In a session at the NTCTELA Conference a couple of weeks ago, Cris Tovani began her session asking us to reflect on this statement: I can site the research that supports the beliefs that drive my practice. This got me thinking — not just about Cris’ inspiring session but about how we make decisions regarding the best practices we bring into our classrooms.
Do we have research that supports the moves we make as we teach our students to become better readers and writers?
It’s an important question. And for those of us who instruct via readers and writers workshop, the research can be a powerful motivator to keep doing what we know works for our kids.
My favorite go-to research? The article by Richard Allington and Rachael Gabriel: Every Child, Every Day. They outline six easy-to-implement essentials to effective reading instruction — and learning to teach reading is not something I got much of in my education classes to become a high school English teacher. But many high school students still need help learning how to read, especially my ELL population. Every English teacher can implement these six essentials.
If you’ve never read Every Child, Every Day, I challenge you to read it. If you haven’t read it in awhile, I challenge you to read it again. Then, give yourself a quiz: Does this research support the moves you make as you teach your students to become better readers and writers? If not, what will you do about it?
The resources at the end of the article can lead us down a rabbit hole but not take us on a goose chase. These researchers provide us with important information: We can read about effective practices and then bring those practices into our classrooms. We can share these articles with colleagues and administrators with the hope of garnering more support for instructional practices that our best for our students — and proven to work.
If you’ve ever wondered why student reading engagement and success begin to wane as kids begin to enter middle school, read You Can’t Learn Much from Books You Can’t Read, another text by Allington.
If you teach in a low SES school like I do, you may find “The Early Catastrophe: the 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3” by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley interesting. It’s a popular read. It might spark some thinking as to why so many of our students read far below grade level — and give you a poke in the gut to do more about child poverty.
Then, because the validity of that article sparked lots of commentary by other educators who wrote other research articles, spend some time reading “Debunking the Word Gap.” (Aha and Aha. And lots of validation for my practice. Choice and voice matter!)
If you don’t follow the blog of Paul Thomas, The Becoming Radical, you may want to. Thomas gets me thinking with everything he writes. I especially appreciate his post of yesterday: “To High School English Teachers (And All Teachers).” (Where I found the Debunking article and so much more and had to update this original post.)
Remember that rabbit hole? I read every link Thomas shares and added to my research storehouse, tweeting links to colleagues, and I found a text by Ralph Ellison I’ll use with my AP Lang class in the fall. Bonus.
Of course, if you really want to explore and extrapolate, look up the articles Penny Kittle cites in Book Love or Donalyn Miller cites in The Book Whisperer or any other of your favorite teacher-leaders cite in their books.
It’s summer. Time to enjoy a little (not so light) reading. I promise, the research is worth it!
Please leave your suggestions for other insightful research articles in the comments.