Looking Closely and Listening Carefully: Learning Literacy Through Inquiry
In Looking Closely and Listening Carefully: Learning Literacy through Inquiry, teacher researcher Tim O’Keefe teams up with university partners Heidi Mills and Louise B. Jennings to bring to life insights and strategies from Tim’s class at the Center for Inquiry, a small elementary magnet program in Columbia, South Carolina. Mills and O’Keefe’s earlier book (with Diane Stephens), Looking Closely, focused on phonics in Tim’s holistic, transition-first-grade classroom; Looking Closely and Listening Carefully expands and refines this earlier work by painting a portrait of the ways in which Tim’s second and third graders learn literacy through inquiry. While Tim has been engaged in careful kidwatching, Heidi and Louise have been teacherwatching. Their combined perspectives illuminate the relationship between literacy and inquiry and demonstrate the power of a balanced literacy curriculum in an inquiry-based classroom.
The authors take us through a typical day in Tim’s classroom, describing the curricular structures and instructional strategies that make a difference as Tim supports his readers and writers through exploration, morning meetings, reading and writing workshops, read-alouds, math workshop, focused study, and end-of-day activities. Because Tim teaches the same students for two full years, the authors take the opportunity to track the paths of literacy learning across the lives of two students. They also explore the role of state standards in Tim’s teaching and provide clear demonstrations of the strategies he uses to promote democracy and community in his classroom. Additionally, the authors use a letter written by Tim directly to his fellow teachers to explicate the assessment, reporting, and parent communication strategies Tim employs.
Tim is never willing to settle for what is typical in education, so this journey through his classroom, rich with stories, vignettes, and classroom examples, illustrates “what is possible when teachers, parents, university partners, and children inquire together.” Looking Closely and Listening Carefully is both a theoretically sound and a practically relevant book.
186 pp. 2004. Grades K–6. ISBN 10: 0-8141-3030-5; ISBN 13: 978-0-8141-3030-8.