Reading should not be presented to a child as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift.
I was ready. I borrowed waders from a friend and grabbed my new pole with the tags on it, and a tiny box of unopened flies. I filled my bag with lots of hand warmers in case I got cold and poured myself a giant mug of tea.
I pictured myself standing in the middle of a river, listening to birdsongs—maybe a salmon would even swim right by me. Instead, my guide drove his pickup truck up to an empty basketball court and said, “Let’s start here.” Yup—no waders, no hand warmers, and no river. I even left my mug of tea in his truck.
Now don’t get me wrong, I learned the basics of casting on that empty basketball court. However, I also left feeling deflated. I needed to be on the water—not because I was ready or capable, but because I wanted to fly-fish and I needed to experience it.
This moment reminded me of when we ask children to practice skills in isolation without allowing them to be actual readers and writers. If our kids leave a lesson understanding “r-controlled” vowels, but do not know how to apply that knowledge when they read or write, what have we taught? If our children can punctuate sentences we craft but don’t see how punctuation adds meaning and emphasis to their writing, what have we accomplished? If our lessons are only about the parts, do students leave uninspired and disengaged?
Let’s begin our instruction with books students love, stories they want to write, and the goals they have for themselves—even if they aren’t quite perfect. When we start with what motivates students, our skill lessons will stick, and students will see how the isolated parts we teach fit into their reading and writing lives. If not, some students may feel a bit like me—a “wanna-be” fisherwoman in the middle of an empty basketball court.
This week we share some of our favorite talk scaffolds for learners of all ages. Enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Tammy Mulligan partners with Clare Landrigan in the education consulting firm, Teachers for Teachers, working with educators in New England and beyond toward long-term systemic change.
Melanie Meehan shares questions and reflection prompts to make the “turn and talk” strategy more effective.
Cindy Hatt has suggestions for getting the most out of book studies with colleagues, with activities and prompts that can help you move from ideas to practice in classrooms.
Megan Dincher explains how she developed “thinking routines” in her high school classroom to make discussions more authentic and thoughtful.
In The Limits of Levels online course, Cathy Mere demonstrates a range of strategies for understanding and meeting the needs of young learners. The course runs June 18-30. Choice Literacy members receive discounts of 20-40% on the course fee.
The Lead Learners Consortium is offering a 20% discount to Choice Literacy subscribers to their Summer Institute on June 20 and 21 in Warsaw, Indiana. Use the promo code CHOICE to claim the discount. For more information, visit their ticketing site.
New members-only content is added each week to the Choice Literacy website. If you’re not yet a member, click here to explore membership options.
Tara Barnett and Kate Mills find that struggling readers in the early grades benefit from scaffolds and repeated practice in small groups. They share some of their favorite tools, including key ring prompts and anchor charts.
Jen Schwanke writes about the challenges of helping students develop conversational identities, providing prompts to help teachers reflect on their strengths and needs in fostering talk in classrooms.
We continue our video series from Franki Sibberson’s fifth-grade classroom of students sharing their annotation strategies for the daily read aloud. In this installment, Lauren uses Google Docs to record questions to explore as she listens.
In an encore video, Gigi McAllister helps a group of fourth graders evaluate questions for fostering good group discussions.
Lead Literacy now has a new home as the Leaders Lounge at Choice Literacy. We’ll be posting the new content updates here in the Leaders Lounge section of the Big Fresh newsletter.
Stephanie Affinito presents a simple and smart activity to help literacy coaches reflect on what they do well, and develop plans for growing over the summer and into the new year.
Jennifer Schwanke realizes it is never easy to talk in front of adults. She explains how she helps teachers accept the challenge of speaking to colleagues in professional development settings.
Matt Abrahams shares five common communication mistakes and how to fix them before you lead your next meeting or professional development session.
Empathy is not a hardwired trait. It’s a soft skill you can develop with hard work. Ask people what their biggest challenge is. Pay attention to what causes them pain. Show you care.
That’s all for this week!