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January 13. 2017

The Importance of Creating a Community of Learners

Would you describe your school's culture as being warm and supportive, but without attention to rigorous learning? Or is it run like a tight ship in an attempt to create rigorous learning, but lacks warmth? Fountas and Pinnell believe that in order to build an inclusive, respectful, and supportive social community where people collaborate with and help each other, you can't have one scenario without the other. One of the goals of the second edition of Guided Reading is to get teachers to not only treat the classroom as a place to learn to read, write, and expand language skills, but to create a community of learners. Here are some ways to start building your community!

Provide Thought-Provoking Books

The classroom is where students spend most of their lives. It's important to create an environment that helps them think deeply about the world, themselves, and how they fit into the world as global citizens. A great way to open up these channels of thinking is through books! Give them high-quality books that help them think about important ideas and issues, and about developing empathy for others. 

Think About Classroom Management 

In Guided Reading, 2e, Fountas and Pinnell describe the behavioral and emotional expectations of a student from entry to middle school; the traits you want to see in a successful student. These include, social interaction, empathy, sense of community, emotional well-being, and self-regulation. Guided Reading, 2e shows you ways to provide numerous opportunities for students to learn these traits throughout the school day, from grade to grade, starting with the classroom. Your classroom should be a peaceful environment and reflect a climate of acceptance in which you can communicate to your students that you are interested in what they have to say. But you should also think about the physical space, as well as predictability, empathy and kindness, inquiry, and more. “Your classroom is a place where students learn how to read, write, and expand all of their language skills, but it is much more. It is a laboratory where they learn how to be confident, self-determined, kind, and democratic,” (Fountas and Pinnell 2017).

Have a Design for Literacy Education

Creating the ideal literacy classroom environment where your students are always thinking, talking, and reading about the world can be a daunting task. You want to make adequate time for designing a landscape for language and literacy learning, but how? Where do you start? Fountas and Pinnell know from personal experience, and from talking to teachers that there are many constraints—both physical and financial—to creating this ideal environment, but it is possible. In Guided Reading, 2e, Fountas and Pinnell provide creative ways to take this vision of a literacy classroom into an actual design, as well as provide advice on how to create this classroom on a budget.  "When students spend their time thinking, reading, writing, and talking every day, they get a message about what is valued in your classroom and they begin to develop their own values," (Fountas and Pinnell 2017). 

Building a literacy community in your classroom takes a lot of thought and effort, but the payoff is worth it. "In a sense, the classroom is a sheltered environment within a noisy world where everything interferes with high-level intellectual discourse and time for reading and writing. But in these short years students have a chance to live a literate life that expands their empathy, curiosity, and competencies. Literacy is their job," (Fountas and Pinnell, 2017). 

~The Fountas & Pinnell Team

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