We all have different tastes, and that’s OK. What I like does not have to be what you like…and thank God, what my kids like does not have to be what I like.
I took a lot of heat recently for suggesting that perhaps we spend too much time assessing our students’ ability to read. Some interpreted my statements as though I were saying we don’t need to teach reading. That is not the case at all. Reading is a great learning strategy. The problem is when we begin to treat it as though it is the ONLY learning strategy. We use reading to communicate and learn other information. When we spend so much time teaching this one strategy and labeling students as successes or failures because of their ability to access information in this one way, we lose sight of our ultimate goal, which is to create learners. (I’ll bet some of you are still thinking about the flavors of soda you see in the picture above more so than the words you just read. See, reading is not the only way to communicate.)
As adults we access information in a number of different ways. Maybe you watch cable news, perhaps you read the newspaper, maybe you listen to talk radio. As an adult you understand that your own preferences often dictate how you will access information. As an adult you often also select your media not only on the method of delivery but by the bias of content as well. Too often with our students we focus on teaching students how to comprehend and summarize what has been presented in writing, that we inadvertently create little people who are being trained to believe everything they read. Instead of spending so much time focusing on fluency, phonemic awareness, decoding, and comprehension, we could begin to spend our time teaching our children how to distinguish fact from opinion, teaching validity and reilability, and exposing our students to high levels of engaging content that makes them want to go read more. I think we have spent too much time telling ourselves that reading more equals learning more. The reality is actually, learning more has you reading more.
If you take a look at the bookshelves in your home or office, odds are the books you own describe concepts and topics you are already somewhat familar with. You have chosen books that enhance your base knowledge. I doubt too many of us have books about the moons of Jupiter, nuclear fusion, or the history of Fiji. Granted each of these topics are probably fascinating, but we tend to read about what we already know about. If we want to create better readers, create better learners. And the way to do that is to not think of reading as the strategy, but a strategy.
My book shelf is lined with leadership books, because that’s what I am interested in.
In our schools today we are embracing flexible seating, chromebooks, differentiated scheduling, etc…as we begin to understand there are multiple paths for the variety of children we teach. In some schools, these new strategies are being touted as the next required initiative. Maybe teachers are being told they must establish a Google Classroom. Perhaps teachers are being told they must have workshop centers. This mindset is equally as flawed. What teachers need is access to a number of tools and strategies. Teachers need to be exposed to options and then given the resources and skills to learn how to self assess and reflect. Teachers need to be able to understand that the strategy is not nearly as important as the result. Get where you need to go, however you choose to get there. I am scheduled to speak in Las Vegas this summer. The group that booked me told me the dates I was needed and the topic to speak on. They did not tell me what airlines to use, or if I even needed to fly. They did not tell me the colors of font to use in my presentation or the number of actvities to include. I have been provided with the expexted outcomes and I will be evaluated based on my ability to meet them, not how I get there. In our classrooms we need to provide teachers with the tools to determine the destination and equip our students with a variety of ways to get there.
Reading is a great strategy. It works for me, but it may not work for everyone. Just like you may wake up tomorrow with a headache, scroll through WebMD and see a list of possible ailments and treatments, finding a strategy that will work with the unique symptoms of your students probably cannot be cured with a quick scroll through Pinterest or Teeacher Pay Teacher. You wont be able to cure most of your complex illnesses with a simple blue or pink pill. You probably won’t be able to “cure” most learning with a one size fits all strategy.
Find whatever works for your students, whether its reading in quiet rows or debating on wobble chairs. Learning matters more than the method.
It is our job to provide a variety of tools, resources, suggestions, and options. It is our job to have a final destination in mind. It is our job to faciliate progress and to reflect on our growth. Let’s focus more on our results and spend less time focusing on any one strategy as great as it may be…..and don’t even get me started on making all student use the same strategties and methods in math class. That’s a whole nother can of worms…