Science? Yes, and…

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I recently received an email from the International Literacy Association announcing a presentation about “The Science of Reading Comprehension Instruction” by a lifelong educator with a terrific reputation. The promotional email says that attendees will “…learn specific research-tested instructional practices for developing students’ understanding of text.”

There has been terrific expansion of emphasizing the science of learning and literacy.  While science and research-tested practices are important and we must pay attention to them, I feel we must pay more attention to our students.

Said another way: The key to good teaching is to follow the science generally, because it can lead us into what’s next. The key to great teaching is to follow the kids intently, because they will absolutely show us what they need in their learning.

A close look at a particular child will show us how to diverge from the scientific path at a particular point in their literacy development. It will show us what they are feeling the need for, right then, in the moment.

For example, sometimes children will need to ask a question, rewatch you do something, or observe a successful peer to buy into what we may wish for them to learn. The science may suggest these steps to success, but at an observed juncture, they should become the primary consideration for a parent or teacher.

Science may encourage us to “bunch” kids together early on, even though they will be very different from one another. When we finally get them all marching to the same drummer they will almost immediately begin to scatter, which is a beautiful thing really. They aren’t being disrespectful or purposefully trying to buck the system; they are just being children. And if we let them be children and let science hum in the background, we maximize the likelihood of success for every one of them–and for ourselves as teachers and parents.

Studying our children will show us the likely path of success for each one. 

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