In light of this very rough week, I've done one thing that provides relief from the "real" world. At least for a bit. I've read. Mindless dribble at times but that is what I've needed this week. A good easy read, that didn't require a lot of thinking and that had a happy ending. I also finished The Book Whisperer. An easy read because it's so inspiring.
The one thing that stuck out to me in this chapter was this line "I have been told many times, both to my face and through comments on my blog, that I am not preparing my students for the "real world" by letting them read whatever they want" p166. This rang so true to me. We (my EA's and I) have throughout the years not been supported (at times) in our radical views on reading instruction. Does a child need to know the whole alphabet in order to learn how to read? If a child is not "getting" certain letters do you drill, drill, drill until they do? I have had older children come to me being unable to read even level one books (and hating it) and having not mastered the alphabet yet (I'm talking grade 3 or 4). Each year on their IEP is "knows 15 letters working on the rest", then the following year "knows 17 letters working on the rest" etc. you get the picture. They would be in high school before they knew the whole alphabet. Do we start teaching them how to read then? In the 8 weeks of reading instruction in my class these children often jump to level 4 or above and are actually asking to choose books and to read to me. Unfortunately I only have these students for a short time after surgery but they return to their home schools. I know the endless drills are not working. Does that mean that I don't work on the alphabet or phonics? No, but I work on them in the context of activities and books and real time practice. We read, read, and read more of the sight words we have practiced in real books.
Each of my students have the opportunity to choose a book they want to read and then read it to me everyday (they then take it home and read it to parents). This takes up a huge amount of my time and I've often wondered if I should stop and just have the children take the book home or maybe even pick the book for them and send it home to save on time. I now realize that I can't do that. That the time they spend reading in my class has an impact on their reading levels and their motivation. I know that the children argue about who comes to read to me first. I hope this means I'm doing something right.