Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water—just add fresh water!

Categories: Reading

The title of this blog is a quote I borrowed from Tim Shriver-and it rings true in so many educational situations. Too often many of the educational strategies we know to be best practice get thrown out by schools and teachers in search of the latest instructional fad. This is not the case with the Being a Reader program. In fact, it is just the opposite.

Here at the Center for the Collaborative Classroom, we have spent the last four years studying and developing a foundational reading support system that does not throw the baby out with the bath water. I am excited to say that we have researched a way to truly address best practices in early literacy instruction in a way that combines much of what we know to be effective practice to support emergent and beginning readers.

Here are just a few of the powerful instructional strategies found in Being a Reader:

  • Shared reading is back! Oh my goodness-the number of excited and enthusiastic responses I get to this statement from seasoned teachers is incredible! The shared reading practices are based on Don Holdaway’s work and, of course, utilize many familiar big books and poems. Just like 25 years ago when I first began teaching, I find myself walking around with a broken record stuck in my head saying, “I went walking, what did you see? I saw a pink pig looking at me . . .” In the words of Don Holdaway, “The bedtime reading situation is an intimate, relaxed experience with the focus being on enjoyment and meaning. Hence the need to gather children around in a classroom, to create a learning setting that is non-competitive, using enlarged text that is clearly seen by everyone” This is exactly what our whole group instruction looks like in Being a Reader!
  • Foundational skills (phonics, sight words, and phonological awareness) instruction is addressed accurately, clearly, and with thoughtful intention. Sounds are chosen and addressed sequentially across the early levels of the small group instruction-just when emergent readers need this knowledge. Sight words are taught based upon the literature read during the small groups as well as the shared reading and then practiced during independent reading.
  • In Being a Reader, there is a tremendous amount of “kidwatching” built into the program-during all structures of classroom activity. There are tools to support teachers in both their observation and analysis of student behavior. These tools are available during both independent work time and during small-group instruction! I love this poem from Goodman’s Kidwatching:

I am the teacher who is committed to discovering what each of my students knows, cares about, and can do.

I am the teacher who wants to understand each of my student’s ways of constructing and expressing knowledge.

I am the teacher who helps my students connect what they are learning to what they already know.

I am the teacher who respects the language and culture my students learn at home, and who supports the expansion of this knowledge at school.

I am the teacher who knows that there are multiple paths to literacy, and who teaches along each child’s path.

I am the teacher who is committed to social justice and to understanding literacy as a sociocultural practice.

I am the teacher who believes that each child can teach me about teaching, language, and learning.

I am the teacher who believes in the interconnectedness of language, learning, and life.

I am the teacher who supports children in writing I can! on their wings.

I am a kidwatcher.

From Gretchen Owocki and Yetta Goodman’s Kidwatching
  • Remember that phrase, “go slow to grow”? In Being a Reader a tremendous amount of support is offered teaching students to work independently at the beginning of the school year. Not only are independent activities offered, but instruction for students regarding HOW to work independently is offered up front and in great detail for many weeks. This instruction is followed by check in meetings throughout the school year to make sure the independent work is progressing successfully.

These are only a few of the instructional supports in Being a Reader that offer proof that we have finally bridged the reading wars. In the words of Diane Ravitch, “balanced literacy can [and should] co-exist with phonics. Children need both decoding and meaning. Most important, they need to learn the joy of reading. It unlocks the door to the storehouse of knowledge.”