Monday, June 25, 2012

I'm taking a literacy workshop!

This week I'm doing a workshop at my school, the beginning of a pretty big initiative aimed at increasing literacy and reading skills across the disciplines.  The workshop is being taught by a couple of local education professors who are consultants at AdLit PD and Consulting, a company that focuses on adolescent literacy.  It's pretty interesting, so I'm going to write something every day here, rather than every week.

The first day was full of interesting discussions about what literacy is, what reading skills kids need in the different disciplines (in the room there are social studies teachers, foreign language teachers, english teachers, science teachers, librarians and special ed teachers).  We talked about our own reading, about problems our students have, we talked about the common core, we talked about habits of mind, and we talked about skills and strategies.  One thing we didn't talk much about (though I did my best to annoyingly inject the subject at every opportunity) was how much kids actually read.  As usual, the focus is on strategies and skills and explicit instruction, and the fundamental question of how much kids are actually reading is an afterthought, if it is mentioned at all.  When I talked about it with one of our very intelligent and competent instructors, he said something like, "Oh, I agree with you completely.  That's so important.  You must like Dick Allington.  When I ran an eighth grade intervention, all I did with those kids was read, and they made the most improvement of any kids in the city. But we have to not only have kids read, we also have to teach them these habits of mind.  Reading by itself is not enough."  I agreed with him, and said that I only focused so much on reading volume because it was what practice (our school) and theory (most discussions, courses, texts, reports, etc.) completely ignored.  He agreed, but then he talked about habits of mind for the rest of the time.

I'll keep trying, but in the meantime I'll do my homework.  One part of the homework was my favorite kind: to pick a text (they had brought a lot of books) and read it.  I picked out a Kylene Beers book with a catchy title (When Kids Can't Read--What Teachers Can Do).  I skimmed it, and I found that she although she goes into great detail about strategies, graphic organizers, and so on, she spends almost no time on how to increase the amount that kids read.  What I want is a book with the title, When Kids Don't Read--What Teachers Can Do; but I don't think I'll be seeing that book anytime soon.

Our second assignment was my second favorite kind of homework: to write a blog post.  The post is supposed to be about vocabulary, something I've been thinking about.  I'll post that separately.

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