The Rules Keep Changing

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instill-the-love-of-reading-early 2At any point in my somewhat lengthy career in the field of literacy education there has been a gospel of sorts about what is true and right and necessary to ensure that all kids learn to read and write well. If we teachers weren’t applying the tenets of that gospel in our instruction, we were the focus of head shaking, sideways looks, raised eyebrows and, quite possibly, the subject of murmurings in the staff room.

The problem is the gospel is ever changing. Over time, different practices, materials and systems have been understood as proven, research-based, best practice, evidence-based, developmentally appropriate, etc.

Carefully orchestrated basal readers crafted for various elementary ages or grades of children have evolved in my lifetime into leveled books, scientifically assessed to be along the continuum of from 26 to 1,350 points of difficulty useful in providing a natural sure-fire, stair-step of challenges for developing readers.

Group instructional practices have changed from whole class to individual educational programs, from round robin to directed reading, from three groups to five to three again. From self-contained to resource to team teaching to pull out, to…infinity and beyond!

We have shifted from quarterly informal individual assessments and authentic observations of kids and their books to complex computerized gauntlets of testing, reporting, analyzing, judging and prescribing. Authentic assessments are one current choice under analysis and we know those are headed for heavy tweaking.

At any point in time there is the “OMG, you just have to XYZ with/for/to your kids.” But the XYZ always seems to morph into a have to which then evolves into used to and eventually ends up in the round file of never agains.

With a gospel that’s a constantly moving target, it’s no wonder so many teachers burn out and go into counseling or administration or exit the school doors altogether.

So, does anything stay the same? Ever?

Why YES! Yes, it does. At least one thing.

What never changes is that children who are taught in ways that get them excited about reading and reading material they enjoy, and who are given time to leisurely read for their own edification end up as capable, lifelong, happy readers.

Such lifelong readers become, by definition, lifelong learners…and the nurturing of lifelong learners is the single immutable goal for any good literacy curriculum. However we choose or are required to teach reading, whatever books we use, whenever we assess kids’ progress, we must bring children to the simple but robust habit of enjoyable, independent, daily interactions with books and other reading materials that come from genres and topics they choose on their own.

Whatever else we do, THIS must be our Golden Rule.

 

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10 Responses to “The Rules Keep Changing”

  1. Yetta Goodman August 19, 2015 at 3:43 pm #

    Mark’s Golden Rule is one I support and share with teachers and parents. His discussion highlights the importance of the teacher who organizes a range of opportunities for classroom literacy and learning experiences so that kids get excited about reading (and writing) and have time for leisurely self selected reading materials. Such teachers usually have a lot of knowledge about the reading process and how people learn to read. These teachers usually don’t burn out because the teacher is excited about how children are learning and the teacher has the power to organize and develop such curricula in her classroom. Yetta

    • Mark Condon August 24, 2015 at 12:28 pm #

      Ha! Well, thanks for naming it MY golden rule, Yetta. But of course as you say, this is a long-time stance taken by teachers everywhere that know to start teaching with children’s hearts and their heads will follow along.

  2. Sharon Zinke August 25, 2015 at 7:34 pm #

    What a breath of fresh air, Mark! I feel exactly the same way! And Yetta, so great to hear your voice! Let’s hear it for plenty of time for self-selected reading and writing in our classrooms. As human beings, we don’t learn very well when we are not inspired and engaged.

    • Mark Condon August 26, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

      Thanks, Sharion! The crime here is that kids are so eager to be inspired and engaged and yet far too often enter and then exit classrooms still uninspired and disengaged.

  3. Sherion Tillman-Jennings August 26, 2015 at 11:00 am #

    Dear Mark, I believe assessment of student needs is one of the most critical components of teaching reading . Another key to understanding the rules of reading is knowledge of the sequencing of components.

    • Mark Condon August 26, 2015 at 12:54 pm #

      Thanks for that thought, Sherion. I must say, I hope that one of the very first components in your sequence is teaching kids to capitalize on the unlimited power and immense potential of their own curiosities, interests and inquiries.

  4. I agree with Mark . In addition, the successful teacher of reading not only excites and motivates her students, but has a variety of strategies to use that will make all of her stude August 26, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

    Diane Ambur

    • Mark Condon August 26, 2015 at 2:36 pm #

      … or which teacher, eh Diane? We are certainly as varied as our students. So long as the tools we use honor that golden one, for me it’s “Whatever works today.”

  5. Jacki Price August 30, 2015 at 5:45 pm #

    Although students who struggle to read have different requirements from reading instruction, I do believe it is even more critical that we honor your golden rule and instill in them a love of reading.