Tuesday, May 24, 2011

PLN: Book Study - Focus, Chapter 4

Section II of Schmoker’s book is about curriculum, instruction, and literacy in the content areas.  As a Literacy Instructional Coach, I have to say this is near and dear to my heart.  I LOVE working with content area teachers to improve the literacy instruction in their classrooms. I wish there was more reading and writing in science, social studies and math. I definitely think it is a natural fit and once teachers realize that they don’t have to be a reading and writing teacher in order to teach reading and writing in science (et al), students will benefit all the more! (Exiting my soap box now.)

Chapter 4: English Language Arts Made Simple
  • Every year, every student needs to spend hundreds of hours actually reading, writing, and speaking for intellectual purposes. (94)
  • Language competency is the foundation of learning in the other disciplines. (94)
  • Content knowledge and critical thinking are inseparable and reciprocal (Willingham in Schmoker, 98)
  • Increase the number of whole, nonfiction books (not just excerpts)
  • Students should be reading current articles and opinion pieces in all content areas – “If we can get students interested in the issues of their own time (and we can), they will be far more interested in issues, people, and literature of the past.” (99)
  • Students should spend a ton of time reading and annotating their texts (from a very young age, 2nd/3rd grade). Schmoker spends a good deal of time on the fact that he thinks we unnecessarily elongate the learning to read process and that this is holding students back.
  • Allington says students should read 60 minutes per day and write 40 minutes per day.
  • We need to “ensure that students can read, write, and talk in ways that prepare them for college, careers, and citizenship.” (112)
  • Teacher teams should decide the number of books and readings per year, the purpose for teaching these common readings and the number and length of common papers/writing assignments.
  • In general, Schmoker says
    • 15-20 books and plays
    • 5-10 EACH of poems and short stories
    • 20-40 newspaper/magazine/online articles
    • 40-60% of this should be fiction
    • The rest should be nonfiction/literary nonfiction
    • ***Almost all of this reading should be done in class.
  • What do students do with all this reading? Well, they discuss and then write about what they read.
    • 3 discussions per week about the readings
    • Several formal papers starting in 2nd grade – about one argumentative/expository paper per month, written in two drafts
  • Finally, he makes a comment on textbooks. Basically, they are a genre and we need to teach students HOW to read a textbook.

I don't know about you, but my students are NOT doing this quantity (or quality) of reading on a consistent basis!  I have long advocated for more reading in class and at home.  I also recognize that students need to be taught HOW to read deeply and annotate texts.  If you are using the gradual release model, this learning will stick with kids!

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