Tag Archives: reading theory

Try It Tuesday: Cite the Research that Drives Your Practice

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.

Another NH Summer: PD with Reading Theory. Who knew?

Today my class Book Love, taught by Penny Kittle, at the University of New Hampshire Literacy Institute came to an end. My classmates have gone home, but my flight isn’t until tomorrow, so I find myself in the hush of the library on the eve of July 4 when the campus will be closed, alone.

There’s a quiet here like reverence in church on Sundays. A great time and place for me to reflect on my learning this week, and last.

Explaining to Penny Kittle how I finally feel confident doing research and citing sources.

It was anything but reverent. More like a fire hose without a turn off switch. In a word:  revitalizing.

I knew it would be. I came to this same institute last year and learned from Penny. But the powerful learning for me this year happened because she pushed us into reading theory.

Why did I never have to do that in my education classes? You’d think it would be at the top of every class syllabus.

In four days we read a stack of articles about the importance of choice in reading and access to books and the influence of a teacher in the reading lives of children. We read close to half of the essays in Making Meaning with Texts by Louise Rosenblatt. Penny calls her the leading reading theorist of the century, and after reading and discussing Rosenblatt’s work, I believe her. We also wrote three papers that reflected on and infused the reading into our own thinking about our the practice in our classrooms and in our schools.

I am inspired to keep doing my own research as I continue to write what I think will benefit other teachers as they engage their students in authentic and personal reading and writing experiences, a must Rosenblatt says.

I learned many things this week, and I have a list of Ideas to Implement in the back of my notebook that I am determined to carry into my new classroom in the fall.

Isn’t it great that learning continues, improvement continues?

That’s what I love about summer pd — the opportunity to reflect, learn, and get better.

My Ideas to Implement (which include those inspired at the Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching.)

  • Skype in poets and authors to speak to my students about their writing and their works
  • Use “Go World” videos by VISA as mentors for mini-narratives; have students edit their first narrative into a “Go World” video
  • Ask students to analyze their writing process, write it out (perhaps creatively), and turn that in with every major writing task
  • Use My Ideal Bookshelf as a mentor when students complete their beginning and end-of-year personal reading evaluations
  • Watch for students with “social capital” and use their examples to promote reading
  • Be more purposeful in my conferences with students. I could have moved more students up reading ladders this year.
  • Include a reminder about vocabulary study within the books students are reading at least once a week
  • Bring in college syllabi to show students of their need for greater reading stamina
  • Create an anchor chart with a hard test that guides students in habits of complex reading
  • Do black out poems early in the year as a means of getting students to look closely at language and create their own meaning with literature
  • Select books for Book Clubs that are more closely theme related
  • Make topic writing notebooks (again) for a place for students to write casually about their choice reading
  • Remember story boarding will work for writing stories and for analyzing them rhetorically
  • Include Author Talks in book talks to introduce students to an author’s work without having to book talk each one
  • Create a reading sign for my new room:  YES! You have homework tonight:  READ!
  • Create a literary category wall, so as students finish books they write a Title Card and place it in the era the book is most like, romanticism, transcendentalism, etc
  • Read a poem every day, mostly just for the pleasure of it
  • Tell students it is okay to not like a poem; it is also okay to not understand it
  • Remember in revision conferences to use the phrase “What are the possibilities?”
  • Remember the peace you’ve felt here in New Hampshire in June

Thanks, my friends, for another amazing summer learning experience. Yes, experience. (It has new meaning now, doesn’t it?)

Erika Bogdany, Sam McElroy, Shana Karnes, Amy Rasmussen, Jackie Catcher, Penny Kittle


%d bloggers like this: