Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Questions to ponder...

We had a productive conversation today at our Literacy Team Meeting. As teachers in our building, we are trying to balance the absorption of testing data (yuck...but it is reality) with our approach to authentic learning. I couldn't help but remember reading the words of Kelly Gallagher, author of READICIDE: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It, during an interview with Franki. His interview with Franki is here. He states:

"In chasing test scores, we are killing the love of reading. We may succeed in raising our test scores, but we pay a large price to do so. The sad part, of course, is we have spent $1 billion on Reading First programs, and the students in this program did not score any better in comprehension than students who did not participate in the program at all."

"I want educators to ask themselves an important question: In the quest to raise test scores, am I damaging the long-term prospects of my students becoming lifelong readers?"

"Readicide is also influenced by the number of great teachers across this country who have shared their horror stories with me. The elimination of novels. Drowning students in worksheets. Scripted programs. Think about it. If you had to do what our students have to do, would you like reading? "

As a Literacy Team, we have to lead our building in what we know is right for children. To help our journey towards encouraging authentic practice, Karen posed a question that we want to guide our thinking...

How do we make authentic learning visible?

Of course with many thinkers, we began brainstorming possible ways to guide our staff in beginning to process this question. This question snowballed into more and Maureen (our Kindergarten teacher) suggested that we email a question a day (or week) for teachers to think about and respond to. (Karen related it to twittering within our building)

Here are some questions Maureen and I have brainstormed (What are we missing and what is too raw?). Again, this is a rough think aloud.

Questions to ponder...

Focus on the grade you teach.
What did you like about reading as a Kindergartner, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th grader? What didn't you like?

Ditto for writing...

How can we empower kids to think about their reading lives?
What aspects of your reading life can you share and discuss with your students?
How do you know what to read next?
How do you choose books?

What kinds of reading do you do throughout the day?

How much time are kids in my room spending reading books of their choosing?

What do I ask kids to do after they have read or finished a book? Why?

What are kids reading during Reading Workshop? comics, magazines, non-fiction...

How can we empower kids to think about their writing lives?
How do they live from day to day as a writer?

What aspects of your writing life can you share with your students?
How do you keep track of your writing plans?
When do you write? Do kids have authentic oppotunites for writing?

Can my students write well about what they know best- their own experiences?

What kinds of writing are my students engaged in? Do they have opportunities to practice generating independently?

Do I value talk in the writing or reading workshop? How much time do we really spend talking about writing and reading (not just sharing the end result)?

How much time do I give my students to write and do I give them choice of what to write about?

Have I modeled a variety of ways to write? Am I using mentor texts or anchor pieces to guide student writing? Do I include students in the assessment process?

How can I give more control to the students I teach in the area of reading? writing?

Are we creating another generation of "Teacher Pleasers"? Those kids who do anything the teacher asks them to do, but they never learn to reach any further...

How can technology help my writers and readers reach their greatest potential?

Do I believe that kids who spend their days authentically reading and writing will do well on state tests?

With many of these questions being focused on our teaching, I thought it was important to note questions that could be posed back to the kids. I immediately thought about Carol from Carol's Corner. She has a superb list of questions that she developed about readers and engagement. Mary Lee used this list with her 5th graders as a reflection/ self-assessment.

Questions and assessment takes me back to Kelly Gallagher's answer to Franki's smart question:

What are the most important things you could do with teachers in a very short period of time (at staff meeting)?

Discuss the importance that assessment plays in developing deeper readers and writers.

It feels like it all comes back to what kids know about themselves as learners...self-reflection, time to confer and talk with us about their lives as readers and writers, kids understanding what they are accomplishing or struggling with as readers and writers. Key word: UNDERSTANDING

There is not an answer or secret formula to authentic teaching and learning: just the pursuit of self improvement and guiding students towards the gift of loving to learn.


Lauren said...

What a great post! How to balance data with authenticity? What a huge question. All of your questions resonate with me as a literacy teacher, especially tonight as I sit exhausted from day one of ours state assessment - looking forward to day two tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

WOW!!!! Your post creates an outline for several years worth of plc talk topics. Bravo! Thanks for sharing your work.

sexy said...







Cathy said...

Thanks so much for the questions...great things to ponder! Can you remind me again what grade you teach and how long you have been teaching?

The Librarian Among Us said...

Authentic teaching and learning are purposeful for the student not just the teacher. Engaged readers are excited to share, because they are making personal connections with print. "Readicide" is a must read for our teachers and administrators.

Karen said...

This is great thinking! Your literacy group is really on to something. I love the questions --as with many things, you just never know which question might get someone to think in a new and different way. Kudos to your team!