Teachers to Administrators: What We Wish You Knew About Reading Instruction
Reading instruction is a hot topic right now. There's lots of buzz about how to get K-12 teachers to embrace methods that are solidly grounded in research. There's another layer of debate about how to get teacher-preparation programs to teach evidence-based reading instruction to aspiring teachers. And a new wave of state laws have passed that are designed to hold schools' feet to the fire on reading instruction.
All of this activity has sparked a range of reactions from teachers, from reluctance and uncertainty to excited support. But a recent thread of conversation on Twitter also shows that they're feeling frustrated. Many teachers are not seeing eye-to-eye with their bosses on what reading instruction should look like, and the value of various strategies.
Kicked off last week by teacher and reading consultant Cris Tovani, the Twitter thread piled up dozens of responses. Here's what Tovani asked Twitterverse: What do you wish your administrators knew about reading instruction?
Some teachers signalled that they aren't getting the leadership they need on reading instruction.
Everything, is everything an acceptable answer?— Stephanie G Price (@srgprice) February 20, 2020
Everything or even anything!— Soul Summer (@NLUEDD19) February 21, 2020
There's certainly some frustration out there. This Colorado Springs teacher has a list of things he wish his administrator knew.
That student choice in reading matters. That writing does not have to always be "academic writing" and certainly not 5 paragraph essays. That Step-Up and other programs are not it. That developing a school culture is vital. That a quick-fix approach will fail in the long-term.— Vince Puzick (@anaturaldrift) February 20, 2020
Then there's this:
Knowing HOW to read & knowing how to talk about, think about & write about reading are completely separate. Giving kids an opp to "learn" to appreciate selections in addition to simply enjoying takes time...and trust. Trust is built only after allowing Ss to read what they like.— Whitney Kelley (@GoodyKelley) February 21, 2020
A few people pointed to the school library and media specialists as an important and overlooked resource.
That the school library and librarian should be part of your literacy plan.— Tamara Cox (@coxtl) February 20, 2020
A number of participants in the conversation said they wished their administrators recognized the value of cross-disciplinary literacy.
That being literate in different disciplines looks different. Literacy does not mean "doing English class" in other courses!— Scott Bayer is presenting at #AWP20 (@Lyricalswordz) February 20, 2020
As a consequence, every discipline's teachers are responsible for literacy.— Perapiteticus (@Perapiteticus) February 20, 2020
Another popular theme was how building subject-specific literacy skills should go hand-in-hand with building students' content knowledge, something that's widely recognized as an important key to students' reading skills.
That social studies/ science/ content area literacy are essential to building background knowledge and should not be marginalized in elementary grades or, really, any grade - they should, instead, be amplified and used strategically and intentionally in all our schools.— Albert Robertson (@Mr_ARobertson) February 20, 2020
One teacher, responding to @Mr_ARobertson, tweeted that the No Child Left Behind Act, which focused schools heavily on math and English/language arts, didn't help the cause of strengthening students' knowledge in other key subjects.
Preach! The difference in background knowledge with my my HS history students in 2003 vs now is SHOCKING. Guess when NCLB started?— Cathy Keller (@kellerhistory) February 20, 2020
Clusters of tweets argued in favor of sustained silent reading, a practice that many teachers love. (Research on this practice can be a little confusing. Studies show a correlation between reading more and being a better reader. But there isn't a big research base that shows that independent reading actually causes students to become better readers.)
Sustained silent reading is extremely valuable, but a LOT more is required of us than just handing a student a book and saying, "Here...read."— Jennifer Green (@GreenReads4Fun) February 21, 2020
Kids need time to read in class. (My school admins know this, but I have worked at other places where they asked me why kids were reading or forced us to spend hours doing online practice.)— Amy Bermudez (@ELARwithMsB) February 21, 2020
Leave students alone and let them read.— Georgette Van Vliet (@georgettevvliet) February 21, 2020
SSR is essential to proficiency as well as developing a love of reading which is essential to a thinking, democratic society.— Anna Daniels (@annabug17) February 20, 2020
This tweet is from a reading professor.
I left teaching high school after my principal remarked that incorporating sustained, silent reading was "a waste of instructional time." Very disappointing to hear after I witnessed so many benefits of SSR.— Rochella Bickford (@RDawnB) February 20, 2020
In the swirl of conversation about sustained silent reading, one administrator stepped in with this:
I'm an administrator and I would like them to know that reading without reflection and discussion does not equal a connection! Kids need to talk and move. Some kids like audiobooks with the print book. Some kids don't like reading on computers— Tammy Small (@TSmallELA) February 22, 2020
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