Wednesday, December 4, 2013
"Less reading workshop.. more workbook pages."
There was a palpable sense of shock, mixed with despair, anger, and a touch of sadness, among my peers as I shared this comment with them.
If you walked into my classroom during Reading Workshop, you would see students relaxing on the rug, sitting under a table, or in the corner, buried in a good book. My co-teacher (also a reading specialist) and I can be found conferring with individual students. We discuss their books, making inferences, connections, predictions, evaluating characters and events, the list goes on and on. The conversations are deep and meaningful. They are also completely individualized, geared to the specific needs of each child in my room.
If there is less reading workshop and more workbook pages, what will my ELA block look like? Struggling students who are frustrated, further reinforcing their distaste for reading. Advanced students who are bored, becoming complacent with their performance and never experiencing a true challenge.
Funny enough, I am embarking on a research project, which will likely become my doctoral thesis, about exactly the opposite. The working title is (get ready for a mouthful) How Independent Reading of Self-Selected Texts Impacts Struggling Readers. I have been researching this topic for about a year and have read countless articles supporting models like Reading Workshop.
Less Reading Workshop.. more workbook pages. My head just might explode.
Three years certainly doesn't make me a veteran teacher, but I am not discounting my experience either. It is deeply saddening that teachers who are well trained, with advanced degrees and experience are not trusted by decision makers. We do not need workbook pages and scripts to teach. Left to our own devices, we are very capable of effective teaching.
One thing I do know is that we should be focusing on developing innovative students with critical thinking skills and fostering their motivation to become lifelong learners. We are not doing that. Not with workbook pages. Our kiddos will not grow up to become professional bubble fillers. We need not instill in them that learning is memorizing facts, multiple choice questions, free from struggle and failure.
One of my kiddos, a self-proclaimed "non-reader" told me just last week: "I finally found a book that I like. I can't stop reading it! Can we read for a just few more minutes?"
HOW am I supposed to say no to that?! How am I supposed to tell my students that they have to put down their beloved novels and pick up their pencils to mindlessly practice filling in workbook pages?
Isn't this going backwards?