Link to current CV


  • PhD University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 2015
  • MA University of Colorado, Boulder 2000
  • BFA University of Colorado, Boulder 1994

Professional Roles:

  • Executive Director of Teaching & Learning, Summers-Knoll School, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
  • Assistant Professor, Teacher Education, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA
  • Research Assistant, Language & Meaning Project, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
  • Grade 4 Classroom Teacher, Mount Madonna School, Watsonville, CA, USA
  • Grades 3 – 5 Classroom Teacher, Harrington Elementary, Denver, CO, USA

Scholarly Expertise:

My teaching and research focus on teachers’ instructional practices that support literacy and language development for culturally and linguistically diverse students. Having been an elementary classroom teacher for 10 years, I am committed to keeping my research responsive to the daily work of teachers and students through building long-term, mutualistic, research-practice partnerships. Additionally, with my background in yoga, my work also involves collaborating with teams of teachers and organizations to create cultures of mindfulness within schools. I can provide professional development on and speak to the following:

  • Literacy and Language Instruction
  • Asset-Based Instruction with Immigrant-Origin Youth
  • A Linguistic Orientation to Meaning-Making Across Content Areas
  • Arts-Based and Design-Based Research
  • Pre-Service Elementary Literacy Teacher Preparation
  • Creating Cultures of Mindfulness in Schools

Current Research Projects:

  • The Stories Project is an arts-based, educational research project created in partnership with the Refugee Development Center and a team of artists and fellow researchers. The Stories Project film is both a scholarly product and a work of art intended for use by educators to inspire and generate timely, social justice-oriented conversations that dismantle negative stereotypes about (im)migrants and refugees and why they migrate to and (re)settle in the United States.

Recent Research Projects

  • Stories of Perceptions, Connections, and Transformations: Building Global Awareness through Intercultural Communication This project will serve as a pilot for a new Global Civic Engagement component in the Refugee Development Center’s GLOBE summer camp for middle and high school youth. The purpose of this project  is to explore the following essential question: How can we change negative perceptions of (im)migrants and (im)migration in the United States? The outcome of this project will be a collection of stories that will shed light on the substance of perceptions and assumptions about immigrants and immigration as well as how those perceptions can change.
  • Linguistically Responsive Instruction for Immigrant & Refugee Youth: Critical Professional Development, July 2018 – This two-week summer workshop for K-12 teachers focused on how to facilitate emergent bilinguals’ reading comprehension and meaning-making through discussions of informational texts in content area classrooms. Teachers spent each morning observing two reading classes as I facilitated middle and high school immigrant-origin youth’s reading comprehension. After lunch, we spent the afternoon exploring the principles of linguistically responsive instruction and how to translate them into practice to ensure immigrant-origin students have rich, meaningful learning experiences that support their content-area learning. Michigan K-12 teachers earned 46 SCECHs for attending.
  •  Co-Constructing a Teaching Toolkit for ESOL Instructors  Building upon the previous RDC project (below), the purpose of this work was to further the development of our research-practice partnership with the Refugee Development Center (RDC). Dr. Peter De Costa in the Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian, and African Languages, Christina Ponzio (CITE), Yue Bian (CITE), and I collaborated with the RDC director and the RDC senior school liaison to design and facilitate a series of professional development sessions to support the RDC  teachers’ development of research-based instructional practices that can improve language learning opportunities for newcomers (recently arrived immigrants and refugees) in community-based ESOL classes (English for Speakers of Other Languages). This work is being supported by a grant from Michigan State University’s Diversity Network Research Launch Awards Program (LAP).
  • Developing Local Literacies with Middle and High School Refugee Youth – Supported by an AERA Education Research Service Project award, this is a design-based research project conducted in partnership with the Refugee Development Center (RDC), a local nonprofit organization that provides educational support services for immigrant and refugee newcomers in our area. Through the iterative design of an asset inventory, we sought to identify the organization’s goals and visions for their summer camp, which serves 60 – 90 middle and high school refugee youth each year. The program’s asset-based orientation to youth’s diverse languages, religions, and cultural practices provides myriad opportunities to develop language, make new friends, and become acquainted with the community.
  • Site-Based Versus University-Based Literacy Methods Courses: What Matters Most? – This study speaks to the rigor and relevancy of the pedagogy in clinical partnership settings. Although site-based courses are assumed to be better than university-based courses, there are few empirical studies to date that have investigated whether or not site-based courses truly are more beneficial and if so, in what ways and why. To redress this gap, we compare and contrast the perspectives of undergraduate, pre-service teachers enrolled in two sections of an elementary literacy methods course: one held onsite at an elementary school and the other held at the university.
  • Pre-Service Teachers’ Views on Language and Language Learners – In this study, we examine how pre-service teachers’ perspectives on language and language learners evolve during a semester-long course on English language teaching, translanguaging, and assessment. The pre-service teachers enrolled in this course are pursuing a minor in TESOL and a TESOL endorsement in addition to their degree in education and elementary teaching licensure.
  • Investigating Functional Grammar Analysis as an Instructional Tool for Meaning-Making with Fourth-Grade English Learners – This embedded case study investigates one fourth-grade teacher’s year-long enactment of a curriculum designed to support emergent bilinguals’ meaning-making with a functional grammar approach. Stemming from Systemic Functional Linguistics theory, functional grammar analysis is a technique that may support teachers in bringing, what I refer to as, a linguistic orientation to meaning-making with text to help make the language often found in academic texts more explicit and accessible for emergent bilinguals. This study demonstrates how functional grammar analysis provides a metalanguage with which teachers can facilitate discussions about key ideas that are central to the meanings in text. Through iterative readings of select text excerpts and visual representations of students’ emergent understandings, teachers can scaffold the analysis of word meanings and clauses to help students build causal relations while reading narrative texts and logical/referential relations while reading informational science texts.

Academic Bio

Carrie Symons, PhD, is the Executive Director of Teaching and Learning at Summers-Knoll School, the premier project-based learning school in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she works with teachers on developing meaningful learning opportunities with/for PreK – 8th grade students. While at Michigan State University (2015 – 2022), Carrie taught undergraduate and graduate courses in literacy methods, action research, and multilingual learners’ language development across the content areas. As a community-engaged scholar, Carrie partners with the Refugee Development Center in Lansing as well as faculty and students in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University to provide educational experiences through which learners can cultivate intercultural communication and global civic engagement.

Select Publications:

Symons, C. & Gajasinghe, K. (2022) Digital storytelling as a Freirean-based pedagogy with refugee-background youth. In S. Barros & L. de Oliveira (Eds.) Paulo Freire and Multilingual Education: Theoretical Approaches, Methodologies, and Empirical Analyses in Language and Literacy (176 – 195). Routledge. ISBN: 9780367773557

Schleppegrell, M. J., & Symons, C. (2021). The role of meaningful sentence-level metalanguage: Insights from children’s thinking with functional grammar. In M. E. Brisk & M. J. Schleppegrell (Eds.), Language in action: SFL theory across contexts (pp. 33-53). Equinox. ISBN: 978-800500037

Barros, S., Domke, L., Symons, C. & Ponzio, C.* (2020) Challenging monolingual ways of seeing multilingualism in teacher preparation programs. Journal of Language, Identity, & Education, 20(4), pp. 239-254. doi: 10.1080/15348458.2020.1753196

Symons, C. (2020). Instructional practices for scaffolding emergent bilinguals’ comprehension of informational science texts. Pedagogies: An International Journal. doi:10.1080/1554480X.2020.1738938

Symons, C. & Ponzio, C. (2019). Spacious teaching with immigrant-origin youth: Who you are is welcome here. English Journal. 109(1), 22-29.

Symons, C., & Ponzio, C. (2019). Schools cannot do it alone: A community-based approach to refugee youth’s language development. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 33(1), 98-118. doi: 10.1080/02568543.2018.1531450

Symons, C., Palincsar, A. S. & Schleppegrell M. J. (2017). Fourth-grade emergent bilinguals’ uses of functional grammar analysis to talk about text. Learning and Instruction.

Symons, C. (2017). Supporting emergent bilinguals’ argumentation: Evaluating evidence in informational science texts. Linguistics and Education, 38, 79-91. 

Symons, C. (2016). Meeting the needs of linguistically diverse students in the mainstream classroom. Michigan Reading Journal, 49(1), 7-16.

Palincsar, A. S., Symons, C., Rogers, R., Gabriel, R., & Allington, R. (2015). JR Paratore D. A. Robertson Talk that Teaches: Using Strategic Talk to Help Students Achieve the Common Core 2013 Guilford Press New York ISBN97901-4625-1042-9, 142 pp. Linguistics and Education, 32, 162 – 166.

Schleppegrell, M.J., Moore, J., Al-Adeimi, S., O’Hallaron, C., Palincsar, A.S., & Symons, C. (2014). Tackling a genre: situating SFL genre pedagogy in a new context. In L. de Oliveira & J. Iddings (Eds.), Genre Pedagogy Across the Curriculum: Theory and Application in U.S. Classrooms and Contexts (pp. 25-39). Bristol, CT: Equinox.