Monday, January 22, 2018

READING AND WRITING IN 2018

My first blog post of the New Year challenged you and yours to read, read, read. Without becoming overly political or verbose in this space, I have watched far too many school years pass where students and teachers did not read or write very much. I’ve heard tons of “reasons” for completing just one or two books in an entire school year. Classes spend inordinate amounts of time reading passages and answering multiple choice and short answer form questions in an English class that meets 5 times a week! While this post is primarily focused on the role writing can and should play, I would like to inspire you with a quote from President Obama from the 2005 ALA Annual Conference address;
"At the dawn of the 21st century, where knowledge is literally power, where it unlocks the gates of opportunity and success, we all have responsibilities as parents, as librarians, as educators, as politicians, and as citizens to instill in our children a love of reading so that we can give them a chance to fulfill their dreams." 
Good readers think about their reading and what better way to reflect on good reading than writing? As a library media specialist for the last 9 years, I could always tell which students would pass a high stakes test and those who wouldn't just from their reading and writing habits. I have also watched as scheduling and a lack of understanding of school libraries support the plummeting of student success – but I digress and tempt you to come back another day for a future post about the importance of school libraries and the role certified library teachers play in whole school progress. For this post I'm asking you to recognize what distracts you and your students. How many times a day do you look at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or text someone something that just happened? Parents: you have a role in this too–your child should have time everyday for reading and writing. 

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This blog is about solutions and Ralph Fletcher’s A Writer’s Notebook, got me thinking. What if everyone put down their device and picked up a pen or pencil and followed Mr. Fletcher's ideas for “unlocking the writer within you?” If you are a teacher this book offers ideas you can use immediately with your students. The 12 chapters could be divided into 12 or 24 weeks of writing–that’s close to a school year! I've given you a link to buy the book on Amazon, but I would be surprised if there wasn't one of these books in your school already. If you are new to teaching, this book could guide you very easily in your first year...inbox me and I'll help you with your lesson plans. If you are a veteran teacher and are noticing that your students are not progressing, I suggest you take a quick read of Mr. Fletcher's books and see some of his tips on his web site. I believe if you mastered teaching with this book, you would see student improvement in reading and writing. 


 After 40 years of teaching and learning, writing curriculum, and running many successful programs, I respectfully conclude that the answer IS simpleto create readers and writers we must read and write and give our students the time to read and write. I have seen so much money and time spent on new “researched programs” on what works including re-training staff sometimes every year brought about by changes in administration and low test scores. If you have taught or been an administrator for a short time you know what I am talking about. We must make the time for students to read and write everyday and guiding them should not take hours of training an already educated certified teacher with a complicated, expensive “researched” program. If you are hiring a teacher and they are not a reader–move on. If you are an administrator and you are not a reader and a writer–you lack two of the basic skills to lead. If you are a parent struggling to get your child reading - read with them. Let them see you as a reader. So friends, put down your devices and get serious about reading and writing for yourself, your students and your children. Simply stated, readers and writers pass most tests easily and the most important test of living a fuller, more informed life is aced.

P.S. Reading this blog counts as reading!

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