Monday, July 30, 2012

Guided Reading, Or Not


From Mondo Publishing
Mark Barnes has a very provocative blog entry “Top Five Reasons To Eliminate Guided Reading.” In it, he states that “we'd read one novel for six weeks, analyzing every chapter, completing vocabulary worksheets and fill-in-the-blank plot charts. Then, after one truly amazing summer of research, I decided to stop the guided reading madness forever” because: 
 
  1. Guided reading teaches students to hate books
  2. Guided reading is about teacher control
  3. Guided reading stifles readers
  4. Guided reading work is boring
  5. Guided reading does not teach reading

I've had the fortune to work in schools that haven't had a lot of class sets of books, so I've had the opportunity to form literature circles, partner reads and a lot of individual choice reading. Yet, the stubborn idea of class lists of books continues to pervade the teaching of English. I recognize that many people (parents, teachers, administration and the general public) have a sense of tradition/classics, a passing on of cultural knowledge via books, but what teachers assign students to read is not necessarily read. How important is it that EVERY 10th grader read To Kill a Mockingbird? My nephew informed me that he hated the book so he never actually read it for class. I wonder, will he ever give it a chance later in life, or is he turned off of it forever?

With my work with student teachers and new teachers, one question I'm frequently asked is, “What activities do you have for XXX title?” This is lesson planning based on materials, rather than planning lessons on what students need to learn and know how to do. As Stephan Covey once said, “Begin with the end in mind.” And I believe this is essential when working with students. Isn't the development of skills, thinking, knowledge, and dispositions more important than the materials read? Won't these things be developed more deeply when students get to choose what to read and how to demonstrate their understanding rather than depend on a teacher to tell them when, where, and how to read and demonstrate knowledge?

In the Twitter #cyberPD chat (Archive here), we talked about how to re-envision the classroom to support dynamic views of students, learning and knowledge, but with that, how to help parents re-envision education – the purpose, structure and methods used. As I am now a “veteran” teacher, I feel like I should be able to be pro-active about explaining how and why I do things in the classroom, but I still struggle with articulating this clearly and succinctly for parents.

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