7. Living Knowledge: Barbie and The Matrix
Embedding Knowledge in Students’ Lifeworlds

Children's Lifeworlds

Conclusion to Part I
Part II: The Cognitive Tool Kit of Literacy
8. Extremes: The Queueing Subbookkeeper
The Strange, Exotic, Different, and Wonderful

Fascinating Reality

Metalinguistic Awareness

Exploring Extremes

Wonder in the Classroom

Teachers, Try It Out

Final Words

9. Everyday Heroes: Spiderman and the Comma
Heroizing Literacy Tasks

Heroes in the Classroom

Heroic Experiences

Teachers, Try It Out

Final Words

10. Human Contexts: John Montagu, The Earl of Sandwich
Knowledge in a Meaningful Context

Linking Language With Purpose

Teachers, Try It Out

Final Words

11. Collections and Hobbies: Alphabets and Beanie Babies
Collecting Letters and Words

Literacy as a Hobby

Teachers, Try It Out

Final Words

12. Graphic Organizers: Lists and Flowcharts
From the Ear to the Eye

Visual Tools

Teachers, Try It Out

Final Words

Conclusion to Part II
Part III: Planning Frameworks
13. Framework 1
Mythic Planning Framework

Example: A Lesson on Homonyms

14. Framework 2
The Romantic Planning Framework

Example: A Lesson on the Comma

The Frameworks and You

Appendix: Responses to the "Teachers, Try It Out" Questions by Gillian C. Judson

I think the text was user friendly and provided tangible strategies that have potential to be incorporated to teaching in various ways.

Dr Joanna Maulbeck
Education Dept, Concordia College New York
June 7, 2016
Key features
  • Practical and entertaining instruction to engage students in literacy learning using stories, jokes, metaphors, heroes, extremes, graphic organizers, and more
  • Includes start-to-finish planning frameworks, and application of the frameworks to specific lessons on commas and homonym use
  • Appendix offers chapter-by-chapter literacy activities for everyday classroom practice 
  • Instructional strategies apply to all new literacy learners--both children and nonliterate adults


Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1


For instructors

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