Monday, February 20, 2012

Read What You Want!

We hear it over and over again as educators to run with student ideas, tweak your lessons to fit a stduent conversation, do activities that children are interested in and care about. What a wonderful world of education it would be if all of these things were happening all of the time! Although we know that these methods are the best ways to reach children and help them grow as students, we often fail, and one area that it is made easy for us to fail is in literacy. We have been given an "out" to adapting our instruction, and as a result, struggling readers are still struggling, and the education gap is widening.

This "out" that I am referring to is called leveling. Leveling is when texts are matched to readers based on the level that the student has tested into through generic assessments. Some of the leveling programs take many factors into account in these assessments, but many are based strictly on oral reading accuracy. How many of you think that reading level is based only on a child's ability to accurately and fluently read out loud?

That's what I thought.

So why is it that we turn to a system that uses instruction that we know is not the best way to help our children reach proficiency? There are many answers that can be found to that question when the system is disected, but the most simple answer is that in such an overwhelming, complex situation such as leveling, a techer is likely to get overwhelmed, abandon her personal strategies, and simply go by the book. Teachers are stripped of their independence and flexibility to engage when placed underneath a strict system. Either a teacher feels too overwhelmed or he is simply being too lazy to overcome the rigidity of the system.

Either way, there is an overreliance on materials and an underreliance on teacher abilities to take the task, the learner, the materials, and the context into account when giving reading instruction. Once a teacher is able to look past the system and see every outside force as a factor in a student's success, she will be able to choose appropriate, engaging texts for individuals and lead them to the proficiency we have been searching for.

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