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Reading Apprenticeship Developers Discuss How to Avoid Reform Fatigue

How do you take a practice that's working in one classroom and share it with a team of teachers, a school, or an entire district without turning it into "one more thing" for already-busy teachers to do?

Leading for Literacy: A Reading Apprenticeship Approach, by Ruth Schoenbach, Cynthia Greenleaf, and Lynn Murphy of WestEd's Strategic Literacy Initiative, is a new book for teachers, coaches, school and district leaders, and others interested in using the Reading Apprenticeship approach that combines theoretical ideas with practical suggestions and stories from schools. 

Reading Apprenticeship encourages teachers to learn and model "expert" reading strategies in different academic disciplines. Teachers examine their own approaches to reading and comprehension through an inquiry-based approach and work on challenging texts in their fields, and then help their students do the same. The goal is to develop students' disciplinary literacy, an idea that has gained traction in recent years, as is evidenced by various sets of standards: The Common Core State Standards include standards for literacy in science and social studies, and the C3 Framework for social studies and the Next Generation Science Standards both focus on inquiry and learning through texts.

Reading Apprenticeship is being used in 175 middle and high schools, and at more than 230 college campuses, according to WestEd. Several studies have indicated that Reading Apprenticeship is tied to increased reading comprehension for students. 

In an interview, Schoenbach and Greenleaf described Leading for Literacy as a companion to their previous book, the widely used Reading for Understanding, which focuses on how classroom teachers can implement the Reading Apprenticeship approach. 

"Leading for Literacy comes to the next question: How do we make this move beyond a few classrooms doing this, or how do I introduce this in a way that doesn't turn people against it as just one more idea?" Schoenbach said. 

Leading for Literacy includes anecdotes and examples drawn from the Strategic Literacy Initiative's more-than-20 years of experience in schools. For instance, the authors encourage principals and other leaders to participate in trainings so they understand the changes in instruction happening in classrooms and can explain them to other teachers and parents, a recommendation based on observations of schools where administrative support had proved helpful. 

"If you want people to trust you, especially teachers, you have to speak to the real problematic issues," Schoenbach said. 

The book includes specific tools for leading professional development sessions for teachers, including prompts to help teachers reflect on their own reading histories and samples of professional development plans that have been used in districts already implementing the approach.

Reading Apprenticeship is one of a number of efforts to encourage schools to teach disciplinary literacy. An Education Week article from last fall describes about how more schools and states have been focusing on teaching literacy in every subject.

WestEd is also hosting a webinar on Reading Apprenticeship on March 8.


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