Saturday, October 11, 2014
Once when visiting the Big Easy, a young woman who had clearly been over-served, stopped me and said, “You’re that guy.”
I smiled, bemused, unsure what to say. Now her friends had fanned out around me.
“You’re that guy. You’re that guy on TV.”
My grin grew downright idiotic. At first I tried to explain that I wasn’t “that guy,” but that just seemed to convince them even more that I must be. They insisted.
I never figured out who she thought I was, but I copped to it, and thanked her for her support and asked her to keep watching. I’m pretty sure she had me confused with George Clooney (Cyndie tells me it was more likely Bozo the Clown).
I’m still pretty sure it was Clooney, though my hair hasn’t really turned as much as his.
That got me thinking… think how disappointed that young lady might have been, when she sobered up, had I pressed my advantage.
No, that wasn’t what I was thinking. I was thinking that it really matters that we know of what we are speaking. I know many of you are thinking: Tim Shanahan, George Clooney, what's the difference? But--believe it or not--there is a difference and it could matter to somebody.
That’s true of lots of things. Like guided reading, for instance.
The term “guided reading” is causing a lot of confusion. Most of us now use it as shorthand to refer to those instructional procedures recommended by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell in their book, Guided Reading (1996) – much as many of you might use George as shorthand for Tim Shanahan.
The problem with that conception of the term “guided reading” is that it actually conglomerates three separate aspects of instruction into one idea.
And, that’s where the problem is. When I say that the Common Core contradicts the fundamentals of guided reading—I mean George Clooney, and you’re thinking Tim Shanahan.
From the emails I receive and the audience comments at my presentations, it is evident to me that many of you—probably most of you—think of guided reading as instruction with leveled books; that is, with books matched to the students' instructional levels. Because of that, I often use “guided reading” as a shortcut key when I am criticizing the idea of leveling kids’ reading in those ways.
And that works great with some of my audience. They get what I’m saying. They definitely are not confusing me with either Mr. Clooney or Mr. Bozo.
But the Fountas and Pinnell version of guided reading--because of its complexity--means different things to different people. A significant part of my audience believes that guided reading is about small group teaching, and studies are pretty clear that small group teaching is advantageous. Those individuals hear me challenge guided reading and they start seeing images of a clown with really big feet.
The term, “guided reading,” was not created by F&P. It was a term used by one of the basal reader companies during the 1950s to describe their lesson plan in which teachers guided students to read a text by preteaching vocabulary, setting a purpose for reading, having kids read part of the text, and then discussing that portion in pursuit of a series of teacher questions. (A competing program at the time marketed a very similar routine called “directed reading”).
Again, when I talk about the contradiction between “guided reading” and Common Core, some individuals are taking it that I’m criticizing the idea of reading a text en masse under the supervision of a teacher. And, again, to these folks, they are definitely seeing grease paint and big shoes rather than a hunk.
Please understand: Research findings and Common Core standards do stand in stark contradiction to the idea of teaching everybody (beyond beginners) at their so-called instructional level. The standards say nothing about small group instruction or communal readings in which teachers scaffold kids’ interactions with text. The criticisms are of the first, not of the second two.
I hope that helps.
By the way, I have made headway in convincing Cyndie that people really do confuse me with George Clooney. She is even warming to the idea. Of course, she has been dropping hints about a 7-carat diamond, but I’m sure we’ll work that problem out over time.
Monday, November 12, 2012
Recently, I received a question about the appropriateness of the Daily Five to the Common Core. Interesting question….
I think the purpose of the Daily Five is to provide teachers with a curriculum framework that guides them to spend time on a certain set of activities. Many teachers embrace it because it gives them a way to make sure a variety of things take place in their classrooms each day. Teaching is a complex job and frameworks that help simplify choices can be very useful.
Although the Daily Five plan bears a superficial resemblance to what I used in the Chicago Public Schools, it differs from my approach in at least one big way: it focuses on teaching activities rather than on learning outcomes. “Reading to someone” or “listening to someone read” are fine activities, so I don’t oppose them, and yet, there are enough pressures on teachers to submerge themselves in the activities at the expense of the outcomes.
The Daily Five ensures that certain activities are included, but this can be a real distraction from making choices that support student learning. I’d much rather have a teacher, wanting to expand students’ vocabularies, who decides to read a book to them to facilitate this learning, than one who is going to read to the kids and can either seek a purpose for it or not.
There are lots of ways to a goal, and I deeply respect the teacher who has a clear conception of what she is trying to accomplish and the choices that entails. Starting with the activity instead of the outcome, however, allows someone to look like a teacher without having to be one.
That’s a big difference, and I think the common core separates itself from the Daily Five even more. The common core state standards emphasize goals –not activities, and they provide a specific delineation of the specific levels of demand or complexity or quality that has to be evident in performances of these standards. Nothing like that in the Daily Five.
Obviously one could combine the Daily Five and CCSS. “I’ll use the Daily Five to guide my lesson planning and I’ll aim those lessons at the goals specified by the Common Core.” Lessons are always a bit of dance between goals and activities—and, ultimately, it doesn’t really matter where you start out as long as the two are closely and effectively connected in the implementation.
The Daily Five establishes a very low standard for teaching by emphasizing activities over outcomes, and by not specifying quality or difficulty levels for student performances. Teachers can successfully fulfill the Daily Five specifications without necessarily reaching, or even addressing, the standards.
Perhaps, teachers could animate the Daily Five framework with goals and proficiency standards from the common core. I think any of the activities could be stretched or shaped to somehow address the core standards. And, yet, I wonder if it’s worth the extra time this represents. What does it add?