Showing posts with label Professional Development. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Professional Development. Show all posts

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Is There a Place for Commercial Reading Programs in the Common Core?

My district has decided not to purchase a core reading program since we are now teaching Common Core. Does CCSS really prohibit the use of commercial instructional materials?

No, CCSS neither requires the use of commercial programs nor does it prohibit such use. That is strictly a local decision.

So should we use a program?

I’ve long argued that teachers need programs. The development of extensive lesson plans and tracking down appropriate materials each day is overwhelming for most teachers, and it introduces great variability into classroom instruction. One of the things I learned as director of reading in Chicago was that having everybody teaching something different makes it well nigh impossible for any kind of systemic improvement. I don’t believe that programs are necessarily better than the lessons good teachers create, but I do believe that all instruction is limited and it is essential for school systems to improve widely rather than a teacher at a time

But if it is okay for us to develop our lessons then why shouldn’t we?

Again, research certainly does not show that commercial programs generally do any better than teacher made lessons. Nor does it reveal such programs to be inferior to teacher lessons. I would rather have teachers adjusting shared lessons and then using the saved time to focus on the learning needs of the children. No one can teach all day, design lessons as extensive as those in typical commercial programs, and focus on children’s needs and problems. Of course, programs can have problems, but in a good system these problems will be identified over time and the schools can respond system wide rather than individually.

Our district is making model lessons and we are supposed to then come up with our own lessons based on the models?

Many states, school systems, unions, and publishers are designing such lessons. This approach suggests that it is possible to formulate worthwhile lessons that can be used on scale. In other words, these groups are using their money and teacher sweat equity to create lessons to be used by others. That’s the same thing that publishers do.

You seem to think developing such lessons is a waste of time?

I generally do think such efforts tend to be expensive and expect too much of teachers. And, yet, I have worked on many of these CCSS lesson design efforts around the country, and engaging students in such lesson development can be great professional development. (And research bears this out; designing and redesigning lessons with feedback—that’s usually my role—can teach a teacher a lot). It is once those very expensive prototypes have been developed and the process is turned over to teachers to do that day in and day out on their own that I get skeptical. That’s the benefit of commercial programs; they give teachers a base to work from and it locates the materials for the lessons, etc.

What is the biggest problem that you are seeing in these kinds of lessons?

One of the big problems that I have seen is the designs that try to break the standards down into parts. Thus, if a standard asks for kids to do two or three things in combination, they reduce this to doing each of those things separately—which is not the same thing. Teachers tell me that it is easier to understand and teach the parts, which I don’t doubt at all; but doing it that way tends to miss out on what the standard actually means. It is harder to carry out three actions in concert while reading a challenging text; that’s the point. You can simplify it, of course, but then you aren’t actually teaching the same standard.

My state has done that for us.

It doesn’t really matter who makes the mistake, it is still a mistake if your goal was higher achievement.

You said you have seen lots of groups developing units and lesson prototypes. Are any of them better than the others?

Not in terms of who is developing these. I see both good and bad examples across the board.

It sounds like you believe teachers should be using commercial programs. But we are seeing lots of materials with Common Core stickers that don’t look very Common Core.

Me, too. This is a case of “buyer beware.” It is more efficient to use commercial programs and it is fairer for kids since it equalizes the playing field a bit (“my teacher couldn’t/didn’t find as good a story as the teacher next door”). But just because it is commercial it will not necessarily be any good. It is clearly up to the teachers to determine quality of the overall program and then to monitor the program for weak spots during use (which is easier than everyone spending hours designing all lessons themselves). Take a good careful look at the materials that foks are trying to sell you and be critical; if you think they have just relabeled their old lessons to make them look Common Core-ish, then ask them to show you both the program they are selling you and the previous edition of the program. That will uncover some of the chicanery that sometimes takes place.

Aren’t textbooks for lazy teachers?

No, they are not, and I think that can even be a dangerous claim. I’ve seen teachers over the years (including myself early on) defining quality in terms of whether the teacher uses a textbook or not. Not using a textbook won’t make you a good teacher by definition. You can be a good teacher with our without a textbook program, which means good teachers have to plan instruction even when they have a textbook. That is more efficient and it will give kids a fairer shot at success, but it won’t guarantee quality; only teachers and principals can do that.

Also, here is the link to my recent presentation, the Common Core Ate My Baby. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Common Core Videos and Other Resources

I recently received an excellent letter from a literacy supervisor who is trying to prepare her colleagues to succeed with common core. She sent a copy of her planned approach for my comment. This is the kind of energy and thoughtfulness that the common core is going to require. This plan is bright and thoughtful, so with her permission I'm passing it on.

As literacy supervisor for our district of 450+ teachers, I am responsible for our teachers' professional learning regarding anything literacy. It is quite a responsibility with the implementation of the CCSS, and though I have been in education for over 20 years, this is my first year in this position. I am currently planning professional development for our teachers regarding Standard 10 (text complexity) and would love to get your thoughts on my next steps. 

So far I have provided the K-12 teachers with an introduction to the triangle with the three dimensions of text complexity, and we've read and discussed Appendix A. At the secondary level, we've delved in a little deeper...discussed and used the rubrics to evaluate the qualitative dimensions of text complexity, looked at texts they currently use and tried to decide best placement, etc.

I've read Fisher, Frey and Lapp's Text Complexity: Raising Rigor in Reading, reviewed your posts and power point presentations, ordered the new resources from Guilford Press that are mentioned on your site, and continue to read articles, texts, and refer to Wisconsin's DPI website.

As I move ahead with the teachers I will review and make sure all teachers have a solid understanding of the three dimensions of text complexity. Elementary teachers understand the quantitative dimension, and need to understand the other two. Secondary needs to understand the Reader and Task dimension.  Then I would proceed to share the three types of tasks associated with this, as mentioned in Fisher, Fry and Lapp's book: Teacher-Led Tasks, where the texts can be much more complex with teacher modeling; Peer Tasks, when students collaborate and use texts that are complex but not quite as complex as the texts the teacher uses in modeling; and Individual Tasks, when students are expected to engage with text that is challenging but not frustrating. I plan to offer suggestions of how to do this, what it may look like in their classrooms, etc. Then...I would bring them to close reading and proceed from there.

Any feedback/thoughts/suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I'm anticipating the K-1 teachers asking how this would look for them, especially with poetry at first grade, so any suggestions you may have specific to K-1 would be appreciated. 

Amy Ryan
Literacy Supervisor 
Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools

Amy--- Please remember that the common core does not raise reading difficulty for beginning readers (K-1), so that part won't be very different. I don't think reading comprehension instruction will look that different than it does now either, but I could imagine teachers reading more challenging books to these beginners than is usual these days (I read chapter books to first-graders when I taught); you can ask beginners some pretty probing text-dependent questions of such material and that should help to get them ready for those aspects of the common core.


People are always asking for common core resources, and today some colleagues put me onto the following sites. I haven't viewed all of the information at these, but there is pretty good stuff on various common core issues like challenging text and close reading. I'm sure you will find these useful.


Also, I took part, with Maureen McLaughlin, in a written webinar today for Education Week (with (Sarah D. Sparks). They have posted the transcript, and that might have some value to you, too.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Books to Support Reading Reform

Recently, I was working with a group of educators in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I love going up there, in part because my mom's family is from there. But I also am always impressed at the seriousness and purposefulness of the teachers I meet there (whether I connect with them through the school division or through the local reading council). Friday, I was there talking about my instructional framework and one of the teachers wanted to know if there were any good practical guides to helping teachers to deliver quality instruction in the various literacy components. Of course, I directed her to take a look at this blog site as there are increasing numbers of ideas posted here.

But, it was a serious question, deserving of a serious answer. When I was director of reading in Chicago, we bought a short list of books for all of my coaches. Here is an updated version of that list. These are all fine books that should be helpful to teachers.

Reading Comprehension
Harvey, S., & Goudvis, A. (2007). Strategies that work: Teaching comprehension for understanding and engagement. Stenhouse.

Irwin, J. (2006). Teaching reading comprehension processes (3rd ed.). Allyn & Bacon.

Oral Reading Fluency
Rasinski, T. V. (2003). The fluent reader: Oral reading strategies for building word recognition, fluency, and comprehension. Scholastic.

Word Knowledge: Decoding
Bear, D. R., Invernizzi, M., Templeton, S. R., & Johnston, F. (2007). Words their way: Word study for phonics, vocabulary, and spelling Instruction (4th ed.). Prentice-Hall.

Graham, S., MacArthur, C. A., & Fitzgerald, J. (Eds.). (2007). Best practices in writing instruction. Guilford.

Word Knowledge: Vocabulary
Beck, I., McKeown, M., & Kucan, L. (200 ). Bringing words to life: Robust vocabulary instruction. Guilford.

There is also a good book on vocabulary by Camille Blachowicz and Peter Fisher. Beck & McKeown have a new volume on vocabulary teaching coming in May, 2008 that I am very much looking forward to. All of them, I think, are available through Powells or Amazon or Barnes & Noble (the only one that may not be is the one from Brookes Publishing--if not, they have their own website).

Word Knowledge: Phonemic Awareness
Adams, M. J., Foorman, B. R., Lundberg, I., & Beeler, T. (1998).
Phonemic awareness in young children: A classroom curriculum. Brookes Publishing.

Reading Comprehension
Harvey, S., & Goudvis, A. (2007). Strategies that work: Teaching comprehension for understanding and engagement. Stenhouse.

Irwin, J. (2006). Teaching reading comprehension processes (3rd ed.). Allyn & Bacon.