This Letter Was Originally Published in The Hechinger Report To the Editor: Re OPINION: A call for rejecting the newest reading wars Nov. 18, 2022 We are teachers who were sold the very story that journalist Emily Hanford describes in her new podcast: a myth about how students learn to crack the alphabetic code. So, we were disappointed to see the recent letter by fifty-eight professors, authors and curriculum developers
For the Students We Wish We’d Taught Better
Letting Hero-Worship Go
As discussion of Emily Hanford’s new podcast builds, teachers are questioning stories we were sold by people we trusted. For some teachers, this is the first time they’ve doubted instructional materials that are ubiquitous in elementary and reading intervention classrooms. When we question the tenets of Balanced Literacy, teachers can unearth a trove of information. But how to make sense of it all? As researchers Stanovich and Stanovich explain: The
Differentiation Done Right: How “Walk To Read” Works
When we’re asked to switch to explicit, systematic instruction, many teachers worry that we’ll no longer be able to tailor our teaching to the students in front of us. Calls for whole-class phonics instruction lasting 30-45 minutes, for example, summon fears that our students will be bored by concepts they already know or aren’t yet ready for. And they resurface memories of teachers stripped of our ability to differentiate instruction as
Seeing the Good in Balanced Literacy… and Moving On
Though Balanced Literacy was wrong about some important things, it has practices worth saving. And understanding the good in that approach to teaching literacy can help us transition to more effective instruction. Seeing the Good Balanced Literacy taught us the… Importance of a print-rich classroom Love of reading aloud to children Value of students seeing us write Pride in having an extensive classroom library Power of a mini-lesson Utility of
Can We Please Stop Talking About Phonics?
Can We Please Stop Talking About Phonics? The discussion about the science of reading and its refutation of Balanced Literacy is often mischaracterized as being all about phonics. It’s not. But when reading researchers evaluated how a popular Balanced Literacy program addresses phonics, fluency, text complexity, building knowledge, vocabulary, and the quality of its supports for English Learners, only the part about phonics made front page news. So a lot
Dear Lucy, a second letter
Dear Lucy, When I wrote you a letter years ago, I urged you to consider the enormous impact you could have on classrooms, if you were to revise the trainings and materials offered by Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. I highlighted portions of Units of Study: Reading that instruct teachers to have students guess rather than decode words. And I made my letter public because I wanted to help
Data: The closest thing we have to a crystal ball
I embraced every possible reason not to take early literacy data seriously: Kindergarteners are too young for testing. How can we trust reading data of kids who have barely been in school? Shouldn’t we wait and see if students will catch up? I don’t even care about these subtests. Screening measures don’t tell me what I really need to know in order to teach. Testing pulls time away from instruction.
What Do I Do with All These Predictable Books?
Many teachers have already reorganized our leveled libraries because we learned that, according to Fountas and Pinnell, “levels have no place in classroom libraries.” Sorting books into bins labeled by theme or topic is time-consuming, but it’s not a difficult task. We immediately see that offering students more choice in their reading materials and teaching them to monitor their own reading for accuracy and comprehension is rewarding. However, books at
Overcoming Learners’ Bias to Give Our Students What They Need
I am a typical teacher, according to all the statistics; I’m white, female, and have between fifteen and twenty years of teaching experience. My students and their families, most of whom are Black and live in households below the poverty line, don’t see themselves reflected in my appearance or speech, and navigating these differences can be difficult. There are resources designed to help teachers curate texts and develop lesson plans
What Should We Do When a Reader Stumbles on a Word?
There’s a lot of bad advice out there for what to do when a reader comes to an unfamiliar word. While the exact language of problematic cues varies – Take a guess and sail on by! Skip the word and then reread. Use your eagle eye to look at the picture. – the premise of all these prompts is the same; they encourage young readers to use meaning or syntax