Sunday, September 16, 2007

Letting Go of "Letter of the Week"

"I was not going to look at my five-year-olds as non readers; I wanted to empower children with the knowledge that they were already readers..." (page 12)

I absolutely love everything that Donna Bell is saying about reading instruction, especially when dealing with young students as she is doing. She is making reading and writing instruction real or authentic to her students; instead of having her students "calling words or sounding out (page 12)" like many teachers have settled on doing with their students. Students are able to transfer what they are seeing and hearing outside of school and using them within a school context to help them learn to read. I think that that is a very powerful thing; it really gives each student ownership over how and what they are learning.

The problem I see with basal reading programs (i.e. Scott Foresman or whatever program you are using) is that students are learning things in a disconnected way. The books being used are not connecting instruction to students' "funds of knowledge." As Bell and Jarvis noted within their article, and through research that has been done within this topic, the more we as teachers can connect our instruction with our students' lives the more the students will learn because they are able to apply real life situations to it.

Going back to the beginning of this blog, (as we discussed in class) it is more important to start our students out on a positive note rather than a negative one in terms of reading or just school in general. Jarvis and Bell both talk about this in their article; when students' knowledge is valued and seen as a positive thing, students will then feel better about and gain confidence in what they are doing. Many times when teachers focus on a student "not being able to read" the student knows that they are struggling and often shut down because of it.

After reading this article, I found myself thinking that I want to be responsible for helping students gain the confidence they need EARLY in reading and writing instruction, by teaching younger students.

1 comment:

Mary Kate said...

Jim, I completely agree with you about focusing on what a student can do instead of what they cannot do in the classroom. By focusing on what they are able to do it allows them to feel empowered and proud of themselves. I also think that it will make them more motivated to learn new things because they will want to add them to the list of the things that they know they can do well, which makes learning exciting for them.

The point you made about basal readers is exactly why I also have a problem with them being used in the classroom! Students are not able to tap into their background knowledge or "Funds of Knowledge" which makes them unable to make connections to what they are reading. Without making these connections as we all know, it is extremely hard for them to draw meaning from the text.