Photo courtesy of Dr. Sunshine Sullivan.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Sunshine Sullivan.
Author: Elise Schack '19
Date: April 27, 2018
Date: April 27, 2018
Categories: Academics|Education

Our Student Reflections feature provides you with an insider's perspective of academic events on campus.


Houghton College welcomed local first through fourth grade elementary school students from Belfast Central School and Fillmore Central School to campus for its fourth annual Literacy Day. Starting in 2015, the program has grown from 40 students to more than 200 students.

Literacy day is designed to immerse students in an experience where they can engage in word study through exploration. An environment is created in which students are encouraged to become excited and engaged, fostering wonder and curiosity.

This goal is realized through the creation of read alouds, interactive writing activities, and small-group word study centers throughout the day. Through assessment data provided by the local teachers, students currently enrolled in Sullivan’s Language and Literacy for Diverse Learners course worked collaboratively in order to develop responsive instruction to fit the needs of these learners.

Junior Annie McConnell shared that her favorite part of planning Literacy Day was the collective brainstorming with her partner which has allowed them to make rich and active centers: “We would build on each other's ideas which enabled us to make centers that neither of us could have created on our own. It is fascinating how fun activities can be paired with rigorous academic learning. I am excited to see the students engage in critical thinking about spelling while popping balloons and playing giant board games!”

Sunshine Sullivan, associate professor and chair of education, shared how the collaborative process created a space where her students were willing to be vulnerable, hold each other accountable, and work through disagreements while maintaining professionalism, demonstrating a “strong, dynamic community of practice.”

Local schools and the Houghton College Teacher Education Program continuing an annual partnership of Literacy Day each year has immersed and empowered everyone involved, for the students as well as the emerging educators and local teachers. Literacy Day models a professional learning community and fosters growth of a personal learning network, consistently building ever-growing relationships. Sullivan remarks on the strengths of the growing partnership, saying: “The teachers’ willingness to give an entire precious day of their instruction for their students to be immersed in literacy in ways that are fun and empowering is a sign that they value this opportunity for their students as much as I value it for mine. Each year more teachers ask to join. The energy from the local students and my emerging teachers is palpable. All of them grow throughout the day.”

As Literacy Day comes to a close, it remains an experience emerging educators will carry with them into their future practice. McConnell reflects, “Planning for literacy day has enabled me to reflect on how deeply my experience this year has shaped my thinking about education and learning. The theories and practices that we have learned are integrated, not separate pieces of knowledge. My reflective growth as a teacher over this year inspires me for the future years of learning in and through my practice!”


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