Synergy: Teaching Literacy in a Multi-level Classroom, Grade levels 1-6

Course Title: Synergy: Teaching Literacy in a Multi-level Classroom, Grade levels 1-6
Credits: 3 credits from Saint Michael’s College
Dates: October 3, 2022 – December 14, 2022
Contact Hours: 50+
Intended audience: Classroom teachers: grades 1-6   
Instructor: Ellen A. Thompson, Ed. D.
Cost: $1,575 with 3 credits / $900 without credits
Location: Virtual, asynchronous
Registration Deadline: September 26th

Description: This online course will allow participants to understand more completely the vital components of a comprehensive balanced literacy approach for the teaching of reading and writing with a diverse group of learners. Often teachers lament about the multiple levels of readers and writers in their classrooms, nevermind what happens when they have been assigned two or more grade levels to teach.  This course is designed to make clear how these multi levels and multi-ages can be an asset for the literacy learning in our classrooms. Participants will consider the brain research as well as the research about multiage classroom teaching as they look closely at their own pedagogy used for teaching literacy.

The book, The Literacy Studio written by Ellin Oliver Keene in 2022 will help us consider our practice of separating reading from writing.  Just as heterogeneous groupings can be powerful for our teaching so can the combination of reading and writing within the same workshop setting. Doing so creates a synergy to create an outcome bigger than the sum of its parts! Participants will discuss the types of teaching and planning necessary to create their own Literacy Studio.  These discussions will lead us to the artistry in our teaching for all children, no matter the level.


 As a result of active participation in this course, students will:

  • Consider and discuss the merits and facets of a comprehensive balanced literacy approach
  • Explore and learn more about how the brain impacts our learning
  • Explore the concept of multi age teaching within a constructivist model of teaching
  • Develop a deep understanding of reading and writing as two sides of the same coin
  • Consider the implications this work has on classroom practice to map out a strategic plan for classroom-based applications
  • Use the course precepts to create a meaningful investigation, and/or research best practice to promote deeper student understandings for reading and writing that matters
  • Develop an understanding of the use of the learning management platform (CANVAS)  to support learning  and to support the learning of other class participants
  • Collaborate and reflect  with colleagues to develop a community of learners to support  current reading/writing policies and practices

Required Readings: For all: 

  • The Literacy Studio, written by Ellin Oliver Keene, Heinemann, 2022
  • ELA Common Core State Standards
  • Articles/visual media: supplied by instructor

Course Design: This is an online class. It is important that all course participants make good use of the discussion forums.  Increased understanding will be generated through the connection between the assigned readings/tasks and your ability to tease out important information for each other and yourself.  The instructor will read and monitor the discussions to highlight important points and to turn conversations in new and deeper directions.



Ellen A. Thompson, Ed.D., Literacy Consultant

Ellen A. Thompson has been an educator for over 43 years. She taught as a classroom teacher in Vermont for over twenty years with many of those years in a multiage setting teaching children aged 6-9 years of age. Ellen was named the Vermont State Teacher of the Year in 1993 and she achieved her National Board Certification as an Early Childhood Generalist in 1999. Ellen began consulting nationally in 1993 and has continued this work throughout her years as an educator. Upon leaving the classroom, Ellen joined the Elementary Education literacy faculty at the University of Vermont in 2000. Continue…