Showing posts with label Middle school. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Middle school. Show all posts

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Do You Want Your Husband to Remember Your Birthday or Anniversary?

            Let’s be honest. Any woman (or man, for that matter) wants their significant other to be involved enough that they remember both of these dates. Remember my birthday, but forget the day that we linked ourselves together for eternity, and you’re in obvious trouble. Recall the date we connected, but not my special day (all by myself) and I wonder if you think of me only in connection to you. Problem!

            Your spouse wants to know that he/she is important to you and not having a premature Alzheimer’s attack when it comes to both of these dates is a real plus.

            Easy question. Easy answer. Okay, try this one…

            Is oral or silent reading more important in middle school?

            We live in a time when silent reading ability will probably buy you more than oral reading skills. There definitely are radio and television announcers who have to read scripts well, but most of us don’t have those duties.

            However, that doesn’t mean oral reading is without value—especially for kids who are 11-, 12-, or 13-years-old.

            Oral reading has some small value as an outcome on its own, but in school-age kids it has its greatest value as a teaching tool. While it is true that oral reading fluency matters much more when you are 7 than when you are 11, it still matters a lot. 

           Oral reading proficiency explains more than 80% of the variation in the reading comprehension of second-graders. What that means is that if you could make all 7-year-olds equal in oral reading fluency (recognizing equal numbers of words, reading with similar speed, pausing equally appropriately), then you would do away with 80% of the differences in comprehension.

            Phony choice: If I had to choose—and I do not—I would spend more time on fluency instruction in second grade than on vocabulary instruction—because the learning payoff is bigger.

            The amount of reading comprehension variance explainable by oral fluency falls to about 25% by the time the average student is in eighth grade. To me that justifies fluency instruction, though I recognize the payoff is smaller. (What self-respecting secondary teacher wouldn’t gladly do away with 25% of the reading variation in their students?)

            Phony choice (again): If I had to choose—and I still do not have to make such a choice in real classrooms—I would spend more time on vocabulary instruction in 7th grade than on fluency—because the learning payoff should be bigger.

            What happens is that as children progress up the grades, more and more of them read at ceiling levels of fluency. Few third-graders can read 175 words correct per minute with proper pausing and prosody. But those numbers increase each year, meaning that more and more students have sufficient levels of fluency to allow them to accomplish the highest levels of comprehension. But, once those ceiling levels of fluency are reached, then to accomplish the highest levels of comprehension will require other kinds of gains (such as in vocabulary).

            I would definitely include oral reading practice in my secondary classes—at least for any students not reading at about 150-175 words correct per minute (and, yes, it has to sound like English—none of this “read as fast as you can” baloney). 

            That doesn’t mean that my students would do a lot of round robin turn taking. No, I’d follow the research: we’d engage in paired reading and echo reading with repetition and feedback. Our purpose would be to practice the reading of demanding texts (texts which the students can’t already read well), until we could read them at high levels of proficiency.

            But just because I would provide students with that kind of practice, does not mean that I don’t understand the value of silent reading. I would also devote substantial class time to engaging students in the silent reading of texts that have rich content and language. I would engage students in discussions and debates about the content of those texts, and I would require that students write about the ideas in such texts (e.g., summarizing them, analyzing them, and synthesizing information from that and other texts).

            Our responsibility is to make students effective readers. There are many things that go into that outcome: students need to develop rich vocabularies, they need to know how to parse sentences so that they can be interpreted well, they need to know how to operate on texts that they don’t understand just from reading, and they need to know how to reason and think about the kinds of information that they will meet in text.

            Thus, when it comes to oral and silent reading, I’m unwilling to pick one over the other. It is a foolish choice that confuses outcomes and inputs. There is no question that our goal is to develop readers who can read a text with a depth of understanding. But practice, both oral and silent, contributes to the accomplishment of that goal so only a very foolish teacher would require one and not the other.

            By the way, how many dozens of roses must you send if you do forget your anniversary? No, reason… I’m just asking.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Organizing Middle School ELA for Common Core

(1) What do you feel is "best practice" for middle school ELA instruction?
Our district has a 6/7 middle school, and the subjects of reading and language arts are taught separately. The middle school principal will speak to how this is "best practice".

With the reciprocity of reading and writing, and the expectations of the CCSS, the current schedule seems counterintuitive to me. Shouldn't students be grouped for, say, a 90 minute ELA block that encompasses reading and language arts? Or am I off base on this?

How schools are organized in terms of this kind of scheduling does not matter very much in student achievement. There are lots of different ways of organizing a school and they all can be successful (or unsuccessful). The idea that teaching with reading and language arts separated (or combined) is a "best practice" is wishful at best.

However, I definitely agree that the common core does emphasizes strongly the idea of writing about reading. It makes little sense to organize a school day so that such programming is inefficient, though you can make it work either way. In the model you are using, in which two teachers work with the students at different points in the day -- one teacher emphasizing reading and the other writing -- there is a great need for coordination to get the full benefit of these education goals. That way the kids can spend a substantial amounts of reading time digging in on the meaning of texts with one teacher, and then they would engage in meaningful writing about that same text through the work of the second teacher. Thus, they need to plan together, agree on who does what, coordinate times. (Otherwise they will both need to do a lot of reading in their class -- which means relatively less writing and the need for a lot more text than you are currently using). 

Or, you could organize it so that one teacher does both of these things (which can be tricky, too, because some teachers prefer teaching one or the other and they may blow off the writing or not spend as much time on the reading). That, of course, is why this kind of organization does not matter very much. The focus needs to be on the students' experience. Which approach (separate teachers planning together, or a single teacher with sufficient supervision) will work best in your situation? That is the one that I would go for. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Middle School Reading Comprehension

More and more, middle school teachers are figuring out that they need help with reading comprehension. I just wrote a chapter about that (more on that later), but today I did a workshop for a group of middle school teachers on reading comprehension in Blue Island, IL. These teachers get it that they have a responsibility to address students' reading and they even seem to be buying the idea that they need to spend several hours each week on these issues. If we can get middle school teachers everyplace to take that on, we are likely to see real reading improvement--even more than we have seen from primary grade initiatives.

Here is my presentation from today.