Saturday, July 12, 2008

Workshop Thoughts

Our presenters used many of the strategies that teachers use, and some of them work with adults and some do not. Because really, if you have ever spent time with a large group of teachers you will know that they can be much more obnoxious than the students!

Our first activity was a 'getting to know you' group activity. We had a piece of chart paper and split it into fourths. In each square the group members put information about ourselves--names, things we had in common, unique things about each of us, and the expectations from the workshop. Then, each table shared their chart, and the rest of the class tried to guess which person went with which unique thing. This would definitely be a great activity with students, easily adaptable to any classroom and any situation. That basic format would work very well in September, but someone pointed out that it would also work really well at the beginning of a new unit, to assess their knowledge, share their favorites, etc.

One thing that did not work this time was a jigsaw. For those of you unaware of eduspeak, that means taking a text or task and breaking it up into smaller pieces. Each group is responsible for one piece and then they usually report out to the entire class.

The facilitators had us to a jigsaw with an academic article about some study that was done about adolescent readers, engagement, achievement, etc. It was a pretty interesting article, but we were all a little frustrated with reading it with no framework. My group had the last two pages, so it referenced all these things that we didn't know, and we didn't really even understand the purpose of the article.

So my self-declaration from this experience was that if you want to do a jigsaw with real students, it needs to make sense for every group. So I think that taking one big text and splitting it is not the best idea; rather, take several short, discrete related texts and have the students read and analyze those. That way you can avoid frustration on all sides.

The paper itself, like all education research, had a couple interesting nuggets as well as plenty of 'duh's. For example: Time for reading is not sufficient; it's vital to actually comprehend what is read. Boys 'underperform' and engage less in reading than girls. Boys are better with 'noncontinuous text'-yet another silly eduspeak term for things like comics, magazines, online stuff. Teachers should give boys the opportunity to read and interact with computers. (Because, naturally, the nicey nice girls don't need exposure to technology, since they're so weak and too unintelligent to need to use computers. Durr.)

At the end of the article, they suggested three strategies to...redo? improve? reading achievement and engagement: a full and varied range of texts, both print and electronic; plenty of library programs to support reading; and instruction in strategies for reading and self-monitoring for comprehension.

Once again, duh. I mean, come on. Is it any surprise that kids, or anyone really, need a lot of different books to choose from? Our question was from whence these texts would magically appear. My school certainly doesn't buy classroom library books. When a teacher starts at my school, there's a small, low-quality group of books. Not too many teachers seem keen on developing them--mostly because new books have to come from somewhere, either our own shelves or our own pockets. I've bought some books at sales, on ebay, and I've gotten a TON of free books from Scholastic. (If you're not using them, you are missing out. FREE BOOKS.) But in an effective schoo, those should be emergency backup rather than primary building of a library.

And just for the record, I did get some good clarification about reading strategies instruction this week, but! Not once did anyone mention actual reading instruction. If a child reads on a third-grade level in sixth grade, sure, they can try to read books on their level and attempt to use the comprehension strategies. But from what I've seen, kids still don't understand what they're reading, even if it is low level. You know why? Because they don't know HOW TO READ well enough! They need phonics, and they desperately need vocabulary work. Reading third-grade books will certainly not improve a child's vocabulary if they're twelve years old. With shared on-level reading, they're still confused. There HAS to be something for these kids--no wonder they have such abysmal scores in this city. All the students who can barely read scrape by with 2s on tests (AHEMINFLATEDSCORINGAHEM) and get passed right along to the next grade. The extra services in my school, when they're there, have had no effect on actual reading level in my experience. Of course, we don't actually have a reading program in my school, because god forbid anyone be responsible for, you know, TEACHING them something they need.


I have more thoughts and resources to share in the coming days, so look for that.


17 (really 15) more years said...

By the time the kids get to upper elementary and middle school, it is very very difficult for them to learn how to read-that's what SHOULD be happening in the early grades. When we get them, they should be able to read to learn. When I see pre-K teachers doing the genre of the month with babies-well, I just get sick.

As far as test scores- in my subject area, a level 3 ranges from 65 to 84, and a level 2 from 45-64. Translation: we're giving a kid a pass with a level 2, but in reality they're failing.

Ok, rant done now.

NYC Educator said...

Because really, if you have ever spent time with a large group of teachers you will know that they can be much more obnoxious than the students!

Truer words never spoken. Which is why I've never been remotely tempted to go into supervision.

I couldn't believe some of the things people said to professors when I was taking my MA. Sometimes it was just embarrassing.