Touro TESOL Candidate Jason Madrick on Teaching According to the Stages of Literacy Development

Discussion Boards offer the opportunity to not only to reflect on readings but also contribute with peer responses to the learning process of the course cohort. Jason Madrick submitted thoughtful responses and analysis to the readings and webcast. Also, his peer responses were focused and featured APA style references.

Jason Madrick: Born and raised in Queens, NY, I have been an illustrator, musician, and overall creative person for as long as I can remember. A graduate of Syracuse University with BA degrees in Biology and Anthropology with minors in Sociology and Education, I have been teaching as a substitute teacher in public elementary schools in Queens, and then in the UPK program for more than a decade combined. I look forward to embarking on the next stage of my career in education being employed by the NYC DOE this coming fall and using my artistic and musical talents, love of reading, nature, science and more to convey and hopefully instill a love of learning in my future students.

This DB focuses on your reading of Teaching According to the Stages of Literacy Development

Q: How would YOU in YOUR professional teaching practice, track and assess reading levels? Please be specific in using academic vocabulary.

Jason Madrick: Once I take over a kindergarten class this November, I will be making my first attempts at tracking and assessing a student’s reading abilities. Also, I can’t help but think it sounds a bit more grandiose if I were to rephrase that last sentence like this; Once I’ve usurped an aged and wise educator this Autumn I will tally the cognitive literacy talents of these young minds using multiple methods. What I really mean is, I’m really not sure what type of assessments or reading programs this school uses yet. Any assessments that I made of this skill while in the UPK program were made very informally, and I supposed mostly centered around letters and simple word recognition. I know there are different types of leveled reading book systems that are used in different schools, but in Kindergarten, I suppose that students at this age are all still at the relative beginning of their journey towards literacy. They would all fall within Stage O according to Chall’s Stages of Literacy Development. (The Literacy Bug PDF). There is likely to be a fair amount of variety in the level of beginner reading skills among them as well. Some students may be familiar with the entire English alphabet from A to Z, while others may only recognize the ones that are used to spell their own names and some may be advanced enough to be able to read right through a level A/B/C/D etc type of storybook. In thinking about this, I did go to the website of the school where I’ll be working this fall to learn what reading program they might use, and they mention using the mClass Assessment System. (PS 303 Curriculum). I will have to read up on this in the coming months to familiarize myself with it somewhat before my ascent to being a full-time Kindergarten teacher. Cue jokes from my friends referencing the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. The school website also states that teachers are of course trained how to use this system for assessment purposes. This assessment is stated to occur three times a school year for grades K-5th. I’m also hoping that during the start of this school year while I am a full-time substitute teacher until I am placed in the Kindergarten class, I will meet with the retiring teacher to learn what I can from her before her retirement. Ideally, I will be able to also observe the class while she is teaching it so I can understand her approach and style of teaching somewhat. I may even learn some tips from her about how to assess reading levels using the mClass program the school uses. For these beginning readers, learning to recognize and write the letters of the English alphabet, learning the sounds related to these letters or phonics, increasing their English vocabulary, and of course, both listening and speaking English in class will be where most of our focus on literacy skills will be. Beyond the mClass system, I will perhaps also use some form of running records and also informal observations to keep track of students’ literacy skills as they progress through the year. This may include asking a student to read a simple sentence or series of words to me, or listening to them as they read something in print to a classmate in school. I’d also like to mention that for ELLs in this classroom I would make sure to display multiple visuals aids and graphics to help with their English language acquisitions. I would also want to use their L1 languages as best I can as a resource for both the students and myself as their teacher. If I have to learn a few new languages to say hello and goodbye in this school year I think I will be able to manage to add those words into my lexicon. Words from their L1 languages I could also present in the classroom as a language resource as well as something familiar from their culture for these students. In addition, native English speakers in the class will also be exposed to new words and languages which I think is very positive for early childhood learners in general. Though I won’t have to make any formal assessments about that process, at least that I’m aware of.

Watching the webcast and looking at the Reading Rockets resources was there anything that you will be able to incorporate into your professional practice?

Webcast description: Robert reads well in Spanish but speaks very little English. Marisa has trouble decoding basic stories. And Ms. Johnson, their second grade teacher, must teach them both to read – along with 23 other students. How? She must differentiate classroom instruction.

Differentiated Reading Instruction: Teaching Every Child is a 60-minute webcast that outlines the most effective strategies teachers can use to address the many different needs of each of their students – so that kids capable of learning to read, like Robert and Marisa, won’t fall behind.

Reading Rockets Resources:

Jason Madrick: I think the practice of differentiating instruction for diverse student needs will be a crucial skill to further develop as I continue in my teaching career. The ability to accurately determine and apply activities, resources, and skill levels for a variety of students in a classroom is a challenging demand made of today’s public school teachers, and in many ways is something I’m not perhaps as familiar with due to my age and own experience and memories from my own early childhood and elementary school instruction. I think back in the 1980s there was much more of a one size fits all approach to instruction within a single classroom. Though I also remember at that time that my school practiced what I think is called tracking or ability grouping. I know that I was in the “top” performing class from 1st through 6th grade, while there was a “middle” and “low” class in each grade as well each year. Learning how to accurately personalize instructional methods and activities for a wide variety of students within one class will take me time and practice to develop. Also to be able to equitably provide this specialization and differentiation to not just struggling or below level performing students, but also providing appropriately challenging tasks and activities for higher-performing students as well. It seems to me that differentiation of instruction for a wide spectrum of skill/abilities in students by a teacher is something that can make instruction more difficult for teachers. Especially compared to perhaps only teaching students that are all very similar in their academic skills such as the case with the practice of tracking. Of course, it would also seem that the former situation is perhaps fairer, or equitable for students as they can perhaps learn better from each other in a diverse group instead of one where all of the students are struggling at the same approximate level.

What did you learn for your own professional practice that was surprising after reading: Teaching According to the Stages of Literacy Development

Jason Madrick: I think the most surprising, or rather, the most interesting information I learned after reading “Teaching According to the Stages of Literacy Development” is the change in the type of cognitive functions that occur as a person develops and transitions towards becoming an expert, literate adult reader. There was a graph that was included that shows this visually also, which I definitely appreciated. The graph or slide was titled “Instructional Focus Changes Across Time” (The Literacy Bug PDF). To see that there is a point at which, the skills we have developed at first to be able to begin to read gradually sort of fade to the background for increasingly competent readers as they now are reading at an expert level. Once they have transitioned past this point, reading now requires more critical thinking, reflection, and other higher cognitive functions that have become paramount to the reading process. It makes sense to me though, as a kindergartner may have learned the skills to read a simple sentence like “See Spot Run.”, but it would take a much more advanced literate reader to ponder and perhaps ask questions about the more advanced and complicated literature that they are reading about. I’m not sure how likely it is that a kindergartner would perhaps in return independently think or ask their teacher “Who is this Spot? What is Spot? What color is Spot? Can I have a Spot? Why is Spot running? Is something chasing Spot? Should I be running too? Why aren’t you running?” All of which I think are great questions, and with some guidance in continuing verbal conversations with a student, may even be examples of higher-order thinking questions I could ask a student about what they just read to gauge their comprehension of the reading material and to elicit more critical thinking from them.


PS 303 Curriculum. AEAPS303Q. (n.d.).

Differentiated reading instruction. Reading Rockets. (2020, January 8).

The Literacy Bug. (n.d.). Teaching According to the Stages of Literacy.

Jason Madrick’s peer responses in the Discussion Board:
Hi K! Thanks for your post. I wanted to respond to your post because of your critique of the educational system in regards to pushing students along, and the pressure or “need” for “good” data being collected by a teacher for a school/district, etc. If the ability to read well, and becoming a functionally literate person is the foundation for all academic learning to follow, as well as perhaps for becoming a well-informed citizen capable of critical thinking, debate, and intelligent discussions, then why does the system allow, or rather push or force teachers such as yourself to pass students along from grade to grade? I could say that it’s either systemic or institutional negligence. Or that perhaps it’s inherently linked to our educational systems as it is related to the industrial revolution and the needs of businesses. This is an idea I was familiar with from prior readings in my past, perhaps I think from Howard Zinn’s book, “A People’s History of the United States.”, but I also wanted to find a recent article about it and located one titled “The Modern Education System Was Designed to Train Future Factory Workers to be “punctual, docile, and sober”.” (Schrager, A. 2018). Of course, it could be that many of our current problems with our education systems as we know them are still at work because our government, or the corporations that exert so much influence on it, want these problems to continue, or that they don’t even view them as problems to be corrected. “Well, the world needs ditch diggers too.” says Judge Smails in the movie “Caddyshack” from the 1980s when another character is lamenting that he can’t afford to go to college. Which I think is very much a reflection of that type of mentality and approach to education writ large within our popular culture. But as the world continues to change, and the work that people need, or are required to do to support themselves and their families changes with it, our education system needs to change as well. To quote the article by Allison Schrager that I found online; “In a post-industrial world, education may require an equally bold rethink. It might mean more comprehensive adult education, or regular retraining, to keep skills sharp as old jobs disappear and new ones appear that require vastly different responsibilities. Or it may involve integrating technology to create more personalized learning experiences.” I’m definitely curious to see which route we’ll take in the years to come.


​​Caddyshack. 1980.

Schrager, A. (n.d.). The Modern Education System Was Designed to Train Future Factory Workers to Be “punctual, docile, and sober”. Quartz.

Zinn, H. (2015). A people’s history of the United States: 1492-present. Routledge.

Jason Madrick’s peer responses in the Discussion Board:
Hello X., and thanks for your post. I wanted to comment in regards to your answer to the last question for this discussion board. I agree with you that the stages of reading development are closely connected and that teachers need to be aware of where a student is in that process so that they can accurately give them the support they need to make progress. Also as you mentioned, as a teacher in elementary school, which is where all of my teaching experience has been up to this point as well, that is where students ideally should be establishing a firm understanding of reading and language skills as this is the foundation for everything that will follow. Now, of course, not all children develop at the same rate or even in the same way cognitively or social-emotionally, so what happens to students that for whatever reason(s) don’t make enough progress in developing their literacy skills while in elementary school? Well, as I mentioned in another post earlier this summer, learning of course is not always a straight path from point A to B and so on. Some students will perhaps get the right resources, and be able to get the support and additional instruction they need to catch up to their peers if they are lacking the skills that a grade or curriculum requires for them to successfully learn from. But of course, many students will not get that support, and will not make progress. But will they continue to go on from grade to grade through junior high and high school even without ever reaching a fully developed, or expert level of reading comprehension? I think the answer is most likely yes. Some students will not graduate from high school, others may have enough skills to pass a GED exam, or will perhaps graduate through a “City as School” program where they gain job skills and experience. But will they ever become well-read, incredibly literate adults? It’s possible, but then it will come back to how much they practice reading during their adult life. Reading is a skill that if it’s not practiced regularly, will not improve, and will likely degrade in some respects and will result in lower comprehension, and ability to take on more complex texts. This also brings to mind a meme I had seen over this past summer that said one of the biggest predictors of future academic success was if and how much reading by parents and family members that a child is exposed to during their crucial early childhood years. If this is in fact true, then ultimately, reading and literacy is a skill that starts from birth and must be practiced for the rest of one’s life to be maintained and/or improved. Obviously, our present system of education has many issues and holes through which students slip through because they are behind their peers, have learning disabilities, have any number of home/life issues, or perhaps just weren’t read to enough as children. -Jason

Author: drcowinj

Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs only to the people who prepare for it today,” determined Malcolm X at the O.A.A.U.’s [Organization of Afro-American Unity] founding forum at the Audubon Ballroom. (June 28, 1964). (X, n.d.) Dr. Jasmin Bey Cowin a Fulbright Scholar, SIT Graduate, completed the Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP™) at Columbia University, Teachers College. Dr. Cowin served as the President of the Rotary Club of New York and Assistant Governor for New York State; long-term Chair of the Rotary United Nations International Breakfast meetings; and works as an Assistant Professor at Touro College, Graduate School of Education. Dr. Cowin has over twenty-five years of experience as an educator, tech innovator, entrepreneur, and institutional leader with a focus on equity and access to digital literacy and education in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. Her extensive background in education, administration, not-for-profit leadership, entrepreneurial spirit, and technology innovation provide her with unique skills and vertical networks locally and globally. Dr. Cowin participates fully in the larger world of TESOL academic discipline as elected Vice President and Chair-Elect for the New York State, NYS TESOL organization, for the 2021 conference. Ongoing research, expressed in scholarly contributions to the advancement of knowledge is demonstrated through publications, presentations, and participation in academic conferences, blogging, and other scholarly activities, including public performances and exhibitions at conferences and workshops. Of particular interest to her are The Blockchain of Things and its implications for Higher Education; Current Global Trends in TESOL; Developing Materials and Resources in Teaching English; E-learning; Micro and Macro-Methodologies in TESOL; E-Resources Discovery and Analysis; and Language Acquisition and the Oculus Rift in VR.

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