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Soft Cover
ISBN-13: 9781774128428
Publisher: Top Hat
Edition: 7th

Constructing Meanings: Teaching the Language Arts K-8 is more than an update of previous editions. It reflects contemporary multilingual/multicultural Canadian classroom contexts and, very importantly, Canadians’ finally-awakened consciousness of the need to disrupt the devastating effects on Indigenous peoples of Canadian settler-colonial policies and practices. Digital literacies are treated as the commonplace practices they have become in today’s world. Websites and apps are recommended and analyzed alongside bilingual picture books and professional teaching resources. Using leading-edge contemporary research and seminal studies of previous decades, co-authors Rachel Heydon (Western University), Marianne McTavish (University of British Columbia), and Joyce Bainbridge (University of Alberta) reflect on their experiences as teachers/teacher-educators/researchers and include vignettes of practicing teachers in Canadian classrooms. Very importantly, the authors make explicit connections between the topics taken up in each chapter, clearly showing the interconnections between literacy dimensions and the need to recognize these connections in classroom teaching. Text-to-self questions stimulating thoughtful reflections on literacy teaching and learning are among the many features of Constructing Meanings that embody the spirit of readers and authors constructing meaning together. (Shelley Stagg Peterson, OISE)


  • Text-to-SelfText-to-World, and Text-to-Text boxes invite readers to pause and make connections between the text they’re reading with their own experiences; ideas, information, or experiences from a network of Canadian literacy educators, learners, and families; and with information, illustrations, and/or examples from other suggested texts.
  • In order to more closely align the text with the structure of most language and literacy courses taught in faculties of education, the sequence of some chapters has been reordered.
  • The text approaches language and literacy from an integrated, social constructivist perspective, drawing heavily on multiliteracies theory, which highlights the multiple modes, media, discourses, and languages through which people communicate.
  • The content of the text has been streamlined to emphasize what is most important in language and literacy education and to promote contemporary and enduring trends in the field.

Table of Contents

About the Authors

CHAPTER 1 Introduction to Language and Literacy Education

Literacy in Contemporary Times
Where Are We Learning? With Whom Are We Learning?
Dimensions of Literacy
Defining Literacy
Implications for Language and Literacy Education

Ethics in Literacy Education
Literacies, Identities, and Subjectivities
Pedagogical Monsters

Introduction to Language and Literacy Pedagogies
Cambourne’s Conditions for Learning: A Starting Point for Thinking about Language and Literacy Pedagogies

Elements of Literacy Pedagogies
Considerations for Pedagogical Elements


CHAPTER 2 Planning in Language and Literacy Education

Setting a Curricular and Pedagogical Climate for Literacy Learning
Long-Range Planning
Selecting Materials

Organizing with Learners, Time, and Space
Opportunities for the Whole Class to Come Together
Gathering Learners for Small-Group Literacy-Learning Opportunities
Scheduling Time Blocks
Organizing Space

Planning and Organizing Literacy Pedagogies with all Learners
Planning with Learners Who Struggle with Print Literacy Achievement
Planning with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners
Planning with Indigenous Learners

Organizing with Families as Curricular Informants


CHAPTER 3 Language Learning and Oracy

Language Systems
Communicative Competence

The Purposeful Nature of Language
Learning How to Mean
Halliday’s Functions of Language
Designing Language-Learning Opportunities

The Social Context of Language Learning
Language at Home and at School

Oral Language in the Classroom
Assessing Oracy (Listening and Talking)


CHAPTER 4 Early Literacies

Early Literacies
Print Literacy Knowledge
Phonological Awareness, Phonemic Awareness, and Phonics

Literacy Pedagogies With/In Early Childhood
Literacy Learning with Environments
Shared Reading
Sustained Literacy-Learning Opportunities with Literature
Shared Writing: The Language Experience Approach

Assessing Early Literacy
Informal Assessment
Running Records
Miscue Analysis


CHAPTER 5 The Pleasures of Literacy

Literature and Literacies

Canadian Children’s Literature, Culture, and Identity
Exploring Issues of Social Justice
Indigenous Canadian Authors and Illustrators

Children’s Literature and Critical Literacy
Selecting Materials for Critical Literacy
Selecting and Using Children’s Literature about Indigenous Peoples
Selecting Expansive Children’s Literature about Gender and Sexual Identity

Picture Storybooks as Powerful Resources for Literacy Teaching and Learning
Picture Storybooks for K to 4
Sophisticated Picture Books

Supporting Learners’ Transitions as Readers
Beginning Chapter Books for the Primary Grades
Novels in Grades 5 to 8
Graphic Novels for Grades 4 to 8
Collections of Short Stories

Traditional Literature as Reflections of the Values and Cultures of Peoples
Folk and Fairy Tales
Myths, Legends, and Fables
Ever-Evolving Stories: Storytelling

Poetry Plays an Important Role in Literacy Learning
Sharing Poetry in School
Poetic Devices
Forms of Poetry
Picture-Book Versions of Poems and Songs
Poetry Collections

Information Books for Learning and for Pleasure
Criteria for Evaluating Information Books
Narrative Nonfiction
Nonbook Resources


CHAPTER 6 The Nature and Assessment of Reading

Perspectives on Reading
Bottom-Up Perspectives
Top-Down Perspectives
Interactive Perspectives
Social Constructivist Perspectives
Posthuman Orientations
Thinking with Reading: Implications for Pedagogies

Reading Assessment
Purposes of Assessment
Considerations for Assessing Minoritized Learners
Curriculum Documents: Part of the Assessment Dialogue
High-Stakes Assessment

Assessment within Reading Pedagogies
Strategy One: Observation
Strategy Two: Conferencing
Strategy Three: Work Samples


CHAPTER 7 Reading Pedagogies: Major Elements

Learners’ Views of Reading and Reading Pedagogies

Conceptualizations of Reading and Reading Pedagogies

Reading Pedagogies: Considerations
Phonics and Meaning
Explicit and Implicit Pedagogies
Incidental and Systematic Pedagogies
Dimensions of Literacy
The Art of Reading

Reading Pedagogies
Read-Alouds Beyond the Early Years
Shared Reading
Guided Reading
Independent Reading
Scheduling the Elements


CHAPTER 8 Pedagogies to Foster Strategic Reading

Constructing Meanings with Strategic Reading
Rhythm of Reading Strategies Pedagogies

Overview of Pedagogies for Supporting Word Solving

Pedagogies for Supporting the Use of Graphophonic Cues and Structural Analysis Knowledge
English and Phonics
Pedagogical Approaches to Phonics
Systematic and Incidental Phonics / Synthetic and Analytic Phonics
From Phonics Instruction to Literacy Pedagogies with Phonics
Onsets and Rimes
Word Walls
Making Words
Word Sorting
Word Parts

Pedagogies of Contextual Cues: Pragmatic, Semantic, and Syntactic Cues
Cloze Experiences

Pedagogies for Reading Together with Cuing Systems
Minimal-Cue Messages
Oral Reading

Pedagogies to Support Comprehending
Directed Reading–Thinking Experience
The KWL Experience
Questioning the Text
Question–Response Relationships
Reciprocal Teaching
Semantic Webs

Constructing Reading Pedagogies


CHAPTER 9 The Process of Writing

The Process of Writing

Writing Technologies

Forms of Writing
Informational or Expository (Nonfiction)

The Process of Composing
The Role of Audience

Conducting a Writing Workshop
Guidelines for Conducting a Writing Conference
The Learners’ Role in a Writing Workshop

Writing Resources

Social Interaction in the Writing Process
The Importance of Talk
Peer-Group Writing Conferences


CHAPTER 10 Assessment and Conventions of Writing

Assessing Writing Capabilities
Purposes of Assessment
Informal Assessment of Writing
Product-Based Assessment

Spelling Pedagogies
Invented Spelling
Spelling Pedagogies in the Context of the Writing Process
Focused Pedagogical Opportunities and Approaches
Approaches to Spelling Pedagogies

Pedagogical Approaches for the Conventions of Writing
Punctuation and Capitalization

Printing and Cursive Handwriting
Letter Formation
The Left-Handed Writer

Pedagogies for Keyboarding and Technology in the Context of Writing


CHAPTER 11 Responding to Efferent Texts

Responding to Efferent Texts

Language and Thinking
Learning with Textbooks
Nonfiction/Information Texts

Text Structures
Informational Text Structures
Narrative Texts

Writing and Learning
Writing and Inquiry
Creating Journal Experiences
Writing to Consolidate What Is Known
Research and Inquiry Projects
The Research/Inquiry Process
Writing and Representing Research/Inquiry


CHAPTER 12 Responding to Aesthetic Texts

Constructing Meanings with Aesthetic Texts

Reader Response
Learning Opportunities with/through Response
Pedagogies for Response Groups
Reader Response Journals
Readers’ Workshops
Literature Circles
Novel Studies
Responding with Drama
Responding with Process/Improvisational Drama
Responding with Interpretive Drama
Re-enactment of Stories
Story Theatre
Reader’s Theatre
Responding with Visual Arts
Fan Fiction

Responding with Love


Appendix: Children’s Literature

Author Information

Rachel Heydon, Marianne McTavish, and Joyce Bainbridge